The Hike--Adventures in Guatemala
Friday, September 15, 2006
Ryan Seibold, Peace Coffee Barista
We made our way along trails that were rugged, broken and side winding. The trail we traversed wove through the dense and airy forest and descended into this impressive valley, where the opposite side looked like some sacred, growing, supernatural thing. Across the valley we could see the Sebal, Guatemala's great tree. We continued moving along toward the waterfall, our destination, further into the valley and across the makeshift bridges connecting broken slopes that were destroyed by Hurricane Stan. We saw vistas of blue volcanoes in the distance. Hikes are about simplicity, they cross all cultures -- one step in front of the other, focus, take it all in and experience what your eyes and boots set upon.
We are taking part in Santa Anita's eco-tourism project and as part of this visit we have dinner with a host family in their home - fresh tortillas, beans and sweetened coffee. We stay in the hacienda at night in order to have the energy for another hike in the morning. We hear Rigoberto's story and see photos of how he came to this coffee finca after 30 years as a rebel. There is strength, heroism and pride in his version of Guatemala's civil war. The continued struggle to help build his community of coffee growers is also apparent.
Across the field they are erecting a basketball hoop and there is a quiet sense of life at every corner as people go about their daily tasks. Rigoberto is a proud papa among ex-guerillas, men, women and children who are creating and continuing the story of their coffee farm and community. If certain land issues are not resolved, the people's struggle could very well crescendo again, and arms would be taken; but for now, I believe, the momentum from their hard work seem to offer a different future. In this setting it is easy to envision a future where land and labor will be the source for subsistence, and education and community health care will nurture a new foundation for peace to grow.
I am happy to think that Fair Trade practices will continue to play a role as catalyst, so long as it strengthens and re-creates itself amidst the challenging and ever-changing social and political scenes in Guatemala. This is the territory Peace Coffee chooses to journey through. It's rewarding and challenging, much like this expedition through the rain forest. This is no ordinary hike.
We arrive! The waterfall is refreshing and omnipresent, we take photos and laugh, and enjoy being there. We go in and circle around the waterfall, which has probably been pouring from the slope above for thousands of years. It's exciting to have experienced the connection to place and spirit, to have felt the cool drench of water falling, where it will continue to flow through its various cycles and nourish the people and flora that make our coffee so special. It was great to hear the first-hand experiences of our partners, who grow and tend the trees which bear the fruit that eventually transforms into this great awakening elixir, our morning cup of coffee.
We recently received more Fair Trade coffee from our friends at Santa Anita. It will be great to think about the waterfall as I let that first batch cascade out of the roaster, thus continuing the natural flow of things at Peace Coffee and beyond, to the cafés and coffee aficionados who impress their guests with this fresh and present Fair Trade brew. The coffee will be spectacular, so keep drinking, keep hiking or looking at sunsets or trees and volcanoes. I look forward to visiting Santa Anita again. I believe this community is coming together as a cooperative and that Peace Coffee is fueling their continued growth as a community and organic coffee producer.