OMAR ARANGO

SAN LUIS FARM, EL LIBANO, TOLIMA, COLOMBIA

 

Omar grows different species of coffee on his 50 hectares farm San Luis, in the town of El Libano, in Tolima, Colombia. The Arango family has owned this farm for over 25 years, and the passion and love for growing coffee have been passed from generation to generation. The farm is located in a valley by Nevado Del Ruiz, one of the most essential and imponent snowcapped mountains in Colombia, a source of natural water bodies and harbor for a huge fauna variety. The farm comprehends two micro-climates: warm and humid forest, in altitudes from 1700 to 1900 masl, offering different natural conditions to the coffee trees, which happily yield a product with a unique personality and special characteristics perceived in each cup of brewed coffee.

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Tolima region, Colombia. (Image from Wikipedia)

View of Nevado del Tolima through a group of frailejons, a genus native to Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

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Aerial view of Nevado del Tolima, one of the highest peaks of the Colombian Andes.

"I could talk to you about my coffee, but instead, I rather tell you about coffee's history in El Libano. A story about coffee in this part of the Tolima region, about 120 miles from Bogota, nestled as the gateway to Los Nevados National Natural Park. Spending a clear morning looking out over the landscape from "El Mirador de la Polka" is the best way to understand its majestic beauty. 

 

During the first few decades of the 1900s, El Libano was the third-largest coffee-producing region in Colombia. Six coffee threshers, four casting molds, four corn thrashers, and even a chocolate factory, all located in the jungle, at the foothills of "Los Nevados." The secret to this region's success might have been a society that the Spanish or religious conquistadors didn't find. Instead, the people who settled here were hardworking explorers from Antioquia who connected settlements by mule.

 

But the important thing here was the coffee and how much was exported. Germans and Americans would visit the region to close deals and then return home with the best coffee beans. In exchange, they would come with the latest European books and magazines that wouldn't reach past Bogotá. El Libano ended up with its printing press its magazines. All of this thanks to coffee. 

 

Then came the Russian Revolution, and these political and social ideas quickly arrived at El Libano. They spread quickly, especially within a population in its majority rural and dissatisfied. Then, around the Great Depression, coffee prices plummeted, and Europeans and Americans stopped visiting, causing the town's economy to collapse. In 1929 the socialist party of Colombia planned to take over the main cities, including El Libano, where these ideas were already popular. One day, 300 farmers, many coffee growers, came down from the mountains to storm the city. Even though the police were waiting for them, they managed to take control for one day, thinking that the same thing was happening in cities across the country. However, this wasn't the case. There had been a change of plans, but that telegram announcing the change never arrived in El Libano. The following day, the national troops regained control, and the revolutionary leaders were jailed and tortured. 

 

So it is here, in El Libano, where I now have my coffee plantation: San Luis. History repeats itself, and I sell my production to a german guy. The difference is that this man has established roots in Medellin, and we're working together to ensure fair prices and commerce for everyone."