Picture this scenario: You shop at a local boutique and find an outfit that’s exactly what you’ve been looking for. After trying it on, you realize it looks even better on you than it did on the hanger. You head for the cash register and hand over a stash of M&Ms, Hershey bars and a selection of chocolates instead of cash or your credit card.
A fantasy? Of course. But once upon a time, the Mayas inhabiting great swaths of middle America used cacao beans as currency, exchanging it for the essentials and luxuries families purchased at the markets they frequented. According to a fascinating new study published originally by "Economic Anthropology," and recently by ZMEScience.com, chocolate's value has far exceeded its pleasure-giving value for hundreds of years.
While Maya glyphs, artwork and other archaeological evidence refers to chocolate drinks as the elixir of the gods and preferred beverage of elite society, commoners were equally enthralled with the bitter beverage made by cooking ground beans, chilis and water. But the practice of using beans as currency took time to gain acceptance.
That finally happened by the middle of the 7th century. Used as a trading medium, cacao beans appear on art that shows a villager serving a chocolate beverage to a man in exchange for bread dough. This transaction depicts the growing value of these beans and marks an era when they were commonly bartered for goods and services. By 900 AD, both cacao beans and cloth were regularly used to pay taxes to ruling families.
Sometimes called “black gold” due to its value and color, chocolate was beloved by the Maya society where it remained a centerpiece of celebrations, rituals and important occasions. That hasn't changed. When Belizeans celebrate weddings, birthdays and holidays, they serve chocolate and Belizean chocolate products in the form of candies, wines and even barbecue sauces continue to contribute to the nation's economy.
In fact, Belize pays tribute to chocolate at the end of May each year with an annual Chocolate Festival that draws attendees from around the globe. Where can you get your biggest chocolate fix while you wait for the 2019 festival? At Cahal Pech Village Resort in Cayo, a region that was once an epicenter of Maya life.
Your Cahal Pech host can book a chocolate tour for you when you’re not enjoying the resort’s accommodations or indulging in menu delights served at the on-site gourmet restaurant. If you’re going to immerse yourself in the richness, taste and history of chocolate, there is no sweeter vacation spot than Belize, and if you take advantage of the resort's activities and tours, you won't gain a pound, no matter how much chocolate you consume.