Customer Spotlight: Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza

Written by Cafe Campesino on Jun 1, 2007 in Customer Spotlight, NEWSLETTER |
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When Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza, a non-profit women’s center in El Paso, Texas, began selling Cafe Campesino’s Fair Trade coffee more than a year ago, they hoped to change the way people think about the products they buy. Their impact has been much greater than they imagined though as they have revolutionized the Fair Trade movement in and around El Paso. We are so fortunate to have this great group of people as part of our Fair Trade family. On behalf of our everyone here at Café Campesino and our producer partners from throughout the coffee lands, thank you Nikki and everyone else at Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza for everything you are doing in the name of Fair Trade.

Café Campesino on the Border
by Nikki Hertel, Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza, El Paso, TX

Small groups of college students are gathered around the room. I ask them to guess how much coffee farmers get paid when we buy 10 pounds of non-Fair Trade coffee: $1.00, $1.50, $2.00, $0.75. They gasp when I reveal to them that many coffee farmers get as little as $0.16 a pound for their coffee. I am always relieved by the gasps because they are sign that — even in this global economic system where most people do not care where their products come from or who is suffering as a result — there is still hope.

I work at Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza (Women of Hope Center), a non-profit women’s center in El Paso, TX, right on the border with Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. We have many programs, including free classes for women, a sexual assault awareness program for high schoolers, a self-esteem building program for groups, retreats, and more.

A year and a half ago, we started selling and promoting Fair Trade coffee from Café Campesino because of our mission and goals — to transform structures that oppress women and their families at local, national, and international levels and to raise awareness of these issues. We believe that Fair Trade is a perfect way not only to transform the oppressive economic system that creates great suffering, but also empower women and their families throughout the world.

The Fair Trade movement in El Paso has grown considerably in the past couple of years, but it is still just beginning. It started when Centro Mujeres began ordering the coffee and selling it out of the office. We then teamed up with a parish, selling the coffee after mass the first Sunday of each month. Support grew as more and more people were introduced to the delicious and good-for-the-soul Café Campesino. Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza has become the “hub” for Fair Trade in El Paso. We sell Fair Trade certified coffee, tea, hot cocoa and chocolate bars at wholesale prices. We are currently selling about 160 pounds of Café Campesino every month. We also create Fair Trade gift baskets that make great alternative presents.

We work hard to increase the Fair Trade market in the area by educating consumers as well as local restaurant owners on the importance of Fair Trade. While the struggle seems tough at times, we have been encouraged by some recent victories that resulted from simple conversations. A couple months ago one of the largest and most popular restaurants in El Paso decided to switch over to serving only Fair Trade certified coffee in their restaurant, as well as selling one pound bags. Also, a local coffee shop decided they would begin serving only Fair Trade coffee. Neither owner had heard of Fair Trade before we mentioned it to them. We have also connected with another coffee shop that sells Fair Trade coffee to raise awareness in the community. Slowly but surely, the movement grows.

Another aspect of our work is giving Fair Trade talks to groups that come to town from all over the country for border immersion experiences (they spend about a week here learning about the reality of the border). We have met with student groups from universities such as Stanford, Creighton, Regis, Dartmouth, Pacific Lutheran, and adult groups from organizations and parishes across the country. When we talk with groups like the ones mentioned above, we challenge them to think more deeply about how their consumption affects people throughout the world. We get them thinking about how Fair Trade relates to the border and immigration issues. If people in countries south of the United States could make a decent living, they would not have to suffer the dangers and isolation of leaving home and family to attempt to come to the U.S. Fair Trade is an issue that hits close to home in the border region. Through these talks, we have made some very valuable connections with people all over the country who are interested in doing more with Fair Trade in their communities.

We have many great plans for the future, which include: an open house for local restaurant and coffee shop owners to explain the importance of Fair Trade and let them try it for themselves, promoting it at more parishes, planning a trip to the Café Campesino co-op in Chiapas, continued education of groups that come for border immersion trips as well as for locals, and more collaboration with others who are passionate about Fair Trade. So though we are a small operation and perhaps an unlikely player in the Fair Trade movement, we are doing what we can because we believe that our mission — and that of all humans — is to transform the suffering of others and love each other more fully.

To learn more, contact:
Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza
1000 Wyoming Ave. El Paso, TX
(915) 545-1890
centromujeres@sbcglobal.net

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