The Art of Resilience
Lucia Bawot: A New Legacy for Women Coffee Farmers
What is the value of resilience in today's world? If you're intrigued by this question and have a few minutes to spare, I ask that you remember this question until the very end.
This profile is dedicated to Lucia Bawot. A Colombian photographer and filmmaker who has worked in the coffee industry for nearly a decade. And recently released her first book entitled We Belong: An Anthology of Colombian Women Coffee Farmers.
The book is a collection of vivid and arresting photographs depicting the lives of women farmers in Colombia. With short vignettes that shed light on their experiences.
Lucia started this project back in 2019 when she realized the absence of women in her portfolio. Despite their obvious existence (they make up 70% of the workforce in coffee production). And her own family background (Lucia's grandmother was a coffee farmer).
The book is a culmination of 18 months of travel throughout Colombia's coffee-producing regions. Interviewing over 60 women. And shooting over 100,000 photographs. In order to manifest what was hidden. But these are just the basic parameters of Lucia's story.
When I met Lucia recently at her book launch event here in NYC, I noticed a few things about her. She is authentic. And she speaks like a leader. Who has been battle-tested.
But what may not be as evident to people is the fact that Lucia had a very different starting point with this project. And herself.
"When I was making the book, I had artistic goals, to be proud as an artist. Looking at your work. To get people to react to your book," explains Lucia.
But the project became long and arduous. (In fact, Lucia has traced over 130,000 steps in her journey.) A brutal test of endurance that at many points forced her to question her beliefs and motivations. Her own sanity. A rollercoaster of emotions if you will.
So what kept her going?
"What kept me going was having perseverance and consistency. The feeling of responsibility that I was telling about these women. And it’s a physical legacy for these women."
The project was no longer about Lucia and her creative capabilities as a photographer. She was becoming a vessel for something much larger.
A turning point came when Lucia was sitting at a café to review her notes after having visited and interviewed about 12 women. Their stories were punctuated by the stigmatized topics of domestic abuse and violence. Stories that sounded familiar.
"I realized it was my own grandmother. Who was a coffee farmer. She was born in a time when women could only get married and take care of kids. And she had 20 children."
Lucia admits that when you want to create something that has impact, it's not going to be easy. At the same time, you have a responsibility to serve others. And therein lies her motivation.
She explains, "I went through a severe depression for 4 years before the project. And it was unclear to me why. But I see now why after finishing the book. The basis of anything, profession, endeavor, is our humanity."
The stories of the women in Lucia's book reveal hardships and struggles. But they also underline how determined these women are to overcome their circumstances. To stand on their own and take care of the people around them.
Their shared humanity is rooted in their resilience.
Lucia explains, "Even the women that didn’t believe in themselves, didn’t have the tools, even those women have this resiliency. They do so many things, keeping in the back, and not being involved in decisions. Even those women are so alive to keep working, to take care of kids, and to work in coffee."
I asked Lucia whether the project has changed her mission in any way that goes beyond the work she has been doing as a commercial photographer.
"My mission from now on is to sit down and listen to people. Listen to human struggles. Inspirations and aspirations," she says.
And what is one aspiration shared by these women that readers should know about?
"A lot of them want to be educated. They see the value of education. They want to be able to go to high school. Go to university. And if it’s not for themselves. They want it for their children. To impact the mindset of young children. To open more doors for them. To open opportunities."
When I look at Lucia and her story, I am reminded of the following quote.
“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” ― Albert Einstein
Today, we're honored and privileged to share Lucia's story and give away a copy of We Belong to one of our subscribers.
To participate in the drawing, enter your name and email in this Google Form by the end of Sunday, April 23. The winner will be notified on Monday, April 24.
Until then, please give us a follow on IG:
Sip & Connect: Estellar Coffee & Lucia Bawot (tickets $5)
Culver City - exact location revealed upon ticket purchase
Tuesday, April 25 (6 - 8pm)
Thoughtful Coffee POP-UP (BYO Cup)
148seconds, 148 Frost Street, Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, April 22 (12 - 3pm)
Yough, 203 Knickerbocker Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Sunday, April 23 (11am - 1pm)
Loveless Coffees, 86 Central Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Friday, April 28, (7pm)
Buckman Coffee Factory, 1105 SE Main Street
Thursday, April 20 (2 - 5pm)
Celebrating Women in Coffee w/ Lucia Bawot (tickets $5)
Costa Oro International, 4825 NE 185th Drive
Saturday, April 22 (4 - 6pm)
Portland Cà Phê, 2601 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Saturday, April 22 (7 - 10pm)
Portland Cà Phê, 2601 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Wednesday, April 26 (10am)
Poppy Bagels, 5004 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA
Sunday, April 23 (7:30am - 1:30pm)
Get Flee Market, 2715 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Saturday, April 22 (11am - 4pm)
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SPECIALTY COFFEE EXPO (SCA)
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