The Acknowledgement of the Migrant Worker
Written by Alba Quimper, Barista at Boomtown Main Street.
It’s not something unfamiliar to see immigrants working in the US as a server, busser or
cook in the kitchen. Many have no idea that industries like the coffee industry, cannot
function without cleaning crews, barbacks, dishwashers, etc. Most of these workers
arrive to this country, with determination and a hopeful chance at finding a job that will
be inclusive of them and the skills they bring forth.
From the perspective of the local Houston coffee scene, diversity among the people
front of house is like a melting mix of people who put out love, attention and knowledge
in each cup of coffee. But how varied is the staff? Who else caters to our clientele? As a
Latinx woman, immigrant and spanish speaker, It would be safe to say that there isn’t a
high influx of people from outside the country directly putting themselves on the bar.
Facing a high volume of customers that walk in everyday can be intimidating especially
for one whose first language isn’t English.
The difficult practice of communicating in a language you may not be comfortable with
for 6 to 8 hours and facing hundreds of people every day, can be a barrier for so many.
It makes me wonder if they lack opportunity in the coffee industry or if maybe they feel
left out. Perhaps not by a specific person but by their own fears. While these faces are
hidden behind the theatrics of coffee, they are very much present and part of the shop’s
Most of us already know, a large amount of coffee in which we consume, comes from
many different parts of the world. This includes Latin America, since they have the
majority of production consumed worldwide. Same as continents as Africa and Asia.
From farmers, producers, collectors and families, these are working parts that form the
beginning of the cup to seed journey.
The connection made between the companies and farms has become a bit more
transparent over the years. The variety of people working hand in hand to deliver coffee
all over the world is incredibly profound. It would be satisfying to see the same variety in
our local shops. How the interaction between two different cultures is co-inhabited
based on one subject: Coffee.
As a reader who works in the Industry, are you inclusive of your non-English speaking
team members. Do you acknowledge them as part of the team? Even if they don’t
directly work with you, do you make time to create a relationship and learn about their
story? Being able to acknowledge and formally affirm their roles in this industry is not
only important growing as a team, but also creating healthy and diverse bond between
Breaking some boundaries and giving people a chance to learn and work hard in new
and different areas is a step towards recognition and acceptance.. For this to happen, is
important to have collectives, panels and safe workplaces where immigrant people that
want to learn and work in this industry, can be heard and helped. If you know of anyone
on your team who would like to share or spotlight someone, we would like to offer a safe
space and help begin this conversation.