Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over People?

Krishauna in Cuernavaca, Mexico

The first stamp on my newly minted passport: Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico, la ciudad de la primavera eterna (the city of eternal spring). Cuernavaca was a floral oasis, 70 degrees year round. At nineteen years old, I was curious, naïve and full of adventure. As Mexico was my first study abroad and international experience, the love affair began. Mexico opened my eyes to the outside world. Like most tourists, I was enamored with the beaches of Acapulco, climbing Teotihuacán, visiting Tenochtitlan, eating tamales, speaking in rich Spanish tones, and dancing salsa until la madrugada with mexicanos guapísimos. I returned to Mexico annually for five years, consecutively. I found it difficult to let go of my adopted patria. Like most relationships, my love affair with Mexico was complicated. Soon, I would be forced to recognize that there was injustice everywhere.

Poverty was not foreign to me. In my own country, I had grown up in poverty. Both my grandmother and mother worked as housekeepers for most of my childhood. Often times, I would accompany my grandmother to work to help her clean, or to babysit her employer’s grandchildren. We would either catch the city bus or drive my grandmother’s unpredictable hooptie. My grandmother cleaned for wealthy White doctors in the exclusive Buena Vista community of my hometown. I later learned that those Spanish words meant good view; however, I recall the dissonance that I experienced as a child when we crossed Liberty Street, the Black part of town, to enter Buena Vista.

My grandmother’s boss, Mrs. Peebles, would drive us home sometimes. Notwithstanding rain, snow or extreme heat, she made a hard stop at Liberty Street, citing that she was advised never to cross that street. She would drop us off at Liberty Street, forcing us to walk several miles to reach our home. Of course, at 12 years old I had no idea how the outside world viewed our community at the time. Therefore, I did not understand why Mrs. Peebles feared the very community that I loved…a community that had nurtured and protected me.

Unfortunately, the dichotomy between rich and poor was also apparent in Mexico. At the age of 19, Mexico birthed something in me that I could not disregard. I saw life in another context, yet familiar and reminiscent of my own community. Mexico allowed me to comprehend how history, politics, race, religion and so many other dynamics define societies. A few years after studying abroad in Mexico, I became a Study Abroad Director. One day, while in the Director’s lounge of my University in Mexico; I met a Mexican housekeeper named Amalia. She was small in stature with short black hair. Her high cheekbones and caramel complexion highlighted her indigenous heritage. Amalia entered the lounge and began to clean. As I watched her dust, empty the trash, and perform her duties, she reminded me of a younger version of my grandmother: so diligent, so focused, so kind.

Krishauna with friends in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Each day Amalia was tasked with making a pot of coffee for the directors and professors. Rarely did anyone actually drink the coffee. Quotidianly, I noticed Amalia performing the same rituals. One morning, she entered the Director’s lounge sheepishly, and asked to speak with me. Amalia explained in Spanish that she makes the coffee every day and no one drinks it. At the end of her shift, she throws the entire pot away. Since I was the only one who drank the coffee, she asked if I would mind if she had one cup each morning as long as all of her chores were completed. I looked at her in wonder. A conversation in Spanish ensued.

–     “Amalia,” I said –my Spanish now embellished with a twist of Black girl attitude, “I am a visitor here. I do not buy or sell the coffee. Please get whatever you’d like. You do not have to ask for my permission.”

–     “You’re the only one that I see drinking the coffee,” Amalia explained, “but the bosses said that if employees want coffee they must buy it from the cafeteria. If I buy the coffee in the café, it costs me 15 pesos, and I only make 600 pesos ($60 US dollars) per week.”

–     “At the end of the day, don’t you just throw the unused coffee away?” I asked.

–     “Yes, but the boss is very strict about us using anything that has been designated for directors or professors.” Amalia explained.

–     “From now on, don’t ask for coffee. Just take a cup. Hell, take two or three or four.” I replied frustratingly.

            Amalia gave me a hug, and then she served herself. She walked out of that office as if she held gold in her hands. She was humbled by my benevolence. I did not feel that I had done anything worthy of praise. I had given a human being something that would be discarded, and then licked up by stray dogs. Amalia had caused me to ask some stirring questions that I still wrestle with today. This experience forced me to look more critically on a global scale at issues of race, class, gender, and access.

I was staring privilege squarely in the face over something as minuscule as coffee. What were the larger implications? My students’ tuition for a summer stay in Mexico would take Amalia months to earn. I will never know if my actions actually caused Amalia harm. Did the university administrators ever learn of Amalia’s defiance and my encouragement? Did my actions cost Amalia her job, her livelihood? Coffee over people. In the moment, I did not consider any of these dynamics. I was simply unnerved to see a grown woman cowering over coffee, a reaction that I had observed with my own grandmother in her interactions with Mrs. Peebles.

I pray that everything worked out in Amalia’s favor. Today, as I assess injustices that are perpetuated throughout the globe, I continue to question a society that allows me to sip the coffee that Amalia was forced to throw away.

Note: The events of this blog post occurred around the year 2000.

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43 thoughts on “Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over People?

  1. Thank you for the gift of your tales and insights! I am grateful for your presence in our community! You are a talented storyteller and I enjoy reading your words.

    Like

  2. I liked this informational text because of how she told a personal story to support her claim that injustices are perpetuated around the globe. Her comparison to her experience in Mexico with Amelia and how she normally lives also supports her claim. Everything in the text went hand in hand and supported the claim.

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  3. The story called black Mexican women’s sidarity:coffe over people? I liked the story based on the examples and how she told me about the diversity between the poor and rich
    And how scared most people were scared of there bosses I had a hypothesis of this story how you spoke to the women saying she could have the coffee and she didn’t have to ask showed alot this story was excellent and inspiring it felt like it had a moral or theme to the story this story was amazing in many ways but I have a question for you dr.krishauna hines-Gaither what happened that made you want to write about this story .i also thought of this story before knowing what it was I had a thought and I was thinking it would be like slavery time talking but I was thinking from internet which was like figuring out it wasn’t about a single story

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  4. i’ve always been interested in the works of societies in each country, and how similar they are in so many ways. the addition of race, religion, politics, and several other things effect how society works; and typically, with these effects, there are many people who have to face several forms of injustice. something as small as having to ask for a cup of coffee because it could put their job on the line, its so bizarre, yet so normal.

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  5. In this article I liked the fact that you told your background story and how you grew up facing many different hardships within your life an overcame them to help other people

    I also wanted to know what other experiences you had traveling to different places and meeting new people

    Like

  6. Gemaeka In Sister Miranda’s English || Honors
    I really enjoyed this informational text. I didn’t know some of the words included in the text so this story really educated me. How long did you live in Mexico? What kind of experiences did you have? I am very curious.

    Like

  7. I enjoyed the story and the way it focused in on how black and Mexican the only thing the only different about them being a few shades and an occupation could be in such different social situations. I too hope that woman is in a better situation now. Very powerful text though.

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  8. I enjoyed reading the Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over People? You used valid reasons to support her claim on how the issues of race, class, gender, and access are experienced on a global scale. Comparing your grandmother cleaning for a white lady Mrs. Peebles and how they were treated to how Amalia wasn’t even aloud to drink a cup of coffee that she made quotidianly.

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  9. Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over People was an amazing story i loved how you included Spanish words also. It shows how Mexicans were looked upon back then depending on the social class they are apart of.

    Like

  10. I really liked Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over people, it was intriguing and captivating you were talking about your experiences and telling a story.

    Like

  11. I like this informational text because this text shows how Black and Mexican cultures experience the same things such as the dichotomy between rich and poor people . I like how this text show that two different cultures such as Mexican and Black can go through the same things such as racial profiling.

    Like

  12. Edward Sanchez- Sister Miranda 2nd block
    I liked this text because it reminded me of the society in which we live in and I also like how you included some Spanish text.

    Like

  13. Jordan – Sister Miranda’s Class
    Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over People
    I love how this text focused in on how different people act toward others because the way Amalia had to ask for permission for the simplest things. The way you used your own connections of your grandmother to understand how Amalia struggled with injustice at work was astonishing.

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  14. Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over People, really did show that natives do get put down, seen as inferior and even if it hasn’t been showed recently and was shown more in the past publicly, it still happens all around the world. Not just Mexico and the U.S but around the world people get treated as shown in the text and it shouldn’t be tolerated. Me encanto el texto, gracias por hablar sobre esta tema, te lo agradezco mucho.

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  15. I believe “Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over people “ was a great text . I loved how you offered her point of view as a 19 year old curious young woman . How Mexico changed your outlook on the outside world , how you allowed that new experience for positive growth, while also learning injustice is everywhere & you can’t escape it . Have you ever got in contact with Amalia ? Or do you still have high hopes that’s everything turned out alright .?

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  16. In this informational text “Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over People?” I believe this was an amazing way to show how LatianX women were viewed or whatever they did others really didn’t cared for it. Example “Amalia explained in Spanish that she makes coffee every day and no one drank it.” This is kinda sad because she worked hard and nobody showed interest.

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  17. What I like most about “Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over People?” is the honesty, telling the reader how one can be uniformed and not see the struggle of others but even through obliviousness one is able to recognize the similarities, especially being a colored woman. It shows that a simple conversation can open your eyes and remind you that treatment like this is universal. As a Mexican-American it made me feel really appreciative that someone is able to acknowledge the struggle of people.

    Sister_Miranda’s Class

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  18. I liked this article because it showed me things about Mexico. It shows a lot about what it is like in Mexico and what the people are like there.

    Like

  19. Did you like the story why or why not , I liked the story because I believe it’s sending out a message on how black and Mexican women need to come together because it saying in the text how a black lady offered other lady of color a cup of coffee and the Mexican woman was very happy to offer the cup of coffee because she didn’t have 15pesos to buy her own so she when she was handed the cup of coffee she was holding it like she had gold in her hands and it also talks about how society is and the difference between rich and poor , it states in the text that “My grandmother’s boss , Mrs.peeble, would drive us home sometimes and she made a hard stop at liberty street,citing that she was advised never to cross that street “. -Jhalen watts

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  20. Dr. Krishauna Hines-Gaither
    I really enjoyed the story “Black and Mexican Women’s Solidarity: Coffee over People?” It showed how a small act change brighten up someone’s whole day in a world that thrives of oppression and negativity.

    Jairus jones

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  21. In my opinion i really liked you blog because you showed how black and Mexican women need to come together and help with each other’s problems like oppression and poverty . Like in the blog it said “Please get whatever you’d like you don’t have to ask for my permission”. Also based on what I know about Latin culture you did not give any false information because i been learning about Latin culture all my life. 🙂

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  22. I like the article. it shows that mexico has problems with discrimination and that some people show it in different ways. They show it in a way that may not seem disrespectful to them but it is to you/person being discriminated.

    Like

  23. I liked this story a lot because it gives me a perspective of how you traveled to Mexico and wanted to explore more about their culture . You could understand and relate to some of their situations. For example you said “Poverty was not foreign to me.” “In my own country, I had grown up in poverty.” Another reason I enjoyed this text was because you helped “Amalia” and made her feel comfortable . The others didn’t care that she made coffee for them and it just went to waste but you came along and drunk her coffee and let her know that it was totally fine for her to have a couple cups to herself . I admire you for that because most people aren’t as kind or look out for others. I look forward to reading more stories from you.

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  24. Dr.Hines-Gaither
    I like the blog you have made about blacks and Mexican. You show how both race can be with each other and claims that Mexican have the a cup of coffee anytime she like.Your argument about little thing like coffee show that you can get mad over coffee just because of there color.

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  25. Dr. Krishauna Hines-Gaither I would like to first off start by saying amazing story. I would like to also add on your kindness to “Amalia” was very much needed. I say this because there is not many people who would of thought of it as just a cup of coffee. Some would of thought “no”, for the simple fact of them thinking she shouldn’t be able to drink it for free, she should have to pay. Needless to say they might of thought of her as a maid.

    Like

  26. Dr.Hines- Gaither
    Yes I liked this story that you wrote because In this story you were talking about your life and how it was , I love how you gave a lot of details and explained a lot about Mexico and what was going on around the time you visited Mexico for 5 years .my favorite part of this story was when you were talking about “ the dance in Mexico (dancing salsa) , the food in Mexico “ ( tamales ) and the language ( rich Spanish tones ). The title of this story really relates to when you were talking to the housekeeper and she seemed scared to ask you about the coffee because of how it was in Mexico and how the person that owns the house would react to her actions .

    Like

  27. In the story black and Mexican women’s solidarity:coffee over people by Dr. Hines-Gaither the evidence that justified the argument is that most black and Mexicans came from poverty

    Like

  28. Dear Krishauna Hines Gaither
    I liked your story because you allowed Amalia to have the coffee even though the boss doesn’t allow them to have the coffee that is made for the directors that show that the black and Mexican women should come together

    From Rayquan Pittman

    Like

  29. Dr. Hines- Gaither
    I personally really liked your story, one part that really stood out to me was when Amalia came to you and asked if you would mind if she had a cup of coffee each morning and then you replied with “I am a visitor here. I do not buy or sell the coffee. please get whatever you’d like. you do not have to ask for my permission” I liked this part because then you also stated “ I was staring privilege squarely in the face over something by my minuscule as coffee”

    Like

  30. Dr.Krishauna Hines-Gaither
    I really liked how you said you love your community even if the white people saw it differently,I also love how you told Amalia that she don’t have to ask you for permission to get coffee even if the white people told her she had to buy the coffee if she wanted it I got frustrated when she said they don’t drink the coffee she makes and she can’t drink when she’s the one who made it i loved how you encouraged her to drink the coffee when she was afraid to do it

    Like

  31. i liked your story my favorite part was with the coffee & she said “ this experienced forced me to look more critically on a global scale at issues of race,class,gender,and access “

    Like

  32. Dr. Hines-Gaither
    I like this blog because it shows why Black and Mexican women are connected to each other and how they can be more relatable and the kindly relations towards each other.

    Sincerely, Marquis H

    Like

  33. Dr. Hines-Gaither ,
    i actually enjoyed reading this Blog . But my opinion i wouldn’t wanna travel like they did , i don’t want to go to Mexico . They wouldn’t have to tell me what to do and i love how they connect with eachother .

    Like

  34. I really like how you allowed a Mexican woman, another person of color who is oppressed, a cup of coffee as it just shows the importance of how much we could accomplish when we support each other.

    Like

  35. you allowed Amalia to have the coffee even though the boss doesn’t allow them to have the coffee that is made for the directors that show that the black and Mexican women should come together.

    Like

  36. Dr hines-Gaither
    I really enjoyed reading your blog.It brings together Black and Mexicans and it shows a better understanding on how we are connected to one another.

    Like

  37. So I like this blog because it shows the real connection that black and Mexican women really have together and how they can come together be more related have a better bond and connection with each other.

    Like

  38. Dr. Hines-Gaither,
    Sister Miranda class

    I really liked the blog that shows Mexican and Black women communicate well with each other, And shows us humanity towards Amalia when no one wants to drink her coffee and has to drain it out.

    Like

  39. I am in awe of your work, I humbly understand this out written article of how Black and Mexican women need to corporate with each other more, you made these women feel comfortable and relaxed around this woman. I might be an High School student attending sister Miranda class, you probably think I’m ignorant but I love your work. I also really appreciate how you said “don’t ask for coffee” it really grasped my attention. Thank you for your insight and perspective

    Like

  40. Dr. Krishauna Hines-Gaither I admire your story as it brings together Black and Mexicans because we are both alike. We both often come from a hard lives in the past and still now in the present. I also like when no one wanted to drink the coffee you spoke to her in Spanish and allowed a cup. You showed her love and tried to get her to open up cause she was probably having a hard time. Sister Miranda class.

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  41. I liked this blog because of how you let her get a cup or/and more cups of coffee because she could afford them but couldn’t spend the money on it from how much she made per week. I think that was very nice of you to think of all those things afterwards and actually be in her shoes at the end. I however do not think it cost Amalia her job, I feel as tho she really enjoyed that day as one of her best days. I feel if everyone just stopped worrying and trying to argue just because of ones race or gender we would all be fine and that we should only judge one if necessary by that if there character. Have a good rest of your day or night.

    Like

  42. I enjoyed reading your blog. It saddens me that there were people making $60 a week, and that you simply letting her have coffee was considered as an act of benevolence from her perspective.

    Like

  43. I enjoyed reading your blog. It saddens me that there were people making $60 a week, and that you simply letting her have coffee was considered as an act of benevolence from her perspective.

    Like

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