The Way Back to Yarasquin [Finalist, Honduras]
Directed by Sarah Gerber
Quality coffee driving quality of life
Honduran entrepreneur Mayra Orellana-Powell recognizes the need to raise the community to economic sustainability, and ultimately to truly thriving. Against all odds, she creates a thriving local-led farmers group to import high-quality, award-winning specialty coffee to the US, resulting in double and triple profits for farmers, growing sense of pride, and increasing empowerment among people who should be recognized for the hard work they put in to bring us a delicious cup of coffee.
The Way Back to Yarasquin is a FINALIST for BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
For the full listing of the winning films, visit our blog.
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Synopsis for The Way Back to Yarasquin
Coffee is something many of us drink, and when we do, it often invokes a sensation of nostalgia. Drinking coffee takes Mayra Orellana-Powell back to her childhood and memories of her grandmother cultivating coffee on the family farm in the rural mountain community of Santa Elena, Honduras. Now, when Mayra prepares her morning cup of coffee in her home in Alameda, California, a community of 73,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area, she is far from her roots in Santa Elena. The pursuit of education took Mayra to the United States, where she earned a bachelors degree in business, making her only the second person in her family to graduate from a university. Like many of life’s ironies, Mayra has lived a successful life away from Santa Elena, but her dreams of reconnecting with her community have never been stronger.
The Way Back to Yarasquin captures Mayra's journey from the United States back to her hometown in Santa Elena, where she has connected small coffee farmers to the specialty coffee market in an effort to raise the standard of living for these farming families. The film follows Mayra and several California Bay Area coffee professionals to Santa Elena in pursuit of spectacular coffee. Beyond the exploration for coffee, this story emotionally captures the human side of coffee in a way that will inspire the role coffee lovers play in the sustainable development of rural communities like Santa Elena.
When Mayra's grandmother passed away, her most important connection to Santa Elena seemed lost. That’s when Mayra started thinking about Yarasquin, the small coffee farm she inherited from her grandmother, as a way to go back and reconnect to the memory of her grandmother and her community.
In Honduras, Mayra's story unfolds and her personal journey for identity is revealed. Mayra, like her grandmother before her, is a respected leader. She’s very clear in how she wants to improve the community, not just economically, but also building up the community’s identity and pride. In the United States, Mayra is an entrepreneur who founded her own business aptly named Catracha Coffee Company because “catracha” is Spanish slang that means Honduran woman. Mayra operates the business using her personal savings to buy and import green coffee from Santa Elena, then sells it to roasters, and finally returns the profits back to the farmers.
The struggles for small coffee farmers are the same around the world. Unstable economic conditions often leave farmers without enough income to make it to the next harvest. Without options these farmers take loans, with interest rates nearing 40 percent, to survive the thin months before the next annual harvest. After the harvest, profits are devoured paying back the crushing debt. With low interest micro-loans and profit sharing, Mayra has taken aim at this vicious cycle and injected hope among the farmers of Santa Elena. Along with her own humble coffee crop, Mayra has spearheaded a collection of farmers to bring their best coffee to the United States. A few successful years later, hope has turned to pride and empowerment.
Mayra has connected her two cultures through coffee, emphasizing in the United States that coffee consumers have power in their purchasing choice to pay for coffee that makes a difference in someone’s life and even an entire community. Coffee is deeply personal, for some it is the first thing they want when they rise in the morning and for others, like Mayra, it is a way of life. Simple ritual or life altering- nothing tastes better than a cup of coffee that makes the world a better place.
Links related The Way Back to Yarasquin
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- Sarah Gerber: Director, Producer, Writer
- Mayra Orallana-Powell : Subject