A Fair Trade Marathon in the Making

2012 Followup for the Monkey Fist Fair Trade Project

It’s been a little over three years since we broke ground on our Molino project in Guatemala. As the scope of the original project increased, the timeline turned into more of a marathon than a construction project. Knee deep in the middle of our own factory renovations here in Montana, I had little time to spare for my annual visit to the highlands of Guatemala. Still, I realized just how much our affirmation means to this project, so it was time to book a quick trip down south.

CARRY-ON LITE

Packing for this visit was going to be a pretty easy affair (with less than a week in country I would more than likely be bringing more home than I was taking). Switching up to the Airborne C-Ruck with a Gator as a personal item, I could fly carry-on only. Toiletries, as always, were stuffed into my Trifold and packed into the side pocket of the Ruck.

For my return trip I had a Medium Aviator Kit Bag stowed for my coffee acquisitions. This I simply folded up on the outside of the Ruck with the cinch straps located on the bottom of the pack.

The security situation in Guatemala has recently been a bit on the sketchy side according to my Stratfor Reports. So I decided to switch up my itinerary and actually spend the night in Guatemala City. This move would make my travails on the road much more comfortable. In previous trips I had bypassed this step and gone straight to Panajacel.

After so many trips to this part of the world I’ve developed some great friends in Pana along with a good idea of where to stay and more importantly, the best places to eat. Los Encuentros has become my base of operations and host Richard Morgan is always on the go.

Last year Richard conceived the idea of a marathon around Lago Attitlan. During my visit I had the opportunity to sponsor some indigenous runners for the marathon. I’ve hiked around portions of the lake and it is your typical steep volcano trails with wicked drop offs. Surveying the route and taking into account the heat and altitude this course would certainly rank among the tougher marathons in the world. Well my running days are long past and I was never much of runner anyway, despite attempts by the Marine Corps to make me one.

Each year I visit I notice the subtle changes to the village where we have our Red Oxx Monkey Fist Zip Knots tied. Progress has been slow but steady and while on the surface the poverty can appear intractable there are signs of progress – if you know how to look for them. Hard work and a commitment to quality are two attributes that have served us well here at Red Oxx. In Guatemala you have to play to the strengths and learn to let go of the things that are irrelevant. So it is with a familiarity of steady contact and a commitment to the kind of quality that’s been the foundation of our operations here.

Keeping it simple and letting go of the things that do not matter has been the key to making this relationship work. It’s been an interesting journey through the years.

RELATED GEAR

I know for certain that the people would persevere without us but instead we prosper together. That’s been the most rewarding aspect of this whole process. This summer we expect to have the Molino open for business and I’m already looking forward to making the trek next year and having a fresh tortilla on the mountain.

As for our own factory Expansion No. 8, please stay tuned to this channel for some exciting information in the near future. In the meantime, "you can keep up with our factory photo documentation series featured on our Red Oxx Bags Facebook page.

Cheers, Jim Markel CEO

Did you enjoy Jim’s latest installment of his on-going Guatemala Trip Reports? Be sure to read the next adventure, Coffee Hunting with the Tres Hombres in Guatemala. Here’s the lowdown on past visits to Guatemala:

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