Ben Valdez has been an active FoCAN student leader for the past two years and is currently completing a field study with CAN’s partner organization VIDA AC in the Central Highlands of Veracruz, Mexico. Here is his latest update from the field:

Greetings from Ixhuatlan de Café, Veracruz Mexico! My name is Benjamin Valdez, and I am currently conducting an ethnographic study on migrant youth from the municipality of Ixhuatlan de Café. In the last seven weeks I have met countless families from most of the rural communities within the municipality who have shared their time, family stories, and delicious homemade meals with me. My study includes fifteen interviews of youth ages 13-21 that live within the municipality and observations that relate to their identity. Some of the most memorable observations have occurred while youth work on their family´s land, while playing on their community´s soccer team competing for bragging rights, and while selling their homegrown vegetables. I have reached ten interviews of youth within my age bracket and four outside my age bracket. Simultaneously, I have taught English for beginners to three communities: Guzmantla, Ixcatla, and Ocotitlan. In all communities there has been a least half a dozen youth who show interest in participating in my study, and learning more about the English language.

The families that I have had the privilege of meeting show passion toward growing the best coffee in the world in the most sustainable and organic way possible. Another passion that most families share is diligence in maintaining the land they live on, maintaining a sustainable livelihood, and maintaining their fruits and coffee rich in nutrients. Despite economic, social, and medical hardships all families and youth that I have met continue to have an uplifting attitude toward life especially while working, harvesting, and reaching academic goals.

I expect to keep the relationships that I have created for the rest of my life. I know that this will not be the last time I will be visiting the state of Veracruz, the municipality of Ixhuatlan de Café, and the countless families and youth that have made my stay here most memorable.