Carlos Maqueda, the 2018 Mexican Brewers Cup champion, was denied a visa to attend the World Coffee Championship in Boston this April.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINEP
This weekend, Barista Magazine Online was notified that Carlos Maqueda, the 2018 Mexican Brewers Cup Champion, will not be able to attend the World Brewers Cup Championship happening in Boston this April. His visa to the United States was denied.
“Last September I won the Mexican Brewers [Cup] competition, and the right to represent Mexico in the World Brewers Cup in Boston, but I was denied a visa,” Carlos told Barista Magazine Online via text. “I went to the embassy three times. I meet all the requirements to obtain it. But the answer was always ‘no.’”
Carlos, who works for Café con Jiribilla in Mexico City, sought assistance from influential national coffee figures like Carlos de la Torre, a former Brewers Cup champion and Carlos’ employer, and Arturo Hernández Fujigaki, the director general of Café Etrusca and member of the Mexican Coffee Association. “His boss, an actual barista champion (Carlos de la Torre) helped him with all the economical papers requested, the letter from [the Mexican Coffee Association] covering all his expenses, but that was not enough for the consul in the embassy,” Arturo states.
“I took a letter from event organizers, one from the company where I work, and another from the Mexican Coffee Association,” Carlos says. His application was still denied.
Establishing financial means is a requirement when applying for a visa to the United States. According to the U.S. State Department, visas can be denied for a number of reasons—including not demonstrating that you’ll have enough financial support once abroad, therefore becoming a “public charge” of the United States. Nowhere on the State Department website are there rules establishing exactly what that means.
Their website also states that all applicants will be given a reason as to why their visa was denied, although Carlos says he has received none. “I asked, but they only gave me a paper saying that I did not meet the requirements,” said Carlos.
Right now, folks like Arturo are working to see if the second-place finisher, Emilio Arturo Acosta Hernandez, can get his paperwork in and apply for a visa. “Carlos already applied for deferral about 15 days ago, and he is waiting for an answer in order to allow the second place to take his place this time (he has an appointment in the American Embassy next Monday to deliver his papers and on [March 11]t an interview with the consul to obtain his visa),” Arturo says, referencing the Deferred Candidacy Policy that the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) announced in late 2017 as a way for competitors who cannot attend a global competition to defer their eligibility for another year. “We are crossing our fingers for him,” Arturo says.
However, this doesn’t take away from the hurt that Carlos feels that he won’t be able to represent his country. “I know that nothing will change with respect to my situation, but if I can take advantage of this space for something, I would like to say that we cannot ignore the hatred and intolerance of the people who can exercise power,” Carlos says.
He also notes that this isn’t the first time a champion from Mexico has been denied a visa to compete in the United States. “It’s not an isolated case. Also, a Mexican woman who won the barista competition [Aleli Moreno] a few years ago had the same thing happen.”
Likewise, this isn’t the first time a champion from another country has had trouble gaining access to the host country. “I experienced the visa denial of the first-ever Iranian Barista Champion in 2015. Mehran Mohammad Nezhad was attempting to travel to Seattle,” said Laila Ghambari, the 2014 U.S. Barista Champion. “Thankfully, Mehran was later granted a visa after he fought the initial denial. It made for a rollercoaster of an experience and gave him very little time and energy to focus on the competition.”
“For many of these competitors, this may be their one and only opportunity to represent themselves, and their country, in a such a grand setting. As someone who has had the opportunity to do so, it is an amazing and memorable experience. The thought of someone deserving having to miss out on that due to a visa denial is infuriating,” Laila says.
UPDATE 3/6/19 7:35 CST—Members of the World Coffee Events sent this statement, which can also be found on their website:
With the 2019 World Barista Championship and the World Brewers Cup around the corner, today the staff and volunteers at WCE and SCA are saddened to confirm that at least three competitors, one from Mexico and two from the UAE, have been denied visas by the US government to attend the events taking place in Boston.
Unfortunately, visa applications and denials are a recurring challenge in presenting these global events, and to address them, WCE provides invitation letters to competitors, highlighting their achievements and the great importance of bringing together all national body representatives on the global stage. These letters are presented by the competitors to the authorities as supporting evidence of their status as industry leaders. We have worked with all competitors who require a visa to provide them with all documentation required and will continue to support them with additional documentation if they choose to appeal the visa denial.
Helping to address situations where visas are denied for reasons beyond the competitor’s control was one of the key goals considered when crafting the Deffered Candidacy Policy. Our competitors who are unable to attend due to a denied visa are encouraged to use this tool to ensure their spot is saved and that they are able to compete in next year’s competition.
Visa denials have been a recurring problem for competitors across many competition years and locations. We at WCE and SCA will continue to provide support and do everything we can for our competitors who find themselves in these situations.
Some quotes were translated and edited for clarity.
This story is developing. We’ll continue to provide updates as we learn more.