Felix Marquez

Visual journalist based in Mexico
Two visions of Mexican coffee
Location: Veracruz, Mexico
Nationality: Mexican
Biography: Félix Márquez is an independent photographer and visual journalist based in Mexico. Márquez has specialized in covering the war against drug trafficking in Mexico, migration, human rights and childhood in Latin America.... read on
Public Story
Two visions of Mexican coffee
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Jose Frías Nativitas, a 74-year-old farmer, traveled half a century ago with his wife to these lands of Ixhuatlan del Cafe that bear the roots in their name. They carried a hoe and a few blankets for almost 300 kilometers. With decades of work, the family managed to acquire a hillside that for 14 years they have been used for growing coffee. They upload the product in sacks, with the help of one of their most precious goods, a mule that cost them $ 1,000.

The area is located at an altitude of more than a thousand meters, conducive to the cultivation of Arabica coffee, a fragrant and smooth species, with some acidity.

The best coffee in Veracruz, says Mr. Jose, was the "criollo" (typica). But the blight of the rust fungus ended it two decades ago. Little plant that they planted, little plant that plague invaded.

Sandra, Jose's granddaughter, remembers what an uncle told her: in some cafeterias in the cities, the price of a glass of coffee can be around 2.5 dollars. The girl does the math, to buy one of those cups of processed coffee, her family would have to sell eight kilograms of coffee cherries, which they pay for 30 cents each.

Coffee growers in Veracruz fear that the construction of the largest coffee processor in the world, manufactured by Nestlé, handling 20,000 tons a year, will lower prices even further.

The arrival of the company will generate direct and indirect jobs that are needed in these poor regions. But at the same time, their presence goes in the opposite direction to the historical struggle to produce better quality coffee from high altitude.

In addition, coffee growers and some authorities fear that coffee production tends to industrial monoculture and that the market, driven by the demand of the transnational, will spread into Mexican territory, displacing the cultivation of other species and frustrate the purpose of food self-sufficiency.

The Mexican government has not finished defining a policy for this seed and its decisions seem contradictory. Inside the cabinet there is a debate about strengthening the cultivation of high altitude coffee that is mostly produced by small farmers (92%). Or promote the industry and the business model such as that of the transnational Nestlé, with large volumes of lower quality coffee, and with the help of entrepreneurs related to biotechnology, who now work in the Office of the President of the Republic, headed by its owner, Alfonso Romo Garza.


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