Shipping manager in Agua Prieta, Sonora, for Salvador Urbina co-op
Agua Prieta, Sonora
What Café Justo means to me
“The campesinos are the owners, and you really know where the money is going. Any earning from here goes to a community, with the purpose of helping it and making it so that people don’t have to emigrate to the United States.”
Observe Pope’s face, and you’ll be showered by an extravaganza of expression. He’ll wink one eye. He’ll stick his tongue out. He’ll flash an almost constant, crescent-shaped smile.
Pope (which rhymes with hay) got his name because as a baby his arms were as puffy as Popeye’s. After a quarter century, his grandfather’s nickname is still going strong.
As a kid, Pope always tag-teamed with his older brother Adrián. “I really liked to play soccer. A restless kid, always mischievous, like Dennis the Menace but Mexican,” Pope said.
Later on in life, Pope ran into some serious ruts. They began when he was 17 and journeyed to Torreón, Coahuila, to become a P.E. teacher. He wasn’t really motivated, however. “It didn’t really matter to me – truthfully.”
After leaving Torreón without finishing a degree, he made a pit-stop in Agua Prieta before moving to the Sonoran capital, Hermosillo, to study English education. Soon, he left school for the work force because he got married.
But he wasn’t really in love. He soon got divorced, becoming “one more statistic, like many other people.”
All of this, in Pope’s opinion, served a purpose. “I’ve had lots of setbacks, lots of problems, in my life. But if those problems hadn’t happened, they wouldn’t have helped me to get to where I am now. The many mistakes I’ve made have helped me not make them again. I’ve had very bad experiences, but thanks to God those experiences made me stronger as a person. They’ve also helped me grow spiritually and physically. . . . People say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That defines me as a person. Many bad experiences have made me a better person.”
And then Café Justo came into the picture. One day, Pope had to cover for his brother Adrián and gradually became more and more involved. “I like the environment here. It’s like a micro-factory, but you don’t feel that factory environment. It feels more relaxed. More camaraderie.”
Not only has Café Justo allowed Pope to pull in with others; it’s also provided outlets to reach out. “Before, if I saw migrants crossing to the other side, they didn’t matter to me. I didn’t feel like it was a problem. . . Café Justo has involved me in activities like going to the Migrant Resource Center. You learn about how people suffer trying to cross the border. Many achieve the ‘American Dream’ – as people say – but many others don’t. . . ”
“It opened my eyes because sometimes you do see injustice around you but you don’t do anything. By joining Café Justo, I’m part of that movement to help. . . If we’re helping to stop one person from suffering or dying crossing the desert, we’re doing a lot, we’re gaining a lot with that single life.”
For Pope, every little effort counts – not only globally, but personally. Perseverance, he said, defines him. “The first time I wanted to play music, I grabbed a guitar, and I didn’t know what I was even doing to it. I felt very frustrated because I couldn’t play but one note that sounded OK. I felt like giving up, but I kept at until I got it right, and now I’m the leader of the worship group at church.”
The guitar – like his face – expresses feelings like a white prism refracts the colors of the rainbow. “I don’t sing, but it’s as if my guitar sings for me. . . You can change a lot of lives through music.”
But it’s the music that continues playing inside of Pope that’ll keep him going.