When coffee was introduced into the Americas as a cash crop in the 1700’s, it brought about large-scale displacement and exploitation of many indigenous peoples. In the Caribbean, the extreme conditions endured by the African slaves working the coffee plantations was a major factor in the successful revolution led by Toussaint L'Ouverture against the French which led to the establishment of the Republic of Haiti as an independent country on January 1, 1804.
The connection between the coffee industry and revolutionary movements for liberation from colonization and exploitation in this hemisphere is broad and diverse, and indeed involves not just the coffee industry but the narrative weaves across the entire spectrum of agricultural production and marketing systems from local to regional, from continental to global dimension. Here in Arizona, this connection is most well known by the initiatives of the Migrant Farmworker Movement exemplified by Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers of America, as well as the local Arizona Farmworkers Union established in the 1970’s by Gustavo Gutierrez.
In fact, TONATIERRA, established in 1994 as a community based grass roots organization of Indigenous Peoples is itself a product of this long history, being born from the fields of struggle for farmworker rights in Arizona. This history serves as prologue to the battle for human dignity in Arizona (still raging) that brought us to the forefront of the court fight against AZ SB1070 in 2010, and into the streets time and again to protest and demand respect for basic human rights.
From this local and historical perspective, specifically from the perspective of the Indigenous Peoples deliberately engaged in the ongoing struggles for social justice and community sustainability, the story of CAFETZIN, a product of the QuetzalCo-op is unique.
Beginning in January of 1996, following in the tradition of ancestral trade routes that once spanned the continent, QuetzalCo-op began marketing coffee from indigenous coffee cooperatives in Chiapas, Mexico. The project was birthed amid the bloodshed of the armed uprising of the EZLN, Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional in Chiapas Mexico on January 1, 2004 that brought worldwide attention to the historical injustices institutionalized across Mexico in violation of the human rights and basic human dignity of the Indigenous Peoples, specifically the Maya of Chiapas. January of 1994 marked the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiated among the governments of Canada-USA-Mexico without any consideration for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, specifically the right to development on our own terms as Peoples, equal to all other peoples.
TONATIERRA, as an Indigenous Peoples grassroots community based organization based in Phoenix, Arizona had already been developing working relationships with our sister organizations of the Maya from Chiapas since before January of 1994, when the EZLN uprising burst upon the international scene. When the armed conflict erupted, we were called to Chiapas as Indigenous Human Rights observers, with the intent of opening venues to non-violent resolution of the issues in conflict and in solidarity as Indigenous Peoples.
One of the outcomes of this history is the Cafetzin project and the articulation of a long range comprehensive economic development plan that originates from the Indigenous Peoples themselves to conduct commerce within an ethic of justice and mutual decolonization as we engage in the markets of goods and services from local to regional, continental to global spheres of transaction.
We established the TIANKIZCO in the heart of downtown Phoenix as a Continental Center of Indigenous Commerce and Culture, establishing a context and venue to map out and implement a set of strategies to take our place in the global economy, on our own terms. In this process, the bean by bean, cup by cup, bag by bag, marketing system of creating and sustaining an international infrastructure which is linked to sustainable local economies in the coffee business now is know as the QuetzalCo-op housed in the urban center of Phoenix, Arizona at the headquarters of TONATIERRA.
As criteria the QuetzalCo-op engages holistically with Cooperatives of Indigenous Peoples and grassroots communities from sister communities in Mexico and El Salvador who are part of the Fair Trade Coffee networks of coffee producers. We work within a dynamic of establishing not just an economic relationship based on the exchange of coffee, but in realization of continental cultural solidarity as Indigenous Peoples. The intent is to build collectively an intergenerational infrastructure of mutual cultural respect and benefit that can lead to further development of strategies and projects to move our families out of poverty and towards self-determination.
Today this tradition is carried forward by QuetzalCo-op with our Cafétzin. We purchase our coffee at or above the fair trade value from the growers of our sister organizations of Indigenous Peoples and fair trade associations. Always fresh roasted, the deep, rich and supremely satisfying taste of Cafétzin comes from not only from the high grade coffee from these imported sources, but also from the knowledge that there is the “taste of justice in every cup.”