The global E-magazine on cooperatives in industry and services
Luis Miguel Lopez, Caja Popular Mexicana
In San Juan Laguna, in Sololá, Guatemala, the wind is thick with a delicious aroma. It comes from the cooperative café “La Voz que Clama en la Desierto” (The voice that cries out in the desert), a place protected by volcanoes, which also tells of a history inspired by cooperation. The Guatemalan civil war, the longest recorded in Latin America, took place between 1960 and 1996. 36 years of subjugation of the indigenous civil population through weapons, who are now suffering from discrimination at the hands of their rulers. La Voz café was created by 25 men and women tired of abuse. It was 1979, one of the most grueling times of the conflict, but they were prepared to stick together and take the reins of their own destiny to generate better living conditions in their community and as a consequence, in their families. The cooperative didn’t always produce coffee. It began 24 years ago as a shop. With the capital of the founders they started to sell vegetables and basic products, although the war-like conflict complicated every attempt at further development. “When the government changed (1978) the militants came to our village and robbed the entire shop and we suffered a lot. With the money recently pooled together by the cooperative we were able to buy a machine to mass-produce tortillas. In this way we could help the entire community”, says Domingo Cholotío Quic, founder of “La Voz”, in an interview recorded by “we are coffee growers”, a study released in 2009. Things are different now: 148 people of Tz’utujil Mayan ethnicity have better living conditions, earn more than the national average and are an example of the resistance offered by cooperatives to the crisis, not only economic but also social. The Golden coffee that they produce will reach the United States of America, Alaska, Japan and various European countries; coffee made with the “force of the volcanoes”.
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037