By ANDRÉS MARTINEZ

Past a dusty, rocky road resides a home concealed by an abundance of trees and plants, hardly visible to the naked eye. A rocky slope approaches, leading up to the front patio.

Thirty-seven wooden, faded square-beehives surround the backside of a brick house.
 
In rows of six or seven, metal sheets and pieces of plastic cover the top of each box, preventing rainfall and sun exposure from leaking in. A stone or a heavy piece of wood is placed on top of the plastic to prevent it from flying off.
 
The majority lay on four wooden legs; others on top of old rusty barrels. These rusty, deteriorated boxes are home to one of natures most common insects—bees. Beneath each wooden box lies seven honeycombs that house hundreds of bees.

At 70, Feliciano Rodríguez Vázquez, a beekeeper, is constantly smiling and laughing about everything, enjoying every second of his life.

It was 30 years ago when Rodríguez Vázquez bought his first beehive for 25 quetzals, about three dollars. He had no training on beekeeping, but he needed to find a way to make a living to survive.

At the time, he was working at the finca, or coffee plantation, doing anything from picking coffee beans, trimming trees and cleaning the property. At a wage of ninety cents of a quetzal a day, Rodríguez Vázquez hardly made enough to feed his entire family.

In the 1980s, when the government decided to break off the plantation to give the land to the people of Chocolá, Rodríguez Vázquez lost his job. But not everything was lost. He received the 23 by 23 baras—approximately 260 square meters of land—where he now lives.

Since purchasing his first beehive, he has been building the rest. His first batch of beehives consisted of seven; his newest batch consists of 37 beehives. All of them handmade—except for the first one that he bought to use as an example.

He started building them from the wood he collected in nearby plantations. Despite the lack of training, Rodríguez Vázquez did what he could to earn money and provide food for his family.

Feliciano was introduced to the art of apiculture, or beekeeping, when a professional beekeeper arrived at his house. The beekeeper suggested that Rodríguez Vázquez continue with his beekeeping business rather than look for a job at another coffee plantation due to his old age.

Men between 18 and 40 years of age usually land jobs at plantations, so Rodríguez Vázquez  didn’t meet that criteria anymore.

When Rodríguez Vázquez first started with his beehive, he faced many obstacles. At one point, one beehive didn’t produce enough honey to sustain a whole family. But slowly, with hard work and perseveration, Feliciano managed to thrive with the help of his entire family.