National Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the power of women, celebrate our achievements, a call to close the income gap and to fight for gender equality. Today, I have been thinking of all the incredible women I spent time with in Mexico + Guatemala while documenting the programs organized by Food 4 Farmers. The gallery above is just a small glance at the daily lives of women living in Mexico + Guatemala.
Food 4 Farmers is a non-profit based in Vermont that helps coffee farmers in Central and South America overcome the obstacle of income instability. Coffee farming is a difficult business, because there is a section of each year where there is nothing to harvest or sell, causing many families to go hungry for 1 – 4 months of the year. This is often referred to as “the thin months.” Food 4 Farmers tackles this complex problem by training farmers in a particular field that will bring in an alternative source of income. The projects I visited in Mexico + Guatemala were both focusing on beekeeping as a income strategy.
A crucial part of the non-profit’s approach to gauging the success of their programs is interviewing participants at their homes. Marcela Pino, co-director of Food 4 Farmers and my travel companion, explained, “When we visit people at their homes we want to talk to the whole family. Often the farmer who is participating in the program is the head of the family, the male, but we also want to talk to the wife and children. We want to understand what they think of the strategy, if they are supported, if it is benefiting the family. The success of any project is measured by assessing whether the strategy is helping the family have a better life.”
Visiting families at their homes is my favorite time to connect with people and make photographs. While Marcela and Luis Cabrera, the operations manager at the time, interviewed members of the household, I had time to get to know the family and take portraits.
One of the most moving moments in Mexico was when we visited a farmer and his wife in a rural area of the Chiapas. While Marcela and Luis interviewed Candido, who is participating in the beekeeping program, I spent time with his wife, Salini. We hit it off, and spent an hour or so talking about life in Mexico vs. the US. While I didn’t have the vocabulary to discuss the larger cultural differences, we did talk extensively about how we dress differently – the main difference being that Mexicans enjoy a colorful wardrobe and Americans wear way too much black! At the end of our visit, Selini gave me a beautiful embroidered napkin (used to keep tortillas warm) to bring more color into my home. I think of her often, as I have it on the wall in my kitchen.
Women never cease to amaze me with their strength, joy, and ability to overcome obstacles. Our lives may be different, but we all basically have the same goals: to provide for ourselves and our family, enjoy our lives, be healthy, eat good food, enjoy our friendships, and live comfortably. Women deserve all these things and more, and I hope these images inspire you to help make that world a reality.
These photographs were created with the help of these amazing sponsors:
Jerry Greenfield & Elizabeth Skarie, Jim Howe, Dan Cox, Don & Lisa & Taylor Barberio, Michael Gunson, Kevin Casey & Molly O’Reilly, Jon & Nancy Wettstein, Nigel & Claudia Mucklow, Tim Stotz, David & Laura Stiller, Judy Maclsaac Robertson, Joyce Stowell, Brenda Vinson, John Broscious, Lori E Rowe, Mike Pelchar, Alan Newman, Patty & Paul Winberg, Emma Dodge Hanson, Nick Pierce, Sara Kassel, Thato Ratsbe, Hina Rizvi & Sebastien Vignola, Karen Flewelling, Caitlin Hoey & Dan Flynn, Peter Kassel & Carol Irish, Marcela Pino, Jocelyn & Colin Burgess, Lee Blanchard, Josh & Leslie Pierce, Spencer Turer, Mary Hamilton, Russell Kramer, Linda Kramer, Willie Crosby & Sarah Berquist, Eleanor Cox, Jennifer Britton, Rob Zilinyi, Georgia Landman, Sarah Roscher, Adriana Comtois & Anonymous Donors