The Origin of Cocoa
Whilst it is generally acknowledged that the cocoa bean originates from the Amazon basin, other theories do exist.
There is much controversy too with regards to the origin and progressive dispersal of Criollo cocoa in Central America and the northern parts of South America.
One of these theories argues that cocoa was perhaps present in the whole of Amazonian region and that during the ice ages of the Quaternary period, 2 million years ago, the presence of certain trees, the cocoa tree amongst others, could have been reduced to certain pockets where natural varieties evolved.
Moreover, man could very likely have brought cocoa with him as he travelled and created new varieties through cross pollination.
There are two regions where the Criollo variety of cocoa is reputed to grow in its native state; that is in its most ancient form.
The cenotes of Yucatan
We were able to go down in the cenote and take some fantastic photographs, which you can see below. Note also the presence of a “pimienta gorda” tree; its grains of pepper are used mixed with chocolate drinks.
We were unable to descend in the other cenote. None of the inhabitants of the nearest village were prepared to help us find the secret entrance or descent, as the place is sacred.
See the photo of the sacred symbol at the entrance to the track.
The Lacandons from Chiapas
In the forest where the Lacandons live, we found some small cocoa pods (unripe green pods and ripe yellow pods) with 10 furrows and leaves with 8 nervures. The beans were white; this meant we had found the original criollo variety!
We brought back two Maya legends with us.
One day we wanted to slice a cocoa pod with a knife. A Lacandonian woman warned us “No, don’t do that! If you cut the cocoa pod with a knife, the tree will not bear any fruit the following year”.
The other legend is about the ceiba tree. There was an enormous ceiba tree in the forest.
It had a swelling on its trunk at a height of about 5 metres. According to the legend, Princess XTABAY, dressed in a white gown, lured men with her singing. The men, especially when drunk, were attracted towards the tree which swallowed them up for ever.
cocoa tree in a cenote
Jaguar teeth … a sacred place
A ceiba tree