Campaign to Boycott Salvadoran Coffee was part of the Grand Rapids Central American Solidarity Movement in the early 1990s

The US backed counterinsurgency war in El Salvador saw one of its darkest days in Savadoran Coffee BoycottNovember of 1989, when Salvadoran soldiers (many of them trained at the US Army School of the Americas) murdered six catholic priests, their cook and her daughter.

This atrocity sparked all kinds of reaction by US activists working Central America, even in Grand Rapids, as we have documented in a previous post. However, several Grand Rapids activists also joined a national campaign that had begun shortly after the six Jesuit Priests were killed, a campaign organized by the group Neighbor 2 Neighbor.

Neighbor 2 Neighbor was a west coast entity that had as its main organizer Fred Ross Jr. Fred’s dad, Fred Ross Sr. was a long time labor organizer who had trained Cesar Chavez. Fred Jr. continued his fathers’ work and the first campaign that Neighbor 2 Neighbor organized was a boycott of Gallo wine in the 1980s.

The send campaign that Neighbor 2 Neighbor organized was the Salvadoran Coffee Boycott Campaign, right after the massacre of the Jesuits, their cook and her daughter in 1989. The goal of the campaign was to get local organizers to get people to boycott the Folgers brand of coffee, which relied heavily on Salvadoran coffee beans, to get local cafes and grocery stores to not carry Folgers and to get local TV stations to run a PSA, which Neighbor 2 Neighbor developed.

Grand Rapids activists used the Neighbor 2 Neighbor Campaign material and got several grocery stores to not carry Folgers. Some of those stores also displayed the poster here. Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.35.45 PMGrand Rapids organizers also circulate the flyer posted above to numerous community based organizations to get them to not buy Folgers and post by the coffee machines in the offices they worked out of.

In addition, Grand Rapids organizers attempted to get local TV stations to run the Neighbor 2 Neighbor PSA about the Salvadoran Coffee Campaign, but WOOD TV 8, WZZM 13 and the PBS affiliate, WGVU, all refused to air the PSA. The only place that Grand Rapids organizers could air the PSA was on the local cable access station, GRTV.

This campaign exists in Grand Rapids for two years, until the cease fire took place in El Salvador in early 1992, which began the process of ending the decade long US financed counterinsurgency war.

It is also worth noting that the coffee boycott campaign pre-dated any of the current Fair Trade or Direct Trade coffee campaigns that currently exist.

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