Coffee, Pottery, and Mochilas
Tracing International Trade
With a fast growing, diverse economy and youthful demographics, Colombia was named by Economist Intelligence Unit as a member of the next generation of ‘tiger economies’. However, Colombia remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, with stark differences in opportunities and living conditions for different members of society.
These systemic inequalities threaten to disturb the newfound peace, creating a heightened urgency within the nation. We delve into this issue by tracing selected products back through various processors and middlemen to their initial source, learning about the impact of trade policies on each stage of the value chain.
Goals and Objectives
Learn about approaches to growth and development and the role of Colombian (and international) politics in the deepening of inequality within the country.
Learn about concepts of free trade and how real individuals in Colombia have been affected by changes in international trade regimes
Inspire students to further question and examine their own interpretations and understandings of growth within cultural contexts
We visit a typical coffee farm (hacienda) and its processing plant to learn about the coffee production process and the impact on the surrounding community, guided by members of a local family. Students rotate through sections to learn about planting, collecting, and post-harvest processes.
As globalization created a higher demand for “authentic” Colombian pottery, the artisan craft has transformed into an industrial occupation, altering the focus of the community. Students have the opportunity to go ‘hands-on’ with local artisans, learning how they turn raw materials into finished materials.
We hike to the community of Sewyaka, a town where three different indigenous cultures meet. Students visit a local school to learn about the education system and better understand the differences in ways of life within Colombia.
We meet with weavers of mochilas, delicately crotched bags that exemplify the rich cultural heritage of the Arhuacos and Wayuu peoples. These bags made by hand through traditional techniques passed on from generation to generation, and taking over two months to complete.
From near-ubiquitous cafes to the nightly salsa dances, Colombia holds a wealth of beautiful cultural traditions that both exemplify Latin America and stand alone. Students engage with the beauty of the country and the people, developing a deeper connection with the culture.
We meet with members of Colombia’s entrepreneurial class, learning about how they view the rapid economic progress and the future for trade-based economic development within the country.