Multifaceted fair trade event provides international focus

To connect members of the Geneseo community to individuals who actually make products that many students buy, Geneseo’s Spanish Club and Fair Trade Club presented “¡Justicia! Fair Trade in Latin America” on Monday April 6. FTC founder and president junior Benjamin Conard began the event by inviting audience members to consider the products they consume.

“Raise your hands and keep them raised if you have had one of the following today: a cup of coffee, tea, sugar and/or are wearing cotton,” Conard said. “Do you know where the product was made?” The speech ended with a referral to all attendees to buy products with a Fair Trade symbol on the packaging to ensure that the rights of the producers are protected.

Both Spanish Club and FTC decided that the event would promote student responsibility as informed consumers and raise awareness about social justice issues in Latin America on a face-to-face level. “It’s especially important to see these issues because we’re such a small college and we can make that demand,” Spanish Club president junior Ariana Lippi said.

After Conard’s presentation, the nonprofit group Mayan Hands, a group selling fair trade products produced by Mayan weavers, sold their goods in the College Union Ballroom. Over $95 was raised, with the money being used for educational funds for weavers’ daughters. This emphasized the focus in fair trading on worker’s benefits, education and health care.

“We want to have that connection with the outside world—we encouraged attendees to write letters to the weavers,” Lippi said. “We want to forge this connection to open people’s perspectives and connect them to the products they consume.”

Spanish Club and FTC also invited migrant farmer Jose Cayote, who works in Livingston County, to the event in order to bring these issues closer to home. Cayote spoke on behalf of the rights of migrant workers who do not receive equal pay. “Fair trade gives equal pay and fair treatment for everyone,” he said. “We have security in our lives when it comes to fair trade, and you as consumers can have a dignified life knowing that there is fair treatment.”

After Cayote spoke, dinner was served and followed by a tasting of fair trade chocolate. “People really loved the chocolate, and maybe we can sell it next time. One of Fair Trade’s biggest goals is to have fair trade chocolate sold on campus,” Conard said. “We are currently working with CAS to make this a possibility.”

The event ended with the performance of Latin pop-rock band Los Cholos from SUNY Oswego and a Spanish spelling bee with fair trade chocolate as prizes.