Painting by Rafael Tufiño, see coffee etching via link below.

Puerto Rico’s coffee heydays date back to the 1870s, when the Pope drank Puerto Rican coffee in the Vatican. A couple of hurricanes and total neglect after the American invasion in 1898, put an end to a flourishing business in a mountainous island well suited for growing Arabic coffee in the shady hills, but not so well equipped to support large sugar plantations and other large-scale agriculture.

A new effort seeks to undo more than a century of neglect. The old Café Rico plant in Ponce, Puerto Rico has been rehabilitated with $15 million in private investment to create the largest coffee-processing plant in the Caribbean.

Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters said their new facilities will be capable of processing a maximum of 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) of coffee a year. The company invested in machinery, equipment and renovations at its 120,000-sq. foot (11,000-sq. meter) plant in the southern coastal city of Ponce.

Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters produces brands including Yaucono Coffee, Cafe Rioja and Cafe Rico. The announcement comes as the U.S. Caribbean territory tries to boost its coffee production, which has fallen by half in recent years. (There remains a burgeoning organic and small-scale gourmet coffee industry.)

In addition to the facility upgrades, local government money will be used to build shelters for workers, and federal money will be used to subsidize agriculture.

As a descendant of proud coffee pickers who concocted their own homemade café puya in Lares, Puerto Rico, I have to wonder, does this mean the return of latifundios and arrimaos? I’m getting my coffee basket ready for the next trip, just in case. I’ll be like the woman in this Tufiño painting – Camino del Recogido, 1954, Rafael Tufiño: http://www.mapr.org/La-Coleccion/Por-Orden.aspx?tl=52

See the Forbes report: http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/05/18/business-cb-puerto-rico-coffee_8473195.html
Reportage en El Nuevo Dia: http://www.elnuevodia.com/creceunimperiocafetalero-969974.html
Video de El Nuevo Dia: http://www.elnuevodia.com/videos-negocios-creceunimperiocafetalero-949276246001.html

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