The fog suffocates the heart of Mexico’s coffee country as Juan Carlos Lopez’s beat-up old Nissan sedan wheezes up the hill. The speedometer’s needle shakes, and the motor gasps and rattles, struggling to pull the car up through a series of steep, tight curves. We pass a military base and the local headquarters of the Zapatistas, a Mexican separatist group. Juan Carlos grits his teeth and scans for movement in the thick blanket of haze. He is trying to predict the flash of gunfire, bracing for an attack. “I’m really scared,” he hisses.
A few days earlier, gunmen ambushed Juan Carlos while he was bringing bags of freshly picked coffee cherries in from his family’s farm. He saw the bullets shatter the windshield. He knows that every time he leaves home to make a delivery he faces the possibility of death. Bringing his coffee to market is always a challenge. The threat of violence is now just one more obstacle in his path.