Los Cafetaleros: The Coffee Growers

San Martín is a tiny village in the coffee growing region of the Sierra Juarez in Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s not even a village, really, just a collection of widely spaced shacks lining a dirt path. It’s usually about a four hour hike to get to there from San José Tenango (simply called “Tenango” by locals) which is where the coffee warehouse is. When it’s time for the coffee harvest, sacks of coffee must be carted to Tenango. If a person has a mule, the sacks are loaded on its back and brought to Tenango. But mules cost $300 and most people can’t afford them. The only other way to get the coffee to the warehouse is for a person to carry the coffee on his back. Coffee sacks weigh about 70 pounds and, with that weight, it takes about 7 hours to hike through the mountains to bring the coffee to the warehouse. The coffee is dropped off at the warehouse and the person hikes back to San Martín that day, repeating the trip until all the coffee has been harvested. Although San Martín may be further from the central warehouse than other villages, all coffee is grown in the high mountains of Mexico and there’s just no easy way to get it to market.