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Don Salvador wins 1st prize in coffee
July 10, 2014
by Karen Rasmussen

Salvador Domingo Lopez appears through the mist on the back of a motorbike driven by his nephew Lalo.  As the bike pulls to a stop he jumps off to greet Karen, Vibrant Village's grant partner and the director of the Mixteca Speciality Coffee project. He has the energy of someone half his age and a smile that spreads across his whole face, his deep wrinkles belying his many years working outside. At 73, Don Salvador still thrives in his life and his work and is busily, yet unassumingly inspiring others. 

Don Salvador, was the first to join the Speciality Coffee project when they began working with people from his village, Paz y Progreso in the Mixtec Highlands of Oaxaca. He had been cultivating and growing coffee all his life, making a humble living to provide for his wife and 5 children. His house was built with money made from coffee growing and he ensured that all his children were able to go to school. The Mixtec Highlands have a wet and rainy climate, so much so that the inhabitants of the region are called the People of the Rain. This, and the altitude, makes the Mixtec Highlands the perfect region for growing coffee. However, Don Salvador, by his own admission, never knew the potential of growing Specialty coffee, he simply grew what was available to him. 

That was until he eagerly started attending the free workshops offered by the Mixteca Specialty Coffee Project (known as Chu'un café maa va'a nuu Ñuu Savi in the local language) and building on his already vast knowledge of coffee growing. Soon he began to see that he could make quality coffee, to take pride in and ultimately sell with much greater profit. 

It wasn’t long before Don Salvador started implementing all his learning from the workshops and achieving high quality coffee. All his hard work, resulted in him winning 1st prize in the first ever Speciality Coffee Award event in the region, organised by the Mixteca Specialty Coffee Project, and judged by experts in the field. He was overcome by emotion when accepting his prize, exclaiming that he felt blessed and fortunate to still be able to learn how to produce Specialty coffee and then adding that learning to produce quality coffee was a chance for the whole region and all the coffee producers to live better lives.

Don Salvador’s humble nature means that he is rather unaware of the inspiration he offers to others. His success was shared on the community radio in his area and he received calls from people in other villages wanting to learn how to produce Specialty coffee; resulting in new coffee growers attending the project’s workshops. 

More importantly however, is Lalo, his nephew. Lalo is 21, an age when many young men from the Mixteca leave their communities for larger Mexican cities or to head for the US in search of work because their villages hold nothing for them. This outmigration has affected the region heavily, destroying the fiber of communities, leaving grandparents behind with young children and spouses without their partners for years.  Lalo, however, inspired by his great uncle with whom his bond is strong and clear for all to see, now sees the possibility for a future right where he is, making a good income from Specialty coffee. 

Lalo and Don Salvador attend the workshops together, always arriving together on the motorbike. While Lalo drives the bike, Don Salvador leads the way towards a brighter future. 

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