Coffee was first introduced to Mexico in the late 18th century when the Spanish brought it from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Mexico’s emphasis on gold and silver mining, plus an indifferent governmental bureaucracy, meant that coffee production didn’t develop nearly as fast as in Central American nations whose governments saw coffee as a dynamic, profitable export.
In the 1860’s, a border dispute with Guatemala led to an expansive land registration campaign, with large tracts being sold to wealthy Europeans who in turn began to invest in expanding Mexico’s coffee production. This had a devastating effect on the indigenous communities, many of whom were forced from their communities. The Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 resulted in forward-thinking labor and land reforms whereby many of these same small farmers, who were now quite skillful in the cultivation of coffee, returned to their communities, expanding Mexico’s coffee production even further.
In 1973, INMECAFE was formed to support coffee production among Mexico’s hundreds of thousands of small coffee farmers. It provided technical assistance, credit, help with transportation and most importantly stabilized Mexico’s coffee market. As a result, Mexico’s coffee production grew exponentially until 1989 when the Mexican government, due to a severe economic crisis, shut down INMECAFE, leading to devastation in Mexico’s primarily rural coffee communities.
However, lack of governmental support had two primary benefits: The rise of regional cooperatives to replace INMECAFE, and an emphasis on organic coffee production. The cooperatives, as with many others in The Americas, helped develop schools and hospitals for its members, many of which also participate in Fair Trade programs, offering additional financial stability to their members. Today, Mexico is the world’s 8th largest coffee producer and the #1 producer of organic coffee in the world.