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THE CARDAMOM COWBOY

BEFORE WE CAN SEE THE cardamom plants, Amilcar Pereira and his men have to castrate the bulls. That morning, in a pickup truck on the bumpy mountain climb to the cloud forests of Guatemala’s Alta Verapaz, I was privy to Pereira the theologian. Our discussion about his new export company, 786 Gexsa, prompted a half-hour sermon on the roles of god and personal responsibility in family and commerce. He named his first business FedeAgro, a portmanteau of the Spanish words for faith and agriculture. “They’re both tiny things that get bigger.”

But now it’s time for Pereira the cowboy—lasso, hat, pistol. He directs his crew to corner a bull and tosses a rope over its horns. A few more lassos and the bull is down, legs outstretched, suddenly silent and docile. As one man douses its genitals with grain alcohol, another unfolds a Swiss Army knife, yanks the scrotum taut, and excises the testes in two quick cuts. More grain alcohol to wash the wound. A splash of iodine and a squeeze of sour orange to cleanse it. Pereira loosens the ropes and the bull is off. The scents of citrus

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