Bridget Quint stepped out into the hectic streets of Lima, Peru, to flag down a cobrador – essentially a tin can on wheels. Loud horns blared while drivers yelled over each other in Spanish to get passengers to ride with them. A pulsating reggae song greeted Bridget as she climbed aboard one of the tiny public transport vans.
This erratic commute had become the norm for Bridget, who traveled an hour from her host family’s home to class at a Peruvian university each day.
But today, Bridget was more anxious than usual. She arrived at a hotel to meet Wilson Sucaticona, a soft-spoken Peruvian coffee farmer from the rural Aymaran region, who had recently won an award for the world’s best coffee, selected by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
Unsure of how to approach this local celebrity, Bridget was relieved when Wilson greeted her with a kiss on the cheek, a Peruvian custom that instantly helped to break the ice. Overwhelmed by the national media, Wilson smiled at the chance to quietly share his personal story with Bridget.
Although he spoke an Aymaran dialect and she was accustomed to English, the two began a timid conversation in their second language of Spanish. The occasional grammatical error lightened the mood with laughter. Soon, a simple interview turned into a passionate discussion on fair trade.
Wilson’s progression from small-scale coffee business to worldwide brand stemmed in part from his membership with the Central de Cooperativas Agrarias Cafetaleras de los Valles de Sandia (CECOVASA), a cooperative that offers certification and support to farmers in the Peruvian economy, helping them to better compete in international markets.
“I didn’t know what was behind the label,” Bridget said of products like coffee that she bought regularly.
Inspired by Wilson’s success and a college course on Peruvian social reality, Bridget worked with CECOVASA and a liaison of Fairtrade International Labeling Initiatives to write an extensive fair trade research report in Spanish.
Her support of fair trade didn’t stop when she returned home five months later. Bridget is currently working with representatives from Fair Trade USA to bring a university chapter to Temple and help spread awareness about supporting small-scale farmers and workers around the world.
Ultimately, Bridget sees herself working as a U.S. diplomat, representing business interests abroad. She hopes the vibrant and colorful backdrop of Latin America will be her first stop.
“Not knowing what to expect when you travel is half the excitement,” she said, thinking back to a captivating National Geographic Traveler article on Peru she read months before her trip. “I learned things about myself I didn’t know I needed to learn.”
– Julie Achilles
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