Interview With Andrés Isaías Cotuc Mendéz, Manager, La Voz Que Clama en el Desierto Cooperative

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“The Voice that Cries Out in the Desert.” A reference to the town’s patron saint, this is the poetic name chosen by a group of 20 indigenous Tzutujil, Kakchiquel and Quiche Mayan farmers in the district of San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala, for their newly-formed cooperative in 1977. Over thirty years later, what they created has grown into an organization representing 116 coffee producers, and about 600 family members. Located on the shores of Lake Atitlán 5,000 feet (1,585 meters) above sea level, their certified organic, Fair Trade, SHB beans are appreciated by many specialty coffee roasters.

These farms are a place of rare beauty, as many who have visited La Voz on origin trips can attest. The coop is nestled into the side of the mountain, which rises up dramatically from the valley to the sky. Winding paths are carved between the coffee plants and the farms are shaded by large trees overhead.

To reach this small cooperative, visitors must take a boat from Panajachel to San Pedro on Lake Atitlán. From San Pedro, you can walk to the coop, which takes about ten minutes and is a lovely walk through town. Visitors often note the difference between the village the cooperative serves and others in the region—better schools are in evidence, and there are additional revenue sources in apiculture and a women’s weaving cooperative.

The Chronicle was honored to speak with the cooperative’s current Manager, Andrés Isaías Cotuc, about the history, challenges, and hopes of La Voz.

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