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Jun 4, 2020

The Cacao – Opportunities for Maya Center

We introduced you to the Saqui family on Tuesday.  In tonight’s story, we share with you how the family in Maya Center Village uses the cacao to bring community benefits, beyond the chocolate making facility. Julio Saqui draws parallels to the way cacao is used today and thousands of years ago. Andrea Polanco has a report on how a family-owned business helps to create opportunities to support the livelihood of fellow Mayan families.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Che’il Mayan Chocolate has been operating for close to ten years in Maya Center Village.  It produces exceptional chocolate products, but that is just a part of why this business is an important part of the community. Thousands of years ago the cacao was a valuable part of life for the Mayas, fast forward to present day, Saqui says that hasn’t changed in his community. He has turned this aromatic bean into something more than just a money-making venture for himself.


Julio Saqui

Julio Saqui, Co-owner, Che’il Mayan Chocolate

“For me, now that I am in the business of making money from cacao, how do I get more people involved to benefit from it? As a result, I buy my cacao from them; we buy vanilla beans from them; we buy ginger from them. So, whatever I can buy from the community, bring it to me.  It is kind of like that concept behind it. You don’t only look at you as always only you because that is not how I work. I want all my community people to be part of it.   It is happier and meaningful for me when I see my community people come in and they become a part of us.”


The community now benefits from the cacao and many other opportunities that it brings. Saqui explains how he has used this fruit to not only share the culture, but to bring community together and to sustain livelihoods.


Julio Saqui

“What role do we play? It is very broad. We are, I would say, the pillar of community development. How that does that work? I am buying beans from the farmer, so I am creating an economic help for them. Then, here at the factory we employ people from within the community and also family members and they work for us and we pay them. When the tourist comes to the community, they don’t only come here and buy chocolate by bulk but they also go into the community and buy arts and craft because the village also makes fine arts and craft. So, the community now benefits from the tourists that come because they purchase arts and craft. Now, when the tourists are finished doing their chocolate tours – what next will they do? Then I have to call the people, listen, I know you are a tour guide, these six people want to do a tour and then they take them to cockscomb and the tour guide makes his money. Sometimes the tour guide doesn’t have a vehicle, so the community member would get a taxi to take them to the park and do the tour. So, there is a lot of trickling effects. Now, when they are out in the park, and they are hungry, where do we put them? Now, we offer a space upstairs where they can also dine and we offer them food. So, again, we employ another set of people from the community that offer cooking, so it has a lot of rippling effects.”


And the community recognizes the power of cocoa beans. In Mayan history, the beans were used different ways. One of its more powerful uses was to buy or trade. And these beans, according to Saqui, still have currency power in these communities where bartering is still a way of life. It is not widely practiced but it still happens.


Julio Saqui

“I can very clearly remember about a month a hand half ago, an old man in the village brought three pound of chocolate beans already dried and said do you want to exchange …they still do that today because that is how we are supposed to be using cacao.    The cacao is very important for the Mayan culture – it is very special and we use it as rituals. We have rituals and ceremonies with it. A lot of the people look at the chocolate out there as a gift – but for the Mayan person it is more a meaningful product. We just don’t overlook it like that. We treat it special.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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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