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A First-Hand Account of Angel Zuleta Martinez’s Life in Coffee

A First-Hand Account of Angel Zuleta Martinez’s Life in Coffee

“Growing up here [in San Miguel Escobar], I have always worked in agriculture. When I was young I worked for my father cultivating corn and beans. He paid me every week but I was very ambitious and wanted to grow more than corn and beans, I wanted to grow coffee. Just over four years ago I met with Timoteo, president of the San Miguel Escobar Coffee Cooperative, about my hopes of getting into coffee and he helped me to join the cooperative.

At the time I only had 1 cuerda of land [about ⅓ of an acre]. I didn’t know anything about processing coffee when I first joined, but other members taught me everything I know. Andrés, one of the board members, really took time to teach me a lot about coffee, and he was a mentor to me during my first year. There is not a lot to know about processing coffee, it can be easily learned, the main thing is that you have to do it well, pay attention to processing, and work hard.

Angel (in white) laughing with Andrés (in maroon) after loading all the coffee into the container for export 2016

Angel (in white) laughing with Andrés (in maroon) after loading all the coffee into the container for export 2016

Now I have three cuerdas of land for growing coffee. I want to buy two more but am waiting for the right plots of land to become available for purchase. For now, while I wait I am working in a restaurant in Antigua to support my family, my wife and son. Working in coffee is much harder than working in a restaurant, but it is worth it because it is my own work, and I can do it in my own house. It is a huge benefit for my wife, for both of us, to work together at home and raise our growing family.

We have big goals when it comes to coffee. We want to grow our production every year, this is why I am buying more land.  My first year I only exported 3 quintales – about 300 lbs – of coffee, the next year I exported about 15 quintales and this year we exported 24 quintales. Next year our goal is 3,000 lbs or 30 quintales. All of this hard work is for my family, and for our second child who was just born, to give them the life they deserve.

My wife and I also host students during service learning trips in our home for meals and homestays [through De la Gente’s community tourism program]. This is always a beautiful experience. We don’t always speak the same language but we still find ways to communicate and share our culture and where we are from. They tell me stories about their lives and their families and I share mine. I tell them about life here in Ciudad Vieja and my wife cooks some of Guatemala’s traditional meals for them that she learned to prepare as a young girl from her mother.

Last year we hosted a large group and one evening we put on marimba music. A few of them wanted to learn how to dance so we began to teach them in our home and little by little they all joined in and we were all dancing to the music of Guatemala.”

In March 2016, Angel borrowed $4,000 from De la Gente’s loan fund to purchase another 4 cuerdas (about 1 and ⅓ acres) of land. This low-interest, 3-year loan will allow him to expand his coffee production and invest in his family’s future.

Join De la Gente in creating access to credit for small-holder farmers when you donate to our micro-financing fund to ensure cooperatives and their members have access to capital to purchase land, invest in machinery, and continue to grow their livelihoods.

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