Yesterday, I saw smoke above the finca close to where our spring is. I ran up to see what was happening. Across the creek, on Marcos´land, there was a big fire. He was burning an entire hillside including the branches of the tree we sadly lost months ago. It was a horrible sight, muy feo. I felt like I was looking at a ravaged battlefield.
And after I thought about it, it is a war. The war that is going on is an economic war, a war between poverty and the environment. Marcos is using slash and burn methods to plant corn. It is fairly common practice around here. The price of coffee fell so low a few years ago that it has created a certain bitterness in some of the farmers. For people like Marcos, the land is here solely to extract resources from, and he is angry at it for letting him down with coffee. Next came cattle, until there was no more pasture grass left, and now all there is is to burn it and plant corn. You can see it in the way he swings his machete, and even in the way he walks.
Maybe this sounds hyperbolic, but if you could see (i dont have a camara) the sight where our over-grown, almost forest of a farm rises above this burnt land, you would understand what I mean. It is a war. I was so upset last night, I had a hard time sleeping. I cant blame Marcos though. The problem is so much bigger. It is the coffee market, the coffee coroporations. It is even bigger than that. It is our entire economic system. When Marcos looks at the land he sees money, whether its a tree, or a charred piece of land to plant corn. And by Marcos, I dont just mean Marcos.
I felt hopeless and helpless. We came here to try to help to change this problem. When I was dreaming of moving here, I never actually saw the problem face to face. I never had to deal with it. But as I run up and down our farm to check the level of our spring, and I am confronted with this huge fire that threatens to burn me and all of our land, I realize that I have to face it. And its scary.
But then there are farmers like Umberto and Roberto who are having a meeting here in a few minutes with their group of organic committed farmers. And they are trying to change the ways here. They were hit hard by the coffee crash too, but they value more than money. They value the life and longevity of the land. It is inspring to be with them. And when I see Marcos, I have to restrain myself. I invite him over for coffee and I try to cultivate a friendship. And I realize that this is why we came here, and its going to be hard work.