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Exploring La Suiza and Ija'tz part 2

Last week we shared an article about our experience at La Suiza, one of our partner Cooperatives located at San Marcos, Guatemala. If you have not read that yet and you want to have a better understanding of this article we recommend to read Exploring La Suiza and Ija’tz part 1 so now let's get to it, shall we?

Posted by Keara Farrelly

After a quick yet full trip to La Suiza, the DLG team and Chet Sadler from the Sanibel Captiva Rotary traveled to the Ija’tz Cooperative in San Lucas Toliman. De la Gente has been working with the Ija’tz Cooperative since 2015 when we purchased just 2,250 lbs from the whole cooperative. Fast forward to 2019, the Ija’tz Cooperative sold 15,000 lbs of coffee to De la Gente to sell among high quality roasters and coffee shops in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands.

Carol, DLG’s Tour Manager and I (Director of Development), traveled early that morning to make it to Ija’tz around lunch time. We spent the afternoon picking Arnulfo’s brain about tourism in San Lucas Toliman. Considering San Lucas is on the shores of Lake Atitlan and is such a beautiful community rich in history and tradition, we wanted to learn more about how we can support the cooperative through Community Tourism. Stay tuned for more soon…

Arnulfo Cuj

Arnulfo Cuj

After several hours of learning more about Arnulfo, the community, and the cooperative’s tumultuous history, the group traveling from La Suiza arrived around 9pm, looking tired and a little dusty from the long journey. We met at the Cooperative’s central space for a quick, very delicious, traditional dinner. Juan Antonio, DLG’s Executive Director, had the chance to meet Arnulfo Cuj. Arnulfo has been the Cooperative Liaison to DLG for the past several years, as well as being the Cooperative’s secretary. Chet also had the opportunity to meet some more DLG staff members he hadn’t met prior, and to reconnect with Arnulfo, whom he met in 2017.

A quick night’s sleep meant we were back to Ija’tz at 8:30am the following morning where we were greeted by the entire Board of Directors of the Cooperative for breakfast. After introductions and expressions of thanks, we dug into another delicious meal. After the meal was over, Chet Sadler presented the Cooperative with a certificate of support for the construction of a new drying patio on behalf of the Sanibel Captiva Rotary Club. The Rotary Club has supported De la Gente in the past with donations for our partner cooperatives and financing support for coffee purchases. This is the latest in a long line of support for coffee farmers in Guatemala!

Arnulfo and Don Roberto explaining the specifics of their project to Chet Sadler and DLG staff

Arnulfo and Don Roberto explaining the specifics of their project to Chet Sadler and DLG staff

After the presentation, the Ija’tz members showed us the space where the patios will be constructed as we talked through the specifics of the construction: size, drainage, capacity, etc. The Ija’tz members, especially Don Tono who is in charge of drying all the coffee that Ija’tz exports, are very excited about this project. In the past, Ija’tz has just laid out a nylon tarp on a grassy field and laid their coffee on top to dry. A flat, more stable surface will allow the coffee to dry more uniformly, producing the high quality coffee you know and love!

After spending a few hours with the Ija’tz members and talking through past, present, and wishful project ideas for the future, it was time to continue on a cultural tour of San Lucas Toliman. Arnulfo lead us first to the site of Maximon, a Mayan deity worshiped for protecting the population around Lake Atitlan from violent murderers hundreds of years ago. Maximon is now worshiped for his ability to perform both good and bad. Arnulfo says, If you are a believer in Maximon, he will bring you blessings, but can also help you deliver ill wishes upon someone or something.

Maximon

Maximon

Arnulfo is a strong believer in Maximon. He shared a story with us that many years ago he used to saw and sand lumber that he could sell. There came a time that no one was coming by to buy his lumber and he didn’t have two coins to rub together. At this time, he borrowed 10 quetzales from a friend. He paid two quetzales for some cigarettes and purchased a small bottle of liquor for three quetzales. He left the cigarettes, alcohol, and remaining five quetzales for Maximon, praying that he would send clients his way. Arnulfo went home later that night, hopeful for a miracle. The next morning, Arnulfo was woken by someone banging on the door. A person came by to purchase all of the lumber Arnulfo had in stock.

The main altar inside the church of San Lucas Toliman

The main altar inside the church of San Lucas Toliman

After paying our respects to Maximon, we then traveled to the Catholic Church which is only a few blocks away. Arnulfo there told us the story of how the church in San Lucas Toliman used to be located in another town, and it was moved to San Lucas Toliman about 100 years ago. Legend has it that on the path to the old church, there were lions who would stalk the path to hunt and eat churchgoers! Of course, the church then had to be moved, but Arnulfo tells us the lions are still alive and living in the mountains surrounding San Lucas Toliman.

After our tour, we popped down to the shores of Lake Atitlan to admire Guatemala’s never-ending beauty. There, we said our goodbyes and expressed our thanks to Arnulfo for his hospitality and showing us parts of San Lucas Toliman that we hadn’t seen before. As always, goodbyes are lengthy and full of hugs, with promise to see each other again very soon. We are already looking forward to our next visit in just a few weeks!

If you enjoyed what you just read you can also inquire about green coffee from any of our partner Cooperatives. Also, please share the love by click on the like button and share!