Guatemala: Day 4

This is the story of an avocado.

It is a fictional avocado, and avocado that exists in potentia, and yet it is also an avocado like many avocadoes you have met before.

It is an avocado that will hypothetically grow in some year in the future. It will grow in a small Guatemalan village called El Aguacate (which means: The Avocado). It will grow in an avocado orchard(?) on one of 250 avocado trees that are harvested twice a year. The orchard is also the land upon which is built Hope Academy, the girls’ STEAM school that my friends Jenn and David are getting off the ground right now. (The building is still under construction, but it’s due to open in time for the new school year in January.)

The avocado orchard was incidental to the land purchase: Jenn and David picked the land just for the school, it just so happened that there were 250 avocado trees on it. The avocadoes are harvested and sold, but not for very much money. One of the many things on Jenn and David’s minds is how to make this avocado orchard more profitable. Actually, what’s really on their minds is how to pay their teachers…and hey, look! An avocado orchard! That might help!

Here’s the best way to make an avocado farm more profitable: be able to export the avocadoes. The thing with avocadoes (and any other fruit, for that matter), is that everything in a geographic region ripens at the same time. Supply is high, demand is static; prices drop. But if you can export the avocadoes elsewhere in the country, while holding the cost of moving the avocadoes further afield in balance, then you might be able to create more financial sustainability for the teaching staff at an all-girls STEAM school run out of a very poor village where the girls’ education is almost entirely subsidized by donations because the parents, if there are parents, can’t give money, so they give time and care and relationship and the choice (which is a difficult one for cultural and economic reasons) to keep their daughters in school.

Anyway. Back to hypothetical avocadoes.

The avocadoes came up over a class of beer today at Antigua Cerveza, a microbrewery in town. We weren’t planning on stopping there, but we were walking along the charmingly cobblestoned streets (which are a lot more charming when you’re walking rather than driving, provided you’re not wearing heels) when we saw Alex standing in the doorway. We had just seen Alex standing in another doorway mere hours earlier: at St. Alban’s Episcopal Mission, where we worshipped this morning.

Alex waved us over and offered us beer, and as we talked, another barteder came over to say hello. He asked what brought Jenn and David to Guatemala, which brought us to Hope Academy, which brought us to the avocado orchard, which brought that bartender to say, “Hey, you should meet my brother, he runs a shipping company, he might be a good connection for you to have.”

Turns out his brother was another bartender. So he came over too. And it turns out that not only is he into the shipping business, but his whole business model is predicated on economic, environmental, and social sustainability, so he was very interested to hear about an opportunity to support a school like Hope Academy. In another of his businesses, he told us, he reclaims glass bottles and turns them into drinking glasses. He’s now trained eight local women to do this work; now they have skills; a job; income. They showed us the glasses, which the bar uses for serving water, because of course Alex was interested in supporting that business and the product was good.

At one point, this conversation happened: “A lot of people in America are anxious about migration from this area; build a wall, don’t build a wall, let them in, don’t let them in…”

Alex: “I wish people would take the money they’d be willing to use to build a wall and invest it in creating sustainable lives for the people here instead; then they wouldn’t need to migrate.”*

*I knooooooooowwwwwww that there are a lot more complicated aspects to consider when it comes to the reasons why people choose to leave their homeland, and I intend to blog about them later, but I think Alex’s point still stands: making an investment in someone else’s wellbeing is a more loving, more faithful, and hey, likely more effective response to the migration crisis than pouring out billions of dollars to keep them out.

But anyway: avocadoes! Halfway through the conversation, one brother bartender turned to the other. “You know who might be interested in sourcing avocadoes from these guys?” he asked, and then he named a local chain whose owner is also committed to social sustainability–because of course all these people know each other–and bang. A church connection just turned into two potential avocado avenues, and even more than that, a network of people who are already interested and invested in exactly the type of work that Jenn and David are doing.

I like to think that this is the power of the church at work in the world, because gosh darn it if this isn’t what the relationality of the gospel looks like in action: people, caring about people, choosing to connect to one another not out of their own interests, but in service of a mission greater than their personal prosperity. It certainly felt like a holy moment to me.

Also, guys, the reason Frida Katlo has featured so prominently in previous posts is because I’m blogging from my tablet and all my photos are on my phone, and I haven’t figured out how to get them from one device onto the other. And my technology, despairing of my ineptitude, apparently went ahead and figured it out for me, because I just got a notification from my tablet(!) that one of the photos I took today is all pretty and stylized and ready to post. Ah, the wonder of automatic cloud storage! Here, have a picture. It includes neither cats nor avocadoes–it is in fact a display of dried flowers I saw on the street today not far from where the above conversation transpired–but I hope you can still enjoy it.


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