These little colorful woven friendship bracelets sit in a basket near the cash register at the cafe. When the cafe is empty I always stare at them, tracing the patterns and colors, wondering whose hands wove them, where they’d been.
Working with On the Ground Global (OTG), we get these bracelets from a state called Chiapas in Southern Mexico. I want to share with you a little about the people of Chiapas and their past so you can truly feel the impact of these friendship bracelets.
The Start of A Movement
Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state is rich in natural resources and, yet, is one of the poorest states in Mexico. After NAFTA was passed, the indigenous people of Chiapas rose up against the government demanding their rights–freedom, peace, and land. The Zapatistas, primarily made up of indigenous people, went public on this day.
People often say the eyes are windows to the soul and heart. As a form of spirituality, the Zapatistas wear masks only showing their eyes so as you had to notice them. This is symbolic of their liberation and rejection of traditional politics. They wear masks in order to be seen. This is profound as of today’s world. We’re all hiding behind masks for protection from a virus when there lies hidden beauty.
Weaving Peace After Conflict
In 1997, forty five Tzotzil indigenous women, children, and men were massacred by paramilitaries while praying for peace in their chapel in Acteal. These people were members of the pacifist group Las Abejas meaning “The Bees.” They were supporters of nonviolence and, yet, shared the demand of human rights with the Zapatistas.
Today, there is an artisan coop of women who weave friendship bracelets near the Acteal chapel where the massacre occurred. This binding of colorful ropes represents hope and healing for these women and their community. Although something so little as a woven bracelet seems thoughtless and pretty ‘easily made at a slumber party’, it carries much more significance and illustrates the culture and tradition of the people of Chiapas, Mexico.
Back at the cafe, profit from bracelets purchased goes back to Chiapas, Mexico. In 2021 there were 1,288 Friendship Bracelets purchased by our cafe guest, helping raise over $6,000 to support the project work of OTG. In addition to that, an investment is made by Amavida into Coop Coffees Impact Fund with each lb of coffee we imported. This Impact Fund invests in producer-led projects, including the agronomy work with OTG.
Funding Agronomy Training with Impact Partners
OTG exists to support sustainable coffee communities. Over the years we’ve partnered with them to increase access to clean water and, more recently, agronomy training in Chiapas, Mexico. This is the third and final year of this project, and, according to Coop Coffees, “Maya Vinic is now beginning a second generation of farmer field schools with a new group of tecnicos.”
Specifically, these programs have helped producers at Union Maya Vinic develop a farmer training program, called The Farmer Field School and Experimentation for Farmers (ECEAs). This project was designed for tecnicos, or agronomists, to strengthen their knowledge, teach them how to plant and build resiliency in their crops, and develop practices to recover crops and soils. The agronomy training projects also focus on building relationships and improving the lives of our coffee’s producers and their families.
This became especially motivating after low fertilization, soil degradation, and La Roya (coffee rust resulting from climate change) caused a decrease in coffee production in the 2013-2015 harvest cycles. OTG partners are now replanting coffee fields and working with farmers to implement new agricultural practices through community workshops.
Crafting Hope for The Future of Coffee
Chiapas’s Coffee farmers can now flourish and thrive for futures to come. As our collective coffee and bracelet purchases reach beyond the bean, to coffee farming communities in Chiapas learn and grow in size, capability, and sustainability.
Big thanks to our customers for supporting this work, and a big thanks to the work of our farmers for their continuous heart and resilience!
For more information on this life changing work hear from people who’ve traveled there with us: