Thursday, 4 April 2013

Visit to the community of La Florida in Western Guatemala with Trocaire

Marvin, Elena and myself and the entrance sign to La Florida estate
Ever since I talked to Trocaire in their offices in Maynooth last year I have been interested in visiting some of the communities that they support here in Central America. 

On Thursday 4th April myself and Rowan got to see first hand some of the work that Trocaire does when we visited the rural community of La Florida Finca (estate /plantation) in the district of Columba in western Guatemala. This was one of the worst effected regions of the war and violence that occurred in the 80's and 90's with thousands of disappearances, kidnappings and mass graves which are still being investigated today.

We were picked up early in Xela by Elena and Marvin who work for Trocaire in Guatemala. After an hours drive we disembarked at an office to be briefed on the backgroud to La Florida estate.

Explaining the division of the land at La Florida

After years of struggle which started out with about 50 impoverished families occupying one of hundreds of abandoned Fincas, they finally were allowed to buy the land and the entire community have been working ever since to improve their situation and provide for their families. The families at la Florida are very focused on working together as a community as opposed to individuals and most of the estate is communally owned.

La Florida estate division of land
After our briefing we then drove for another half hour mainly on very rough unpaved and very steep dirt roads through beautiful jungle to finally arrive at the isolated community of La Florida.
Beautiful jungle scenery on the drive down to the estate
..and very bumpy roads
La Florida community produce lots of their own food but one of the main focuses is on coffee production. As well as growing the coffee beans until recently they had been processing the coffee all of which is organically certified.
La Florida organic coffee
As with lots of other parts of Guatemala the recent earthquake in November has wreaked havoc on the La Florida community. As you might guess I am no expert on coffee production but after a detailed explanation of the process and a detailed tour of their small and dilapidated sheds suffice to say that water is an integral part of the production process, not just one of the stages but pretty much every stage they explained to me is completely reliant on water.
Pipes to repair the damaged water supply
After the earthquake, their water supply was destroyed.

Needless to say they are desperately trying to raise funds to repair their water supply and infrastructure in order to be able to irrigate their land, produce electricity and effect the various coffee production processes. Time is against them as they need to have everything repaired in the next few months in order to meet coffee contracts they have signed up to.

The community at la Florida were an inspiring group of people who literally started with nothing. They are an outstanding example of people who will not take no for an answer and will push against all the odds to improve their situation. It was a privilege to meet them.

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