"Poverty is an elusive concept to pin down. Most of us have a preconceived idea of what poverty looks like. The people in these coffee-growing communities didn’t fit those stereotypes—there were no skeleton-thin children, no one was dirty or ragged, the view down into the coffee plots was breathtaking. There were even a few vehicles in some of the villages.
"But all of these things hide the hardscrabble existence here. The vehicles are used to go to Jaltenango once a month for basic supplies, like beans and corn, not for joyriding. The children may not be thin, but they are often severely undernourished. And even though the villages are surrounded by coffee, we never had coffee in any of them. Families here do not, it seems, drink the product they grow any more than an Iowa corn farmer consumes what he grows. Coffee is the way they eke out a barebones survival."