Rivista Anarchica Online

Cafe Zapatista:
how to support a libertarian
society by drinking coffee


What Italian Anarchists do?

"Officially" they trow bombs, even if this theory has been proved wrong in the past 40 years, at least since the massacre of Piazza Fontana, in the "collective imaginery" of the average italian the figure of bomb-trowing anarchists is still deeply impressed.

They make "casino" in the streets, protesting whatever there is or there isn't around to protest? This too is part of the "official truth" propagated by the mass media, and bought by the average normal person, and sometimes it is true, even if they usually make less "casino" than the police facing them in the streets.

What then if Anarchist made selling and drinking coffe a cornerstone of their support for the freedom and equality movements to build a libertarian society in Mexico's Chiapas?

That, for sure, would be something unexpected by most "normal" people: "Sir, would you like a coffee to support the struggle of the people who made it? They do not have bosses or authorities, but they make a very good coffe, it's the best quality organic coffee in the world! And it costs to you less than the coffee you buy in the supermarket! Would you like to try it?"

Is this a new way of making revolution? Maybe not, but definitly it is a good way to support the efforts of the Mayan Zapatista communities in Mexico's Chiapas to survive and prosper in their effort to build from bottom-up a just and equalitarian, libertarian society. And, while you donate your support to "the cause", you also save some money doing so, and enjoy a good coffee.


This dossier has been prepared by Enrico Massetti


Cafè Zapatista

by Enrico Massetti

Would you like to support a libertarian society by drinking coffee?

"Sir, madam, would you like to drink a good coffee to support the struggle of the Mexican Mayan people who made it and help them out of poverty? They do not want to be forced to emigrate illegally to the USA, and don't want to have bosses, but they make a very good coffe, it's the best quality organic coffee in the world! And it costs to you less than the coffee you buy in the supermarket! Would you like to try it?"

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed into legislation on Jan. 1, 1994 was to have ignited Mexico's ascent into a modern, First-World State.

But in the southern state of Chiapas on this New Years Day, an "armed uprising of indigenous peoples stole the media spotlight, exposing Mexico's massive social inequalities and the exclusion of the country's indigenous population from it's economic development," (Latin American Press, Jan. 20,1994). These insurgents calling themselves the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), claimed that they were fighting for the rights of indigenous Mexicans as they captured four towns in Chiapas, (where Mayan descendants are concentrated). The Mexican government had been denying the existence of a guerilla movement as an attempt to present itself as stable and prosperous during the NAFTA negotiations. Since the media attention was on Mexico due to NAFTA, the EZLN strategically chose this time to rise up and tell the world that NAFTA was a death certificate for the ethnic people of Mexico. As Zapatista Comandante Ramona was quoted "We were not taken into consideration when NAFTA was negotiated, never again will there be a Mexico without us!"

The problems with NAFTA and the Mexican Underclass
In order for NAFTA to be initiated, Mexico must comply with Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). SAPs allow countries to be eligible for loans from the World Bank. The problem with SAPs in relation to the Zapatistans are that it calls for the privatization of all land (oil, mining, telephone service, etc..), deep cuts in social spending, (health, education, housing), and an emphasis on export production (eliminates nearly all loans for those in the sectors producing goods for internal consumption). The privatization of all land will have a dramatic effect on the Zapatistas.

Previously the Mexican constitution protected the communal lands (ejidos) held by the indigenous population. In the state of Chiapas (70% indigenous population) this will lead to the expulsion of 1.5 million people from their land. Not only will these people lose their land, but the environment will suffer an irresponsible rates of deforestation. The EZLN feels that the theft of their land is an attempt to destroy the culture of the Mayans (assimilation).

Deep cuts in social spending is yet another detriment to Mexico's indigenous people. It will close schools and minimize the availability of medical attention. As it stands now 46.6% of Chiapas' population suffers from malnutrition compared to 5.5% for the rest of the country.

So, they organized themselves on the basis of traditional Maya culture and started cooperatives to free themselves from the high cost of the intermediation typical of the distribution of their main product: coffee.

They were and are helped by a widespread international movement that now supports them through direct distribution of their coffee worldwide.

This dossier is about these issues, and how you too can help this proud people to survive and prosper by asking your barista to use zapatista coffee, by buying it for your own use, by telling about it to your friends, by selling it in your area: all the information on what you can do are included here!

Dossier prepared by Enrico Massetti

***   Caffè zapatista
cafe-libertad.de   Dove e come è prodotto il caffè
cafe campesino   Cooperative zapatiste
cafe-libertad.de   Cafè Libertad collective eG
***   Gustare il caffè zapatista
***   Distribuzione del caffè zapatista nel mondo
Roy Krøvel   Anarchismo, gli Zapatisti e la Solidarietà Globale

1. Caffè Zapatista

Coffee is, after petroleum, the second product on the world market for exports, the volume of its market of about $ 10 billion.

In its cultivation, processing and sale are occupied about 25 million people in the southern hemisphere. They base their survival on this activity, and depend on the price determined on daily basis by the New York Stock Exchange.

Mexico produces some of the best coffee in the world, grown mainly in the mountains. The first product that Mexico exports is coffee, it is in fact the world's fourth largest producer and the world's leading one of organic coffee.

Zapatista coffee
Trasport of the crop

In Mexico more than three million people live with its cultivation and export. 91.7% are small producers with less than 5 acres and more than 60% are indigenous.

The others are on a small number of large estates of enormous extent, the result of the occupation of the lands of indigenous communities, that the government allowed and supported.

Entire families which based their precarious existence on a small plot of land have become therefore laborers forced to work in inhuman conditions in the service of the new master "finquero".

In the estates of wealthy families of the national oligarchy and foreign entrepreneurs are counting on high returns arising from modern technology and the work of a large amount of cheap labor.

Small producers instead produce without adequate technical knowledge and tools, and without the required credit enhancement, and of course they can not with only their own efforts work and market the finished product.

Zapatista coffeeThe crops are often in remote areas and, after a very tiring and rudimentary transport, arrived at the nearest road, they have to sell the product to the "coyotes". These are just the first of the intricate network of intermediaries, and this means that because of false balances and lies on the real market price, to the producers are left only the crumbs of this great business.

But the dependence of the southern countries of the world on a single product, and the fact that they cannot influence its price, have resulted in a complete submission to the policies and strategies of the rich importing countries and of the major financial institutions (IMF, WB, WTO etc.).

In practical terms this meant despair at not being able to cover even the cost of production, and the eradication of cultural and community ties of indigenous peoples.

To change this situation, the EZLN has developed its social and political project: to build a society from the bottom-up, where the Mayan people can enjoy a real autonomy, to preserve their language and culture and self-organized forms of direct democracy, through access to education, health, land and a dignified life.

Co-operatives of small producers such as the ones that collected the cafe zapatista are one form of this project, where the members join forces to improve their own forms of organization, to defend a more secure access to land, and to improve their living conditions.

For these reasons we developed this new project together with the common fight of the rebel communities in resistance and for these reasons we distribute these rebel coffee beans .

2. Dove e come è prodotto il caffè

Drying coffee in the sun
Hand picking of coffee


Depulping of coffee


Trailer of the video on coffee production by the Cooperative Mut Vitz
The full video DVD, authored by the zapatistas themselves,
is on sale at www.chiapasmediaproject.org

3. Zapatist Cooperatives

Cooperativa Zapatista Yach’il.

Comprised of 685 Members in 5 municipalities. Annual Production of approximately 6.5 containers (260,000 pounds - 130 tons). All Coffee Organic Certified or in transition. Founded in 2001, Joined FLO register in 2005. Group is Organic Certified since 2005. Altitude of plots between 1,000 and 1,300 ft (300 and 400 mt).

Meeting of the cooperative

Yach’il Xojobal Chu’lchan, which means "new light in the sky" in the Tzeltal language, has members from the Tzotzil and Tzeltal Mayan indigenous groups supportive of the Zapatista autonomous movement working towards respect for indigenous rights. In 2001, Yachil began to organize its first members with 383 producers from the municipalities of Chilon, Pantelho and San Juan Cancuc.

Weighting coffe at the delivery to the cooperative

In 2003, Yachil sold its first container to Germany, and in 2004 they sold just over 2 containers to Germany and into the US. They currently are comprised of 685 members in five municipalities (Chanalho, Chalchihuitan, Tenjapa, Cancun, and Pantelho). They are currently hoping to export 6.5 containers to even more buyers. Cooperative Coffees is currently the only American importer.

Yach’il neighborough

Members of this fair trade coffee cooperative have formed their own local indigenous governments, which focus on community development efforts to promote democracy, equality, and empowerment. Members do not accept government handouts.

Yach’il house

Over the last decade, members of Yachil have suffered repression at the hands of government security forces and the paramilitary. Many members and their families have been forced to flee their communities as internal refugees and they continue to be victims of oppression, intimidation, and even assassination.

4. Cafè Libertad collective eG:
importers in Europe and worldwide distributors

Organic coffee farmers in the Zapatista resistance in Chiapas - Mexico

Our coffee comes from the region Oventic in the highlands of Chiapas. Here, indigenous communities on the Zapatista uprising after the first liberation movement EZLN January 1994 organized independently.

The Café Libertad organized cooperative in Hamburg handles the import and distribution of this Zapatista coffee in Germany (and other European countries), it makes political solidarity work with the aim of supporting the indigenous communities in their struggle for dignity and justice . At the same time we want to strengthen our work to build an economic alternative, based on indigenous experiences, direct democracy, self-determination and management. An alternative that is based and meets the basic needs of people for adequate food, medical care, school education and better local infrastructure.

Not just "orgánico" - but more than just "biologic"!

We would like to point out that the Zapatista organic coffee is not "just" certified organic coffee. Such coffee is available almost everywhere. Ask about where the coffee is coming from, who cultivated it and who profited from his marketing! We only promote small farmer family cooperatives who grow their coffee in the traditional manner under shade trees, organic pesticide-free. By hand, the coffee cherries are separated from the pulp and dried in the sun, instead of - as in the coffee plantation - right after the harvest to core industrial and dry. Such processing methods are used by corporations and private landowners ("finqueros") in organic coffee cultivation. Consider whether you want to support capitalist structures in natural food stores and at the Bio-segment support of the supermarket chains!

The concept of Café Libertad collective eG:

  • We cover their costs and are organized as a collective in the form of a registered cooperative. As in the usual alternative trading, we will pay for the coffee more than the world price - at least $ 1.90 per pound of organic green coffee beans (454g). We pay more than the "fair" rules prescribed by the TransFair seal. We don't participate at TransFair because we do not "invest" in questionable advertising and sales structures, such as supermarkets do. We rather support the resistance movement in Chiapas directly with funding them directly.
  • Café Libertad promoted in the last five years, with approximately 44,000 € uro including the construction of a dental emergency clinic in Morelia Caracol, the care of the refugees in Polho, the Aufbu a dental clinic, well construction and school projects in Zapatista communities..

Café Libertad Why so cheap?

  1. We have set ourselves, as founding member of our cooperative, attention not only in purchasing, but also in keeping as little as possible the cost between retailers. Therefore, we have argued, how can large retailers such as supermarkets, health food stores, etc. be able to provide large discounts of 25-45% to most other distributors of fair trade coffee? The fact is that we offer to all the coffee customers the same prices from our factory, the coffee is for private purchasing groups and other non-commercial projects, and of course accordingly for ordering directly from us it is cheaper. The high discounts need not be co-financed by the consumer.
  2. We have neither a profit nor do we have well paid managers, officers or directors. All group members receive the same pay by the hour.
  3. Our purchasing: we buy directly and without intermediaries or importers association from the cooperatives, which we pay a much higher price than most of the other fair trade importers (currently $ 1.90 per 454g organic green coffee instead of 1.51 U.S. dollars ). We also take care of insuring the shipment and the shipments themselves.
  4. We sit in Hamburg. Thus, the transport routes are extremely short. The coffee is here in the harbor, we store it here, here it is roasted and it is distributed from here.


5. Tasting the Zapatista coffee

Some comments:

Per quanto riguarda il gusto...beh! A me piace molto. Tra l'altro è macinato in modo tale che può funzionare sia con la moka che con la napoletana (e viene molto meglio, te lo garantisco!)

Libreria Anomalia – Roma

... we use and sells Zapatista coffee ... as an act of solidarity with the indigenous peoples struggle in Chiapas Mexico and also because it tastes so damn good!

Veggies Catering Campaign Nottingham, Regno Unito

... this is a really fine tasting coffee with a bright and mildly fruity zing at a medium roast. mmmmm....aaaahhhh..

Chicago, Illinois, USA

... very good indeed, with a lot of cream foam, ideal for an exceptional espresso! I could not go back to the commercial coffee I used in the past...

Washington, DC, USA

6. Where to find zapatista coffee in Italy

Coordinadora is a libertarian meeting place where individuality and independent groups with local roots that have their own local experience of solidarity and self-management in Italy and abroad. Many of the participants who supported and support the struggle for the construction of autonomy in Zapatista Chiapas (Mexico) the promotion, financing and implementation of projects on the ground along with the indigenous communities in resistance, including the distribution of coffee rebelde. (http://www.coordinadora.it)

Libreria Anomalia, alternative anarchist Library and Documentation Centre, open Monday to Saturday. hours 16-20, via dei Campani 71/73, I-00185 Roma (http://www.libreriaanomalia.org).

Where to find zapatista coffee in the world:
http://tangoitalia.com/zapatistas/cafe_distribution_en.htm lists the contact for sale points in:
Europa: Austria, Croazia, Denmark, Finlandia, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Netherlands, Polonia, Spaign, Svezia, Switzerland, UK
Nord America: Canada, United States
Asia, Pacifico: Japan, Australia, Turkey.

Video DVD produced by zapatistas:
The indigenous (Maya) Zapatistas are updated on the latest multimedia technologies of video production, and present their world from their perspective, in a series of videos filmed and produced by them, distributed by: Chiapas Media Project-Promedios (http: / / promedios.org). Noteworthy are the videos on the cultivation of coffee, which shows the real point of view of a farmer, and the Zapatista organization of schools and health care, not to mention those on the persecution by the military and paramilitaries.

7. Anarchism, The Zapatistas and The Global Solidarity Movement

Introduction to an articol by Roy Krøvel

Speaking to a group of tourists in San Cristobal de las Casas on the 1st of January 1994, explaining why they could not travel on to the Maya ruins at Palenque, Chiapas, Subcomandante Marcos of the The Zapatista Army of National Liberation reportedly said: "I'm sorry. This is a revolution". Many tourists in San Cristobal de las Casas on that day called home, others called local media. Meanwhile, local activists and radicals in Chiapas used recently established Internet connections to communicate with radicals and activists globally. Before long a global solidarity movement was growing in numbers and importance. This global solidarity movement played a decisive role in halting the Mexican military offensives over the next few years, illustrating the potential power of activists using the Internet to communicate globally. Or at least, so goes one history of the conflict in Chiapas.

Many have commented on the global solidarity movement from a variety of perspectives. One fascinating perspective was given by researchers at the North American think-thank RAND Corporation. Ronfeldt and Fuller warned that the Zapatista uprising demonstrated how new technology now made it possible for "swarms" of "flies" to overrun governments.[3] Castells saw the development of global networks facilitated by the internet as revolutionary.[4] Old style hierarchical organizations would be no match for flexible networks . Cleaver believed to observe how the "fabric" of politics was being "rewoven" as activists formed global networks of solidarity to exchange information and organize in support of the Zapatistas.[5] Based on the Zapatista experience, Holloway argued for changing the world without taking power.[6] These arguments are relevant for anyone studying the relationship between International Relations and anarchism.

There is at least one more reason why the case of the Zapatista global solidarity movement is of interest for students of International Relations and anarchism. The solidarity movement with the Zapatistas stands out from other earlier solidarity movements with armed revolutionaries in the region, for example in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. In Nicaragua, for example, a number of European states sided with the Sandinista government against the Contras supported by the US. North American and European trade unions were involved in the international movement in support of those who struggled against the authoritarian governments in Guatemala and El Salvador. Faith based groups also played a pivotal role in the solidarity movement with Central America. These and other actors were largely absent in the global solidarity movement with the Zapatistas. The global solidarity movement thus came to rely on individual activists and small informal organizations forming a loose network. Although many would hesitate to define themselves as "anarchists", I would argue that the network was heavily influenced by various strains of "anarchism" in the broadest sense of the word.

The aim of this paper is to contribute to the existing literature on the global solidarity movement. It is intended to understand the development of the global solidarity movement in relation to anarchist literature. It asks two research questions: Why did the activists of the global solidarity network identify themselves with the indigenous peoples of the Zapatista communities in Chiapas? How did the communication between the two groups influence the development of the political organization of the Zapatistas and the development of a wider global movement against neoliberal globalization? The research takes a historical approach. It will argue that the political debate in the global solidarity movement evolved around a few central themes. The article will follow the discussion as it developed gradually after January 1st 1994 onwards. For clarity I try to divide the developing discussion into three phases, even though they often overlap. In the first phase the indigenous identity of the Zapatistas was "discovered and underlined by a number of visiting activists and scholars. The second phase followed closely. In this phase a particular Zapatista democratic practice was investigated and reported by activists and scholars. The article will move on to analyze the third phase where demands for particular collective indigenous rights came to the forefront of the struggle. Collective indigenous rights invite a discussion of individualism vs. collectivism. The last section tries to link these debates to the anarchist literature on environmentalism. I will argue that understanding these debates is necessary to understand why and how the global solidarity movement came to develop and grow in influence during the 1990's. Understanding them is also necessary for a critical analysis of why the movement was ridden by splits and conflicts.

Roy Krøvel
Oslo University College, Department: Faculty of Journalism, Library and Information Science

The complete article is at: http://tangoitalia.com/zapatistas/cafe_anarchists_en.htm

To buy the dreams

The DVD also dreams come true "is composed of four films, respectively 35, 43, 18 and 13 minutes and is self produced by the Project Flores Magon Libertarian with footage ranging from December 2005 to spring 2006.

The DVD costs € 8.00 in addition to shipping costs. It is expected the price of € 5.00 per DVD for those who buy at least 5 copies.

The DVD can be found and purchased at the headquarters of Trade Unions Italian in Milan - Viale Bligny, 22; Calusca Library in Milan - Via Conchetta, 18; the CSOA Cox 18 in Milan - Via Conchetta, 18.

Payments can be made by wire transfer to bank account at Union Auditors Italian Health entitled "pro Chiapas" No 46667 - CIN Y ABI code 05584 - CAB code 01605 at Banca Popolare di Milano agency No 5 Milan.

For info and coffee purchasing:
Unione Sindacale Italiana Viale Bligny, 22 Milano
tel e fax. +39-02-
e-mail: usis@libero.it; info@coordinadora.it.


translation Enrico Massetti