You’ve heard of the “butterfly effect,” haven’t you? It’s the idea, put forth by Conrad Lorenz, that the whisper soft beating of of a butterfly’s wing may stir up air currents that create a storm thousands of miles away.
Something like the butterfly effect seems to have happened in Veracruz. And it’s very good news.
Two years ago, I wrote about the plight of Don Ruperto Opoch, a genteel third generation organic coffee farmer whose story nearly broke my heart ("Veracruz: Great Coffee If You Can Find It; a Grower’s Lament"). "We are starving," he told me with simple dignity. After a lifetime of hard work and passion for his craft, he was slowly watching his entire world slip away.
Although the best coffee in Vera Cruz--designated Altura--is grown in the rich volcanic soil of the mountains around the city of Coatepec, Don Ruperto and other small growers in the area had not been able to maintain a market for their high quality—and higher priced—Arabica beans. This, despite the fact the Coatepec coffee “is prized by connoisseurs for its medium acidity, good balance and smoothness of taste.” Over the years he, like many, had been forced to sell off his land, bit by bit, to survive. Tragically one group of farmers exchanged their tiny plots for money to pay smugglers for illegal entry into the U.S., but died when they were abandoned in the Arizona desert without water.
Now life may have taken an unexpected turn for the better. Last week a friend who lives in Mexico wrote: “I must tell you when I went to Veracruz this March we went to see Don Ruperto who had copies of your article in his papers…He told us that because of the article some South Koreans ordered 800 kilos per month for a year and he organized coffee growers from Veracruz, Chiapas and Oaxaca to grow for them. A charming man and I can see why you loved him so. You should feel good about what can happen with a good piece of writing.”
Please go here to read the original SpiceLines piece, posted on May 22, 2006. And if you go to Veracruz, be sure to visit the lovely colonial city of Coatepec. Café Opoch, where you can sip a cup of Altura coffee or buy Don Ruperto’s beans, and his coffee museum are located at 5 de Mayo No 66 at the corner of Allende. Telephone: (228) 816-07-07.
Look for butterflies.