Tag Archives: religion

Religious and Cultural Significane of Cacao and Chocolate in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica

            For the pre-Columbian civilizations of Central and South America, cacao, the seeds of the cacao pod growing on the Theobroma Cacao tree is more than just the input used to make what is commonly known as chocolate. Cacao’s central and southern American origin makes the plant particularly significant to the peoples who established civilizations there, specifically the ancient Mayan, Aztec, and Olmec peoples. The process of turning these cacao seeds into what is known as chocolate is an intricate process developed by these Mesoamerican peoples requiring them to grind the cacao seeds and create a paste called chocolate liquor. For the ancient Mesoamerican peoples, cacao was not just a food, but much more than that. Cacao held a spiritual, cultural, and religious significance. In many ways, cacao shaped the social and spiritual customs of Mesoamerican peoples in pre-Columbian civilizations. All parts of the Theobroma tree, including the cacao pods and seeds, have a sacred place in the religious beliefs of these peoples, having caused them to create specific societal customs and traditions. The ancient Mayan civilizations are commonly cited for their use of cacao in religious ceremonies like marriage along with uses in social gatherings. In fact, Mayan’s believed that cacao was the food of the gods. Three main ways in which cacao demonstrated its spiritual importance was in marriage ceremonies, religious offerings, and death rituals. The way in which cacao has been discovered to be used in these ways illustrates the significance of this precious Mesoamerican food.

            Cacao was discovered to have religious and spiritual significance through discoveries of ancient archeological finds and through literature like the Dresden Codex and Madrid Codex. These early Mayan pieces of literature describe the important religious rituals and deities that the Mayan people preform and celebrate. In the codex, many gods are depicted either eating or holding cacao beans, and are referenced as the food of the gods. A depiction of gods spilling blood over cacao pods can be seen in the Madrid Codex, illustrated in Figure 1 (Coe, et. al. 79). There has always been a strong connection between cacao and religious beliefs for ancient Mesoamericans.

Figure 1

            Cacao played an important part in religious beliefs for ancient Mayan people. The ancient peoples had the belief that the cacao seed was the food of the gods, many times having depictions of cacao and gods on religious vessels. The Maize God, or “iximte” as it was known to the ancient Mayans is depicted as a cacao tree. Cacao pods are protruding from the figure’s body as it points at a vessel. This vessel would have been used to transfer and carry chocolate liquor or other sacred foods. This type of depiction is quite important when trying to understand the role cacao played in Mayan religious practice. This type of illustration shows that there was a clear link between the gods and cacao, so much so that they are drawn interweaved with each other. Cacao was simply a gift from the gods that was a part of their religious belief systems.

Figure 2

            Cacao was more than just depicted in hieroglyphs and images by ancient Mesoamericans. It was also a part of their daily religious and societal practices. An important way in which cacao was implemented into their customs was through marriage ceremonies. At these ceremonies, a frothy cacao based drink called “kakaw” would be served amongst the individuals attending these events. This was a societal ritual that was practiced at weddings specifically royal weddings. This important ceremony of serving kakaw usually was served in a special vase which shows depictions of cacao and people serving kakaw drinks.This type of vase was used particularly to serve nobles and royalty and was a part of Mayan culture. Other ceremonies that kakaw would be served at besides weddings include, war victories or a ruler coming into a throne, and even rites of sacrifice. (Carassco 105). In Figure 3 we can see that at these ceremonies, a vessel was used to carry cacao. These vessels were seen at these types of sociocultural events. Cacao was essential at all of these types of sociocultural events as they had religious significance and was a food of the gods as discussed earlier.

Figure 3

Another important way in which cacao was important in the religious and spiritual lives of ancient Mayans and Mesoamericans can be seen during death. In all cultures death is an essential part of belief systems. Death is an important part of the ancient stories of the Maize God. Based on the legends the death and rebirth of the Maize God gave way to the germination of the earth, proving the land with trees and seeds, including cacao (McNeil. 178).

Works Cited

Carrasco, David. Religions of Mesoamerica. Waveland Press, 2014.

Chase, Arlen F., and Diane Z. Chase. Chocolate in Mesoamerica: a Cultural History of Cacao. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2019.

Figure 1: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fcommons.wikimedia.org%2Fwiki%2FFile%3ABacabs.gif&psig=AOvVaw08DFRFhWcNJ2vAqqtx5EAV&ust=1585374906509000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCKC29Mb-uegCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

Figure 2: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fcommons.wikimedia.org%2Fwiki%2FFile%3AMaya_maize_god.jpg&psig=AOvVaw3xS9xjlzDD_Tve_OxeaD_e&ust=1585375049452000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCLjr1Lz-uegCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

Figure 3: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fcommons.wikimedia.org%2Fwiki%2FFile%3AClevelandart_2012.32.jpg&psig=AOvVaw0dR2sX0wq2H60guhjruVIe&ust=1585375476503000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCKCQpoP-uegCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

Till Death Do Us Part- Cacao in Religion, Marriage, and Death in Maya Civilization

Cacao served as an important element in many different rituals and customs in Maya civilization. Cacao can be found in Maya religious imagery, but also cacao held importance at many of the social milestones of an individual’s life like a wedding or funeral. Much in this way, Cacao has both symbolic and practical significance in the Maya civilization as it served as an indicator of an individual’s power and wealth. In this blog post, I will further explore the cultural significance of Cacao in Maya civilization in religious, social and political contexts. This cultural significance allows us to better conceptualize the long history of Cacao in the Americas that existed before the arrival of Columbus. 

Historical texts provide insight into the religious sphere of the Maya civilization. 

File:Empiezan las historias(Popol vuh).jpg

The Popol Vuh, otherwise known as the “Book of Counsel,” is a text written shortly after the Spanish Conquest regarding the Maya civilization. It is important to note that some of the stories can be linked back to the Izapans of the Late Pre-Classic, who had ties to the Olmec civilization. In The True History of Chocolate, Sophie and Michael Doe write about the first set of twins who face a painful death, “The severed head of one of that unlucky pair (now known to be the Maize God) is hung up in a tree-said to be a calabash tree in the story, but pictured as a cacao tree on a class Maya vase.” (Coe, and Coe; pg. 39) The choice of the cacao tree is an intentional choice as the Maize God protects the Maize crops, which is a lifeline for their civilization. 

The Dresden Codex offers many Classic Maya characteristics like calligraphy and astronomical information but it dates back to the end of the Pre-Conquest era. 

File:Dresden Codex pp.58-62 78.jpg The imagery in the Dresden Codex shows deities holding onto cacao pods. Sophie and Michael Doe write about a Dresden page from the Post-Classic Yucatán that shows the Opossum God and an, “associated text tells us that “cacao is his food [kakaw u hanal]. “” (Coe, and Coe; pg. 42) These two examples in the Dresden Codex demonstrate the long-lasting significance of cacao within a religious context. 

File:Codex Tro-Cortesianus.jpg

The Madrid Codex contains a large amount of ritual imagery and text with regards to cacao. Sophie and Michael Doe highlight a striking example in the Madrid Codex that contains four deities piercing their ears and letting the blood flow over cacao pods, “This is especially interesting since our ethnohistoric sources tell us that there were strong symbolic associations between chocolate and human blood among both the late Post-Classic Maya and the Aztecs.” (Coe, and Coe; pg. 42) These two civilizations had strong systems of religious sacrifice and offerings. This emphasizes the power of cacao within their society and the place that it holds within the hierarchy of value. 

Cacao was immensely popular for social settings as well. It was frequently served at expensive banquets, baptisms, weddings, and burials.  Cacao beverages were consumed in many of these different celebrations, as it was known in the Maya civilization to have many health benefits including digestive, anti-inflammatory, and energy-related benefits. It was common for merchants and nobles to throw these huge banquets. Sophie and Michael Coe note that the baptisms performed in the Maya civilizations typically included a type of liquid that included flowers and cacao powder. (Coe, and Coe; pg. 60) The Madrid Codex displays images in relation to Maya marriage rituals. Just as cacao held a special place within the role of religion, cacao held practice and symbolic power within marriage. One of the rituals included tac haa (“to serve chocolate”) which generally meant inviting the girl’s father over to discuss marriage prospects and drinking a cacao beverage. The cacao drink also symbolized the phrase for royal marriage. Cacao was a type of social capital that indicated that someone was worthy of a marriage. Later on, the cacao seeds were used as a currency for marriage dowry in the 1500s. Cacao was not only used for joyous occasions either. In the Codex Nuttall, there is a Mixtec scene with a funeral procession showing a foaming cacao beverage. Cacao was thought to energize and help the soul’s journey through the underworld. This still has bearings on today’s celebration of Dia de Los Muertos, which includes chocolate beverages today. 

The Maya Civilization is one of many Pre-Columbian groups that has history tied together with cacao. In Cocoa, Kristy Leissle notes that, “From the earliest records of its uses among the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations, cocoa has always been politicized.” (Leissle; pg. 17) The politics of cacao goes hand in hand with the way in which it was used to shape society. Just like the Maize God and the connection to the cacao tree, cacao was used in many political ways to determine power and wealth. It is essential to remember this as many times history has been told from a white, Eurocentric point of view. In Chocolate, women, and empire, Emma Robertson highlights that focusing on over-looked history can allow for reparations of this imperial acts of colonization that have happened throughout time, “The imperial history of cocoa thus becomes stabilized, not to be disrupted by the violence of imperial conquest.”  (Robertson; pg. 65) 

Cacao was not only the food of the gods, but also the demonstration of love and power.

References

Coe, Sophie D, and Michael D Coe. The True History Of Chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Dresden Codex. 2020, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dresden_Codex_pp.58-62_78.jpg. Accessed 25 Mar 2020.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Madrid Codex. 2020, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Codex_Tro-Cortesianus.jpg. Accessed 25 Mar 2020.

Popol Vuh. 2020, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Empiezan_las_historias(Popol_vuh).jpg. Accessed 25 Mar 2020.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women And Empire. Manchester University Press, 2009.

Chocolate, Religion and Hierarchy: Chocolate’s Religious Symbolism in Pre-Columbian Mayan Culture and its Evolution under Colonialism

The widespread availability of chocolate today hardly hints any relation to hierarchical systems. The mass production of it as a confection and how it readily available for consumption at different quality levels reveals little about its rich history. Long before the European settlement in the Americas, chocolate, or rather the fruit it is borne from, symbolized wealth, and social and religious status in Mesoamerica societies. Here, I will briefly discuss how its hierarchical symbolism with respect to religion evolved in Mayan societies before and during colonialism.

The hierarchical symbolism of chocolate in Mayan culture can be traced through an ethnographical study of Mayan celebratory rituals. In his essay “The Language of Chocolate”, David Stuarts writes about how such ethnographical studies from Central Mexico reveal that chocolate was enjoyed by the elites (Stuart 184). Feasting rites among the elite, in particular, in Mayan Yucatan were heavily documented in chocolate vessels, which describe chocolate’s involvement in extravagant gift-giving formalities in its cacao bean form (Reents-Budet 207). This was viewed as a method for forging sociopolitical alliances among the elite (Reents-Budet 209). In its drink form, cacao was consumed during “ceremonies to seal important social contracts and confirm the legitimacy of dynasties” (Martin et al. 39). Moreover, the use of cacao beverages did not only exist in worldly rituals. Mayan glyphs and art show that the Gods also used cacao beverages to honor guests in divine rituals such as seen in figure 1. Thus, it is apparent that the use of cacao in Mayan rituals reflects how chocolate itself was a symbol of extravagance and hierarchy. 

Figure 1: Mayan God L with Hero Twins, servant behind the God pouring a chocolate beverage.

However, cacao beans and chocolate also possessed religious symbolism that contributed to their hierarchical symbolism. Evidence from Mayan vessels reveal in their hieroglyphs that the Maize God is often embodied as a cacao tree (McNeil 155). Gods in the Mayan tradition are portrayed as trees to show a celestial cycle of death. The roots are in the underworld, the trunk in the middle world and the branches in the heavens. The Maize God is highly regarded in that maize is a staple Mayan crop, thus the association between the Maize God and the cacao tree shows a highly esteemed religious connection and divinity that is possessed by cacao. Beyond representation in religious glyphs, the religious symbolism of cacao can be extended to the notion of “court dwarfs” in Mayan culture. Christian Prager writes that dwarf figurines were placed in Mayan courts to symbolize social power and religious authority (Prager 279). This is rooted in the pre-Mayan Olmec belief that four dwarfs were tasked with propping up heaven. Moreover, dwarfs were seen as companions of the Sun and Maize Gods, thus further solidifying their divine symbolism. Hence, these dwarfs were placed in Mayan courts to further this symbolism. However, it is important to note that these dwarfs would sometimes be sculpted as carrying cacao pods, as seen in figure 2. This further displays that cacao possessed divine value and reflected a type of religious symbolism so that it can be manifested in Mayan society as a hierarchical instrument. 

Figure 2: A Mayan figurine of court dwarf bearing a cacao pod.

This religious symbolism of cacao did not end with colonialism but only transformed under it. The initial European interaction with cacao upon their settlement in Mesoamerica was through the introduction of the cacao bean as a form of currency (Martin et al. 40). However, with the spread of Catholicism by the European settlers in Mayan territory, specifically Mexico, cacao beans soon crossed over into the realm of religiosity. The conversion of indigenous Mexicans led them to create offerings to Jesus. These offerings were often in the form of cacao beans, as was done to indigenous God (Aguilar-Moreno 276). A prominent example is the statue of “Christ of the Cacao” in Mexico City as shown in figure 3. While these offerings were not consumed by Christ, but by the priests of the cathedral, they were converted into wealth, such as in the case of seventeenth century friar in Mexico and Guatemala Thomas Gage (Aguilar-Moreno 276). Here, we see that the symbolism of cacao is multifaceted: it showed a relationship to Jesus and also remained a symbol for wealth. 

Figure 3: Christ of the Cacao: A 16th century colonial Mexican sculpture in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City.

However, does the link between colonial Catholicism and symbolism in cacao extend beyond the borders of the colony? In 1577, Dominican friar in Chiapas did write to the Pope asking for some guidance as to whether chocolate could be appropriately consumed on days when oen is fasting. The Pope never offered a written reply but it is told that he simply laughed with his cardinals. The link to Catholicism in Europe extended beyond this lone interaction, the status of chocolate has long been debated by Catholic scholars in the 1620s and 1630s, with reservations appearing on how to incorporate this seemingly pagan product into the Catholic Church. While here there is a recognition of religious value, it is hard to determine whether or not this religious value was accepted by the Catholic Church in Europe. Nevertheless, the role of chocolate and cacao as a status symbol did cross over into the European continent: it is told that Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were prescribed chocolate by their physician to consume daily during breakfast, seemingly due to chocolate’s energizing benefits. The heavy royal consumption of chocolate and its high regard within the royal court deemed it a luxury item, showing that it did remain a status symbol beyond the Mesoamerican realm. 

Nevertheless, it is important to note that beyond colonialism, Mesoamerican cultures still regarded chocolate highly. Their reverence of cacao beans and their products shifted and adapted to the colonial influences that were introduced into their territory. While it failed to have the same religious symbolism in Europe, chocolate did enter the continent as an item symbolizing social hierarchy. Thus, one can say that the evolution of chocolate as a religious symbol remained within Mesoamerica but its hierarchical symbolism was able to cross the Atlantic into the European continent. 

Bibliography

  1. “Dwarf Figurine.” Wikimedia Commons, Baltimore, MD, 25 Mar. 2012, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mayan_-_Dwarf_Figurine_-_Walters_20092036_-_Three_Quarter_Right.jpg.
  2. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, by Stacey Schwartzkopf and Kathryn E. Sampeck, University of Texas Press, 2017, pp. 72-95.
  3. Anagoria. “ El Señor Del Cacao.” Wikimedia Commons, Mexico City, 22 Dec. 2013, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2013-12-22_El_Señor_del_cacao_anagoria.JPG.
  4. Lacambalam. “Tonsured Maize God and Spotted Hero Twin.” Wikimedia Commons, 25 Sept. 2014, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hero_Twins.JPG.
  5. Manuel, Aguilar-moreno. “The Good and Evil of Chocolate in Colonial Mexico.” Chocolate in Mesoamerica, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. Chocolate in Mesoamerica, Chapter 13.
  6. Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.hu, no. special issue 3, 2015, pp. 37-60., doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.
  7. Martin, Simon. “Cacao in Ancient Maya Religion: First Fruit from the Maize Tree and Other Tales from the Underworld.” Chocolate in Mesoamerica, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. Chocolate in Mesoamerica, Chapter 8.
  8. Prager, Christian. “Court Dwarfs – The Companions of Rulers and Envoys of the Underworld.” Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest, by Nikolai Grube, Konemann, 2001, pp. 278–279.
  9. Reents-Budet, Dorie. “The Social Context of Kakaw Drinking Among of the Ancient Maya.” Chocolate in Mesoamerica, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. Chocolate in Mesoamerica, Chapter 10.
  10. Robicsek, Francis. “God L with the Hero Twins.” Wikimedia Commons, Princeton, NJ, 31 Oct. 2009, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:God_L_with_the_Hero_Twins.jpg.
  11. Stuart, David. “The Language of Chocolate: References to Cacao on Classic Maya Drinking Vessels.”Chocolate in Mesoamerica, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. Chocolate in Mesoamerica, Chapter 9.

Cacao in Mayan Religious Stories and Rituals and Community Celebrations

While chocolate may just seem like a dessert food to most people today, its main ingredient, cacao, and the tree from which the fruit stems played essential roles in the lives of the people in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. It was associated with fertility rites, marriage rituals, and even rites of death for the Maya people. As illustrated through their mythology, the cacao tree connected generations. Cacao brought people together by being a part of their religion illustrated through vases and by bringing together communities during feasts and celebrations. It established the Mayan hierarchy, and during the feasts of the elite, the people in the local community were able to exchange goods with others outside of the community. The cacao tree and the fruit it bears played a significant role in the religious and community life of the Maya people in the Pre-Columbian era.

The religious significance of the cacao tree for the Mayan people is illustrated through their creation myth. In this myth, the twin sons of the couple who created the universe are beheaded in the Maya underworld, Xibalba, by the lords of the underworld. One of the severed heads, which is now known as the Maize God, is hung up in a cacao tree, like the figure depicted by the lidded vessel below. As the daughter of an Xibalban ruler holds her hand up to the tree one day, the severed head is able to impregnate her. This woman then gives birth to the Hero Twins named Hunahpu and Xbalanque. These twins go on to accomplish a number of exploits and eventually defeat the underworld. They then resurrect their father, the Maize God, as their final task. With their final task completed, they become the sun and the moon (Coe). The cacao tree in this story allows the Maize God to “pass on his procreative seed and to eventually triumph through the heroic deeds of his offspring” (Martin 178). The importance of the cacao tree and its fruit were also passed between communities and generations.

This Mayan Lidded vessel depicts the Maize God as a Cacao Tree. The cacao pods surround the vessel, and the lid’s nob is a cacao tree with a bird that is now broken (Wikimedia Commons contributors).

The tree and its fruit connected each generation of the Maya people and permeated Mayan religion in rites like baptism and funerals. During the baptismal ritual, the noble giving the ceremony would dip a bone in a vessel filled with water, flowers, and cacao. With this mixture, “he anointed the children on their foreheads, faces, and in the spaces between the fingers and toes, in complete silence” (Coe). Like the tree that the Maize God manifested himself in allowed him to have children and reconnect with the world, the Maya people would bury people with vases that were used to drink cacao with inscriptions of cacao on them. As the dead traveled to the underworld, the cacao would continue to provide for the Maya as it did when they were alive and would ensure their safe travel (Martin). In addition to rituals, the cacao tree and its fruit played an essential role in the celebrations and community interactions of the Maya people.

During religious ceremonies and celebrations, the Maya would drink from vases that had inscriptions of cacao and the cacao tree. These inscriptions and drawings “made even a sip of chocolate a sacramental act” (Martin 179). The cacao was celebrated by all in the community, but the inscriptions reinforced the Maya rulership as many portrayed Mayan rulers among the deities. The cacao vases demonstrated the order within the community by establishing the power of the elite as they were compared to supernatural deities as shown in the image of a Maya vessel below. They would be exchanged among elites during feasts that “created a forum for sociopolitical alliance formation” (Reents-Budet 209). These feasts then extended to the local community where people from different socioeconomic backgrounds were able to exchange goods which extended their relations beyond the local community. The vases were still present in the lower tier society, although they were not as elaborate as the elite vessels. While the people would offer cacao to the gods for gifts like fertility and rain, it also reinforced “their sense of community by way of a fabric of overlapping rights and obligations developed between sponsors and participants” (Reents-Budet 209). Cacao and the practice of drinking from and giving vases were a central part of the lives of the Mayan people.

The inscription around the rim of the this Maya vessel refers to its function as a chocolate-drinking cup and also states that it was owned by a Namaan king. The drawing portrays a king on a throne and a supernatural being in front of him, illustrating the connection between the elite and religion.

Overall, the cacao tree and fruit were central aspects to the religious, social, and economic lives of the Maya people in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. In their creation story, his manifestation in tree enabled the Maize God to give way to the next generation which then resurrected him from the underworld. The importance of the cacao tree and its fruit permeated the Mayan religion and played essential roles in the religious rituals of the people. Cacao was present in the baptismal rites and in the tombs of people, illustrating a connection between cacao and religion. The drinking of cacao and exchange of vases that held cacao and also had inscriptions of the elite and cacao during feasts and celebrations demonstrated order within the Maya community. From these feasts, different people were able to connect and extend relations beyond their local community. Cacao connected people in the community through its role in religious stories and rituals and celebrations among elites.

Works Cited:

Chocolate Cup (2002-9). https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/40908. Accessed 25 Mar. 2020.

Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 2019. Garthwaite, Josie. “What We Know About the Earliest History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian Magazine, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/archaeology-chocolate-180954243/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2020.

Martin, Simon. Cacao in Ancient Maya Religion: First Fruit from the Maize Tree and Other Tales from the Underworld. University Press of Florida, 2009, doi:10.5744/florida/9780813029535.003.0008.

Reents-Budet, Dorie. The Social Context of Kakaw Drinking Among of the Ancient Maya. University Press of Florida, 2009, doi:10.5744/florida/9780813029535.003.0010.

Wikimedia Commons contributors. File:Mayan – Lidded Vessel – Walters 20092039 – Side D.Jpg. Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository., https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Mayan_-_Lidded_Vessel_-_Walters_20092039_-_Side_D.jpg.

The Role of Cacao in the Religion, Economy, and Culture of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica

Today, if you ask the average American to describe the use of chocolate in their society, they will likely regale you with happy stories of enjoying chocolate rabbits on Easter morning or giving heart-shaped boxes of chocolate to a loved one on Valentine’s Day. Chocolate is beloved for the role that it plays in many western rituals, including Halloween, Christmas, and others, but few would venture that chocolate holds a deeply important place in American society. Similarly, while chocolate is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the United States, few would advance that the chocolate industry is a pillar upon which the economy rests (Professor Martin, “Introduction”). Chocolate is considered a sweet treat or an indulgence, but not an object of tremendous religious or economic significance in modern American society.

However, in the Pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica, where the cultivation and consumption of cacao originated, cacao was of the utmost religious, economic, and cultural importance. To prove this point, I will describe in detail many of the uses of cacao in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica to illustrate the important role that cacao played in the religion, economy, and culture of these magnificent societies.

The importance of cacao to the religion of the Pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica is exemplified by the Dresden Codex of the Maya civilization. The Dresden Codex, the oldest surviving book from the Americas, is believed to be dated to the 13th or 14th century and describes the association between cacao and religion. Cacao is featured throughout the document, which even describes the Mayan gods consuming cacao. The gods are portrayed as seated and enjoying delicious dishes of cacao beans, above which is written the label “his cacao.” Furthermore, the below image from the Dresden Codex presents the Opossum God carrying the Rain God on his back and reads: “Cacao is his food” (Coe and Coe, 2013). In this way, cacao is represented as a food of the Gods and is therefore very closely associated with the religion of the Maya civilization.

Below: An illustration from the Dresden Codex (Professor Martin).

Picture1

Similarly, in the Aztec civilization, cacao and the cacao tree form an important part of religious understanding and the civilization’s relationship with the divine. This is revealed by the Codex Féjévary-Mayer, a document believed to depict the Aztec civilization in the 14th through 16th centuries. The Codex Féjévary-Mayer depicts four trees dividing the world up by the cardinal directions (“The Codex Féjévary-Mayer”). As can be seen in the image below, the tree on the right side of the codex, the Tree of the South, is a cacao tree emerging from the jaws of the Underworld serpent. The tree is flanked by the Cinteotl, the Aztec god of maize, on one side, and Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of death, on the other (Coe and Coe, 2013). The cacao tree is closely associated with the Underworld, Cinteotl, and Mictlantecuhtli in the Codex Féjévary-Mayer, displaying the religious importance of cacao in the Aztec society. These examples, from both the Maya and Aztec civilizations, illustrate the important role that cacao played in the religious thought of the Pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica.

Below: An illustration from the Codex Féjévary-Mayer (Wikipedia Commons).
3

Cacao was also tremendously important to the economic functioning of the Pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica. The Maya civilization never used fiat currency, opting instead to rely on systems of bartering and trading. The work of archaeologist Joanne Baron has revealed that by the 8th century, the Maya civilization developed beyond one-off bartering and began using cacao beans as a form of currency. As part of her research, Baron documented over 150 different scenes on Maya ceramics and murals, dating from between 700-600 C.E. These scenes depict goods being delivered to Mayan leaders as a form of tax. The most frequently-occurring such good is cacao beans, delivered in bulk in woven bags (Learn, 2018). Literature reveals that in the Aztec civilization, like the Maya, collected cacao as a form of tax from the population (“Chocolate Use in Early Aztec Cultures”).

Additionally, in The True History of Chocolate, it is revealed how in both the Maya and Aztec civilizations, many different types of laborers working for the state would be paid cacao beans as their daily wage (Coe and Coe, 2013). In this way, the use of cacao as a currency was tremendously important to the functioning of the state in both the Maya and Aztec civilizations, as cacao beans were used to levy taxes to fund the state and to pay laborers working for the state. Therefore, cacao was deeply important to the economy and state-functioning of the Pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica.

Cacao was also used in the Pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica in various cultural rituals, making it an integral element of the cultural cohesion and unity of these remarkable civilizations. For the Maya civilization, cacao was both a sign of social prestige and a social centerpiece. Anthropologist Joel Palka describes how the process of preparing cacao was grounded in social relations in the Maya civilization, as it brought many people together. Palka argues that cacao production was more than the mere production of a good, rather, it was an important tradition and cultural practice, making cacao deeply significant to the cultural identity of the Maya civilization (Garthwaite, 2015). Cacao, because it was difficult to grow and produce, became associated with high status and special occasions. For example, cacao was tremendously important in Mayan marriage rituals, known as “tac haa,” which translates to “the serving of chocolate.” Cacao was commonly given by a suitor to the father of a potential-bride in order to begin the marriage negotiations. Furthermore, cacao was used in Mayan funerary rituals, as it was believed that the stimulant properties of cacao would aid the soul on its journey to the underworld (Professor Martin, “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods’”).

Similarly, in the Aztec civilization, cacao was associated with high status and special occasions, and therefore held a position of great cultural significance. Most interestingly, many uses of cacao in the Aztec society are revealed in the Florentine Codex, an ethnographic study conducted by Spanish Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún in the 16th century. Sahagún interviewed hundreds of individuals in the Aztec civilization and gathered a wealth of information about the lives of Aztec royals, the customs of the Aztec society, and the cultural and ritual significance of cacao (Professor Martin, “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods’”). The document includes an exhaustive list of medical uses for cacao, revealing the important role that cacao played in Aztec healing rituals. Cacao was believed to help reduce fever, relieve respiratory issues, and improve energy and sexual appetite (Jean, 2020). These examples, from both the Maya and Aztec Civilizations, illustrate the important role that cacao played in the culture of the Pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica.

Below: The Florentine Codex depicting the production of cacao (Cacaosophy).

2

In conclusion, in the Pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica, where the cultivation and consumption of cacao originated, cacao was of the utmost religious, economic, and cultural importance. Cacao was closely associated with the Gods in both the Maya and Aztec civilizations, as revealed by the Dresden Codex and the Codex Féjévary-Mayer. Cacao was also tremendously important to the economic functioning of the Maya and Aztec states, as cacao was paid to the state as a form of taxes, and in turn, used to pay state workers. Lastly, cacao was an integral element of the cultural cohesion of these civilizations. For the Maya and Aztec, cacao was associated with high status and special occasions and rituals, and therefore held a position of great cultural significance.

 

Works Cited

Scholarly Sources:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Garthwaite, Josie. “What We Know About the Earliest History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015.

Jean, Julie. “Medicinal and Ritualistic Uses for Chocolate in Mesoamerica .” HeritageDaily Journal, HeritageDaily, 6 Jan. 2020.

Learn, Joshua Rapp. “The Maya Civilization Used Chocolate as Money.” Science Magazine, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 28 June 2018.

Additional Sources:

“Chocolate Use in Early Aztec Cultures.” International Cocoa Organization, International Cocoa Organization, 8 Jan. 2011, http://www.icco.org/faq/54-cocoa-origins/133-chocolate-use-in-early-aztec-cultures.html.

Martin, Carla. “Introduction.” 29 Jan. 2021, Cambridge, MA, Emerson Hall 201.

Martin, Carla. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” 5 Feb. 2021, Cambridge, MA, Emerson Hall 201.

“The Codex Féjévary-Mayer.” Exploring the Early Americas | Exhibitions, Library of Congress, 12 Dec. 2007, http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/exploring-the-early-americas/interactives/heavens-and-earth/earth/index.html.

Multimedia Sources:

Image 1: The Dresden Codex. Image is from Professor Martin’s lecture “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods,’” Slide 34. Link to lecture slides.

Image 2: The Codex Féjévary-Mayer. Image is from Wikipedia Commons. Link here.

Image 3: The Florentine Codex. Image is from Cacaosophy, a website in the public domain. Link here.

Cocoa as Corruption: The False Association between Chocolate and Unholy Indulgence

The revered botanist, Carolus Linnaeus, gave the name Theobroma to the Mesoamerican cacao tree in 1753, which literally translates to “food of the gods.”[1] The appellation serves a dual function as it reflects both the rich taste as well as the storied past of chocolate. This history is a complex one involving countless players, chief among which were the people of the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations, the Spanish colonizers, and as I will further examine in this blog post, religious clerics. Centuries before chocolate could take its place as the universal delicacy it is today, chocolate had to overcome its reputation as the decadent indulgence that represented to many believers the evil lures of temptation. As this blogpost does contain a multimedia component, I will weave in two examples of contemporary film and literature which draw from this theme of chocolate being perceived as unholy temptation, and attempt to show how, in the broader scheme of history, religious institutions, (namely the Catholic Church), have often branded this semblance of pleasure and gratification as sinful. This false association has even permeated through modernity as the two examples I will be alluding to, Como Agua Para Chocolate (Laura Esquivel, 1989), and Chocolat (1999) are relatively recent in origin when compared to the early history of chocolate. I ultimately intend to argue that, despite the long strides that popular culture has made in the broader conceptualization of chocolate, there will always be those who cannot dissociate something so decadent with the allegedly wicked connotations they incur.

The ritual drinking of cacao depicted in the “Codex Borgia,” a Mesoamerican divinatory manuscript.

In ancient Mayan and Aztec times, cacao represented a vital life force and was incorporated into various rituals and sacred practices.[1] So how, one might ask, could chocolate have gone from being the “food of the gods” in one culture, to an enticement from the devil himself in the Catholic Church of the 16th and 17th centuries? As we’ve discussed in class, chocolate played an integral role in the history of early colonialism. The process of transculturation which resulted from resources being shared across nations and empires led to a blending of the “old” with the “new,” or more aptly, a blending of the native with the new. One of these transcultural changes began within the Catholic Church. Though Europeans stripped chocolate of its original ritualistic import, it came to take on new meanings, as a status symbol indicative of socioeconomic class, as homeopathic remedies that appealed to chocolate’s medicinal effects, and more. In the latter half of the 16th century however, the Catholic Church embarked on a quest to dictate which behaviors or attitudes were appropriate for the church, clergy, and the community of the faithful to uphold. Priests debated amongst themselves whether or not chocolate consumption should be allowed during church-mandated fasting days. According to Professor Carla Martin, these debates resulted in a resurfacing of the “pagan past” of chocolate.[2] Up until that point, the introduction of chocolate to western Europe had proven quite successful. Suddenly, with this remembrance of chocolate’s once pagan ritualistic significance, chocolate took on, perhaps for the first time, its ill-reputation as an immoral indulgence. Eventually, Pope Alexander VII declared in 1662 that chocolate did not, in fact, break the ritual fast, but this did not put a concrete end to the negative implications of chocolate consumption.[3]


Tita and Pedro’s gastronomical exchange in Laura Esquivel’s Como Agua Para Chocolate, 1989

In 1989, Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel published her best-selling book, Como Agua Para Chocolate, in English, Like Water for Chocolate. The book falls into the genre of magical realism, owing to the various supernatural themes scattered throughout the novel. Central to the plot is Tita, the youngest daughter of a traditional Mexican family that is endowed with an enchanted culinary gift. Through her intricate recipes, she is able to communicate her ardent love for her childhood sweetheart, a man who Tita’s mother has betrothed to her eldest sister despite his intention to marry Tita. The scene above depicts one of the more poignant episodes of Tita and Pedro’s gastronomical exchange and in it, Pedro even refers to Tita’s creation as the “food of the gods.” Although chocolate is not a part of the particular recipe in the chosen clip, it accentuates the theme of “indulgent” food being directly tied to evil since the delight Tita, Pedro, and Gertrudis take in the meal is representative of, if not the very mystical consummation of, the scandalous love affair between Tita and Pedro. The title of the book alludes to the law of heat in the science of cooking which refers to the fact that water must be brought to the brink of boiling multiple times before it can be introduced in the preparation of hot chocolate. In a similar fashion, Esquivel’s novel tells the tale of a fiery romance between Tita and Pedro which is only physically consummated after decades of suspense and sexual tension relayed between the two lovers in the form of Tita’s cooking. The implication being, food which incites pleasure is almost certainly bound to something more wicked, and as the channel for such pleasure, food is rendered itself sinful.

“Cacao as corruption” in the 2000 film adaptation, Chocolat.

Another contemporary example of this line of reasoning can be seen in the 1999 novel, (which inspired the eponymous 2000 film), Chocolat. The story follows the life of chocolatier, Vianne Rocher, who arrives to a small provincial town in France with her daughter to open up a chocolate shop. With this repressed French village in 1959 as its setting, Vianne’s arrival into town at the beginning of the Lenten season does not bode well with the hyper-orthodox Catholic mayor, Reynaud. Joanne Harris, the author of the 1999 novel, depicts her protagonist as a progressive free-spirit who does not ascribe to religious conventions and who has an illegitimate child who she rears in quite a liberal fashion. The construction of her character as such makes it easy for the traditional mayor to chastise Vianne for her immoral behavior in tempting the townspeople during the ecclesial time of abstinence and abnegation. In the above clip, Judi Dench’s character confesses to the crime of “corrupting with cocoa,” to which her daughter responds indignantly. The villagers, for the most part, agree that Vianne’s chocolatier trade is sinful in origin, content, and aim. However, in the end, even the righteous Reynaud succumbs to the temptation of chocolate in the memorable scene linked below.

“Giving into temptation,” the conservative mayor, Reynaud finally succumbs to the temptation of Vianne’s chocolate confections.

In conclusion, I think it can safely be speculated that some people will always confine themselves to their own traditional conceptions, intent on making their own distinctions between the sacred and the profane. Speaking as someone who was raised in a very conservative, Catholic household (and who still today holds a special place in her heart for the Catholic faith), I have seen this relationship been drawn time and time again between the object of pleasure and the direct source of evil. I, however, am of the persuasion that to write the sweet treat off simply because a religion promotes self-denying practices is no reason to render chocolate evil in all its forms. I confess that over-indulgence of anything typically errs on the side of gluttony, which crosses the line into problematic territory when it comes to Judeo-Christian convention, but even being the proud, believing Catholic that I am, I would confidently affirm that moderation is key, and I for one, will not be giving up chocolate anytime soon.

[1] Coe, S.D., and Coe, M.D. “The True History of Chocolate.” 1996. 17

[2] Coe, S.D., and Coe, M.D. “The True History of Chocolate.” 1996. 39

[3] Dallas, Kelsey. “The Little-Known Relationship between Religion and Chocolate.” Deseret News. Deseret News, February 8, 2015. https://www.deseret.com/2015/2/8/20558143/the-little-known-relationship-between-religion-and-chocolate.

[4] “When the Church Said ‘No’ to Chocolate.” When the Church said “No” to chocolate: Mexico Cuisine. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1469-when-the-church-said-no-to-chocolate.

Multimedia Cited:

Cacao in Ancient Maya Religion. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.mexicolore.co.uk/maya/chocolate/cacao-in-ancient-maya-religion.

The early history of chocolate. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.mexicolore.co.uk/maya/chocolate/early-history-of-chocolate.

Miramax. “Chocolat | ‘Chocolatier or Confessional’ (HD) – Judi Dench, Juliette Binoche | MIRAMAX.” Youtube video, 2:39. December 1, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNTSrAB0uKM

Miramar. “Chocolat | ‘Giving In to Temptation’ (HD) – Alfred Molina | MIRAMAX.” Youtube video, 3:42. December 1, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVX4EtCXiv4

Movie clips. “Like Water for Chocolate (3/12) Movie CLIP – Tita’s Magical Meal (1992) HD.” Youtube video, 2:42. September 29, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4aMxMg0Vn0

Pre-Columbian Cacao and The Various Applications of Chocolate in Society

Cacao and chocolate had a wide variety of uses and associations in pre-Columbian society, as it was a highly multifunctional good that was respected and coveted. Cacao first originated in Mesoamerica and was used for religious purposes, as a luxurious food item, as currency, and as medicine. These uses were often interconnected and posed a variety of implications, ranging from economic, social, cultural, and/or political. 

Cacao has many origin stories rooted in religion. The Theobroma tree, also known as the World Tree, was believed to be the center of the universe and the source of life (Martin, 2020). It was thought to connect the realm of the sky, earth, and the underworld. In addition, religious gods and figures were often portrayed as trees, transforming into trees, or born from trees (Martin, 2020). Some even believed that by drinking chocolate, one could obtain god-like qualities or wisdom (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008). For example, the two figures below provide representations of gods portrayed as cacao trees or wearing elements of the tree: 

The Maya Maize god portrayed as a personified cacao tree (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008)
A Classic Maya stone monument in Guatemala that portrays a cacao deity wearing a headdress of cacao leaves and a cacao pod (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008)

Cacao was also used in various religious rituals and ceremonies, such as baptisms, marriages, and rites of births and death. The Maya people would often baptize children with a mixture of cacao, virgin water, and crushed flowers (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008). In addition, Frier Bernardino de Sahagún reported that Aztec fathers would often instruct their sons to offer a cacaoatl drink to God as they entered religious school (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008). Cacao was also incorporated into marriage ceremonies. According to the Codex Zouche-Nuttall, the groom often offered cacao (beans or a drink) to the woman they were marrying. It is interesting that cacao was often used to signify the significance of a certain ceremony or ritual, almost as if documenting authenticity and serving as a symbol of religious respect. The figure below depicts a Mixtec ceremony where Lady Thirteen Serpent offers a bowl of cacao to Lord Eight Deer to solemnise their marriage (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008):

The groom pointing a cup of frothy cacao in the hands of his bride during a marriage ceremony (Seawright, 2012)

Moreover, the Maya people were often buried with some form of cacao, whether it cups or vases or bowls. These pottery items were often personalized, containing the Primary Standard Sequence – the name of the deceased and the type of cacao the cup contained (Seawright, 2012). It was thought that chocolate energized and eased the soul’s journey to the underworld (Martin, 2020). It is interesting that chocolate was often viewed to have some sort of “superpower” or healing quality for both the living and the dead. Below is a figure of relatives offering the deceased individual cacao for his journey to the underworld/afterlife (Seawright, 2012):

The relatives of the deceased offering the deceased chocolate for his journey to the afterlife, from the Codex Magliabechiano (Seawright, 2012)

Cacao was also involved in religious sacrifice rituals. Human sacrifices were often made to various gods or deities to show respect and honor, and they were first signaled by offering chocolate (Dillinger et al., 2000). Extracting the cacao beans from the pod was also viewed as symbolically similar to the extraction of the human heart during a sacrifice (Dillinger et al., 2000). This is just another example proving the high regard that chocolate held, especially in a religious sense. It was truly viewed as a sacred item, and using it in a sacrifice showed generosity and reverence.

Besides its religious purposes, cacao had always been widely recognized as a delicious food item to be consumed. In the Pre-Columbian era, it was typically consumed as a beverage and limited only to the very elite or royal. The beans were often used to prepare a drink called Xocoatl, which was a very bitter drink made of roasted and ground beans mixed with water and spices (De Maré, 2013). Maya ruins often depicted cacao as being associated with the god of abundance and wealth, which helps to explain cacao’s restriction to the very elites – priests, royals, distinguished warriors, and military officers (Dillinger et al., 2000). It was also believed that cacao was an intoxicating substance, and thus not appropriate for women and children (Dillinger et al., 2000). This had implications for social structures of the societies that included cacao, as cacao served as a hierarchical catalyst that enforced a disparity between the elites and the commoners.

Moreover, cacao was used as a form of currency. It may be strange to think of a food/beverage as a form of currency, but this helps to explain why only the rich and royal elite were consuming cacao. These people were essentially swallowing money, which lower-class people could not afford to do. When the Aztecs, who at the time were one of the most advanced societies, captured the Maya people and their land, they also seized their economy. This included cacao, as the land in this area was most suitable for growing the pods (De Maré, 2013). The Aztecs entered trade, assisted by cacao beans as a form of commodity money (De Maré, 2013).  Cacao beans soon became one of the most common means of exchange among pre-Columbian people for simple, low-value transactions. In a letter Cortes wrote to Charles V, he stated: “This seed was being used as currency for daily exchanges” (De Maré, 2013). The number of seeds used was proportional to relative worth – for example, one rabbit was 10 cocoa beans, while one slave was 100 cocoa beans (De Maré, 2013). Cacao beans soon became the main currency of the Empire, and its value was officially fixed in 1555 when a decree stated that one Spanish real equaled 140 cacao beans (De Maré, 2013). This currency even spread to countries that are now in present-day South America, and it was in use until the start of the 19th century.  

Lastly, cacao was utilized as a form of medicine. It was believed to have digestive, anti-inflammatory, anesthetic, and energy-related applications that would assist in healing. People often believed illnesses were connected to the gods, and due to the fact that many also believed cacao to be a powerfully divine item, cacao was used as a healing agent. Evidently, these applications of cacao began to become interrelated. In terms of evidence of cacao’s medicinal properties, there were many documents and manuscripts that recorded its uses. The Badianus Codex indicated that cacao flowers may be used to alleviate fatigue, while the Florentine Codex took note of a recipe of cacao beans, maize, and the herb tlacoxochitl to relieve fevers and shortness of breath (Lippi, 2009). It also cautioned against excessive consumption of cocoa from unroasted beans but approved it in moderation to help replenish and invigorate the body (Lippi, 2009). Later, manuscripts like Chilam Balam and The Ritual of the Bacams recorded over a hundred uses and instructions for medicinal cacao. There were several themes of cacao’s healing properties found within these records – it was often used to treat emaciated patients to gain weight, to address exhaustion and stimulate patients’ nervous systems, and to aid digestion. Besides these common uses, chocolate had a variety of other health issues it was prescribed to treat, such as poor appetite, anemia, kidney stones, etc. (Dillinger et al., 2000). Likely due to the fact that chocolate was believed to have divine origins and thus god-like properties, it was utilized to treat a large variety of illnesses. This provides support for the idea that the various uses and applications for chocolate were often intertwined and circled back to one another, thus rendering chocolate as one of the most dominating forces in the Pre-Columbian society.


Works Cited

Dillinger, T. L., Barriga, P., Escárcega Sylvia, Jimenez, M., Lowe, D. S., & Grivetti, L. E. (2000). Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate. The Journal of Nutrition, 130(8). doi: 10.1093/jn/130.8.2057s

De Maré, L. (2013, March 4). Museum of the National Bank of Belgium. Retrieved from https://www.nbbmuseum.be/en/2013/03/kakao.htm

Dreiss, M. L., & Greenhill, S. (2008). Chocolate: pathway to the gods. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Lippi, D. (2009). Chocolate and medicine: Dangerous liaisons? Nutrition25(11-12), 1100–1103. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2009.08.002

Martin, C. (2020). Mesoamerica and the “food of the gods”. Retrieved from Canvas.

Seawright, C. (2012). Life, Death and Chocolate in Mesoamerica: The Aztecs and the Maya; Where did the Ritual Use of Cacao Originate? ResearchGate. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Caroline_Seawright/publication/274837640_ARC2AZT_Essay_Life_Death_and_Chocolate_in_Mesoamerica_The_Aztecs_and_the_Maya_Where_did_the_Ritual_Use_of_Cacao_Originate/links/55f8b47908aec948c4864629.pdf

Chocolate, Social Class, and Religion in Enlightenment Europe

Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate drinking in Eighteenth Century Europe

Across the countries of Enlightenment era Europe, elites distinguished themselves from other social classes through their exclusive social and consumption practices—musical evenings with private orchestras, fluency in multiple languages, and international travel as exemplified in the Grand Tour of the Continent’s most fascinating historical sites (Jacob, 2016). These class-defining practices notably included the drinking of chocolate as a beverage. Taken this way, chocolate “had been an elite drink among the copper-skinned, befeathered Mesoamericans”—i.e. the Olmecs and Mayans who first invented the idea of processing cacao beans into a chocolate drink—and it “stayed that way among the white-skinned, perfumed, bewigged, overdressed royalty and nobility of Europe” (Coe and Coe, 2019).

The relationship between chocolate consumption and the social position, ideology and religion of particular individuals in the Enlightenment period is not a simple one, however. While chocolate was clearly an elite drink that was also associated with the Catholic church, a more detailed investigation of consumption patterns and preferences among Enlightenment individuals shows that we cannot simply read off a person’s social position, religious outlook or ideological commitments from their beverage consumption preferences—nor vice versa. To try to do so would lead to serious error, and to understand the situations and choices of particular individuals it is necessary to look at the meanings they attached to various beverages, and the compromises they may have made in regard to their values, in a more nuanced way.

The Enlightenment period is considered to have been approximately coextensive with the 18th century in Europe (Robertson, 2015). Why did chocolate remain associated with the social elite in general over such a long period of time, in countries from Spain and Italy to France and England? Part of the answer is illuminated when we examine the slow progress made during the 18th century toward making chocolate more affordable through mechanical manufacture. Although Europeans had first become familiar with imbibing chocolate during the Renaissance, as late as 1772 the famous Encycopédie compiled by Denis Diderot and Jean d’Alembert depicted contemporary methods of chocolate manufacture that had barely advanced from those of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (Coe and Coe, 2019).

In fact, some modest advances in mechanizing chocolate manufacture did occur during the Enlightenment period, notably in Great Britain’s American colonies, as well as in France. In 1765, a Massachusetts chocolate-making firm began used water power to grind cocoa beans, and in 1776 a hydraulic machine that could reduce chocolate to paste was invented in France (Morton and Morton, 1986). But it was not until the second quarter of the 19th century, with the invention of a new process of cacao refinement in Holland, that things really began to change (Coe and Coe, 2019).

This stagnation in technological progress helped to keep chocolate expensive during the Enlightenment era—and consequently out of reach middle class consumers, who had little choice but to choose cheaper drinks—notably coffee—instead. In the coffee-houses of 18th century Venice, for example, a cup of chocolate cost three times the price of a cup of coffee (Coe and Coe, 2019). In consequence, coffee remained by far the more popular drink in the Serene Republic.

Caffè Florian in Venice survives from the Eighteenth Century

This consumption pattern was not repeated across other Italian cities, however. In Rome and Naples chocolate remained the drink of choice. The foundation for Venice’s distinctive preference for coffee would appear to lie in the city’s historical success as a seafaring, trading republic that had first made its fortune as the gateway to Europe at the western terminus of the Silk Route (Norwich, 2012). The commercial origins of Venice’s wealth resulted in a civic culture dominated by its mercantile class, a social reality we see reflected in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. By contrast, in other Italian cities, most notably in the papal city of Rome and at the Vatican itself, chocolate was consumed heavily. The situation was similar in Naples, which was ruled by the Spanish branch of the royal Bourbon dynasty. The dominance of these latter cities by royal and aristocratic elites has been implicated by their citizens’ prevailing preference for chocolate over coffee, in contrast to the coffee-oriented beverage culture of Venice (Coe and Coe, 2019).

An image of Voltaire (with raised arm), Condorcet (seated at the right) and other philosophes discussing at the Café Procope in Paris

These differing patterns in chocolate consumption helped to justify the outlook of anti-clerical radicals of the era, who associated chocolate drinking with the oppressive Catholic Church (Coe and Coe, 2019). This does not mean, however, that all such radicals eschewed chocolate drinking. The case of Voltaire, perhaps the greatest anti-clerical thinker of the age, is instructive in this regard. While we might expect Voltaire to have been very much a coffee-drinker on the basis of his social position and ideological orientation, there is considerable evidence for his liking of chocolate as well as coffee. It is recorded, for example, that when Prussia’s young music- and art-loving king Frederick the Great invited the old philosophe to stay with him in 1740, much chocolate was imbibed by both (Sorel, 1998). Moreover, Voltaire maintained a liking for chocolate, as well as coffee, to the end of his life. The Marquis de Condorcet, youngest of the great philosophes, visited the elderly Voltaire at his estate at Ferney near Geneva in 1770. Condorcet later recorded that “a dozen cups of coffee mixed with chocolate” constituted “the only nourishment which M. de Voltaire took from five in the morning till three in the afternoon” (Condorcet, 2020). Even after the French Revolution, Voltaire appears to have “remained sufficiently of the ancien régime to prefer his morning chocolate … over all other hot drinks” (Coe and Coe, 2019). This was despite the cacao for the chocolate having being produced by slave labor.

Nor was chocolate automatically the preferred choice of the religiously inclined. Many of the musical compositions of Johan Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) that ostensibly appear entirely secular arguably bear the distinctive imprint of his Lutheran piety (Gaines, 2005). Moreover, although Bach’s life extended well into the Enlightenment era, his religious commitments appear to have made him resist the period’s secularized, religion-questioning avant garde culture. This caused tensions during his visit with Frederick the Great in 1747, when the old composer’s religious temperament led him to clash fiercely with the young king’s advanced Enlightenment outlook (Gaines, 2005). For Bach, chocolate may have been associated less with the Catholic church than with elite social, artistic and intellectual preferences that he would have regarded as questionable, to say the least. This is speculative and asks for further investigation. But perhaps differences in Bach’s and Frederick’s preferred beverages accentuated, or at least reflected, their intellectual and religious differences. At all events, while Bach wrote a cantata in praise of coffee, he wrote nothing about chocolate (Coe and Coe, 2019).

Works cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2019

Condorcet, Nicholas. Life of Voltaire. Web. 6 March 2020

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N18649.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext

Gaines, James R. Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment. Harper Perennial 2006

Jacob, Margaret. The Enlightenment: A Brief History with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins 2016

Julius, John. A History of Venice. Viking 2013

Morton, Marcia, and Frederic Morton. Chocolate: An Illustrated History. Outlet 1988

Robertson, John. The Enlightenment: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press 2015

Sorel, Nancy. First Encounters: A Book of Memorable Meetings. Random House 1998

A Mestizo Tradition in Cacao: The Introduction and Incorporation of Molinillos

The history of chocolate mirrors the history of mestizaje from Mesoamerica to modern-day Mexico and Central America, with the contemporary product serving as the result of both Mesoamerican and Spanish influences. Even the production of authentic, ancient, or traditional Mesoamerican cacao beverages and chocolate are infused with post-colonial influences, from the addition of new ingredients to entirely new techniques for crafting chocolate. Of these, the introduction of the molinillo, now considered a staple component in crafting traditional Mexican chocolate, represents the culmination of indigenous and Spanish techniques.

Pre-Conquest Mesoamerican Chocolate

Cacao was harvested and consumed as early as the Olmec civilization, with cacao originating from their word for currency, ka-ka-w [1]. The Mayans adopted cacao into their respective civilization–for consumption, as legal tender, and for rituals.

Cacao was essential for social, physical, and spiritual well-being, regarded for its medicinal, spiritual, and aphrodisiac qualities. The Mayan would prepare the batidos and other hot chocolate beverages from the ground cacao pulps. They were also used for arranging marriages, with the term tac haa, “to serve chocolate,” commonly used to describe the discussions in which they would determine marriages while drinking chocolate. Mixtec went a step further, using “cacao” as a phrase for royal marriage [2]. For the Aztecs, only the elites and wealthy consumed it because it couldn’t grow in Mexico, so they had to transport it 900 miles on their back [3].

Aztec sculpture holding a cacao pod.

Early pre-Columbian religious references to cacao are also prevalent in both Mayan and Aztec artifacts, with the Popol Vuh ascribing cacao with godly qualities and the Dresden Codex featuring cacao throughout, including consumption by the gods [4]. Likewise, in the Madrid Codex, Aztecs believed that cacao beans were the physical manifestation of Quetzalcoatl [5]. Other religious depictions included:

  • Cacao in fertility rites, with Ixchel and the rain god exchanging cacao.
  • Cacao tree depictions of royal bloodlines, with deities emerging from cacao trees with pods and flowers to symbolize their royal blood [6].

Figure: Aztec statue holding a cacao pod.

“Chocolate for the body; foam for the soul.”

Meredith Dreiss, Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods [7]

The foam produced was of special religious importance, with the foam seen as the most sacred part of the drink [8]. With this reverence toward the froth, the molinillo, as the instrument used to facilitate easier production of the froth, would also be revered and would become deeply intertwined in the chocolate-making process.

Molinillo in Mesoamerica? The Spanish Arrive

Many would expect that the Mayans and Aztecs used molinillos, since they are now regarded as crucial instruments when crafting authentic traditional chocolate beverages, but in fact, the molinillo was most likely introduced by the Spanish, possibly during the 16th century. While it is true that pre-Columbian texts mentioned turtle/tortoise shell stirring spoons and stirrers, there were no mentions of molinillos in pre-Columbian texts. Moreover, it was noticeably absent from the first Nahuatl-Spanish dictionary in 1571 [9].

Some of the possible confusion could stem from anachronistic depictions of the molinillo, such as the one below:

 “The artist has misunderstood the use of the metate [curved cacao grinding stone], and has mistakenly included the post-Conquest molinillo. (From J. Ogilby, America, London, 1671.) 

Instead, they used “small, hemispherical bowls” as drinking and mixing vessels, made with materials ranging from ceramics, to decorated calabash gourds (Crescentia cujete tree), to gold (huei tlatoani). Foam was created by pouring chocolate repeatedly between drinking vessels to produce the foam [10].

Left: 6-9th century Mayan ceramic vessel, Guatemala  | right: 7-8th century Mayan ceramic vessel, Mexico
Mayan woman producing foam via pouring technique

It wasn’t until 1780, when Jesuit Francesco Saverio Clavigero, mentioned the molinillo but not the traditional method of pouring the beverage to produce foam [11].

Molinillo: The Basics

The molinillo, a kitchen tool used to froth hot chocolate beverages, is a carved, handcrafted wooden stick, with a slender handle at one end and a knob at the other [12]. Its name is derived from its circular shape and its motion when used for producing foam resembling that of a molino (windmill) [13]. Each molinillo is unique and varies in size depending on the amount of beverage to be produced. The first iterations involved a simple ball or square at the end of a long handle. However, these soon were adapted to better facilitate frothing. Modern molinillos are crafted from a single block of wood, forming a slender wooden “whisk” with a long tapered handle and a carved knob with rings and other movable parts on the other end [14].

Each molinillo is unique, and the basic design can be flourished with details such as colored accents or ivory pieces, as well as square tops instead of rounded [15].

Molinillo with Color Accents
Molinillo with Squarish Top

Using a Molinillo

Frothing hot chocolate beverages with a molinillo is straightforward. Simply put, the slender handle is gripped between the palms, which are then rubbed together to rotate the carved knob back and forth. This motion grinds the chocolate discs used for the beverages against the pestle bottom of the drinking vessel [16], allowing the beverage to froth within a few minutes.

A Mexican Cook, “Using A Molinillo to Make Hot Chocolate.”

The motion is so simple, in fact, that the molinillo frothing process is even a popular rhyme among Mexican children and their teachers:

Bate, bate, chocolate,
tu nariz de cacahuate.
Uno, dos, tres, CHO!
Uno, dos, tres, CO!
Uno, dos, tres, LA!
Uno, dos, tres, TE!
Chocolate, chocolate!
Bate, bate, chocolate!
Bate, bate, bate, bate,
Bate, bate, CHOCOLATE![17]

Bate = Stir or whip
tu nariz de cacahuate = roughly "your peanut nose"
Uno, dos, tres = One, two, three

Crafting Molinillos

“Molinillo and chocolate depend on each other–one cannot exist without the other. “

Molinillos are carved from a single piece of wood rotating on an axis. Typically soft wood from trees like the aile mexicano (Alnus acuminata ssp. glabrata) are used for carving because they are odorless and flavorless as to not impact the flavor of the chocolate. The black sections of the molinillo are not painted; rather, the friction from the velocity of the wood spinning on the axis of the machine burns the wood a darker color, which the crafter then polishes. Once the base is completed with all the large grooves, all the smaller notch carvings (helpful for circulating the milk to increase frothiness) are completed by hand [18].

Molinillo Tradicional [Making a Molinillo from Wood]

Each molinillo is unique, and the basic design can be flourished with details such as colored accents or ivory pieces:

Artisanal Molinillo Crafting

For molinillo artisans in areas popular for their chocolate, such as 3rd generation crafter Jesus Torres Gomez, carving molinillos, among other wooden kitchen utensils, is both a skill and an artform, passed down for over 100 years as they continue to modify and perfect their craftsmanship. While he uses a motor to facilitate the rotation of the wood piece, all the carvings are completed by hand. He produces 3 types of molinillos:

  • Criollo, for making the foam for chocolate atole in the central valleys.
  • For making the foam for hot chocolate.
  • More elaborate item to serve as a decorative souvenir for tourists in Oaxaca (not meant to be used).

Similar to the more extravagant uses of chocolate and chocolate-producing equipment in Mesoamerica, these items are often also used for special events, including weddings and quinceañeras (coming of age celebration for 15th birthday) [19].

Jesus Torres Gomez, “Artesano de Molinillos”

Modern-Day Molinillos and “Authentic Recipes”

Contemporary molinillos serve more as a nostalgic artifact than a necessary tool for the average chocolate beverage consumer. For champurrado–traditional Mexican chocolate-based atole– and hot chocolate, recipes available online often include many modifications to traditional recipes, incorporating many ingredients not available to pre-Columbian Mesoamericans. For the thicker champurrado, they are often flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, cloves, and other spices, as well as grated piloncillo (raw, undefined sugar cane)[20].

Likewise, they often include milk instead of water, and they are frothed with whisks or spoons. For “authentic Mexican hot chocolate” recipes, chocolate beverages are not strictly based on traditional Mayan or Aztec chocolate recipes; similar to the effect of molinillos on chocolate crafting, they combine indigenous and Spanish influences. However, molinillos are still incorporated into more traditional recipes, particularly Oaxacan hot chocolate, which uses water instead of milk and is whisked with a molinillo [21].

Endnotes:

  • [1] Khan, Gulnaz. “Watch the Ancient Art of Chocolate-Making.”
  • [2] Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”
  • [3] Festa, Jessica. “Sweet Guatemala: A Look At The Country’s Mayan Chocolate History And Modern Experiences.”
  • [4] Martin, Carla D.
  • [5] De la Fuente del Moral, Fatima.
  • [6] Martin, Carla D.
  • [7] Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon Greenhill. Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods.
  • [8] Martin, Carla D.
  • [9] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate.
  • [10] ibid
  • [11] ibid
  • [12] Edwards, Owen. “A Historic Kitchen Utensil Captures What It Takes to Make Hot Chocolate From Scratch.”
  • [13] CORTV. Jesús Torres Gómez artesano en molinillos.
  • [14] Bowman, Barbara. “Molinillo – Mexican Chocolate Whisk (Stirrer).”
  • [15] ibid
  • [16] “Molinillo: Hot Cocoa Frother | Mexico, Wooden Stick, Traditional Hot Chocolate Grinder, Frothing Stick, Molinillos.” UncommonGoods.
  • [17] Fain, Lisa. “Mexican Hot Chocolate and a Molinillo.”
  • [18] Cocinando con Rita. Molinillo Tradicional.
  • [19] CORTV.
  • [20] Rodriguez, Vianncy. “How to Make Champurrado.”
  • [21] “How to Make Authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate.” A Side of Sweet.

Works Cited

Multimedia Cited

———. Molinillo with Squarish Top. Gourmet Sleuth, Molinillo – Mexican Chocolate Whisk (Stirrer). Accessed May 16, 2019. https://www.gourmetsleuth.com/images/default-source/articles/molinillo-3.jpg?sfvrsn=2.

From Cultural to Commercial: Cocoa’s Geopolitical Transformation

Molded by years of exposure to masterfully crafted marketing campaigns, average consumer knowledge of cacao [or cocoa] is limited to its function as an ingredient and source from which their beloved chocolate is derived. There is much more to the birth, rise, and spread of Theobroma cacao.

The following seeks to explain how a culturally significant crop among early civilizations dating back to 1500 BCE (Coe and Coe, 2013) transformed from a highly treasured ingredient and social currency cultivated within a fairly limited zone to a globally produced and traded commodity: a highly reformulated, mass-produced, and readily available confectionery product.

This journey traces cacao back to its genetic and cultural beginnings where it was religious and cultural fixture among early civilizations; how exploration and migration played into the geographical expansion of its cultivation and rise in popularity as a food; role in accelerating industrialization; and transformation from a social currency and treasured ingredient to a heavily traded commodity and mass manufactured consumer product.

Genetic and Cultural Beginnings

From births and burials, recipes and rituals, cacao’s cultural origins are linked to Mesoamerica (present day Mexico through Central America), where its social and religious significance among the Olmec dates back to 1500 to 400 BCE (Coe and Coe, 2013). The rise of Maya and Aztec civilizations gave way for cacao’s evolution utility and proliferation as a consumable.

Cacao’s Role in Society and Religion

Evidenced by archeologic discoveries, translated texts, and scientific testing, several vessels and writings have been unearthed, clarifying and validating cacao’s significance, religious ties, and early application as a currency.

Mayan and Aztec civilization associated cacao with the gods. As such, they were believed to enrich and afford protections during and after life, playing a central role in offerings and rituals (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Ceramic vessels similar to those pictured here which date back to 455 to 465 CE were found in burial tombs at Río Azul (Martin, 2019). Further testing confirmed positive traces of caffeine and theobromine—two of cacao’s alkaloid signatures (Martin, 2019).

Dating back to 455 to 465 CE, “funerary vessels” similar to those pictured here were discovered in tombs at Río Azul. As testing revealed traces of caffeine and theobromine, two of cacao’s signature alkaloids, this further supported evidence of cacao’s religious significance (Martin, 2019).

As a food or drink, cacao took many forms. Popular among the Maya and Aztec, “cacahuatl” was a frothy preparation often transferred from one vessel to another and served cold (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Described by Coe and Coe in The True History of Chocolate and drawn by Diane Griffiths Peck, this illustration provides a glimpse into one of many Maya and Aztec cacao preparation and serving methods.
Of the 15 discovered, translated, and still intact, the Dresden Codex contains the aforementioned Mayan hieroglyphic depiction of cacao being consumed by gods and used in rituals (Martin, 2019). Other major works include the Popol Vuh or “Book of Counsel” is a colonial document later translated by Friar Francisco Ximénez that reveals the importance of cacao among early civilizations.

Exploration and Migration: Changes in Cultivation and Consumption

By definition, explorers were bound to make new discoveries and learn from their experience. Capturing the innocent confusion and eye-opening experience (only to be realized years later), the following briefly details just how one explorer mistakenly thought that cacao beans were almonds.”

Mistaken for Almonds: When recounting observations from his 1502 landing at Guanaja, one of many landmasses that make up the Bay Islands archipelago, Ferdinand Columbus, one of Christopher Columbus’ sons wrote about cherished “almonds” that traded hands similarly to how currency would pass between customers and merchants (Coe and Coe, 2013). It was not until years later after multiple interpretations and sources concluded that what he presumed to be almonds were in fact cacao beans.

As it came to be more widely known, not far from where Ferdidnad landed, throughout the Rio Ceniza Valley (present day coast of El Salvador), cacao was an increasingly popular form of currency being produced and traded in record volume—something . In time, this led to further learnings about the “Nahua counting system” and subsequent adoption of cacao as payment for “protection” by Spanish conquistadors.

Generally relegated to tropical climates falling 10-15 degrees north and south of equator, is was inevitable that cacao would make its way around the world. So as people moved, and culture spread, so too did the cacao, as a crop, currency, and curiosity, ultimately leading to its introduction to new geographies, and paving the way for new industries and traditions around the world (Martin, 2019).

New Formulations and Complementary Ingredients

As ingredients such as vanilla, chili, and many others traveled around the world, pairings and formulations rapidly evolved. Marking a major development and informing direction for the confectionery side as we know it today, sugar was introduced to Europe around 1100 CE and chocolate followed shortly thereafter in 1500 CE (Martin, 2019).

Cacao’s Role in Accelerating Industrialization and Expanding its Place in Society

While cacao consumption continued to be reserved for certain classes during its journey around the world, increasingly sophisticated processing methods streamlined productions, regulation eventually brought its price down, and despite medical and religious challenges to its place in society, cacao products were increasingly available to a grander population.

By the 1600 and 1700s, advances in processing continued to align with rising and more diverse consumption habits. Of course, by this time, the separation between “producing” and “processing” countries (read: colonies vs. industrialized nations) was increasingly clear.

So while cultivation and production spread across Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa to meet demand, industry began to take shape on the consumer side as well with the emergence of social gathering halls or “Chocolate Houses” in Britain, France, Spain, the United States, and other “industrialized” nations who had transitioned to managing the cacao’s trade as a commodity and processing for various food and beverage applications. It was not until Rudolphe Lindt’s invention of the conche in 1879, an advancement that bolstered flavor and feel (among other things), and set the stage for quality, processing, and mass production to take off (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Illustrated above, the matete, grinder, and conche are examples of what cacao processing tools were used by early civilizations (and are still used in the same or similar forms today) and evolved or industrialized processing equipment employed today (Martin, 2019).

From early civilizations to present day, cacao’s role in society, cultural significance, availability and consumption have evolved tremendously. However, its mystique and association as something special are still true to this day—just as they were in different and more elaborate forms among early civilizations. Perhaps this condensed history will give pause and reason for the average consumer to think beyond commercialization of cacao, cocoa, or chocolate, and value and validate its history and claims made by brands to improve global understanding, perception, and consumer habits.

Works Cited

  • Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd Edition, Thames & Hudson, 2013.
  • Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.Hu, Vol. 3, 2015, pp. 37–60.
  • Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986.
  • Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018

Media Cited

  • Hansen, Magnus Pharao. “Cacao: How a Single Word Holds the Key to Understanding the Mesoamerican Past”. Nawatl Scholar. January 1, 1970. Accessed March 15, 2019. http://nahuatlstudies.blogspot.com/2015/01/cacao-how-contested-history-of-single.html?spref=tw.
  • Olver, Lynne. “Food Timeline FAQs: Aztec, Maya, & Inca foods and recipes”. Lynne Olver 2000. March 1, 2015. Accessed February 17, 2019. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodmaya.html.
  • Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies. “Map of Mesoamerica.” Accessed February 17, 2019. http://www.famsi.org/maps/.
  • Río Azul [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.
  • Wikimedia Commons. File:Popol vuh.jpg. (January 16, 2015). Retrieved February 17, 2019. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Popol_vuh.jpg&oldid=146695431.
  • Matete [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.
  • Grinder [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.
  • Conche [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.

Lectures Cited

  • Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Expansion”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. February 13, 2019. Lecture.
  • Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. February 20, 2019. Lecture.
  • Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.