May: The Power of Communities
René Mendoza Vidaurre
We were waiting for you like the “rain showers of May”,said the girls as they hugged their grandparents.
The fifth month of the year is called “May” in honor of Maya, one of the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione from Greek mythology; “Maia”, goddess of abundance. People who dig into history also tell us that it was a month for the elderly, the word “elderly” in Latin is “maiorum”. In Central America May means the first rains of the year, with which agriculture begins and all the pallid landscape of April turns green and pulses with life; the popular expression is “the rain showers of May”, the month most anticipated. This article is about the power of community, that when we discover it is like the month of May: abundant, living, ever changing and very much anticipated.
Those who live in a village or hamlet watch the movement of people. They see the buyers come in to buy coffee, beans, or agoutis; for the buyers the community is a place to buy things. They see people who have diplomas arrive, and board members of organizations, they greet them from the road, they estimate the harvest, fill out paperwork, and leave promises; for them the community is a stone paved road. They see people arrive in cassocks, lab coats, or wearing glasses, who enter the church, school or health center; for them, the community is a bunch of cement blocks with tin roof sheeting, and people who applaud them.
Among those people who are watching, Elder Lagos, from the community of San Antonio, observes, “The cooperatives collect the coffee harvest in the towns, while the buyers collect it here.” Rodrigo López from the community of Ocote Tuma, also observes, “There are two cooperatives with members from here, these cooperatives are in the town; they never meet here.” These observations awaken three, five, ten, up to thirty people, who form cooperatives, meet, collect the coffee harvest, and pay for it in the community itself, they save the people the cost of transportation of having to take their coffee to town. Others, with their fingernails and the friendship of their neighbors, buy cacao to dry it in the community itself, and pool their cents together to start a chicken farm. “The cents that it costs us make it more savory”, concludes Doña Justina Meneces.
There were good times when growing just coffee, cacao or cattle people bought their vehicles, they took on positions and went to live in town. But at the same time, their water sources dried up, the land grew tired, and the prices of those products dropped, and the price of agro-chemicals rose. Daniel Meneces remembers the words of his uncle Toño, “A lot of people are like the dog who barks at the squirrel believing that it is in the tree, when the squirrel has already left.” Betting on only one crop is like barking at the tree, when “the squirrel has already left.” People like Daniel become aware of this reality, three more do, then ten more…they turn their attention to the land, water, and processing foodstuffs: making bread, honey…The land is valuable and worth more than money!
“We are at different steps on the ladder,” said Claudio Hernández from Samarkanda, recognizing the inequality in the communities. That is why, in the face of the law of “exporting the best and leaving the worst”, they are roasting coffee in the communities; in the face of the rule that “organization and projects come in from outside,” they are talking among themselves, so that the community might have water; in the face of the wealthy who say that “people are only moved by money”, they visit one another, and the mutual affection that they cultivate moves them more. So, the community stores are saying, “I am going to give you products on credit that you share with your family” – products like beans or oil, but not cigarettes. This spirit is like the spirit of the first time one falls in love.
The power of communities is like “rain showers in May”, which causes good changes to bloom.