Reading Belize Road Warrior Norbert Figueroa’s posts about making Maya Chocolate and visiting Maya villages in southern Belize made me recall a very special moment during my adventures in the Toledo District a couple years ago. What stuck with me the most about the three-day adventure was the short time I spent having lunch with a very humble Maya family in the village of San Pedro Colombia.
I met Cacao farmer Eladio Pop at his cacao farm where he makes a living for himself and his family of 15 children and wife. His farm spreads about 32 acres in which he grows a wide variety of fruits, spices and, in particular, the cacao plant. His main produce is the cacao which he ferments, dries and roasts for exportation to Green and Blacks in the United Kingdom to be transformed into their world renowned Mayan Gold orange flavored chocolate.
But the highlight of the visit was a special invitation from Mr. Eladio to have lunch at his home with his family. Looking around his neighborhood I could tell that he has done a very good job in sustaining his family. The thatched-roof, wooden house with a concrete base looked sturdier than the nearby wooden shacks in adjacent lots. He had electricity and running water, two great amenities of the modern world.
At the time, he had even partially erected an extension to his house, a concrete room roughly 10’ x 20’ that was used as the kitchen and dining room. He indeed needed more space for this large family. He told me that the concrete structure came as a blessing during a hurricane that struck the area; his family was able to secure shelter during the storm there.
Lunch, the traditional Belizean Rice and Beans with stew chicken, potato and plantain, was prepared outside on a fire hearth. Cooking with firewood gives food a distinctive flavor that many people find very delicious. The family spread all over the place to eat, some at the small dining table, others outside in the hammock. I opted to sit outside with one of Eladio’s smaller children; we sat on the concrete floor enjoying the beautiful day and a great view of the Maya Mountains of Belize in the background.
It was really amazing to take in the simplicity of life that Eladio’s family had adapted in the village and seemed so content with. The smaller children played in their large yard, while the older male siblings took care of cleaning it and chopping firewood. The females took care of the cooking and cleaning with their mother. It was very humbling and an eye-opening experience that I always remember.
A great treat awaited me for dessert, some sampling of freshly made cacao drink – the drink of the Maya elite. Eladio’s family gathers, ferments, dries and roasts the cacao beans but they were so nice to show us how they transform the beans into a chocolate paste that can be made into chocolate bars or a chocolate drink. (I’ll write about the process in my next post).
I thoroughly enjoyed my short time with Eladio and his family and learned so much about the Maya, the cacao farming industry in Belize and about life in general in my Beautiful Belize!
Mr. Eladio Pop’s Cacao Farm in Toledo, Belize
Mr. Eladio Pop holding a cacao fruit pod
Cooking Belizean Rice and Beans on a fire hearth
Enjoying lunch at Eladio Pop’s residence
Eladio Pop’s residence in San Pedro Colombia, Toledo, Belize