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May 24, 2011

Chocoholics enjoy Cacao Festival

The Toledo Cacao Festival took place over the weekend in southern Belize, the home of the organic cacao and of the prized Belizean chocolate. The festival attracted throngs of both tourists and Belizeans lured by the delights of chocolate as well as by the many ways to transform the cacao bean into delectable treats. Toledo cacao growers as well as the exporters of the fine chocolates were on hand to showcase their product. News Five’s Isani Cayetano also headed south and will walk you through one of the greatest traditions of the Mayas.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

For over three thousand years the cacao plant has been instrumental to the Mayas of Southern Belize.  Its usage ranges from active ingredient in herbal medicine to dietary supplement and even currency.  The dried and fermented, fatty bean is also the basis for chocolate; a delicacy enjoyed by many the world over.

Vilma Velez, Chocolatier, Cotton Tree Chocolates

“Hi I’m Vilma Velez and welcome to Cotton Tree Chocolate.  I’ll show you a brief tour of how we make cacao to chocolate.”

Like others in the industry the process currently being used is mechanized.  Despite a more modern approach cacao remains central to this indigenous people.

Alvaro Pop

Alvaro Pop, Chairman, Toledo Cacao Growers Association

“Cacao has been the traditional, cultural product of the Mayas I would say because way, way back during our ancestral days.  Cacao has been the dominant product of Belize or Toledo here and when it comes to commercialization of cacao it has been a trend, a transition but whereby we adopted the new technology, the modern technology whereby we can assist or improve the quality of the cacao.”

To fully appreciate the value of this leguminous plant we headed to a remote field in the Toledo District where it is grown organically.

Juan Cho

Juan Cho, Owner, Cyrila’s Chocolates (File: May 25th, 2010)

We look at everything that we harvest from our farm; weeds that we can cut down we leave it on the floor to decompose. And of course the decomposition process is much more highly activated due to the fact that we are blessed with the rains and of course the heat. So these pods that you may look around you will experience leaves on the floor as well that drop off on an occasional basis from our trees, we leave them down to decompose.”

Once the pods have been gathered they are halved.  The seeds are collected and then sun dried before being transported to town where they are stored for export to the world market.

Alvaro Pop

“Belize has been very, very [respected] and it has gained its recognition internationally because of the cacao and also its certification of being organic and [its] fair trade [practices] and that has created a better picture of Toledo and the Toledo District in general.”

So much so that an annual celebration was created in its honor back in 2006 which has since grown to become a catholic experience showcasing the cultural fusion that is Southern Belize.  For Ignacio Ash however, the planning of this year’s event was a little off.

Ignacio Ash

Ignacio Ash, Cacao Farmer

“Cacao Fest is for showing the people, right, what the farmers produce so that is basically Cacao Fest but this is not well organized because it is not in one group so it‘s just scattered all over the place.  It was better last year or two years ago because they did better but now it’s all scattered and that’s why the visitors claim they’d prefer coming to one place and see everything right but now it‘s not together.”

On the other hand dotting Punta Gorda with various activities was the desired effect its organizers were going for, allowing visitors to experience firsthand how chocolate is made. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Cacao Fest was organized in part by the Toledo Cacao Growers Association, the Belize Tourism Board, NICH and the Ya’Axche Conservation Trust.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “Chocoholics enjoy Cacao Festival”

  1. Rod says:

    Best thing happening in this country of mine and it’s because of my Mayan people go my Mayan people show this useless gov. That we can do it best.

  2. indy says:

    Great potential to sell in the US. they need some technical assistance to make it a good quality and cost efficient.

  3. Earl Grey says:

    SOME LOCAL CANDY MAKER NEEDS TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND START PRODUCING.

    WE HAVE PEANUTS, CHOCOLATE AND sometimes SUGAR…..INGREDIENTS FOR FINE CANDY.

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