IIt’s no secret that young people living in Marsella Risaralda have migrated to other cities in search of better opportunities – if coffee farming doesn’t provide guarantees of economic stability for small producers, coffee picking certainly won’t.
Photographer JUAN PÁEZ asks: With so many of the younger generation seeking job opportunities and education elsewhere, is it possible to preserve Colombia’s coffee culture?
Since 2011, Marsella Risaralda has been a part of the UNESCO-protected Colombian Coffee Cultural Landscape, made up of six sites with eighteen urban settlements inthe central part of the Andes mountain range. A result of Antioquian settlers’ adaptation to the area in the nineteenth century, the region is marked by geographic features as well as a local architectural typography. In Marsella, coffee is not just a part of the physical landscape, but deeply rooted in the region’s cultural traditions. Coffee is present in Marsella’s architecture; it impacts the way the community gathers and celebrates. It’s in its food, its music.
But a cultural gap looms: the high costs of coffee production, a fall in the international market price, labor scarcities, and the impacts of climate change are pushing young people to look for better opportunities elsewhere. And why not? What does the local community stand to gain by preserving – alongside deeply rooted cultural traditions – a tradition of economic instability?
JUAN PÁEZ is a freelance photographer based in Bogotá, Colombia. See more of his work on Instagram at @juanpaez83.
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