From Fields to Walls
Waking up in the morning, one might make a cup of coffee and scroll through their Twitter feed to check the latest buzz. All across CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, and other media outlets there are similar headlines. "Migrants take 2,500 Mile Journey to America," "US migrant crisis: Trump seeks to curb Central America asylum claims," and "Desperate Migrants on the Border: 'I Should Just Swim Across'." Immigration is a growing issue and has taken over our media in a frenzy throughout this past decade. However, the correlation between the cup of coffee someone can enjoy and the news they may read may be much more parallel than it may seem.
The current immigration issue is multifaceted, but one factor is the role that certain export industries are playing. In many Central American countries like El Salvador, waves of migrants are leaving, escaping, and walking away from their homes because of poverty, violence, and hope of achieving a better life. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that following China, El Salvador had the second-highest amount of asylum seekers in the United States. Taking a closer look at El Salvador and the decline in the coffee industry may be surprisingly relevant in matters addressing issues of immigration in countries such as the United States. Understanding the relationship between these issues can give community members and policymakers better insight on how to address them effectively.
The Caffeinated History of El Salvador
Located next to the Monument of Reconciliation in San Salvador, El Salvador, a large brick wall sketches out El Salvador's history pictographically. The mural displays scenes of the country's start from the early Mayans to the modern events following the revolutionary Oscar Romero. The motif of coffee beans is present throughout; the consistent etchings of coffee are meant to symbolize the important role that coffee has played in economic development and modernization of El Salvador.
In the late 1880s, "El Grano de Oro" (the "Grain of Gold" in Spanish) surpassed indigo, a dark blue dye, as the leading export from El Salvador due to its commercial promise. In the 1920s and 30s, these coffee exports alone represented 90 percent of the country's exports. By the 1970s El Salvador had become the world's third-largest coffee producer. Fifty percent of the nation's GDP stemmed from the coffee industry during the 1980s, demonstrating the vital role it played in the economic development and stability of the nation.
The stability and foundation coffee provided for El Salvador was tested in the civil war that began in 1980 and lasted for 12 years. In the...