Guatemala Miguel Rodriguez
- Farm: El Roblar
- Region: Mataquescuintla, Jalapa, Guatemala
- Altitude: 1750masl
- Variety: Catuai
- Processing Method: Washed
- Tasting notes: Tangerine | White Grape | White Wine
What We Hope You Remember
We know it can be hard to read all of the information about every coffee — we don’t think you need to. However, we provide it all here for those who are interested. For those who don’t have the time, here’s what we hope you learn about this coffee.
- Miguel is a second-generation coffee farmer from Jalapa Department in southeast Guatemala. It is a traditional coffee-growing region that is largely overlooked in the specialty market.
- Last year was one of, if not the first time, Miguel has sold his coffee as specialty micro lots, rather than at local market level. Despite this, he is producing really tasty coffee on the strength of his own experience and hard work.
- He is part of a group of producers in Mataqescuintla who are loosely organized around their resistance to a massive, Canadian-owned silver mine nearby. This resistance has succeeded in achieving a suspension of the mine’s license pending a consultation with the local community.
- As part of a project with Bows x Arrows and Drumroaster, we purchased both Miguel’s lots and another, yet to be released lot, in solidarity with their community’s struggle. We hope we can contribute to a more stable economic future and bring attention to the many challenges coffee producers face.
- We believe true quality involves attempting to understand the underlying socio-political issues of coffee producers and developing relationships that can give a leg up to people who are doing great work.
A letter from Miguel
A pleasure to introduce myself and comment a little on my story:
In the year 1955, my father Patrocinio de Jesús Rodriguez Ortiz began cultivating cafe Arabigo (Typica) and since then I have inherited this from him. 25 years later, I began to grow my own coffee, beginning by planting a half manzana (~.9 acres) of the varieties Pache San Ramon, Caturra, Bourbon, Catuai as these are the highest quality coffees. Continuing to the present day, my children and I continue working to improve the management of these coffee fields by, for example, planting trees such as Cuje. Gravileas, Pine, and others.
Also, we undertake practices of soil management including weeding and draining, in order to conserve the environment and our soils, and we also continue fighting for our common house or, that is, everyone’s home who is fighting against megaprojects and monocultures.
It is worth mention a little of my story from the 11 of April in the year of 2013, I was unjustly detained for peacefully protesting against the mine, for which we were detained four days for having defended our common house, being a right of all and being a constitutional right of free expression, because we know the damages these mineral extraction companies cause.
Thank you for your close attention,
Miguel Angel Rodriguez Cordero
Mataquescuintla Coffee Producers and the Escobal Mine
Miguel is part of a group of coffee producers in the municipality of Mataquescuintla, in the Jalapa department, 40 miles southeast of Guatemala City. Jalapa is, for the most part, a largely overlooked coffee producing region despite coffee figuring as the one of the region’s most common agricultural products.
This is our first time buying from Miguel, who was brought to our attention by Bows x Arrows Coffee Roasters. He’s part of a group of coffee producers in Mataquescuintla who have organized around a shared resistance to the Escobal silver mine, located in the nearby town of San Rafael des Flores.
Estimated to be the third-largest silver mine in the world, Escobal is owned by Canadian-based Tahoe Resources, and operated by a national subsidiary named Minera San Rafael (MSR). This is the mine Miguel is referencing when he says he was detained for peacefully protesting. The mine received its final permits for extraction in 2013 and began functioning in 2014.
The areas around Mataquescuintla and San Rafael have been the focus of mining development since 1694 when silver was discovered there. In 2006, these efforts regained forced, specially regarding the land concession that included the Escobal mine.
Canadian companies have been involved with the development of this project for over two decades. In 1996, Mar-West Aruba mining company — a subsidiary of the Canadian firm Mar-West Resources — was awarded the Escobal concession and since then company changed hands several times before becoming property of Tahoe Resources in 2010. Tahoe Resources is registered in British Columbia, with offices in Vancouver B.C. and Reno, Nevada.
Peaceful resistance to this project has been ongoing since 2010.
In 2010, a series of information sessions took place throughout the surrounding communities to discuss the economic, social, political, legal, and environmental impacts of this project in their communities. This led to emergence of coalition between the local Catholic diocese and the local indigenous Xinca peoples for the purpose of organizing local plebiscites and also organizing to protect the legal rights of the affected community members. Much of the resistance from the communities is rooted in their fears that the project will damage their water sources, upon which their agricultural lifestyles depend.
Between 2011 and 2012, four formally recognized municipal plebiscites received a No vote to the mine of above 98% by participating voters. After these were held, the Guatemala Chamber of Commerce brought a constitutional challenge against these actions only to see the Constitutional Court rule in favour of the plebiscites. There were also an additional 8 good faith plebiscites held in 2013 where the No vote won in percentages ranging from 93-100%. In the municipality of Santa Rafael Las Flores, closest to the mine, the plebiscite was blocked by municipal authorities.
In December of 2013, the Constitutional Court further endorsed the results of community plebiscites regarding mining projects, stating that is is mandatory for a community to hold these votes and to take the results into consideration. The court referred directly to the plebiscite held in Mataquescuintla, and based its ruling on the International Labour Organization’s Convention of the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. Their statement was that “it is the unquestionable right of peoples to be consulted but it is [also] necessary to reinforce the proper procedure (for consultation).”
During 2011-2013, 280 citizens also registered formal complaints against the Escobal mineral extraction license. These complaints argued that the environmental impact report was inadequate and that Tahoe Resources had fail to conduct good faith consultations with the community members as to the impacts of the Escobal project. On April 3 2013, the Mining Office at the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mining announced the license had been granted and all 280 complaints would not be processed.
In the time since these plebiscites, private security firms hired by MSR, in conjunction with the police, have cracked down on the local communities. This included a violent exchange in April 2013, when peaceful protesters were fired upon by private security guards, resulting in seven being injured.
A military state of siege was then declared in May 2013 by the central government, effectively squashing most community consultation being planned in the areas affected by the Escobal project. MSR has also funded the building of a police station in order to increase police presence in the area, and has had up to 6 local mayors on its payroll.
Hugo Loy, Mayor of Mataquescuintla, is one of the sole holdouts. As a result, there’s been an increased “criminalization” of these peaceful protestors that has resulted in 100s of arrests. All have been released, and no evidence has ever been presented. This is part of a broader attempt to destabilize the communities resistance.
Nevertheless, the communities have carried on in their combined resistance. In July 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled against Tahoe Resources and suspended their mining license. The mine has been closed since then, and Tahoe Resources has filed an appeal, arguing that past local precedent backs their position and assuring stockholders they will be functioning again soon. In early September 2018, the Supreme Court ratified the Constitutional Court ruling, upholding the suspension. Tahoe has no agreed to go forth with a consultation as demanded by the ILO, but doubts remain of whether this will be done in good faith.
This is a clearly complex and variegated issue, but our hope is that we can showcase the layers of struggle that coffee producers face, beyond the already large struggle of selling coffee at a sufficient price. Miguel, a second-generation coffee farmer, has previously sold his coffee on the commodity market and this is one of his first opportunities to sell his micro-lots. Now, he and his peers find themselves struggling as land defenders in an area of the world where environmental activists are killed or injured in record numbers.
We hope that in buying from Miguel (and another yet to be released lot from Randolfo Pacheco), we can provide support to this community in their time of uncertainty, and bring the struggle of the Mataquescuintla community to the forefront.
Further reading: Mining Watch, LA Times, The Guardian.
The group has an excellent relationship with a medium sized Estate in Jalapa, Finca la Concepción that often has their mill unused during harvest as they are not a large operation. An excellent wet milling service is offered to them at a very low price, the mill-manager, Roberto, is part of the anti-mining resistance and wants to do all he can to help the producers realize the highest quality possible from their coffee, as does the owner of the Estate. The producers get to concentrate on producing exceptional cherries, which are then processed and dried separately. Cherries are floated prior to depulping to remove over and under-ripes, and then fermented in small tanks covered with plastic, or clean nylon bags when the quantities are tiny, for between 24 and 36 hours depending in the weather. The mill sits at 1552masl. The coffee is then washed in channels and density sorted carefully dried on the patio for over eight to ten days