Theobroma cacao was so incredibly important to theMeso-Americans not only as a drink to savor
Theobroma cacao was so incredibly important to the Meso-Americans not only as a drink to savor but profoundly imbedded into the culture, e.g. social gatherings, their religion and was even used as a barter currency. In a four-hundred-year-old document written in the Nahuatl language listed the many commodities the Aztecs would trade with one another such as turkeys, jack rabbits, turkey eggs, fruits, and tamales (Martin, 2018). Oh, I would give anything to trade one cacao bean for a tamale! However, this humbling crop and currency system was utterly warped by European Imperialism and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The slave trade endured for nearly three hundred transporting 15 million African from their homeland to literally build the wealth of Europe and the United States and why we see the huge disparities and development in former colonies. There is no doubt that Transatlantic Slave Trade gave rise to our modern-day global capitalistic system.
Thereis no denying that the Transatlantic Slave Trade was highly profitable for theEuropeans and the U.S. As a slave, they earned no money. They were the ‘false’commodity as referenced by Mintz in his anthropological classic, Sweetness and Power (Mitnz, 1986, p.43).They had no rights and were not ‘free’. They were considered inferior and noteven human. A slave was property and something that needed to becontrolled. They were abused, takenadvantage of and if they didn’t make the middle passage or long walks (mind youstarved, in the heat, in shackles) they were left to die (Lowell, 2005, p.1). Weare able to visualize this clearly as described in Burtt’s Report wheninvestigating the illegal Angolan slave trade on Sao Tome cacao plantations. ThePortuguese were transporting 6000 Angolan slaves per year and there was a highrate of death on the islands (Lowell, 2005, p.21). Slavery was alive and wellhiding behind this guise of a servciassanctioned and upheld by their laws. They were supposed to be paying the Angolanservicals for this work which would go into a reparations fund. Of course, theslaves did not get this money, there was no fund and slaves would most likelyjust die on the island. More profits for the colonial power. The colonial powersdepended so much on this free labor so they could profit and have wealth notonly for themselves but generations to come. If you think about it, the Cadburyfamily has been a company for nearly 200 years. Although, Cadbury was morallyagainst slavery and did everything he could do to end slavery in Sao Tome, thepolitics were just too strong and at the same time he couldn’t risk hisbusiness, his power, his wealth. And the business kept going where his familywas able to make a pretty penny when they sold the business to Kraft or underits snack food arm Mondelez International for 19.5 billion dollars. Sad, buttrue the Cadbury family has slaves to thank for their current wealth. Asprofessor Martin discussed in class, we are all implicated. My hands are notclean either as I too am implicated in modern day slavery. My results fromtaking the ‘Made in a Free World’ quiz revealed that 38 slaves work for me. Yes,I agree with that organization that it is one too many. I am not sure people wouldbe to open to possibly taking such a test or wanting to acknowledge that oursupply systems are so incredibly corrupt because what can people do. EvenNestle who was found to have child slaves in their supply chain stated thatlike every other chocolate company they cannot guarantee the presence of child slaveson the farms from which they source (2016,Barnato and Graham). However, they are doing their best to tackle the problem.It’s been at least19 years since that first expose was released and still theyare trying to fix it. It’s certainly complex.
Thetwo largest cocao producers are the Ivory Coast and Ghana, producing 41 percentof 18.7 percent respectfully (Leissle, 2018, p. 43). According to the GlobalSlavery Index there are 40.3 million trapped in modern day slavery either inthe context of forced labor or forced marriage (The GlobalSlavery Index, 2018). The magnitudeof the problem in these two countries is huge. In the Ivory Coast there is anestimated 2.3 million adults forced to work in the cocoa industry while childrenaccount for ~900,000 (Thetransatlantic slave trade: introduction, n.d.). In Ghana the number ofadult slaves is about 1.1 million and the number children about 708,000 (Thetransatlantic slave trade: introduction, n.d.). The price of the average childslave is $250 (Slave FreeChocolate, n.d). As we are taught in school slavery ended after the civilwar even though in many colonial colonies, like Denmark, ended in 1803(Thetransatlantic slave trade: introduction, n.d.). But slavery continuedillegally in many of the colonies until mid-20th century as welearned in class with the Portuguese (Martin, 2018).
Iwasn’t able to find the value of the entire slave trade in the cacao industry.But what I did find was information on the value of American Slaves in 1860prior to the civil war. During this time the U.S. had in its possession 4million slaves that were worth $3.5 billion dollars, the largest financial assetsthat U.S. had (Coats,T, 2014). The thousands of southern soldiers were fighting to keep thispractice going because this was the basis of their economy, their riches incolonial south. Salves were valuable. Tying our capital markets further to theslave trade that our financial institution or better known as Wall Street inNYC, was once a market for slave trading (Singer,2012). There was an article in the New York Times which published its archivein 1863 of the market prices of slave in some of southern states. In Kentuckythey were taking gold, in Missouri anywhere between $40 and $400 and biddingoff slave, the prices ranging from $40 to $400 and in the Savannah Republic twoslave women sold for $2500 each (MarketPrices of Slaves, 1863). Keeping those assets and building that wealth issomething the people who have the control and power don’t want to give up.
Onthe global market economy of cocoa in 2016 was valued at $12 billion (Leissle,2018, p. 7). The chocolate industry as a whole made 10x that, valued at $100billion. The compensation for CEOs from the largest chocolate were so excessivethat it quite sickening how unjust the chocolate industry is. Chocolate manufactures,Nestle SA, Hershey and Mondelez International are all public companies and soone can easily find the CEO pay. CEO, Paul Buckle, of Nestle SA made 9.296million (Revill,2014). Michele G. Beck (MicheleG. Beck, 2017), the CEO at Hershey’s made $7.8 million while the CEO atMondelez International, was compensated $42 million in 2016 (Stebbins,2018).The average daily salary is less than $2 (Child Labor and Slavery inthe Chocolate Industry. (n.d.). How is it possible that a CEO can make millionsand the farmer only makes $2. The system is wholly unbalanced and it seems thatthis problem will only get worse because we don’t face racism and its structureshead on. I am reminded of the Pareto principlesthat the market doesn’t see or consider justice. As long as we think our capitalisticsystem should be working in this way that company’s and CEO makes billions thanslavery is going to exist (because) in these types of systems there are winnersand losers. I wish we could go back tothe humbling barter currency system.
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