Production of low-input, shaded coffee in the Los Tuxtlas UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (LTBR), Veracruz, Mexico, an economically marginalized but ecologically rich region, was strongly affected by the collapse in international prices and the reconfiguration of the Mexican coffee sector in the 1990s. This place-based study used qualitative methods to investigate local strategies to reactivate coffee cultivation and improve market integration. Ninety-five producers, processors and cooperative representatives were interviewed to: 1) characterize the different actors in the local coffee commodity chain; 2) explore how producers, organized or not, shape and are constrained by the local coffee sector, and 3) evaluate whether producers land use strategies may be compatible with conservation in the... LTBR. We combine the Land Sparing and Sharing framework with the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve zonation system to conceptualize how coffee plantations can be spatially integrated in protected areas and facilitate synergies between local livelihoods and conservation. Our empirical study illustrates the complexity and dynamism of the LTBR coffee sector. It highlights the resourcefulness of producers in adapting their cultivation systems, but also the narrow maneuvering room farmers have to exploit textbook synergies between conservation and fair trade and / or certified organic markets. In principle, coffee cultivation can be expanded and intensified without affecting remaining primary forest (Land Sparing) and contribute to maintain a diverse landscape matrix in productive agroforestry systems (Land Sharing). However, few producers have the means required to successfully achieve profitable and long-term market integration. Future research on sustainable land use management in, and around, protected areas needs to explicitly address local, sectoral and market dynamics as drivers of land use at the local level. Although these dynamics may create windows of opportunity for the biggest and best-connected producers, they exacerbate asymmetries inside peasant farming communities and weaken producers cooperatives.