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AFC’s Community Collections Grants: Puerto Rican Coffee Traditions with Russell Oliver

Filmmaker Russell Oliver interviews Remy Rodriguez of Fincas La Sombra, in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.

Filmmaker Russell Oliver interviews Remy Rodriguez of Fincas La Sombra, in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy of Russell Oliver.

Below is an excerpt from a post on the Library’s Of the People blog highlighting AFC Community Collections Grant recipient Russell Oliver and his project, Documenting the Stories, Agricultural Traditions, and Culture of Specialty Coffee Farmers in Puerto Rico.

Congratulations on the grant, Russell! How did the idea for the project come about?

Remy Rodriguez walks among the shaded coffee trees at his farm, Fincas La Sombra, in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.

Remy Rodriguez walks among the shaded coffee trees at his farm, Fincas La Sombra, in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy of Russell Oliver.

Thank you so much, I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. Much of the film work I love to do is documentary and based in real stories, which is why I am so excited the project was chosen by the Library of Congress. The project began with an invitation to the mountains of Yauco at the locally owned coffee farm Hacienda Masini, located in the Cordillera Central region of Puerto Rico. At Hacienda Masini, which has been owned by the Masini family since the 19th century, I participated in a series of educational programs at the farm and surrounding community led by my friend and colleague Douglas Pardue, Associate Professor at the University of Georgia. I experienced first-hand farming practices, learned about the kinds of crops suitable for the area, and discovered the history of coffee and its importance to the economy of Puerto Rico.

Over the years I became friends with coffee farmers in Puerto Rico. I realized that many of the remaining coffee farmers were aging and wanted to pass their agricultural knowledge and traditions on to the next generation.  This led to the development of the project with my friends and team members, Keren Carrión, Remy Rodriguez, and Gustavo Arroyo, to document and preserve the knowledge of “tradition bearers” and emerging agricultural practices of Puerto Rico’s coffee farmers for future generations.

Click on over to the Of the People blog for the full interview with Russell to learn more about Puerto Rican coffee making traditions and challenges facing coffee farmers today. 

The interview is part of an Of the People blog series featuring the 2022 recipients of the AFC’s Community Collections Grants program and their cultural documentation projects over the course of this first, grant-period year. The Community Collections Grants program is part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path initiative, which seeks to create new opportunities for more Americans to engage with the Library of Congress and to add their perspectives to the Library’s collections, allowing the national library to share a more inclusive American story. Read more about the AFC’s Community Collections Grants program here

Previous posts in this series have spotlighted recipients Junious Brickhouse of Urban Artistry and Habele Outer Island Education Fund in the Federated States of Micronesia.

 

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