Sin Fronteras Coffee: Self-determination, Community, and Zapatista coffee in Oakland
A Xica Nation featured interview with the founders of Akat Café Kalli and Sin Fronteras Coffee.
What is your name, age, location? How do you ID?
We are Rocio Cervantes Garcia, Mexicana and Jose Rodriguez Xicano. We live in Oakland, California.
What is the story behind the project?
Akat Café Kalli is a community-based café in Oakland, California. Without our community, we would not have been able to get to this point. Much love and respect to each and every person who has supported our little coffee shop. Before we opened up our doors, as a family, we took a risk yet an active role to create our own income and have more autonomy over how we engage in economic activity. We were on unemployment, trying to finish up our M.A. programs and trying to be active present parents. While it sounds overwhelming, when we considered the relationship between ourselves and our potential means of gaining income, we decided that the best option would be to work for ourselves and keep our values intact. We know that there are many folks out there who do what they love, contribute to their community and get paid for it too; much love and respect! They deserve it. We know there are also many folks who would rather actively participate in generating their own income but face many barriers. Inspired, we did what we thought was necessary and took on the struggle to become more self-determined.
We began in 2012, making artisan coffee and hosting poetry readings for community members and arts and crafts workshops. We hosted workshops that shared skills, music, and art and informed of the empowering actions happening in the community. The community also organized their own events and gatherings at the café. Akat Café Kalli became a place of connection for us and our community, this is where Sin Fronteras Coffee started.
What is the Sin Fronteras coffee project?
As a Mexicana/Xicana Family, we are creating solidarity relationships and economic justice. Sin Fronteras Coffee imports, roasts and serves organic Zapatista coffee to community. Sin Fronteras Coffee is about the relationship to self, each other, production and land. It’s about creating solidarity economics with community in the Bay Area and autonomous communities in Chiapas and other regions. Sin Fronteras Coffee aims to build agency and shift the value back to the relationships.
In January we had a chance to work part of the coffee harvest in autonomous Zapatista territory. We learned about the production of coffee and how it helps to build autonomy and self determination in those communities. It was a humbling experience and we came back with a deeper understanding of the importance of supporting their coffee work and how to apply the essence and values we connected with to our own geography. The work, time, energy and resources that go into harvesting coffee and preparing it for exporting is extremely difficult. Each harvest is a struggle and victory, then the market comes into play and for many producers, the market literally devalues that specific struggle. Sin Fronteras Coffee is about understanding the production process and valuing the work people put in by sharing their story, sharing resources and paying a fair price for their coffee.
Once the coffee arrives to our café, it is on us to roast, brew and share the experience of the different steps of the production process. Imagine a coffee space where one’s relationship to production is valued appropriately, where there is opportunity and support to grow, where the coffee and espresso served in the café directly contributes to autonomous Zapatista communities and self determination in the communities where the coffee was harvested. This is what Café Sin Fronteras is about.
We are raising resources to import a ton of coffee, purchase a coffee roaster and build a taller de café, a coffee workshop. We are dedicated to creating this community space to roast and brew coffee, highlight the relationships involved in the production of coffee, create “sustain to gain” opportunities for coffee workers all while doing it in a good way- based on collaboration and participation. The key ideas here are relationships and solidarity economics.
The goal is the creation of a community coffee workshop and café, the tallercito, where the community and those who have migrated to the Bay Area from their coffee homelands can share and gain knowledge about the:
- production of coffee
- operation of an autonomous coffee business
- social/cultural/political implications of our interactions with coffee
Why should folks support the Sin Fronteras coffee project?
Too many times in coffee the focus is on the branding and quality of the end product, rather than the quality of the relationships involved in producing a drip coffee, latte or a bag of coffee. The community does not generally have enough information about the production process of coffee and the important relationships involved. Our aim is to shift the value back to these relationships by highlighting the stories, and the message of the coffee producers – from their struggles and victories, based on their location, societal and cultural realities.
There is a lack of coffee spaces which offer solidarity coffee with a welcoming artistic and cultural environment which builds with the community from the coffee lands from which the coffee originates. We aim to do this work in a vibrant community cultural space where people come together to create and engage in positive interactions not only the transaction. Finally, it is vital to shift resources to projects like ours where growth starts from below and expands horizontally and circles back through collaboration and active participation.
Essentially, we will:
- Collaborate with coffee producers and workers to create opportunities for economic sustainability and agency – “sustain to gain”
- Contribute in generating sustainable income by shifting the value back to the relationship between producers, coffee shop workers, coffee drinkers and the land.
- Build a tallercito, a coffee workshop space where community and people from the coffee lands living in the Bay Area can share and learn about all things coffee.
- Promote the growth of autonomous coffee spaces operated by graduates/workers of the tallercito.
How can folks support the Sin Fronteras coffee project?
Understand our project, the work we have been doing and the work of the coffee producers and how it is all related and how it directly connects to building autonomy. We encourage folks to pre order coffee from us online and to make a donation at www.sinfronterascoffee.com