Sunday, December 6, 2009

Act 3

Scene 1: ¡Manderina! ¡Dos por Cinco Pesos!11/19/09 11:11AM
Two vendadores -sellers- de Manderia and two motoconchisto -motorcycle taxis- and a tiny pickup truck selling Manderian oranges and the driver in the city of Azua Dominican Republic. A tiny pick up truck with two vendadores on the back corner of the truck riding "sidesaddle".

TINY PICKUP TRUCK
[through a loud speaker]
¡Manderina Manderina! ¡Dos por Cinco Pesos! ¡Dos por Cinco pesos!

MOTOCONCHISTO 1
[hands the seller a 5 peso piece and picks out two manderin, no words are spoken]

MOTOCONCHISTO 2
[walks around the truck, then picks out two manderin after some selecting]

SELLER 1
You have to pay for those

MOTOCONCHISTO 2
I already paid the other seller

SELLER 2
No, I made change for you, I didn't collect

MOTOCONCHISTO 2
Yes, I paid you.
[Grabs 2 manderins and turns away]*

SELLER 1
[Squares his shoulders, puts his left fist forward]
You MUST pay for those.

MOTOCONCHIOSTO 2
[puts the manderin oranges back and squares himself as well]
I told you I paid your friend there.

SELLER 2
[shakes is head no]

DRIVER
[steps between the men as they start to shout and wave their fists]
[others step in to separate the near brawl, the driver enters the truck and drives away with both sellers on the back grimacing at the motoconchistos]

TINY PICKUP TRUCK
[through a loud speaker]
¡Manderina Manderina! ¡Dos por Cinco Pesos! ¡Dos por Cinco pesos!

*If I had to judge book by its cover, I wouldn't trust what that book says. No fists were thrown, just chests and words.

5 DR pesos = $0.14 People are hungry. Even though it was "just" 5 DR pesos, it was still business. This is just one example of violence over small amounts of money. I could tell you about a fight over pigeon peas that resulted in a father of a family being killed, but I won't today.

Scene 2: T he Walmart of Coffee 11/19/09 12:30pm
Coffee Buyer -for Santo Domingo, countless workers -moving coffee often on their head in 130lb bags, countless coffee farmers sitting on their coffee waiting for their turn to sell it to Santo Domingo, Eloy -truck driver from Los Frios and good friend of mine, Fabio -coffee farmer from La Cucarita, me -selling about 500 lbs of coffee that isn't export quality.

COFFEE BUYER
[to a few coffee farmers]
Here we are all about transparency, clarity, and honesty. We have good scales and pay good prices for good coffee. I don't tolerate any other type of politics.

COFFEE FARMERS
[nod in agreement]
We are happy to do business with you.

COUNTLESS WORKERS
[moving coffee on to a 53 foot trailer, one bag at a time on their heads, they wear only sandals, one man is barefoot, the energy is positive]

COFFEE BUYER
How many bags so far on the truck?

WORKER
28

COFFEE BUYER
OK all of this must go.
[pointing to the right, a stack of coffee that is 8 ft. tall, 15 ft wide, and 30 ft. deep]

COUNTLESS WORKERS
[spring in to action as if coming off a break, even though none of them were idle before]

ELOY
When are you going to get to our coffee?

COFFEE BUYER
We will get to it today, it might be tonight though, there are two trucks in front of you.

ELOY
We should sell at parchment. It is the same price as pealed. I trust these guys.

ME
How does that work?

ELOY
They peal a small sample of the coffee look at the defects, weight the parchment coffee, discount for defects and humidity, and pay us. It could be really late before they get to us. What do you want to do?

ME
I'm going to wait for my coffee to be pealed. I'm going to stay in Padres Las Casas so there is no rush.

FABIO
I'll sell at parchment as well.
[he is obviously hungry even after I brought him some bread, he is one of those small town people who is visibly out of place in the big city of Azua until now his eyes only show hunger and lack of energy from our 6:30AM departure from Los Frios]

COFFEE BUYER
Pull samples and weigh the coffee of Eloy and his friend.

COUNTLESS WORKERS
[pull a samples to be pealed]

FABIO
[hovers over his coffee like a small boy waiting to hit the pinata, they weigh his coffee, he is in the way of the workers]

COUNTLESS WORKERS
Give us some space.

FABIO
That is my coffee.
[he says with pride and steps to the side]

COUNTLESS WORKERS
Here is the sample of that guys coffee.

COFFEE BUYER
[buries his nose in the green coffee, flips the coffee like a chef flipping onions in a pan]
Looks good.

ME
[his coffee did look good. possibly the best I'd seen that day. there were a fair amount of black beans and broca, but it had great color]

COFFEE BUYER
219kg parchment . . . 3.47quintales . . . $16,017 pesos
[he smiles as he writes up the receipt and looks at Fabio]
What to you think?

FABIO
I guess I have to take it. I don't really have other options.

COFFEE BUYER
That is what is there.
FABIO

[takes his receipt and walk towards the cashier. relieved to be paid for his product.]

ME
[I'm sure Fabio is returning to debts in Los Frios, I wonder if he will make much money, with the internal price so high $1.41 for good C-grade coffee in parchment, he probably did make money this year, come next year he will do the same thing, but he has no control over the coffee price]

Eloy and Fabio leave to Los Frios. I sit on someone else coffee and wait my turn.

ME
[This is the Walmart of coffee. They have wonderful systems that make money. This one of the most organized operations I've ever seen in the DR: it is a total numbers game, there is no free lunch here, or coffee even. I saw Eloy drink some coffee, but none was offered to me or anyone else. My only gripe with what I saw is that it was never made clear to the farmers the percent discount taken off for defects and most didn't seem to even ask. When they did ask, they had little room to negotiate. Santo Domingo is not about driving the quality up in DR coffee. They are concerned with what the buyer said at the beginning: Here we are all about transparency, clarity, and honesty. We have good scales and pay good prices for good coffee. I don't tolerate any other type of politics. Santo Domingo is concerned with obtaining C-market grade coffee to roast and sell internally. The good stuff is exported.]

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