Profile: Elena Tujal Cocón

Elena with a fresh batch of organic produce

Elena with a fresh batch of organic produce

by Jan Theberge  photo: Amber Eastman.

Fresh organic produce available every Saturday —

Elena Tujal Cocón has been selling her organically grown vegetables for more than three years on the patio at Fernando’s Café in La Antigua Guatemala. You can find her there every Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., standing behind a table heaped with a beautiful assortment of organic vegetables, greeting her customers.

Elena lives in Patzún with her 2-year-old daughter Helen and her 23-year-old son Eduardo inside a family compound that includes her 81-year-old father and three brothers.

She begins her day at 5 a.m., first caring for her family, then she tends her garden, which is located on a nearby small, leased plot of land. All of her hard work results in a magnificent array of vegetables that include broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, lettuce, radishes, celery, carrots, leeks, beets, güisquil, spinach and cabbage.

On Saturdays Elena, carrying her young daughter and toting heavy bags of her produce, begins the three-hour trip to Antigua. At 7 a.m. they board a camioneta in Patzún that will take them to Chimaltenango. From there, it’s a change of camionetas to Antigua, completing her journey by tuc-tuc to Fernando’s Café. Repeating this trip late in the afternoon, she and Helen arrive back in Patzún at 4 p.m.

Despite the often back-breaking work, Elena loves farming. She lovingly tends her garden, irrigating and hand weeding, and controls insects by spraying her vegetables with a solution of water and hot peppers.

She dreams and works toward providing a good education for her daughter, and one day owning a plot of land where she could expand, with the help of her son, into a thriving organic produce business.

Fernando’s Café is located at 7a avenida norte #43-D, La Antigua

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