Mexico – It is a three hour hike from San Cristobal de Las Casas to the asphalt road to San Joaquin.
Winding along the mountainside, between 1,500 and 2,500 meters above sea level, you dominate long valleys bordered by trees where corn, beans and coffee grow.
In San Joaquin, which is part of the municipality of Pantelho, people speak the indigenous Tzeltal language. Only those who have gone to school can speak Spanish.
Manuel Guzman Perez lives here with his wife and three children.
The 30-year-old farmer grows coffee on the six hectares that have been allocated by the community to his parents and their seven children.
Some went to work in San Cristobal. And the youngest left for the United States two years ago.
“The action to change things had to come from us, the people”
“He got a three-month visa to work in the fields at harvest time, and then he stayed there. Now he works in a Michigan restaurant,” says Manuel, sipping weak, sweet coffee in the room. smoky darkness of the log. cabin that serves as a kitchen and common dining room at his father’s house.
Dressed in hooded jackets, we huddle around the fire on small stools.
Manuel’s father, Pedro, remembers the visits of “Tatik Samuel”; that is, Dom Samuel Ruiz Garcia, who was Bishop of Chiapas for 41 years.
He arrived on horseback or on foot and visited the inhabitants of the five areas of the commune.
“Tatik Samuel helped the poorest and encouraged dialogue,” recalls Pedro.
“He told us that he was only accompanying us. He made us understand that the action to change things had to come from us, the people,” he continues.
Pedro is a deacon, which means that he baptizes, blesses graves when people die and distributes the Eucharist, which he receives from the priest of Pantelho.
He also celebrates weddings.
“For mine, he asked the deacon from another area to do it,” Manuel says with a smile.
The deacon father, the catechist son
Tatik Samuel created this native church.
“Being a deacon is something for a couple,” adds Pedro.
“My wife and I are accompanied in our care by the principal, a sage from the community, chosen from among the elders,” he says.
The majority of the seminarians in Chiapas today are indigenous.
“It’s positive. But be careful! If they take the position of ‘I am the priest’, they can be the people’s worst enemy,” warns Pedro.
Manuel resumed his father’s commitment by following training as a catechist.
“What unites us is the Gospel. But money makes mentalities change. Many young people no longer come to the celebrations,” he notes.
“There are a lot of people who want to use God and ask God for something. For me, I think it’s much better to be a servant of this God,” Manuel says.
It provides two-hour training for children and adults every Sunday after Mass. And every year, he takes a one-week training course.
He has the most formal education of all the members of his family. He would have gone to high school in San Cristobal. But it required money that his father didn’t have.
A cooperative that produces fair trade coffee
The community of San Joaquin is made up of 43 families. Together, they manage to fill two containers with Arabica coffee beans every year.
The land belongs to all the families, but each one cultivates the plot which has been allocated to it.
With legal assistance from DESMI – one of the organizations created by Tatik Samuel, partner of the French Catholic development agency CCFD-Terre Solidaire – the community of San Joaquin has decided to organize itself into a fair trade coffee production cooperative. .
“In order to find our market, we have improved the quality of our beans and requested phytosanitary certification which will allow them to be exported,” explains Manuel.
The farmer takes us through the mountain on a steep, slippery path that leads to his coffee trees.
He knows each of his trees and enjoys this life without Internet, but with the possibility of having a telephone connection.
Manuel is working with his community to build a well living (good life), as advocated by the Zapatista movement which shook the mountains of Chiapas more than two decades ago.
“We are part of the National Indigenous Congress,” he explains.
“But only one family from the community continues to follow the struggle of the Zapatista organization. The others, including mine, are in the resistance, but not in the struggle.