Some days, being here on the border makes me tired. Every walk I take past the wall, every Border Patrol agent that drives by, every little white cross I see and every migrant I meet reminds me that we are in the middle of a seriously complicated situation. It’s huge.

What can I do? Families are being separated. People are dying trying to come to my country. Some of our immigrant brothers and sisters in the U.S. feel persecuted and vulnerable.

I don’t think God likes this. I don’t like this, and I’m not the one who creates each of these people with love and intention and then watches them walk into the desert carrying pictures of their children and a gallon of water in search of a better life.

Café Justo decaf coffee. Each bag is labeled with the name of the grower who provided the coffee.

Something better is possible.

People like the volunteers at the Migrant Resource Center are charged with the crucial role of caring for migrants in their moment of need, and we as U.S. citizens have a role in making informed decisions about legislation that dramatically affects the lives of our migrant and immigrant neighbors.

But as far as what’s going on in Mexico itself to make people migrate…that’s Mexico’s problem, right?

Displaced

Fourteen years ago, Daniel Cifuentes left his home community of Salvador Urbina, Chiapas (the southernmost state of Mexico) where he had worked as a coffee farmer.

“We were desperate…the price for one sack of coffee fell from 1500 pesos to 350 pesos,” Daniel told me, shaking his head.

Pedro, coffee roaster in Agua Prieta.

The price paid to coffee growers depends somewhat on the world market, but also on the intermediaries who purchase the raw product from the growers. Daniel and his community were being extorted by these intermediaries and couldn’t earn a living with the meager price offered to them for their work.

“I knew I was leaving my land, but I also knew there was work in the factories on the border.”

Daniel moved to Agua Prieta and worked factory jobs, forced away from his home by economic circumstances like so many others. But after a few years working on the border, Daniel met the people of Frontera de Cristo.

Hitting the Ground Running

This changed everything.

Frontera de Cristo recognized the need for economic justice in Daniel’s community, and they worked with Daniel and other growers to develop a coffee cooperative where the earnings from growing, processing and selling the coffee would return to the cooperative associates instead of to middle men or large corporations. Instead of 350 pesos per sack, growers could expect to receive 1300 pesos per sack.

Coffee is transported in these sacks to the border processing location.

Using a loan from Frontera de Cristo to buy roasting equipment, Just Coffee (Café Justo) hit the road running.

“Our plan was very small,” Daniel told me. “It was to sell 10 sacks of coffee in the first year. But at the end of the first year, we realized that we didn’t sell 10 sacks of coffee, but more than 400 sacks. Many people—and many churches—responded to our invitation.”

An Honorable Invitation

Our invitation. I looked around the Café Justo building, taking in the smell of the roasting coffee and the peaceful and diligent manner in which everyone was working, thinking about just how honorable an invitation it was.

Just Coffee customers pay for people like Daniel to live comfortably and even carry health insurance. They provide salaries for families like Elvia and Marcelo, who invited me over for lunch to show me the new room they’re building onto their home.

And this is just the handful of people working here in Agua Prieta where the processing, packaging and exporting happens. On the U.S. side of the border, coffee is sent to volunteers who sell it in their churches and communities, generating as much business as possible for the coffee farmers who are living and raising families in their home communities.

Something Better

This is a small part of that something better I mentioned.

Marcelo packaging coffee in Agua Prieta.

People here in the United States are making the choice to invest in coffee farmers – to support them by being conscientious consumers in hopes that these growers won’t be forced away from their homes to find better-paying work or compelled to make the dangerous desert passage here on the border.

Café Justo gives me hope.

As I write this, I’m enjoying my morning coffee, and I’m not just enjoying it because it tastes good. I’m enjoying it because I know my coffee is part of the reason dozens of families in Mexico are waking up in their home communities, with their families, instead of journeying north.

That’s good coffee. Or to be more accurate, that’s Just Coffee—social justice in a cup.

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Next Steps
    • Learn more about Café Justo from their website.
    • 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 on our website to make it easy to take action.
    • Your next trip to the store (food, clothes, whatever!) pick something to investigate—where does the money for a particular product go? Is there a better option out there? Café Justo is one of many initiatives in responsibly traded items.
    • Pray for the work of Café Justo—those providing the product and the partner volunteers working to sell coffee here in the U.S.
    • 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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Comments

  1. LeAnne Hardy said... 

    Reply

    May 4th, 2012 at 3:37 pm  

    Great, Laura. We have been buying our coffee from a Honduran family in Saint Paul for several years now. They import it from their family back home, roast it and package it here . Recently they have moved into eco-tourism with people going to Honduras to visit the coffee plantation and spend a week seeing the local sights. We will never solve the immigration problems here without improving the economies back home.

    • Laura Stump said... 

      Reply

      May 7th, 2012 at 11:31 am  

      Thanks for sharing, LeAnne. I’m so happy to know about their business. A lot of coffee farmers are very vulnerable to poverty. I’m glad they have found a way to get people interested in their work in Honduras!

  2. JimM said... 

    Reply

    May 5th, 2012 at 10:38 pm  

    I take it we will have an opportunity to sample some of this at the WND office in a few weeks?

    • Laura Stump said... 

      Reply

      May 7th, 2012 at 11:32 am  

      Haha–I sure hope so! I got so used to drinking it in Mexico…I’m missing it already! We’ll have to order some and invite you for a visit, Jim :)

  3. Cindy said... 

    Reply

    May 21st, 2012 at 3:32 pm  

    How can I post some of your articles on Face Book so that I can share the photos and story of Cafe Justo (Just Coffee)?)

    • Laura Stump said... 

      Reply

      May 21st, 2012 at 5:54 pm  

      Hey Cindy! Thanks for wanting to share!! :)

      At the end of every article, there’s a “Next Steps” box (in red lettering), and the last Next Step is always “Share the Article.” Click the Facebook icon and it will put it on your page!

      Another option is to copy the link onto your Facebook wall (http://www.worldnextdoor.org/2012/05/social-justice-in-a-cup/) and it will convert into a link to the article for people to click on.

      Let me know if you need more help! Thanks again for following–I’m sure the people of Cafe Justo really appreciate it.

  4. Cindy said... 

    Reply

    May 22nd, 2012 at 10:21 pm  

    Laura, Thanks for your input. The first time I read your article about Cafe Justo, I was on my iPad. The photos and text looked very different from my desk top version! The iPad did not allow me to connect to FaceBook. That is why I inquired. Thanks for your help.
    I sell Cafe Justo at my church (St.Patrick/Scottsdale, AZ)

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