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A Small Cuppa Joe   Leave a comment

cafecitocover

Much to my husband and mother’s chagrin, I don’t drink coffee. I still enjoyed A Cafecito Story by Julia Alvarez. Although to be honest, I might have skipped past it on the shelf had it not been for her name.

This slim hardback contains a 37-page novella; several pages of beautiful, often haunting, woodcuts by artist Belkis Ramierez; a seven-page afterward by Bill Eichner, Alvarez’s husband; and 11 pages of information about resources for fair trade items, co-ops and good business models. A Cafecito Story is a call to arms; it’s a quiet protest against big businesses that have the potential to eliminate people’s livelihoods, ways of life and quality coffee.

cafecitowoodcut

Coffee is more than a metaphor, but it does take center stage in the story about Joe, a disenchanted teacher, who leaves the Midwest to travel to the Dominican Republic. He’s not interested in seeing the tourist sites. Instead he is enamored with the coffee farmers who struggle to make a living while producing the best possible coffee.

The little cups of coffee, cafecitos, Joe is offered everywhere he goes intrigue him. Soon, he is befriended by Miguel who, with his family, has a sustainable coffee farm. Miguel teaches Joe about the slow, methodical practices necessary being threatened, while Joe teaches Miguel and his family how to read.

Summarizing a short work without revealing too much is challenging. The woodcuts alone are mesmerising, and Alavarez’s writing is descriptively rich. I imagine it’d go great with a cup of java.

A Cafecito Story

Three-and-a-half Bookmarks

Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2001

58 pages

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