Dear friends, on my recent trip to Guatemala (July 14 to 20), I had the opportunity to visit my friend Leocadio Juracan, who is the Vice President of the Comite Campesino del Altiplano. This is the group which produces the delicious Café Justicia which I sell. The business of advocating for land reform and the production of fair trade coffee is not as safe as you might think. Earlier in the year Leocadio fled to Vancouver after him and his family received several death threats. During his temporary exile, Leocadio embarked on a cross-Canada speaking tour which brought him to Toronto for a few days.
Now he’s back in Guatemala and living under an improved security situation. A closed circuit camera system has been added to his house so he can see who is knocking at his door and he’s receiving accompaniment from Patrick, a Canadian student volunteer, who is living with him for the summer. Over lunch, Leocadio tells me that even the Guatemalan police seem to be checking in on him to see if he’s safe!
Now Leocadio and his colleagues are faced with another big challenge: the aftermath of Tropical Storm Agatha which swept through in June. The storm absolutely devastated many CCDA supported communities, including some of the coffee growing villages.
In the town of San Lucas Toliman on the shores of Lake Atitlan entire neighbourhoods were swept away by landslides. South of the town on the road towards the Pacific coast was the village of Pampojila, I say was, because it is entirely gone except for the Catholic Church. After Hurricane Stan in 2005, I visited the community with Leocadio, many houses had been damaged and some had been destroyed, but the community was mostly intact. Today it looks like a moonscape with gravel and giant boulders scattered across the land.
Other CCDA supported communities which I didn’t visit suffered similar damage to housing, infrastructure such as roads and bridges and coffee plants – coffee plants take four years to bear fruit so many families will have lost precious income.
The rainy season in Guatemala will last until November and it was another rainy day in San Lucas Toliman when I was there. I saw families in San Lucas still fleeing their houses, fearing more slides could come.
While many official centres for storm refugees have been closed, there are still thousands away from their destroyed homes. The CCDA continues to provide relief including food, water, and medical support. Your donations are still welcome at http://cafejusticia.ca/tropical-storm-agatha-devastates-ccda-communities.