Saturday, December 30, 2006


Breakfast with beans. Church. This lasted for about 3.5 hours. Mostly in Spanish. It was at the pastoral compound out side. Shaded by a tarp and palm trees they had a nice choir. Some guy from Des Moines did the communion. Some of our delegation fell asleep. Not just nodded off. They conked out major league. Unconscious. After church we ate and went and saw the small coffee mill where they packaged coffee for the parish team’s coffee brand (“Don Justo” (Justice)). The idea behind it is they pay a “fair” or “just” price to the pickers for their back breaking labor. More on that later. Next we went to an hour and half bus ride into the mountains to the Finca (plantation). The trip was so rough that the bus was damaged and had to be repaired. (It was still drivable.) At the top of the mountain was a big plantation which produces about 60,000 lbs of coffee a year. Part of this goes to the parish coffee business. A good picker we where told picks about 200 lbs a day and makes $10 for his efforts at this plantation. I understand that this is twice the going rate. (Most pickers at most fincas get about $4 to $5 a day we were told.) So you can figure that all the pickers altogether pull down about $3000 for picking 60,000 lbs of coffee. Now consider this coffee in US stores goes for about $8 a pound. That means at the retail end the coffee the finca produces generates about a half a million $ in revenue. So for about a half a million in business the pickers get about .6%. Now a different angle on the money. For each pound of the Don Justo coffee sold $3 goes to the parish team, $1 to logistics, $2 went to some other person, $.50 went to a US group that helped sponsor the program, $.50 to some other guy and the plantation owner got the rest. Oh, and $.05 would go to the picker.

After we saw the big plantation we went part way back down the mountain and saw a small operation. This family lived in a small block house with one large room and a sheet in the middle to separate the sleeping area from the living area. It had a tin roof. There was kind of an out door cooking area too which had a tin roof. They generate a few bags of coffee a year and I believe the Don Justo business gives them a better price than typical and they seemed genuinely grateful for this. They also had dug footings for a new dwelling which would be about 2/3s bigger than their current home. I’m not sure if this was financed from their coffee business or the Red Cross. I heard both stories. Anyway the lady invited us into her home. There where like 50 of us. I was a little concerned about 50 of us traipsing through her little home. So at first I stayed back. As the line tailed off I noticed that she was just beaming about having everyone tour her home. So I went ahead and checked it out. When I got in there I saw 5 kids huddled together sitting on logs and stuff and they were watching TV. They seemed just as quietly irritated as my kids would be if 50 strangers were walking through and interrupting their show. As it turns out there are actually a surprising number of TVs in El Salvador. At least surprising to me.

On the way back it got so steep we had to get out of the bus and walk at times. It seems I recall having to push once also.

That night again a huge big party. They had a huge float with San Jose on it and a fountain. It was pretty cool. This went all over town and was lead by a huge crowd of people that took up a block ahead of it with two block more of people following it from behind.

More roosters, fireworks, cars with loud music. They really like their music loud. Again earplus.

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