I entered in Guatemala for the first time in 2015. At this time I was travelling by horse with a little circus caravan (the nomads united), exploring isolated jungles of Peten and living incredible moments of exchange with communities that had almost never met any foreigners (“gringos,” as they say).
These adventures led me to fall in love with Guatemalan cultures, their generous colors and humble wisdom. The constant abundance of incredible jungle’s fruits and seeds treasures was not to help me leave either. Living in small Que’quchi villages, I witnessed a fascinating social shift happening nowadays with the influence of recently arrived modern global technologies (especially smartphones with access to internet, whereas computers are pretty rare). Coco, my partner in love and delicious plots has always been obsessed with cacao. She transmitted to me her passion. Imagine her reaction when we entered cacao regions, the origins of Mayan incredible cacao traditions where we would observe beautiful cacao trees standing there unharvested and undervalued. We immediately started making our own artisan chocolate. We would propose to the corn mill owners (which are in every village) to grind things other than corn (like coffee, peanuts, sesame or cacao) with those huge truck engine like machines. After some hesitation, or even some resistance, they often end up opening their mind to it… These kind of small victories got us hooked.
So hooked that soon enough we were getting buried in a crazy project of trash-land restoration in Livingston, Izabal. It was an irresistible little old Caribbean front fisherman shack, that had casually become the dump and boat graveyard of the whole neighborhood, even if the tide was rising constantly and washing the plastic straight into the see… We transformed it into the cutest little chocolate house.
There we realized two main things within an enormous amount of sweaty moist tropical hands-on life learning : first is that we can do anything as long as it feels right enough to give us an infinite amount of energy.
Second is that tropical permaculture is next level: the potential of lushness and abundance is way beyond what we expected. The little garden we grew at the chocolate house, after emptying all the trash and adding rocks, sand, earth, and compost, already gave us mature papaya, giant moringa trees, loads of chili, bags of basil, bouquets of flowers, daily supply of chaya and several very promising little trees (zapote, avocado, mango) after only two years of existence… We were definitely hooked.
We got to understand the potential impact of implementing permaculture practices in tropical climates. We realized how much of an impact on jungle preservation and social economy we could manifest. A few months later I met Dorothy and proposed this project idea to her, meanwhile Coco was starting her chocolate brand.
I first encountered cacao in the luscious, tropical rainforests of Costa Rica. After studying ecosystems at University, I was guided to Rancho Mastatal, a permaculture education center in the Costa Rican jungle. There I was able to fully practice and embody what is means to cultivate abundance using the natural resources readily available. I have always had a passion for the forests, but cultivating them, meticulously and intentionally, opened a whole new world. Fruits and vegetables were as plentiful as the colorful songbirds that lit up the canopy with their cheery symphonies.. I sweat myself clean as I worked tirelessly to build soil with compost and mulch, construct trails through the hillside, plant vetiver grass on slopes, and swing my machete with ninja-like ease as I cleared the shoulder-high weeds and made room for the fruit trees.
Just down the road from our center was a seed to bar chocolatier company, La Iguana. Twice a week, they delivered their tasty treats to our community. A world class chocolate shop unfurled from a box, and like children in a candy shop, our team lit up with excitement. I always looked forward to buying cacao truffles– little balls of chocolate with minimal processing and a bit of local flavors– were medicine to my body.
One day, I took the adventure on horseback to the La Iguana cacao orchards. After forty years of cultivation, the orchards resembled the same luscious jungle which surrounded it, yet it was dripping with healthy cacao fruits. I was instantly enamored to be amid “the source”– abundant, elevating, and purely magical. It wasn’t until a friend visited from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala that I was introduced to a cacao ceremony. The same ambience of the cacao forests could be transformed into a time and space that is heart-opening and enlightening.
Two years later, I found myself living at the Lake and cacao had become a staple in my life. It led me to ecstatic dances, sound baths, yoga flows, creative pow wows, as well as deeper into my meditations. I found myself more open, more free, as I awakened to a dynamic side of my own self expression. As I learned about the Mayan cosmovision, cacao came to fill an even more profound answer to my questions of permaculture: What lies at the center of all we create and cultivate?
The aspect of cacao, however, that enthralls me the most remains the same: the source. To me, nature is medicine, especially when we cultivate a relationship with it. Grown in the canopy of larger trees, cacao is symbolic to me of the power of forests on planet Earth. Just as the forests are the lungs of our planet, cacao reconnects us to the life force created by the human heart. In connecting to the heart, we can connect to feeling empathy for an Earth nearly forgotten in an age of consumerism. The heart reminds us of what’s important: living presently, openly, and sharing our creative gifts with this Earth and its people.
I am cooking with Cacao Source since May 2019.
Before, i was making tamales and empanadas at home to then sell them in the streets.
Thanks to Cacao source i could learn to make artisan cacao. I am now in charge of toasting and grinding a part of our production.
This activity allows me to provide job opportunities to the people of my neighborhood that need it the most, like young mothers, solitary parents and handicapped people.
We are now in the process of creating an association for artisan chocolate making. That will enable us to share more about cacao potential and reach more people with job opportunities.
I tried pure cacao for the first time thanks to the Cacao source project and discovered how different and healthier it is from the kind of chocolate (mixed with palm oil and sugar) i had tried before.
I am really happy to make a healthy delicious drink with a local product.
I hope we can keep on making chocolate in the next years.