LIFE STORY: Mireya Sepúlveda


Rural a.  In, of or like the countryside

Balance u. n. A state where things are of equal weight or force

Valle del Maule (Chile). “It’s what I am, I’m the third generation to be here. My grandparents got here first, then my dad, and I’m still here.” Mireya is proud of both being a “guasa” [1] and of her lifestyle. Even if, as a child, it wasn’t easy: It was hard to get over the peasant complex.”

She lives in the Name district, a 4.72-hectare farm located at the foot of the hill that bears the same name, far from any neighbors.

She was the youngest of four siblings and the only one who chose to take on the family tradition of farming and rural life. While her father would make and sell coal from the house she now lives in, her mother used to manage a large abode house that stood in the shade of a big fig tree.

When she was 7, she headed to the city to live with her siblings as it was the only way for her to go to primary school. But she only wanted to go back to Name my problems would get here and end (…) Name was my refuge.”

When her father passed away, her mother headed to the city leaving her in charge. Things weren’t easy for Mireya, who, despite her young age, was already a mother of two. Yet, she had to carry on living and support her mother (Chile has small pensions) and financially, we can’t survive only on what we make with farming”. Her husband, Patricio, has another job. She describes the loneliness and hardship of having to work the vines when he’s not there carrying more than 30-pound loads on your back.”

Her father was a visionary, one of the first to bring those century-old vines to the area.

The first memory she has of wine dates back to when she was 6 years old, eating that white grape, eating that big grape”, “singing during harvest”. The grape she’s referring to is the White Ovoid Grape—a rare historic grape. A grape that is getting rarer with time due to large plantations that, driven by market demand, favor the “Viñas Finas” [2] (Fine Vines). But at the Loncomilla Cooperative they’ve chosen to preserve the local produce due to its quality and history. Mireya smiles as she says our success is that a bottle contains the fruit of your work, it’s the reward for the farmer’s tough labor.”

Life in the fields isn’t easy. It isn’t just about how hard it is to work the land. Natural disasters also need to be taken into account. Disasters such as the 2010 earthquake that destroyed Mireya’s family home and the 2017 bush fires that threatened her livelihood and way of life. two days without sleep, day and night (…) I was shocked by all that was burnt, so much fire, so many flames (…) it just wouldn’t stop.” But with her family, they stayed put and resisted, managing to save both their home as well as their neighbors’’.

But Mireya, being the committed “guasa” that she is, embodies a harmonious life. Nothing her home produces is lost: the grapes, the tomatoes, the raspberries… Mireya’s feet connect her to the land This land has given me a lot (…) I can’t see myself anywhere else.”

And Fairtrade is there with her Fairtrade came into my life at a time when I really needed it (…) it allowed me to keep on going (…) helping when we couldn’t make ends meet. Mireya sees this life—an alternative to city life—under threat due to land speculation and aggressive and unsustainable production models.

Fairtrade is a business model that places human beings and the social, economic and environmental sustainability of societies at its core, thus, dignifying the work of producers and workers. This is why, one of Mireya’s rewards for being part of a Fairtrade-certified organization, is that her balanced life is protected and can continue to be.

[1] The way people who live and work in the countryside are called in Chile. It can be used in a derogatory way. Chilean Spanish for Countryfolk or peasant.

[2] In Chile, when winemakers refer to “Viñas Finas” (Fine Vines) they’re referring to the vines which were imported around the 19th century from France. These vines dominate the market, making it difficult for Criolla or local vines to prevail. They were in by the Spanish during the colonisation that aimed at converting indigenous communities.


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