The relative nearness of Central America makes it easier to visit then say Indonesia or Africa. I first visited this region in 1985 and have been back five times since then. My ability to speak very basic Spanish and the nurturing of some wonderful friendships make the desire to continually return to this region a strong one.
On my journeys to Central America, I have been to Guatemala,Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua and El Salvador as well as to Costa Rica numerous times. There are many commonalities between all of these countries, such as there similar geography linking them as part of the Pacific Rim of Fire. This provides its share of excitement and instability to the area. In a land filled with volcanoes, earthquakes (terramotas) and unforgettable hurricanes, nothing is certain. Then there is the political instabilities, which can more than match these natural disasters in intensity. Wars and brutal regimes have devastated Central America and are well documented.
Throughout all of this, the people here remain determined, un-deflatable and resilient. I have been in Guatemala when volcanoes were erupting as well as just after Hurricane Mitch had swept through. I saw Nicaragua and El Salvador in the aftermath of seemingly endless wars, floods and mudslides. It is impossible not to be affected by these things… there are scars but also a determined optimism.
Many different coffees come from Central America. They thrive in the rich volcanic soil that provides vital nutrients and great drainage. The diversity of coffee personalities range from the aromatic lighter style coffees found in Guatemala and Mexico to the full-bodied brews from El Salvador all happen to be organic.
There is more than great coffee from this region … there are wonderful, warm people and great hospitality that has humbled me on more than one occasion. I remember sharing a meal with some friends on my first trip to Costa Rica. The kids were jumping for joy. I asked them why, thinking perhaps it was because of my charm or magnetic personality. “NO! Dream on,” they said, “Mom was out back killing the chicken and we were going to have chicken with our rice tonight!”
Later they wanted me to stay with their three generation extended family but I told them I would get a hotel. They insisted, saying they had an extra room and would not let me leave. As I was going to bed I saw their wedding pictures and shots of all their kids on the dresser. In the closet were all their clothes and then I realized they had given me their bed and were sleeping with their children. This is Central American hospitality … people who are thankful, posses little, yet love much.
– John Bolton …… Salt Lake Roasting Co.