Sitting on the road-side curb I rotated my recorder back and forth from Rosita to Maria then to Rosa, capturing what they told me about their interview with Guadalupe, one of the three coffee farmers Enrique had assigned Picture Change to visit and interview. Speaking enthusiastically the two students only paused to let Rosa translate their notes and observations into English. For the previous forty-five minutes I had observed all of them eagerly interviewing Guadalupe, one of only a few female coffee farmers in La Fundadora and a potential Project Aurora candidate. While Enrique had briefly told me about Guadalupe, highlighting that she was popular among the local community and the current president of a local co-operative, my group went into the interview knowing little else or what to expect. Greeting us at the local school just outside of her classroom, Guadalupe kindly invited us to sit in on her class as she finished up that day’s math lesson. My eyes were first drawn to her tiny frame and then to her students who seemed to tower over her; however, as I continued to watch her command their attention with a certainty only a seasoned teacher can possess, I caught my first glimpse of the strong and resilient woman I later learned about through Rosita, Maria and Rosa.
Born in San Rafael del Norte, Guadalupe was sent by her mother to live in the La Fundadora community at the age of ten. Now forty-four years old, it became apparent from the snippets of personal history she shared with us that she has come a very long way. “Despite not having a good childhood, she has overcome and conquered her problems. I consider her a brave and hard worker, a fighter. She is open to everything. It isn’t easy all that she has done.” Rosita told me during our group reflection. Guadalupe not only overcame her turbulent childhood, became a respected teacher,but also succeeded in becoming a well-known coffee farmer and community leader. “She has stepped into the traditional man’s role in her household and community” said Maria.
As president of the fifty-five person co-operative called “Reformers”, she leads thirty-one men and twenty-four women farmers. Each member has five mansanas (ten acres), two for farming coffee and the rest for growing various types of vegetables. She explained that before she learned about Finca Aurora she had to sell her coffee to whoever would take it and for significantly less than its true value because she didn’t have access to a competitive market. However, like the many other challenges she faced in her life, Guadalupe rose above this one as well and still found a way to buy five more mansana with the profits she made from her coffee.
When we asked Guadalupe about her relationship to Finca Aurora and the Ferrufino family, she said, “they see the good in people. They help you protect your product and become known. They make me feel important and take my opinions into consideration.” Since she started selling her coffee to Finca Aurora, Guadalupe now makes eighty dollars more per one hundred pounds than if she sold her coffee to any other buyer. “I am one hundred percent sure I will continue selling [my coffee] to them” she told us. Guadalupe also spoke at length about Aurora’s dedication to educating the local community on how to take care of their coffee, substantiating many of the commitments Enrique had mentioned to me earlier. “Aurora treats farmers so well. They don’t treat you like they see you. Our community will prosper through Aurora” she concluded. While translating her interview, Rosa explained that Guadalupe was referring to the common practice of people treating another person as they perceive her. “If you are poor” Rosa explained” they treat you as poor. If you are rich they treat you like a rich person, but not in the case of Finca Aurora. They take care of them.”
When asked about her vision for the future she told us “My dream is that people can put love in what they [are doing].” Listening and recording the many stories she told my group, it seemed to me that Guadalupe already embodied her dream. While I didn’t verbally understand her when she told us about her dreams for her farm, the families working for her, and the doors she would like to open through Aurora for other women in her co-operative, I observed it. She wore her passion for everyone to see. As Rosa translated the last of her interview telling me about Guadalupe’s love for growing coffee and helping the surrounding community, I couldn’t help thinking of a quote Enrique had given me earlier, “I think every farmer should be proud of growing coffee” he had told me. “[No matter] if you are a small or large coffee farmer you create a lot of jobs. While he represented the latter and Guadalupe the former farmer, it was now apparent to me why they were both interested in working with the other. They both shared one tremendous goal: to help their community.
Interview by: Rosita and Maria, Picture Change students
Content and translation by: Rosa Diaz
Picture by: Emily Coey