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In Mexico, we continued the trip through the Mayan Highlands to visit Maya Vinic and see how they were coping with La Roya
Much the same as we saw with the farmers of Yachil, the farmers of Maya Vinic have also been hit hard by La Roya. We spoke with Mariano Ortiz Perez, pictured above with his family, as he dropped off his second harvest of the season. Mariano and his wife Maria have a 3 hectare farm, and this year they are anticipating to harvest approximately 1000 kilos of coffee. This is a dramatic decrease from the 2000 kilos they had last year, and the 3000 kilos they had the year before. We were told this story was the same throughout the cooperative.
In an effort to combat La Roya, members of Maya Vinic have been cultivating varieties of coffee that are more resistent, like this variety they showed us at the nursery across from their warehouse, in Acteal (pictured above). The decrease in coffee production has hit the cooperative hard. To further work to support the livelihood of the farmers, Maya Vinic has begun giving 100% of export sales of the coffee directly to the farmers – a portion is normally reserved to cover the cooperartive’s admnistrative costs and infrastructure. Those administrative costs are now being covered by the income generated by Maya Vinic’s new cafe in San Cristobal, and their new roasting arm which sells coffee domestically.
In addition to coming up with more resistent varieties, and expanding their model to include roasting and the cafe, Maya Vinic has also started harvesting and selling honey, pictured above. Maya Vinic was born out of the civil society, Las Abejas (which means ‘The Bees’), so this endevor seems very fitting. Along with the honey, they are also cultivating macadamia trees. Farmers like Mariano, who already has 70 trees planted, are hopeful that this will diversify their income and provide a more stable support.
After visiting Maya Vinic’s warehouse and nursery, we visited the site of the Acteal masscre. Las Abejas are a Christian pacfist civil socitey dedicated to peace, justice, and anti-neoliberalism that has been working to live autonomously from the Mexican government. On December 22, 1997, paramilitary groups invaded the village of Acteal while the community was undergoing a period of fasting and prayer and murdered 45 people, mostly women and children, and injured many more. It was after this massacre that the community gained international attention and support, and from it Maya Vinic was born.
See more pictures from the trip here.