behind the beans
Andes EcoTours had been operating for a little over a year when we were contacted by a friend of the Quininí community via Facebook. He was very persistant in telling us we should pay a visit to the area, after which, it didn’t take long for us to realize the community’s potential. A collective of 10 coffee growing families had also just recently begun functioning as an organization. They called themselves APRENAT and they were the Association of Protectors of the Natural Resources of Quininí Mountain. They had dreams to preserve their natural & cultural heritage, to protect the neighboring forest reserve and to share the coffee growing process with visitors to the area.
Since that day, we have been working to support the Quininí coffee growers and their community-based tourism initiative, bringing visitors to the area, helping to develop their product offering and improve their brand. More recently, we have begun working with the newly developed Inheritors of the Mountain youth club, for which we organize educational programs and actitivites such as environmental art workshops, English classes and vacation camps.
Behind the Beans is the culmination of stories and images collected over a 2 year period, during which time I spent multiple days at the foothills of the Quininí Mountain. On each occasion I would arrive with the stresses of the city on the back of my mind, and leave with an almost inexplainable peace. The community has become like a second family to me. We have shared our lives over countless cups of tinto, delicious home-cooked meals and a few games of tejo.!! May this exhibit serve as a glimpse into the lives of the Quininí coffee growers. A glimpse at their smiles, their struggles and their hope for the future. For pictures taken by the youth, click here.
Harvesting the Beans
I arrived at the farm to find Eli working in the fields. I fought my way through the plants listening for the sound of her voice. When I finally found her, I was surprised at how much she had already collected. “This is my second basket. It rained really heavily last night. If we don’t collect this morning, the fruit will fall”, she begins to explain. Miguel was away for the week visiting family in Bogotá, leaving Eli alone to make sure the necessary things got done.
Eli and Miguel grew up together. Her family used to have land up in the mountain, but they lost it when it became a reserve. Every 8 days she travels to the city to work in a restaurant. She has been working with the same lady there for 12 years. When times are tough she usually spends more of her days in Bogotá. “Alejandro doesn’t know what it’s like to go hungry”, she says of her youngest.