February 06, 2007

May I Help You?

Since 1993, when I first travelled alone in Latin America, I've always marveled at the shelves of their general stores. I think it must have been somewhere in Panama or Costa Rica that I first noticed them but the overall consistency of their layout and selection really became apparent by the time I got to Guatemala. (I hitched from Bogota to Brooklyn).

Yesterday, in one of the Coffee Communities of La Trinidad, I found myself in just such a store. This was certainly the cleanest most organized one I'd ever been in and it served as a fine example of all that distinguishes my hyper-consumer culture and what happens in much of the rest of the world. There is one kind of soap, one kind of cooking oil, one kind of cookie. Perfect. It contrasts so markedly with American choice overload that at first it almost puts you off balance. I sometimes kid my friends that the reason there are so many crazy people in the U.S. is because we have too many choices. The best therapy would for those folks to come on down here.

Sure, the cookies are trans-fat disasters but that's another issue.

It was nice to see such a neat store and know that it served it's purpose for the people. And not to get too into it but this whole store was made possible by Fair Trade practices with the Coffee Cooperative of La Trinidad. They've been pouring their earnings back into their community and good things are happening. It's a real success story for progressives.

Make pictures, trade fairly.
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