Yachil Xojobal Chu’lchan, which means “new light in the sky” in the Tzeltal language, was founded in 2001 with an initial 383 small-scale coffee farmer members from the Tzotzil and Tzeltal Mayan indigenous communities in the municipalities of Chilon, Pantelho and San Juan Cancuc. A defining characteristic of Yachil membership is their progressive, political position of solidarity with the Zapatista movement, struggling for autonomy and respect for Indigenous rights.
Coffee is one of the few viable export options for small-scale farmers in Chiapas, and in particular for Yachil farmers, who do not accept any financial support from the Mexican government. The sale of their coffee is their primary source of income.
Yachil exported its first lot of coffee to solidarity buyers in Germany in 2003, and their first organic certified lots to Coop Coffees roasters in Canada and the USA in 2005. Since then, Yachil has worked hard to expand its volumes and sales in both solidarity and gourmet markets across Europe and in North America.
Today, Yachil is comprised of some 800 members in eight municipalities ( Pantelhó, San Juan Cancuc, Chenalhó, Tenejapa, Chalchihuitán, Aldama (Magdalena de La Paz), Simojovel (16 de Febrero) and El Bosque (San Juan de La Libertad) across Chiapas, with annual exports of more than 130 tons of high quality, green coffee.
With the profits from their sales, Yachil members have invested in improving the individual wet processing equipment in their communities, constructing a central warehouse to assure safer storage of parchment coffee prior to export, providing on-going technical workshops to members in organic practices and organizational leadership, and in trainings for the rotating Yachil producer Board of Directors in topics such as: basic accounting, cooperative administration and export, as well as improving their understanding of all necessary steps to assure consistent quality control and improvement.
Despite their many accomplishments, Yachil farmers continue to live under a cloak of uncertainty. Members of this cooperative have formed their own local Indigenous governments, supporting development in keeping with their values and traditions, and promoting democracy, equality, and empowerment. Over the last decade of resistance, members of Yachil have suffered repression at the hands of government security forces and the paramilitary. Many members and their families have been forced to flee their communities and continue to live as internal refugees, victims of political oppression and intimidation.