Through a Boston College program called Arrupe, I went on an immersion trip to Chiapas, Mexico, over Christmas break, a trip filled with intense learning and discovery. Our short week in Mexico gave us a window into a vibrant, beautiful culture, rich in history and tradition. We also learned of the many, many injustices pertaining to immigration, politics, and foreign relations. Our Arrupe group paired with Borderlinks, an organization that promotes awareness and seeks to educate others about the realities of immigration. We had the blessing and honor to hear from the residents of Chiapas- we were welcomed with abrazos abiertos (open arms), and we are grateful to have been touched, pierced, and inspired by the people we met through honest conversation.
We spent the last few days of our trip in a small town called Salvador Urbina, a pueblo known for its coffee cooperative, Café Justo, which seeks to address the economic push factors of immigration by providing fair wages to its laborers. This cooperative eliminates the many “middle men” that play a role in the coffee production. This therefor reduces any unfair wages or scamming, as the profits from the coffee go directly to the workers. The business is entirely owned by the growers in Salvador Urbina, and the coffee is exported to the United States, and even European countries, as our host families proudly informed us.
Café Justo, though seemingly a small cooperative, is, in reality, an essential agent in attacking the root causes of immigration by asking the fundamental question: Why are people willing to leave their home countries, risk their lives, and leave behind their families and communities? The most prevalent answers are: political turmoil, which creates instability and life threatening situations (such as the current state of El Salvador), and economic instability, which creates and perpetuates unfair wages, thus creating an absolute need to leave to find work. Child labor, drug trafficking, human trafficking, assault, and lack of education are sadly only a few of the complicated issues that stem from mass immigration- from people forced to leave their homes because their communities, once safe havens, have become unlivable. In Salvador Urbina, Café Justo is challenging this economic instability by providing income for 42 + families, and by inspiring the youth to stay in school: it gives them hope that they, too, will be able to work for fair pay and provide for their families some day, and be able to take pride in working in their own community.