Blog: Tangata Whenua

I had visited Central America once before. It was in 2014 and I was on a spiritual path, following in the footsteps of Māori who had gone before me.

This became evident when a Costa Rican bartender pulled out his phone to show me a video of a Māori doing Ka Mate years before in the exact spot I was standing. It only seemed right that I performed the haka too.

Me and my Māori cousins (sorry about the “all Māori are related” stereotype!) are well received in Central America – I’m often mistaken for being Latino. I rate the region for its culture and beauty.

But Pluma Hidalgo in Mexico takes the cake when it comes to that spiritual relatability between the tangata whenua of this world.

Pluma Hidalgo is something holy. Mountainous. Actually mountainous… as in you’re walking through rain clouds. It’s very green too. That rich kind of green you see in Aotearoa. The indigenous people are strong there. Their presence is everywhere. It reminds me of Wainui Bay in the far North and our holidays there when we were young. It was just us (a crew of little Māori kids) and the land – the only remnants of colonisation were the western clothes on our backs and the Weet-Bix in our bellies. You get that sense of belonging from the Zapotec people in Pluma Hidalgo, and you get very little of the colonial feel you get in places like Mexico City. I related to this very natural setting. It was like coming home.

Working with The Lucy Foundation opened my eyes to the virtues of living off the land, which is something my whanau from Ngati-Maru did in post-war Thames. The similarities are strong as far as hunting and what not, but they have something else that grows naturally there too, something that gives you a buzz … coffee.

I worked on one of their coffee farms and felt pretty chuffed as we cut down a mini banana tree forest to clear the land. One or two slices per tree. Their trunks are like butter, all gooey and wet. It’s freaky stuff! We also spotted eagles, a snake and some devilish looking ants. We collected a bunch of bananas to take home for brekky too! The crazy thing for me was how similar and dissimilar the experience was. Minus all the dangerous animals the process was the same. A little sweat, effort, foresight and positive intent, and in a bit of time you’ll get some high-quality coffee beans. It’s the same here as it is there and anywhere people live off the land. It’s a simple principle, but it’s special. It’s how we survive.

I was extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to partake in a cultural exchange with the Zapotec people of Pluma Hidalgo.

To me the fundamental key to a cultural exchange is the sharing. What I want for young Māori, is for those with an interest in indigenous culture and living off the land to come on board and share their culture with these people and learn about Zapotec culture in return.

The Lucy Foundation has a base in Pluma Hidalgo where there is so much fun stuff for people to get involved in. I had the chance and I hope that more opportunities will open up… I have a few ideas so please watch this space!

Drawing of hands holding coffee beans

Yonel Watene, of Ngati-Maru, is an Auckland-based Māori artist

Do you have something say about disability, coffee and employment?

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Support the TLF Mexico project by donating today. 

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3 weeks ago

The Lucy Foundation

Is it the weekend already!? We've been so busy that we forgot to update you on our compost and fertiliser... lovingly handmade with disability inclusion and environmental regeneration in mind.

Check out the latest update from the team in Mexico...

#Organic #EnvironmentalRegeneration #DisabilityInclusion #DisabilityLeadership #PlumaCoffeeProject #Bocashi #OrganicFertilizer #NZInMexico

[Video description:
- Opening screen shows graphics of people with different disabilities and the words "The Lucy Foundation, farmer to consumer, inclusive coffee for all"
- Slide: Compost & Fertiliser update
- A video of two men using spades to turn a large pile of bocashi compost. They are working inside the bamboo TLF greenhouse. Text overlay reads: "Fidel and Elias are turning the bocashi. It has been fermenting for 5 days. See how it steams? This is because the materials are 'cooking'. As they turn it, it gets colder. After 15 days it will be ready for the nursery."
- Slide: Fertiliser for the coffee trees.
- Zooming out on a photo of a bucket containing brown glossy liquid.
- Video of an older man and younger man. Text overlay reads: "Pepe adds the fertiliser concentrate, while Don Epifanio waters it down."
- Video of Pepe. He is wearing a green cap, white t-shirt and is smiling as he uses a hand pump to pump fertiliser from a pack on his back. He is surrounded by coffee seedlings. Text overlay reads: "Now it's application time! Pepe uses a manual applicator. Ensuring maximum nutrients for the baby coffee plants. Look how cute a little they are!"
- Another video of Pepe spraying plants. Text overlay reads: "Let's go!"
- A photo of a young woman: "Cata's turn (TLF Mexico Director)."
- A photo of an older man leaning over coffee seedlings. Text overlay reads: "Meanwhile, Don Epifanio is weeding. So the weeds don't steal all the nutrients."
- Zooming in on coffee seedlings. Text overlay reads: "In a few years, these seedlings will produce coffee cherries ready to be picked, processed and shipped to Aotearoa NZ. Good luck little friends!"
- Slide: Music by Muchas Gracias! Buy your inclusive coffee beans now:
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1 month ago

The Lucy Foundation

As part of a recent Track Two disability workshops, the TLF crew went to the mountains to collect microorganisms - the architects of life. Microorganisms help to enrich the bocashi fertiliser, activate and regenerate the soil through fermented bioprep, accelerate the decomposition of organic matter and strengthen the health of plants, animals and humans.

In these photos, the team have tipped the organic matter onto a clean surface so they can remove the green leaves. They will then mix the forest mulch with wheat bran and rock meal. Molasses is dissolved in a little water before being added. The team then knead the mixture with their hands. Finally, the mixture is put inside a sealed plastic drum, where it it will work its magic over 30 days, resulting in a rich fertiliser that will be applied to local coffee crops.

#organicfertiliser #organicfarming #disabilityinclusion #disabilityrights #environmentalregeneration #coffeefarming
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1 month ago

The Lucy Foundation

We need your help! Want to to join our team as a social media extraordinaire? Do you have a few hours up your sleeve to help a Kiwi social enterprise out?

The Lucy Foundation is looking for a volunteer to help out on a casual basis to build our social media presence. The Lucy Foundation is a registered charity that works across Aotearoa New Zealand and Mexico to create a sustainable and disability-inclusive supply chain of coffee.

The role is expected to take 2-3 hours a week. Primary responsibilities will include:

- Creating a social media schedule
- Posting to social media 2-3 times a week
- Creating image descriptions for TLF content
- Generating audio descriptions for video content
- Compiling content for the TLF monthly newsletter

Ideally, the social media extraordinaire will also:

- Know their way around social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), Youtube, Google Drive, Gmail and Mailchimp
- Be motivated to help grow TLF’s social media audience
- Have a basic understanding of Spanish
- Have a basic understanding of disability lingo, and rights-- based approaches to disability
- Be willing to learn!

While this is a volunteer role, we’ll hook you up with some disability-inclusive coffee to keep you caffeinated while you work. To apply please send a CV and a short description of who you are and why you believe you are a good candidate for this role to [email protected]

Disabled people and other minority identities are encouraged to apply, if you have any questions or want to know more about the role please contact us via email.

[Image description: A bag of Lucy coffee sits next to a freshly poured flat white coffee.]
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1 month ago

The Lucy Foundation

Happy Friday everyone!

When they're not building or have their hands deep in soil or coffee beans, these guys are working on their literacy skills. Empowering one another and gaining knowledge helps to develop independence and confidence, and our team in Mexico do this so well!

Purchase your TLF coffee today:

#literacy #socialentrepreneurs #lifeskills #disabilityinclusion #disabilityrights
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1 month ago

The Lucy Foundation

And that's a wrap! The couriers have picked up all of our precious coffee beans that have been processed and hand sorted (with aroha!) by the disabled people and whānau we partner with in Mexico. The beans will now make a two-day journey across country to Veracruz, where a John Burton Ltd ship awaits. This is our BIGGEST export/import yet, and we couldn't have done it without a whole team of volunteers working day and night, in Spanish and English, to make it work. ¡Buen viaje!

#thebestcoffeeofalliscoffeeforall #organiccoffee #disabilityemployment #disabilityinclusion #disabilityrights #nzinmexico

Video description: Cata shows us the sacks of coffee, while Juan and Elias wave. A sped up video of the courier company lugging big sacks of coffee from the TLF house into a truck. A photo with a courier man and Pepe at the back of the truck, and a photo of the truck loaded up and leaving the TLF house. Subtitles:

Cata: Good morning. Here goes our shipment to New Zealand.
Elias: Hi friends!
Cata: Of 11 sacks, each one is 69 kg and 1 little sack of 30 kg to achieve our goal of 720 kg
Elias: Go team!

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