Blog Post AAES “Popol Vuh Cacao”

AAAS E119

Blog Post

Brittany Woods

3/15/19

The story that is mentioned in this blog post, shows the influence cacoa in many ancient stories and civilizations such as the Maya, Aztec, and Inca. The discovery of chocolate by Christopher Columbus was a major milestone in the era of chocolate and how its popularity skyrocketed. Christopher Columbus discovered cacao on his last and final voyage to the New World he came across the Maya trading canoe where the cacao beans were being transported. He knew that whatever they were transporting was very valuable so he took them back to Europe and little did he know chocolate’s popularity skyrocketed. The spanish invaders that first learned the real knowledge of cacao were not from the Aztec civilization but from the Maya and in Central America. It’s crazy to think that the same Maya were also using cacao as a currency along with it being worshipped and served to many rulers. The ancestors of the Mayans had entered the Peten lowlands of northern Guatemala at around 1000 B.C, but before that they lived they way many Mayans did at the time which was on cool highlands of Guatemala and the Mexican State of Chiapas  which is where the wild cacao would’ve been found. If they did use the cacao that was growing in the lowlands, that must mean that they had another word for it because it wasn’t known until between 400 B.C and 100 A.D that the word cacao was born from Mixe-Zoquean speakers. The Mixe-Zoquean’s who apparently started the words and probably the material as well, to the Maya who were the bearers of the Olmec adopted culture which was called the “Izapan” by archeologists. This late Pre-Classic civilization was characterized by earthly ceremonial centers like those of the Olmec and a strong style of stone sculpture. The site, also called an “Izapa” was in a rich area to produce cacao which is located in Soconusco which is a very special place located in the Aztec empire. The Izapan culture then spread southeast to Guatemala along with it being spread to places dominated by the Olmec. That being said, the areas mentioned are perfect for cacao producing and therefore it was the Izapans who were the first to plant cacao during the spanish colonial time period. “Important narrative episodes in the Popul Vuh or “Book of Counsel” can be traced back as far as the Izapans of the Late Preclassic, specifically to carved stone stelae at Izapa itself. The great epic of the Popol Vuh was the sacred book of the Quiche Maya of the Guatemalan highlands, and was written down not long after the Conquest, using the alphabet; Maya specialists believe that it was transcribed from a now-lost hieroglyphic original.” This is relevant because the cacao has been prevalent in the book of Popul Vuh by using the maize god in a cacao tree. The story begins with a set of twins who are sons of an elder couple who supposably created the universe. The twins unfortunately had their life end pretty quickly because they entered the Maya underworld where they were beheaded by the lords of the underworld. One of the severed heads was hung up in a cacao tree (known as the maize god) and extraordinarily impregnates the daughter of the ruler of Xibalban. The ruler in disgraces expels his daughter as she gives birth to twins, the names being; Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Following a series of events, the twins then go on a journey to defeat the ruler of Xibalban, after they did their deed they also went to resurrect their slain father who was known as the Maize God. After resurrected their dad, the story ends in a symbolic form by presenting the burial growth and rebirth of the maize, which shows the rebirth of the maya. “Cacao appears several times in the Popol Vuh as it has come down to us, but as part of the market basket , so to speak, not the revered substance that it was to become”(“The True History of Chocolate” 42). This story shows the relevancy of chocolate and how it was incorporated into many origins along with sculptures and stories to show how important chocolate really was. “I learned that although sugar cane was flanked by other harvests — coffee, cacao (chocolate), indigo, tobacco, and so on — it surpassed them all in importance and outlasted them” (“Sweetness And Power Intro”).

The Chocolate Class. “Cacao and its Ancient Literary Significance” https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/tag/popol-vuh/\

The Popul Vuh: Mayan Creation Myth Animated Full Version

The image above, is the cover book of the Popul Vuh which shows many mayan illustrations/drawings that in some way involve cacao and how it heavily influenced many civilizations.

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