The world’s first cocoa crops originated in the region of Soconusco, some four thousand years ago, where they were grown in a natural Paradise of amazing biodiversity in what is now the Mexican state of Chiapas.
Cocoa, like corn, structured the economic, social and cultural life of the Mesoamerican civilisations. Mayans and Aztecs associated xocolatl (bitter water, the origin of the word chocolate) with the life-giving fluid that is blood and the corn cob with the heart.
Chocolate made from Creole cocoa from Soconusco, a “rarity” of nature due to its scarcity, yet a feast for the senses, was a drink that was reserved for the elite of Mayan and Aztec society and the tradition was continued by the European Royalty that coined the term “Cacao Real” or “Royal Cocoa” to refer to this exclusive product.
The Mayan farmers of the Soconusco region, like their ancestors, continue to grow cocoa in humid, tropical forests. This type of forest management is diverse, sustainable and free of agro-chemicals, yet is under serious threat from deforestation and the expansion of monoculture crops that are annihilating the forests and cocoa cultivation, thus forcing local farmers into poverty and emigration.
Since 2004, the Centro de Agroecología San Francisco de Asís (CASFA) centre for agroecology, has been running the “Rescuing Royal Cocoa” programme in the Soconusco region, with the aim of preserving the nutritional and environmental benefits of this mythical crop and providing its producers with food and economic independence.