I landed in Oaxaca with a desire to serve and experience an unfamiliar culture and within three weeks the desire became reality in an astounding way. My name is Mark Dupray and I had the pleasure of spending a month living in the village of Ixcuintepec, Mixe Oaxaca.
To understand the remoteness of these villages it helps to understand that 20 years ago only a simple trail allowed access to the town and Spanish was not spoken. Only recently have cars become infrequent visitors and firelight been replaced by street lights.
When I landed in town and the announcement was made during the gathering of the Growers First farmer's cooperative, that I would be staying for a month. The word spread fast. During my time I learned that three staples keep the Mixe thriving as they have for the last couple centuries in the tropical mountains of Oaxaca. The first is family, the second is coffee, and the third is corn. The Mixe families are large and intimately involved. Every person in the village could at any give time scan the town and spot at least one cousin, grandmother, uncle or immediate family member, often with an enormous load of wood piled on their back or with a machete dangling at their side. And often those aforementioned persons were going to or coming home from their coffee or corn fields.
Growers First in conjunction with the farmer's cooperative have made growing coffee a worth while venture once again after years of prices being too low to motivate people to invest the hard labor to harvest coffee. While in the village I had the pleasure of hiking often an hour or more, deep into the lush surrounding hills to see the coffee plants growing in the shade of the the massive tropical canopy. During the month I was in town, the local farmer's CO-OP members collected the remaining coffee for the second export lot. In all 30,000 kilos were collected from Ixcuintepec this season and all of it was loaded onto the trucks one, 70 kilo bag at a time!
The Mixe are warm and inviting people who are more than willing to feed you until you absolutely explode. One of the first phrases I learned in Spanish and Mixe is "THANK YOU, I AM FULL." I spent countless evening hours hanging in a hammock with one family or another, discussing the day, the weather, the crops, and plans for the future. My time in the village also included teaching English, finishing construction of an adobe house, clearing fields with a machete and dodging fruit as it fell from the trees. The month in the village had a profound affect on me and it gave me a great feeling to know that Growers First is working with these people and many others like them, to produce a sustainable and healthy crop of coffee and people.
Please enjoy a short video I put together to show you these wonderful farmers and their families!