Enrique and I went to Mexico to touch base with the socios (partners) and to finally get a concrete start on our social project with them. The socios spend a lot of time and money each week travelling to the nearest town to buy groceries for themselves and their families. They’ve also got a lot of fertile land that they aren’t cultivating for coffee. After a lot of discussions with them, we’ve agreed that our project should be focused on putting this land to use so that they can grow their own vegetables and reduce the amount of money spent on food. This way the farmers and their families can grow nutritious food and will, we hope, also save money.
During our first two days, some of the socios, Adrian, Pascual, and Nazario, took E and me to the plots of land where they grow the coffee. There were a few things that occurred to me on these trips. First, this land is incredibly steep. It was difficult enough without carrying anything extra; I can only imagine how tough it must be with pounds of coffee beans strapped to your back. Second, these people were so familiar with their land. Maybe that should have been obvious, but I was impressed; I felt like I was walking in the wilderness with no understanding of things like directions, but there were several moments when the socios would point at something and identify it as one of their coffee plants.
When we weren’t trekking through the coffee jungle, E and I spent a lot of time getting to know the people of Bella Vista- the farmers and their families and friends. This was my favorite part of the trip. I’ve always known that the partnerships we form at origin are important to the way Think operates, but I don’t think I’d ever fully realized the element of human connection that is so central to that. All of our conversations were candid and open, but I do want to highlight the way I was welcomed by the community of women at Bella Vista. Glendi, Epifanio’s daughter, was my roommate for three nights. Epifanio’s wife told me on my first day that I was welcome in her house, and kept feeding me huge amounts of food because I think she was worried that I was too skinny or sad. The kids were also especially sweet- I gave Karla a copy of the Harry Potter book I was reading in Spanish, and she gave me one of her silver rings.
For me, this trip was really important for a lot of different reasons. It was important for me to go for my job: I learned so much about coffee and our projects at origin. That was valuable for sure. But I think this was also really meaningful for me on a personal level. Given the current happenings in the world and in the US, I think that now more than ever it’s important for us to not be strangers to each other, and to be open to the people and things that are unfamiliar. Going on this trip at this moment in time really showed me the fundamental importance of the practices that we take seriously at Think. Social Project Coffee goes beyond a simple business transaction between international partners and embodies what it means to acknowledge all of our humanity and work together. This lesson, while not directly related to the day-to-day activities of my job, is what I think made the deepest impression on me, and it’s the reason I continue to believe in Think’s commitment to developing genuine human relationships with people around the world.