The situation in Colombia is reaching a boiling point. The world's third largest coffee producing country, and largest producer of arabica, finds itself emrbroiled in societal unrest and political upheaval, with protests in the street met by violence and force at the hands of an increasingly militarized state police force. There is currently no end in sight to the protests. The western world is slowly waking up to the ongoing situation, as activists in Colombia plead for international attention. Dozens have already been killed according to Associated Press and Temblores, a non-profit in Colombia that tracks government violence. Coffee production and export has slowed to a standstill, and Colombian coffee professionals from all walks of life report major disruptions to their work and wider society.
Many Sprudge readers have reached out with questions—How can we follow this situation from outside Colombia? How can we help?
In the void of traditional leadership, important new voices have stepped in to rally around this cause and the work behind it. Each of the coffee professionals who lent their voice to this updating interview feature focused on Colombian coffee professionals mentioned organizations and groups worth amplifying, following and donating. Some of those include:
Temblores ONG @tembloresong
Primera Linea Respaldo @primeralineacol2.0
La Silla Vacía @lasillavaciaoficial
El Tortugazo @eltortugazo
El Irreverente @elirreverenteibague
La olla de la dignidad Cali @laolladeladignidadcali
Tolitamales Veganos @tolitamalesveganos
Amazon Frontlines @amazonfrontlines
— Glitter Cat — Glitter Cat, the non-profit coffee events organization and consultancy based in Los Angeles, has published a considered list of resources for individuals looking to support Colombia. We recommend you read it and subscribe to Glitter Cat's email newsletter.
— SOS Colombia — This page is home to more than a dozen crowdfunding campaigns supporting civil rights work in Colombia. They include medical aid funds, independent journalism funds, support for marginalized groups in Colombia, and much more. Peruse the list, choose a cause that reflects your own interest, and consider donating.
This is an incomplete and updating list.
In addition to organizations, individuals are making a significant impact raising awareness around the current situation in Colombia. One name that keeps coming up around this cause is Carolina Ibarra Garay, a Colombian coffee professional and social activist based in California. Posting on Instagram as @_cafetera_ Garay has actively been raising funds for indigenous groups in Colombia directly impacted by government violence. Sprudge spoke with Garay earlier this week to learn more about their work fundraising and bringing awareness to the fast-moving situation in Colombia.
This interview has been lightly edited.
Hey Carolina, thanks for speaking with Sprudge. First, please tell us a little about yourself, your connection to Colombia, and where you're currently based.
I want to make this less about me than about the fundraising and the creation of awareness about the Colombian situation right now. However, in a short paragraph, I am Colombian, I come from the Quindio department and moved to Los Angeles seven years ago. Since then I became a barista and made my way in the coffee industry of Los Angeles. I am currently an account representative for the Los Angeles market at Stumptown.
You are fundraising to support Colombia—why? How did you get involved with this?
Since the uprising of the protests I've been connecting with my friends and family to check on them, and this past week has been very difficult because we are seeing videos posted of police brutality, and the attacks of protesters are barbaric. I've been calling my IG followers to post about the realities of the country but then I noticed many people posting bank account numbers for people to donate and I thought that I could do something else. Back when people were getting furloughed and laid off from their coffee jobs due to COVID-19 closures, I created a GoFundMe, like many others to collect money for the baristas at the Stumptown Cafe I was managing. We raised a good amount of money that was split among 18 of the baristas. So, I realized that I'm not ashamed of asking for help and I opened up my Venmo account for people to send me money that I have been sending to different organizations.
What organizations are you donating to in Colombia? Why did you pick these specific ones?
It is difficult to pick who you want to donate to because there are a lot of different organizations right now and they are all equally needing our help. But I have been looking for the smallest organizations and avoiding the GoFundMe efforts that I see have a lot of funds by now. It all started by donating to the people from Quindio Resiste, because this is my hometown. They are bringing food and supplies to the indigenous group called MINGAS, who are currently protesting, blocking one of the main roads in the Quindio Department. This is a group of women and boys running to supermarkets, preparing meals, going around bringing supplies to these protesters. I've also sent money to the Escudos Azules in Bogotá who are the frontline in the protests. These people are the ones facing abuse and sometimes death trying to protect the other protesters. Among other organizations is the Ollas Comunitarias, who are making meals for people in Siloé, a Cali neighborhood where police abuse has been extremely heavy. Tons of men have been murdered in this neighborhood.
There are many other organizations that I still hope to help. The family of Andres Felipe Castaño in Pereira needs money for hospital bills. Andrés was shot in the protests this past Wednesday and was in critical condition but is now slowly recovering. Some organizations are rescuing stray dogs that have also been affected by tear gas during the protests. There's just so much to do, which is why I'm begging people on my IG to share the info. A lot of people have donated and I have collected almost $1500 by now, which goes a long way in Colombia and can purchase a large amount of supplies.
Throughout our interviews with coffee professionals in Colombia, it feels like there's some confusion about where to donate. Why do you think this is?
I assume the confusion comes from not knowing who are legitimate organizations and who aren't, but what we have to understand here is that most of these organizations have been popping up as needed. Colombia is in a state of emergency, so while it is important to support big organizations, it's important to support the small ones, because these people are taking the money directly to buy supplies and bring them right away to their communities. I have friends in different cities of the country and they have been helping me to find direct contacts to the people receiving donations. Yesterday, thanks to a person that does voluntary work with Human Rights Watch, I was able to contact different small organizations and send the money I had collected. These small organizations are sharing their bank account information and I am transferring the money, using an application called Xoom, which is how I send money to family usually. Xoom will ask for some information like account number, bank, name of the account, an address, and an email. The money is wired in within minutes. Other organizations like Escudos Azules are using Arma Tu Vaca, which is an app in Colombia to send money like Venmo. In this one, we can send money directly from our accounts here in the US.
My intention with receiving the money from donors here in the US over Venmo is to make it easy. I know that not everyone is going to go contacting people in Colombia over WhatsApp or downloading Xoom and adding bank account information. That takes time and not everybody is invested and it's understandable. I want to be able to facilitate these resources for the people in need.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.