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  • Writer's pictureMafer Chocolate

Decapitation, hybrid jaguars and cocoa

The degree of sophistication and production efficiency that the original Mesoamerican peoples achieved was expressed in the archaeological sites and in the living traditions even now in a good part of the exceptional cultures of this region.

The Mesoamerican peoples were producing with advanced agronomic techniques such as the use of irrigation and plantations planned for this purpose. Cocoa was a very important part of the economy, religion, politics and culture in this area. Likewise, it is in this area where the archaeological evidence of the knowledge developed to make cocoa have a chocolate flavor is found through fermentation and other post-harvest processes.

In the area of influence of the Cotzumalhuapa Culture, current municipality of Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa, in the Department of Escuintla, 90 km from Guatemala City, 3 archaeological sites with spectacular monuments were found. The rock found on the South Coast of Guatemala is volcanic basalt, a compact, heavy and very hard rock, difficult to work with. This is the rock that these cultures sculpted to make clear the evidence of their rulers, their deities, the religious world full of references to the god of death and hybrid beings, but especially to cocoa.



The hardness of a rock is classified using the Mohs Scale. At the softest end is talc, with a value of 1 and at the other end, diamond, the hardest mineral in the world, with a 10. The admired and heavy marble is classified as a 3. Volcanic basalt, depending on its composition, can be between 5 and 9 on the same scale. It is extremely dense and that makes it heavy and exceedingly difficult to work with. In modern times a tungsten tip would be needed to carve this rock.


So, how important was cocoa for this culture, which dedicated many monuments of complexity, enormous size, and exceptional beauty such as Monument 21 in El Bilbao, full of cocoa fruits with and without faces, in a possible allusion to human sacrifice according to archaeologists, or the impressive Jaguar-Iguana, Monument 69 of El Baúl. A magnificent hybrid creature carved from a rock that weighs 20 tons (the same as a 40-foot container's load of cocoa, but on a small rock for its weight). In its jaws it has a cacao fruit w a face and it turns out that the Proto-Mayan word for harvesting cocoa is the same as the word for decapitation. Additionally, we have now discovered through stories from grandparents of cocoa farmers, that jaguars decapitate their prey, which is a fact that ties together all the art of Cotzumalhuapa and its relationship with cocoa.



Cocoa was central to the life of this mysterious culture, whose writing has not been deciphered. It also appears in the centerpiece of the tassel headdresses of its rulers, which gives an idea of how important it was in the political, ritual, and economic life of the Cotzumalhuapa Culture. Experts are against time to save the richness of this culture as the 3 sites are at the mercy of vandals and modern constructions. Protecting, studying, and valuing this culture and its impressive monuments and the Acropolis is key to being able to measure the contribution to the world that they made and can still make through the development of responsible tourism in the area.

It is advisable to start by reading the book by Dr. Oswaldo Chinchilla, where the drawings in this post come from, which we have for sale during your tour.

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