Salvador Urbina is straight out of a fairytale. Towering, mist-coated mountains surround a valley of colorful churches and houses, interspaced with tropical flowers and fruit trees that give shade to community members who stop to visit with one another on their way down the road.

And trust me—there’s always someone to visit with in Urbina.

Felix, walking among the coffee in Urbina.

Most days, I take a walk and return three hours later after being invited in by the friend of a friend, or sharing a soda with a shopkeeper, or sitting on someone’s porch to listen to him play the guitar and watch the afternoon rain .

Two favorite topics of conversation? The United States and coffee.

Around Town

It’s not uncommon for somebody to approach me on the street with a few words of English they picked up while working eight years in Florida, six months in California or three years traveling the U.S. as a seasonal worker. We laugh about the difference in cultures and how the food is so much better in Mexico.

Then, of course, we chat about coffee.

Nepha, Felix and Reynaldo in the Urbina Café Justo Bodega.

Coffee cultivation sustains many families in this town, and they’ve been eager to share the process with me. I spend many days at the Bodega, where coffee is dried or processed, and sometimes I venture higher into the mountains with Felix, one of the Café Justo associates.

“Laura,” he cautions me, “you probably shouldn’t walk up here alone.”

“Should I be worried?” I ask, as I create space between myself and the young men we pass carrying machetes.

“About these guys? No. They’re farmers. You just might get lost.”

Hard Work

It turns out the machete comes in handy when navigating the thick brush of the hills of Urbina. These coffee plants don’t grow in open fields—they grow on mountainsides, between banana trees in dense, rain-soaked soil.

One of the Café Just associates out in his coffee land.

By the time we reach the fields, I’m usually drenched in sweat, signaling to everyone that yes, I’m foreign.

Naturally, the farmers are more acclimated to the work. And this time of year they spend hours hiking around their fields, evaluating individual plants, pruning dead branches and checking for diseases.

As much as I love learning about the plants and the process from these farmers, my favorite question is very simple:

“Do you like working in coffee?”

My inquiry is usually met with a resounding, “Of course!” paired with a smile and shrug as if to say, isn’t it obvious?

Staying Here

Felix and Nepha removing the husks from coffee beans.

What could be better? The Café Justo associates are working with the land, providing a delicious product for others, and economically sustaining their families in the process.

“Before, many of our children were leaving the community,” Reynaldo, Urbina cooperative president tells me. “It was very hard for us. But now, they can stay here,” he says while motioning to the view of the valley.

I think about all of the people here who’ve told me about their time in the U.S., and looking out over the houses, I wonder how many homes are missing a son, daughter, father or brother because of economic migration.

At least for the thirty associates in the Urbina Café Justo cooperative, migration is not a necessity. At least this small handful of people can work in something they love and see their families every day instead of every two years.

But I remember what Daniel told me on the border:

Still, there are people that don’t participate in the cooperative. We need to work hard so that someday, they can join. All of this depends on the demand.

Work to be Done

Because of the success of the Urbina cooperative, Café Justo is now in three other communities in Mexico. But as Daniel said, there is still work to be done.

Front porch in Urbina.

This is where being a responsible consumer can support the economies of poor communities, keep families together and maybe even save lives. This is what it means to drink Just Coffee.

Volunteers across the country receive shipments of Just Coffee and sell it to their neighbors or set up booths at their churches. They’re not asking for donations to help support our brothers and sisters south of the border, they’re just asking for people to change their daily coffee habit.

It’s that simple.

Not many of us will have the opportunity to sit on a front porch here in Urbina and take in the beauty of this place. But many of us know the simple beauty in sharing a meal with our own families, celebrating birthdays with friends or driving around our neighborhoods to see Christmas lights in December.

We know what it’s like to be home.

How great that our choice in coffee can help others experience that same privilege.

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Next Steps
    • Are you a coffee drinker? Your coffee purchase could help the people of Café Justo! Everything you need to know about ordering coffee, or to get involved, is listed here.
    • Better yet…become a coffee distributor! It’s simple: find a few neighbors committed to drinking Café Justo, set up a booth at your church, or ask your company’s cafeteria to carry it. Help create more opportunities for the coffee growers of Mexico.
    • Next time you go out to your favorite café for a cup of coffee, ask them where the coffee comes from. Is it at least Fair Trade coffee? If not, write a letter! Let people know we’re willing to pay a few extra cents for a product that pays a fair wage to those involved in its production.
    • Next Steps

About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.

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