Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Poco Falta la Gloria, Anduvimos en San Pedro.

(Just short of the Glory, we walked in Saint Peter.)
Dan and Hannah spent the final days of November (through 12/3) in San Pedro (Terrerios). This is a remote community, five hours’ ride from Jalapa by mule. There is no electricity and no road into town. The nearest town is Terrerios, which is about an hour’s ride away on a steep, up-and-down trail. Most people grow coffee and depend on this and excess corn and beans for income. As they are currently harvesting coffee, we spent much of our time here saturated with learning about how coffee is initially picked and processed. Hannah was completely fascinated with the entire process and we were both delighted to help in any way we could.

We planned to spend the week picking coffee, but our hosts found this option impermissible- for fear of Coloradillas, little animalitos (bugs) that live in the coffee fields and bite the workers. We said we were willing to risk it, but they would have none of it. They did let us pick coffee for about an hour, a couple of times. We helped dis-pulp the fleshy part of the fruit from the beans, and picked out malos (“bad” beans- damaged from bugs or otherwise malformed) from semi-dry coffee that after sorting, goes to market in Jalapa (5 hours away) at about .41 cents a pound.

This community is organized and people work together to solve their problems, in a way we have not witnessed in Jalapa and other communities sobre la carretera (along the highway), where FCP focuses much of its work. The first morning we were there, we went with Don Juan Quintero (who we stayed with) to a neighbor whose cow had expelled her uterus. Don Juan and others worked on the cow to get the uterus back into its proper place, while others looked on and helped in whatever way possible. Afterword, we drank divine coffee and discussed community issues.

The most pressing issue for San Pedro is that the road to Jalapa is actually a single-track trail, impassible by anything but a horse/mule, bicycles or one’s own feet. The 4 river crossings become dangerous when it rains, severing the community from healthcare and all other basic amenities, available only in Jalapa. Also, there is no high school in Terrerios, so many students in San Pedro receive primary education only, as commuting is impossible. We could potentially work to improve the camino into town, with Dan’s trail building skills and the labor of the community to reduce the river crossing to one (instead of 4), for a start. The idea behind trail work is to use local resources, along the proposed trail. Costs would be limited mostly to labor, to be provided by community itself. This community shows a clear disposition to hard work, demonstrable coherence and internal organization necessary for such a project.

Final note: one morning in San Pedro, Don Juan and Dan went with the rest of the men of the community to a swamp in the middle of the jungle to slaughter another injured cow, weigh it and divide it among the community, taking tabs in a book about who owed what to the cow’s owner. Each man did his part chopping up the cow with machetes and axes until there was nothing left.

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