Manuel is a coffee farmer from the highlands above San Marcos la Laguna and Lago de Atitlán. He came down from the finca one afternoon and was lancha hopping his product from one village to the next when we stopped to check out his goods. While beans have been grown and harvested on these hills for centuries, coffee farming is a relatively new thing for Manuel and his family. It’s been about 10 years he says since they began working with coffee. Growing only Arabica, the harvest is once a year and roasting comes soon after. They don’t have electricity at all hours, so the roasting is always done via a traditional Mayan fire-powered clay oven. We bought a few pounds of coffee from him – the blend he calls Atitlán Deliciosa will also be the name of his coffee brand once they get into more serious production. Roasted earlier that day, it made for a delicious cup once we got home.
Manuel spoke Spanish, but helped me get a handle on some of the other more common local languages: K’iche’ (Guatemala’s second language) and Tz’utujil which is spoken around Lago de Atitlán. As two lanchas passed by, we had some time to talk about how important the presence of volcanoes are to his family and the fact that I, too, get to see volcanoes from where I live. Of course, my volcanoes are tipped in white 365 days a year, seldom erupt and don’t figure quite so prominently into our mythology. Still, it was a nice connection and one he found very interesting. I hope everything turns out for Manuel and his family as they venture deeper into the world of coffee and sustainable agriculture.
Jaibalito, Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala, 2011.