Culture

Here’s The History Of Why Costa Rican Cacao Is Spiritually And Culturally Significant

It’s truly impossible to imagine growing up in a world without chocolate, and I’m not talking about Hershey’s. Really rich, dark chocolate was used medicinally in my house. If I had any type of feeling or was crying, my mother wouldn’t say a word, walk away, and come back with chocolate.

Join me on my own adventure in learning the history of cacao with a Costa Rican indigenous tribe, los Bribri.

Any good Costa Rican chocolate is made by hand.

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. CaribeansCR. 21 September 2018.

Only in the last 100 years or so have traditional cacao farmers started letting the cacao cool into molds, como Hershey. Super traditional farms will roll the freshly stone-ground cacao into little cigarillos and the texture is more crumbly and dynamic.

Cacao trees are native to tropical Latin America.

CREDIT: Crush Boone / The Tico Times

The cacao fruit pods themselves were used as currency in some Aztec and Mayan cultures. Mayans even had an annual festival in honor of Ek Chuah, the cacao god that brought them the sacred fruit used for medicinal and spiritual rituals.

Pero Puerto Viejo is one of the few places that creates single estate bean to bar chocolate.

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. Cho.co. 21 September 2018.

Every farm and every tree will produce a different chocolate taste. The liquid sunshine and high elevation jungles that exist in Costa Rica allow for some of the best cacao beans in the world to flourish. My girlfriend and I traveled to Puerto Viejo, an Afro-Caribbean beach town, known for its intact indigenous culture, big waves and cacao.

First, we met with a shaman (“awa”) at the Bribri indigenous reserve.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú

He explained to us that this cone shaped structure represents the Bribri’s connection to the Universe and to God. They have always known that the world was round and the structure symbolizes the round earth we sit on that points directly to God and our higher spiritual selves.

The Bribri is a largely matriarchal society.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú

They are the only ones who can inherit land and prepare the sacred cacao drink that is essential for their rituals.

In just the last few years, the Bri Bri have started to write down their language and teach it at the schools to maintain their culture and continue to pass it down to more generations. They are the voting majority of the Talamanca province of Costa Rica and make a living selling cacao, bananas and plantains, while living off the land.

This is what the inside of a ripe cacao pod looks like.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú

I know, I wasn’t expecting that either. The white coating surrounding the beans themselves tastes like mango or yogurt, depending on who you ask. It’s very tart and very delicious, and the source of cocoa butter.

The first step is to ferment the beans over a fire for five days.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú

The first being tradition. The truth is that the Bribri do tend to suffer from lung issues because of all the smoke inhalation over the course of their lives. The other reason is that most roofs are made from a native plant called suita. The rising smoke deters bugs from making the roof their home.

Then, they leave them out in the sun to dry for 22 days.

CREDIT: Lindsay Fendt / The Tico Times

That’s how the cacao starts to brown and develop its rich flavor. That’s also how you develop la paciencia. 🤤

In Bribri mythology, the cacao tree is a woman and Sibu (Dios) made into a tree.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú

Cacao branches are forbidden to be used as firewood and only women are allowed to make the sacred cacao. It’s only used in ceremonial purposes, like when a girl gets her period for the first time. You can support Bribri women by buying their organic, hand made chocolate.

Then, the beans are roasted over a fire for about 8 minutes.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú

The beans have to be constantly stirred the whole time. As the stirrer, I can tell you that it is labor intensive to be in 90 degree heat, over a fire, with smoke blowing up in your face, while you quickly stir.

The traditional next step is to grind the cacao beans with a stone.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú
Many years before, they used the huge wooden pillón you see to the right. My first boricua thought was “Ummm, I could use that much mofongo.”

The beans are then tossed to separate the shell and prepare for further grounding.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú
Because the shells of the cacao are much lighter than the dense bean inside, they naturally just fall onto the earth and are used as fertilizer. What’s left is the pure cacao, ready to be ground even further.

Today, they use a metal grinder to create the paste.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú

This is 100 percent pure cacao you’re looking at. In this form, it is made into a ceremonial drink, but it too bitter to eat raw. We had it sandwiched between some sweet banana slices.

There are several non-profit organizations you can support to aid the Bribri.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú

They use every shred of the land to build their homes, necklaces, dye their artisan crafts and more. El Punte, however, offers educational assistance and micro-loans to families to help them become even more self-sufficient.

This is my face after one cup of drinking chocolate.

CREDIT: Danielli Marzouca / mitú

After boiling a pot of water seasoned with fresh canela from the ground and some organic sugar, you add the creamy paste and stir. Cacao is said by the Bribri to have six medicinal properties, one of them being a mood-lifter.

In this part of Costa Rica, you can find a few shops that offer beer, wine and coffee + chocolate pairings.

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. Cho.co. 21 September 2018.

This is the traditionally rolled chocolate I mentioned earlier. We came to Cho.co in Puerto Viejo after a surfing lesson and this pairing was everything we needed.

However, cacao has only recently started to make a comeback after a devastating fungal epidemic.

CREDIT: Crush Boone / The Tico Times

Fifty years ago, there were at least 20 cacao plantations that supported Costa Rica’s economy. Today, most of that land is clear-cut cattle pasture. The Caribbean replanted the loss of cacao trees with banana plantations. Many of the locals told me they boycott Dole and La Chiquita bananas because of their pesticide use that is harming locals.

Eighty percent of cacao crop was lost in the 1970s.

CREDIT: Crush Boone / The Tico Times

The center is a healthy cacao bean, while the others are infected with the monilia fungus. European colonizers responded by planting cacao in Africa, which now produces more than 70 percent of the world’s cacao’s lesser variety, half of which come from conflict zones.

Costa Rica is leading the genetic research to find a fungus-protected strain of cacao.

CREDIT: PatMc7 / TripAdvisor

They are testing Costa Rica’s known strains of cacao against the murilio fungus and offering the strongest strains to local farmers.

My parting advice to you: go to Puerto Viejo and buy seven times as much chocolate as you think you need.

CREDIT: Whitney M. / TripAdvisor

These small plantations have their own varieties of cacao that produce distinctly different flavors. Go to Caribbeans and taste test chocolate from the 15 plantations that have cropped up in the last decade or so. You’ll find a favorite.


READ: You’ll Never Look At Chocolate The Same Once You Find Out Its Brutal History

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An Indigenous Group In Panama Holds The Guinness Record For World’s Largest Patacón

Culture

An Indigenous Group In Panama Holds The Guinness Record For World’s Largest Patacón

elpataconpty / Instagram

After a coordinated six-month effort, Panama’s Emberá de Ipetí indigenous community broke the Guinness World Record for the largest patacón in the world. How many plátanos does it take to make the worlds largest was that patacón, you ask? Weighing at 245 pounds and measuring over 11 feet in diameter, the World’s Largest Patacón required 1,200 plátanos and 330 gallons of frying oil. The long-anticipated event drew in a sold-out crowd of 700 celebrators who took part in Emberá traditions, dance, and plenty of comida.

“We no longer want to be this statistic of vulnerability,” Emberá de Ipetí’s community leader, Sara Omi, told CNN. “We are rich in knowledge and that’s what we’re demonstrating here today.”

As visitors arrived for “Patacón Day,” they were invited to participate in a hand-washing ritual.

Credit: ELPATACONPTY / Instagram

At the entrance of the events, guests could participate in this Emberá ritual that uses plants to cleanse “malas vibras,” or bad vibes. “The plants we use to wash our hands has a lot to do with our worldview,” Sara Omi said. “For example, if you arrive at your home and bring bad malas vibras, washing your hands will take away those malas vibras. You become more open for everything that comes.” Then, the guests could go ahead and dance and eat with everyone else.

Over 100 volunteers worked to make individual tostones that were spread across an enormous steel mold.

CREDIT: ELPATACONPTY / INSTAGRAM

It takes a lot of labor to peel, chop, fry, grind, knead and finally assemble 1,200 plátanos. Volunteers would fry individual plátanos in this enormous, 330-gallon vat of oil, and bring it to the steel mold for others to assemble. Then, the crowd gathered around to watch the tense moment that volunteers carefully carried 245 pounds of plátanos back to this vat of oil. Then, it was dropped into the oil for its final fry, and lifted out of the vat to become the world’s largest patacón. This wasn’t their first rodeo either. It took six months for the 134 Emberá de Ipetí indigenous volunteers to practice and perfect the enormous feat. 

According to Carlos Tapia, the official adjudicator of the Guinness World Records, there were three requirements to ensure the attempt would be a success. 

CREDIT: ELPATACONPTY / INSTAGRAM

The first was that the patacón remained an intact, single patacón. It could not break once it was removed from the oil. Secondly, there had to be several professionals present. A metrologist could certify that the final weight was at least 220 pounds to break the previous record. There also had to be a cultural expert present to ensure the patacón was true to its roots. A health and hygiene inspector was also present to ensure that the food was prepared in such a way that it didn’t violate any health codes. 

The final requirement to break the record was to make sure none of the food goes to waste.

CREDIT: ELPATACONPTY / INSTAGRAM

We love that, Guinness World Records. That means the pressure isn’t off once the patacón is flawlessly assembled and beats the previous weight record. Then, came the universal tradition: eat as much food as you possibly can, and then have seconds. With a sold-out crowd of folks there to witness history, it goes without saying that the Emberá de Ipetí pulled off the feat. Maybe it was because the record was broken on the auspicious Oct. 14, or World Food Day. While folks were feasting, they could also support the women artisans selling their crafts, entirely inspired and created from the nature surrounding them.

The Patacón has become a symbol of unity and the greatness of indigenous peoples and of Panama.

CREDIT: ELPATACONPTY / INSTAGRAM

“I would like to tell everyone who is here, my perfect Patacón staff, those who have been part of a little piece of patacón and all the people who joined this dream, never forget that, together, we can achieve what we set out to do,” Patacón director, Sabrina Naimark, told the crowd. “We managed to unite as a country, make the Emberá de Ipetí Indigenous community visible, and achieve the Guinness World Record Holder Record so that the world knows how big Panama is and what we are able to do when we put soul, passion, and dedication to an idea. That idea became a reality, creating a true social impact in Panama and the world.”

READ: Kanye West Fans Are Upset After Paying $55 For Food At His Sunday Service Concert Only To Get Bad Food

Daughter Shares Video Of Her Mom Handing Out Sandwiches To The Poor And People Love It

Culture

Daughter Shares Video Of Her Mom Handing Out Sandwiches To The Poor And People Love It

@guera_trizz / Twitter

A video of a woman passing out sandwiches to the poor in Cancún, Mexico has gone viral, and Twitter has raised over $2,000 to keep her going. Twitter user Beatriz Mages knew her mom made sandwiches to pass out every week, but she had never seen the footage before. Last week, she tweeted the video and captioned it, “My Mom makes HUNDREDS of sandwiches and tortas weekly for the poor where she lives in Mexico and I am just now seeing this footage! I am crying 😭😭 what a good soul 😭.” It has since been viewed by over 2.2 million people and retweeted over 53k times at the time of publication.

Twitter is giving Mama Mages lots of love, and have even raised thousands of dollars to help her keep feeding the hungry line of people that rely on her act of kindness each week.

A long line of folks are seen waiting for their weekly torta, and Mama Mages is passing out smiles to go with them.

Credit: @guera_trizz / Twitter

“Buena!” you hear the folks in the line saying as she starts passing the tortas out. Latino Twitter has come out in full force to bestow all their “Que Dios la bendiga”‘s on this “angelita.”

I’m sorry ma’am. But she is OUR mother now. We are all adopting her and we’re all proud and you’re just gonna have to deal with it,” one user tells Beatriz. 

Someone else asked Beatriz, “Would it be weird if I said I love your mom?” Beatriz’s response? “No, she loves u too.”  😭

The people asked for more angelic content and Beatriz happily obliged.

Credit: @guera_trizz / Twitter

“Look! Seriously amazing,” Beatriz shared along with more photos of her mom making sandwiches, and the line of people cheering for her.

Your mom is proof good kind caring people still exist. Heroes get remembered but legends never die. One day someone will tell their child or grandchild about the kind women who helped feed hundreds of hungry people on her own,” one touched Twitter user replied. 

“Just look at everyone’s faces,” tweeted one Armando.

Credit: @guera_trizz / Twitter

“She is a god,” “She is an angel,” “A Saint,” read the comments pouring in for Mama Mages. Dozens of people started asking Beatriz if there was a way they could help. One person offered her time to help make sandwiches and pass them out next time she was in the area. Most folks asked if there was a GoFundMe they could donate to keep Mama Mages going.

After people asked how they can donate to her mom’s cause, Mages set up a GoFundMe, which raised $2,185 in just five days.

Credit: @guera_trizz / Twitter

“My mom makes hundreds of sandwiches and tortas for the poor In Mexico, she doesn’t have much money her self but she continues to donate to those less fortunate regardless,” Mages writes in the GoFundMe. “She is always donating clothing and other useful items and never asks for help. Please feel free to donate anything so that she can keep on giving.”

In the comments, folks are asking her to create a PayPal account so that they can donate to the cause monthly.

Beatriz also told folks that they can help by staying at her mom’s Airbnb in Cancún.

Credit: Joy / Airbnb

By the way my mom has a beautiful air bnb at her home in Cancun,” tweeted Beatriz. “This is her only source of income and she uses her earnings and donations to give to the poor!” We have a feeling this incredible villa is about to booked by all the buena gente who support the cause because it’s been retweeted hundreds of times. By the looks of Airbnb, it seems like her mom’s name is, in fact, “Joy.”

Joy’s reaction to her new status as Latino Twitter’s New Mom? “That’s cool.”

Credit: @guera_trizz / Twitter

My mom is actually visiting me in the US right now and look at her reaction 😂😂😂 SO PURE,” tweeted Beatriz, alongside a video of her mom. “Ma, you’re famous. What do you think?” she asks her mom. Her mom awkwardly gives a thumbs up, then a peace sign, then another thumbs up and says, “That’s cool.” She’s clearly not in it for the fans, and that makes us love her even more. 

Latino Twitter has sanctified Joy Mages, who shall forever be known as Twitter’s Mom of the Year, or just San Joy. You can donate to her GoFundMe here.

READ: Studies Say Latina Moms Struggle With Pregnancies In Ways That Are Unique To Themselves In Early Stages