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  • ECM - UK

Sourcing coffee in Guerrero, Mexico - part 2

After a brief presentation of the state of Guerrero in our first post back in X,

we return with a second blog post where we´ll address communication,

security and transportation problems that exist within the region. We´ll take

this opportunity to look at the beautiful Me´phaa culture.



Communication

Montaña Alta is a rural region with multiple communities spread across the

mountains. Phone signal and internet coverage are limited in this remote area

which makes communication with producers quite challenging. But the people

of Guerrero, or Guerrerenses, are resourceful!


Firstly, the local radio station plays an essential role in the community. It

becomes a powerful tool to broadcast news, especially when indigenous

languages like Me´phaa are used.


On the right, a photo of our field coordinator, Rebeca Oropeza, visiting the

radio station to announce our presence, buying model and the location of our

mobile labs.


Secondly, another great way of communicating is announcing via

loudspeakers! They can range up to a few kilometres, depending on the

topography.


See below Rebe announcing the first cupping results and prices on

loudspeaker. She had to repeat the same message four times, one for each

cardinal point!



Transport

Travelling around Montaña Alta requires patience but the scenery makes time

go faster. In this area of Guerrero, less than 25% of people have a car. People

generally move around in small buses or shared taxis (´taxis colectivos´), with

very unreliable timetables.


Roads are in bad shape, with a majority of dirt roads and very unexpected

closures. It can take from 1 hour to 5 hours driving through those roads for our

field coordinators to reach communities located only 20 kilometers apart. It all

depends on how lucky you are on the day.


Sending samples presents another challenge. Courier companies only have

offices in Guerrero’s main cities, about 5 hours drive from our labs. The round

trip to the closest city in order to send a sample to our main lab can take 1 to 2

days, again depending on transport availability and road conditions.



Safety

The criminality index in Guerrero is high, mainly because of Drug Trafficking

Organisations (DTO). Montaña Alta is one of Guerrero´s seven subregions,

and has the lowest DTO-related violence in all the state. This is due partially

to the community police (policía comunitaria), made of local armed people

elected by their own communities and acting as police or local ´militia´. This

has resulted in national authorities completely abandoning the area.


This system of community-regulated authority has played an important part in

decreasing violence and limiting the growth and expansion of DTOs.

In order to do business in la Montaña, you need the support of those

authorities to enter the area and receive protection. When the team organises

meetings with coffee producers, even at it is at their house, the local police

joins, takes notes and stands at the back.



Me´phaa culture

Despite many challenges, Guerrero is a beautiful place and the culture of the

Me´phaa people is very emblematic of the region. It is important to understand

their local culture, world view and mindset, in order to connect with the

producers and create trust.


Seed blessing

Throughout History, the indigenous belief system has blended with the

Catholic religion. This syncretism is illustrated in the above photo, where a

priest blesses new coffee seeds about to be sowed. It is common that local

communities organise ceremonies to ask for rain, for permission to cultivate

the land or to thank Mother Earth for providing food and water.



Indii

A very important symbol of Guerrero is the jaguar, locally called Indii, that

represents strength, fertility and authority. Guerrero has plenty of art and

dances that celebrate the Indii. The Tlaminque dance is one of the most

famous celebration in Montaña Alta: wearing specific masks and attire,

people give life to the animals of the mountains, and the jaguar is the main

character.



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