History

Finca La Perla (La Perla Estate) located in the ancient mountains of the Department of El Quiché, a place with fertile lands and majestic beauty, enriched by its abundant water and “microclimates” coming from the Gulf of Mexico, was always extremely challenging for the Arenas family; especially due to its distance, difficult access, absence of roads and rough terrain.

However, through the vision, tenacity, sacrifice, arduous work, unshakeable faith and love for the land and its people, José Luis and Amparo Arenas “the Patriarchs,” today “Silent Guardians” of their inheritance, did the impossible: turning those inhospitable lands in “promise lands,” a place of hope, dreams and unimaginable fulfillments.

José Luis and Amparo lived in Quetzaltenango, the second city in importance of the country, in the Guatemalan highlands; his father was Colombian and his mother Guatemalan, an insatiable worker, always willing to help his people, with a strong personality and temper, firm decisions, used to face big challenges no matter how hard, extreme or devious that these might be, he had in the moment of purchasing Finca La Perla another unique business opportunity: buying an estate in Antigua Guatemala, a region known internationally by its extraordinary quality of it coffee, not far from the Capital City, of easy access (30 minutes by car) and convenient features to work it. However, the lands of Xamac (Finca LaPerla) made such an impression on him that he fell in love with them, reason why he never doubted the decision he should take.

Her father was Spaniard and mother Quetzalteca, educated in Madrid, with refined manners and an intellectual; she identified with La Perla so much and gave herself to it in such a way, that she lived there for seven straight years in the estates and even one of her sons- Roberto- was born there. For the people of La Perla, she became their “protector”, especially for the women who she assisted during their labor and also supported through their family problems and children who she insisted on educating and providing with breakfast so they would have something warm in their stomachs and this way, be able to withstand the arduous day’s journey as it was about to commence, as she would say!

Both of them, educated, polite, with solid Principles and Values, firm believers in the power and will of God- Christian Catholic devotees-, he a Gentleman and she a Lady, shared a “dream”: Finca La Perla, their People, their Coffee; the same that was passed on to their six sons, who, with the same intensity, passion, love, respect, sacrifices and devotion, continued it.

The traditional means of transportation was by horse and mule, taking up to 3 long and exhausting days to get to Finca La Perla. The other means to transport the harvests out of the Estate was to fly the products out by air in a light aircraft, which represented a very high cost, complex logistics and various risks.

After the assassination of the father of the Arenas brothers, José Luis Arenas Barrera, on June 7, 1975; the days for Finca La Perla and its workers got very difficult, especially because the guerrilla force tried by all means to stop the workers from working the plantations through daily and permanent harassment, robbery of the payrolls, destruction of the bridge over the river Xacbal, which was the only access by land. This provoked the isolation of the estate, multiple attacks to the facilities, to the Arenas family and to the workers and their families, killing many of them during the 36 years that lasted the war: good, modest, humble, and peaceful people, until that time devoted to agricultural work, growing coffee, corn and such in the field. With the seed of evil, hostility and hatred, the subversives turned daily life into a struggle to survive.

The working conditions became more complicated and difficult than they used to be:

  • Transportation by air, coffee and other consumer goods for the workers and their families, instead of being only an option it turned into the only alternative, this way aggravating due to its high costs the delicate economic situation of the Estate.
  • Substantial financial losses for over 36 years, a situation that if it would not had been for the extraordinary contributions of the Family it would have meant bankruptcy for the Company.
  • Substantial financial losses for over 36 years, a situation that if it would not had been for the extraordinary contributions of the Family it would have meant bankruptcy for the Company.
  • The lack of bank loans, due to the fear and the distrust of the financial institutions for the Agricultural Sector, but mainly of the estates of the region of El Quiché.
  • Big commercial obstacles.
  • The need to replace the Plan for technical and productive Agricultural Work, for one of “SURVIVAL.”
  • ETC

When Finca La Perla and Annexes, despite of everything described above, became the only source of work in a hundred mile radius, it went through a “metamorphosis”: change- transformation and evolution, when the Arenas brothers took the responsibility not only of saving it from its physical destruction and economic losses; but also the protection of its workers and their families; and sheltering hundreds of “refugees”- even former collaborators with the guerrilla force- who came down from the mountains, sick, dehydrated, exhausted from the demands of the life they were subject to, starving, malnourished, in inhumanely conditions, fearful and distrustful, supplying them with work in a human and supportive attitude, giving them land to cultivate their staple grains, and providing medicine and medical attention.

Social Programs were created and implemented, the Health Center to treat all of the injured; and vaccination campaigns and treatment of all kinds of diseases, with the support of Christian Organizations and North American Doctors; clothes and toys were also provided for the children so that they could get from them one “smile of hope” in the face of what they unfairly had to live.

The “refugees” remained in Finca La Perla until the circumstances allowed them to return to their Communities and rebuild them, and this way start a new life, maintaining up to date a relationship of “good neighbors” between them and La Perla.

As a consequence of the state of absolute defenselessness, isolation and the harassment in which they were immersed, the Arenas brothers in agreement with their workers created the first Civil Patrol of Self Defense, having acquired more than 400 volunteer male workers armed with 22 caliber rifles and several weapons which the National Army provided, being able to self defend, protect the helpless women and children and keep working although in adverse conditions, being the only Estate that stood afloat in the Ixil Region, in all those years of intense war. Finca La Perla and its annexes: Estates Santa Delfina, El Tesoro and Panchita, became bastions of Liberty and Democracy just as an impenetrable obstacle for the communist guerrilla force.

Thus, in the month of June of 1988, National Geographic journalist Griffin Smith, Jr., aware of the situation that existed, asked Enrique Arenas, one of the Arenas brothers who managed the estate after the murder of his father, to take him to the estate so he would be able to write an article and this way let the world know what was happening in Guatemala, especially in Finca La Perla and its annexes, located in the Department of El Quiché, municipality of Chajul, in the heart of the Ixil Triangle, which by then had already become a legend for its heroic defense and unwavering struggle.

Finca La Perla, survived by the determination, struggle, efforts fulfilled and devotion, of the Arenas family and its Workers, anonymous heroes of that time and always!

Finca La Perla, the Workers’ Solidarity Association of Finca La Perla and the Arenas family, for its courage, fidelity to its Principles and Values, crucial and effective performance for the economic and social development of El Quiché, was recognized by the President of USA Ronald Reagan, by Guatemala’s Government and Democratic Institutions, as a faithful example of Human Solidarity and Business Efforts.

The Government of the United States and particularly their President of that time Mr. Ronald Reagan, genuinely interested in supporting the Countries of Central and South America as well as concerned of the internal movements that in most of the countries were lived, created a Commission which he named: “Middendorf Commission”- presided by the Ambassador William Middendorf III- in order to visit each of the countries of the hemisphere, to conduct a diagnosis and make recommendations on how the USA Government could contribute through the respective productive Sectors to the solution of the particular problems of each one and to the their economic and social development. When the report of the Commission was finished and presented to President Reagan at the White House by the Ambassador Middendorf, the surprise was enormous, since the cover had a photograph of the Workers’ Solidarist Association of Finca La Perla and its Annexes- the first of its kind, in its second time, in Guatemala. He recommended in its conclusions that attending the particular circumstances of each Company in the Latin American Region, Finca La Perla’s model should become an example to replicate. To such an event and recognition, were invited and assisted accompanied by their respective wives, Beatriz and Viviana, Enrique and Ricardo Arenas, who in spite of being the youngest of the Arenas Brothers, were and are the most committed with the “dream” of their parents and with the implementation and execution of the Plans and Projects that form such an integral part of itself; Enrique, as a fundamental piece of the Administration of the Estates, living in them in spite of the risk of losing his own life, assuming and exercising the leadership that the circumstances demanded; and Ricardo, responsible of managing, administrating and coordinating the legal defense necessary as a consequence of many credit defaults derived from the unfavorable business environment that it suffered, – credits that were honored and paid fully-, as well as taking control of some projects which helped to oxygenate the Company economically.

Both of them have complemented each other, joining forces, having been the pillars of the Guatemalan Solidarist Movement and Central American, whose Philosophical Principles were originally brought from Costa Rica by their brother Jorge, but which was encouraged by the two of them, to the extent that it became Ricardo’s Graduation Thesis as a Lawyer and Notary.

For all of the brothers Roberto, Enrique, and Ricardo Arenas, their wives and sons the “CHALLENGE” continues, having transformed a few years ago the ownership of the land, handing over to each of the Workers of the Estates as a compensation for their services “agricultural land” in a special area strategically located, as well as economic resources for their new coffee plantations and their best seedlings compensating for their services; today, they are also proud owners and growers of an excellent and incomparable Coffee!

Also and thanks to the unconditional support of a North American Christian Group, the Health Center has been remodeled and several times a year Medical services just as social assistance for the Communities take place, having contemplated in a near future the construction of a little day hospital.

The Planning and Design Phase is already finished of what will later be The Development and Housing Project. This project pretends to be a “Model Town” for the Ixil area, called Villas de San Judas de Tadeo de Mapalapa, in which they seek to satisfy all the fundamental necessities for a worthy life: housing, education, health, sports, commerce and religion, being necessary to the effect of all the possible support of people in solidarity with La Perla, its People and its History.

Reason why when a “Cup” of La Perla’s Coffee is being drank and enjoyed, it represents a true support for the fulfillment of the Plans and Projects unfinished that make up the links of the chain that represents “A DREAM” or a “BEAUTIFUL REALITY”…….

Today, the Arenas brothers, following the vision and dreams of their parents, have continued the ideology of the Central American movement for; dignity in the social and economic development of the Worker and its Family known as the Solidarity Movement through their efforts in supporting its workers and its various neighboring towns through health and social projects and implementing free enterprise working environments in the region. They have obtained several honorable distinctions and victories in the 12 years of “Cup of Excellence-Guatemala,” placing La Perla’s Coffee as one of the best coffees of the world because of its unbeatable characteristics of its singular cup. All these efforts and acknowledgements have created what is known today as FINCA LA PERLA Y ANEXOS, “CAFÉ DE LA PAZ” (COFFEE OF PEACE).