Maria Mercedes Talavera Flores – Vega Coffee
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Maria Mercedes Talavera Flores

This issue of Cuentos features María Mercedes Talavera Flores. With her mother as her pillar of inspiration, María Mercedes is a proud grower from the all-women Nuevo Amanecer cooperative in the Miraflor Nature Reserve near Estelí, Nicaragua. (Nuevo Amanecer is the very first coffee cooperative that Vega began sourcing green coffee from and training members in roasting, quality control and packaging.) María Mercedes’s glowing smile exudes optimism with fresh notes of confidence and strength.

When day breaks, the aroma of tortillas and coffee fills our family kitchen. The toasty aroma that gets our mornings going. Dawn is a busy time in our home. It’s the time we use to prepare lunch for field workers, get the kids ready for school, and tend to our family orchard.

The aroma of coffee, prepared on a traditional wood-burning stove, marks dawn in María Mercedes’s household.

I live with my parents and my daughter, Marian, on our farm, Finca El Mango. As a child, I spent my days around women coffee growers in our co-op. I would go to all the meetings with my mom, listening in as they talked and looking up at them as they picked coffee in the parcels. That’s how I grew to love the fields and the trade.

Eventually, I learned so much about the coffee process that I became a tour guide for our community. Sharing our lands and lifestyle with visitors was my contribution to our co-op. It was thanks to my job as a tour guide that I went to college and got a degree in Social Development.

Maria Mercedes with her mother, Rafaela — whom she calls a mujer luchadora (woman fighter). She credits Rafaela for persevering to set her family up for a life of opportunity through coffee.

But I never saw myself as a coffee grower. I have always been interested in social justice and helping the most vulnerable members of my community.

“Watching my mom and her co-op partners train to become coffee experts encouraged me to join. Seeing them grow as individuals, gain professional experience, and continue to overcome difficulties is my inspiration.”

And just like growing coffee, that is how the cycle continues.

Today, it is my daughter who gets excited about going to meetings with me. Marian rushes us out the door so we’re not late and she is my motivation to keep moving forward. 

Maria Mercedes passes down her knowledge and love of coffee cultivation to her daughter, Marian.

But COVID made this past year challenging for us. As a single mother, I’ve always needed to supplement my income. I had been working in the city as a tour guide when the pandemic spread. Ecotourism decreased and I lost that job. So, I had to take another job as a janitor. Because of this, Marian and I now spend very little time together.

 While my mom watches Marian, I work in the city and take taxis to my job. It’s more expensive than public transportation, but I don’t have a choice. Because of COVID restrictions, the company that I work for doesn’t allow us to take the bus. I also have to buy my own masks and sanitizer. All these are extra expenses that add up and take away from our family budget.

 Many people say that you get used to life in the city, but that’s not true for me. I miss being in the fields with my community, the smell of coffee, and feeling the earth with my bare hands.

Mother and daughter in the coffee fields.

During this time, I’ve learned that my life is in Miraflor, not in the city. This is where my people are. It’s where I am from and the place where I have the best opportunities to develop myself. The city cannot offer me the choices that I have in the coffee fields.

That’s why I’ve worked so hard to become the Vice President of our co-op. This is a huge accomplishment for me. My next goal is to leave my job in the city. I want to spend more time in the fields next year, grow our business, and be with Marian.

It is what I’ve been doing since I was six years old and – even though I’m not the best at picking coffee – I’m constantly learning about drying methods, roasting, and exporting.

“I am proud to share this delicious coffee, directly from our farm to your cup. It’s the result of our collective passion, effort, and love.”

María Mercedes with Doña Lucia, President of the Nuevo Amanecer cooperative. Doña Lucia’s coffee expertise and dedication to high quality cultivation make her a role model to María Mercedes.

“Knowing that our beans are in other countries, with families who enjoy them, is an incredible feeling. When our brew is served at those tables and people around the world taste the fruit of our labor, that’s when I realize the reach of our efforts.”

I am proud to share this delicious coffee, directly from our farm to your cup. It’s the result of our collective passion, effort, and love. 

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