Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage.

06 Aug
From the Historic Division of MARS Incorporated

Chapter 38

Authors: Niurka Nunez Gonzalez and Estrella Gonzalez Noriega

Title: History of Cacao Cultivation and Chocolate Consumption in Cuba

The first mention of cacao in Cuba stems from documents related to cocoa cultivation that
appear towards the end of the 16th century through the mid 17th century and report cocoa plantings in the geographical regions of Bayamo and Santiago de Cuba. At this time, however, cacao did not reach the level of an export crop compared to other locations such as Caracas, Cartagena, Cumana, Honduras, or Portobelo, though it regularly was used by Cubans as a breakfast beverage. Travel accounts dated to the mid 18th century confirms extensive cacao use, although it did not compete well against sugar cane and tobacco because the trees needed continuous care. By 1760 governmental attempts were made to diversify Cuban agriculture and this produced a boom in both cocoa and coffee production. During the 18th century chocolate was the most consumed beverage in Cuba, and coffee did not prevail until the later decades of the 19th century. Travelers to the island commented on the qualities of chocolate served in various cafes in Havana. The 1827 census reported 60 cocoa plantations, with the vast majority located in the central regions of the nation. French immigration to Cuba during the late 18th and early 19th centuries had a positive impact on cacao cultivation. Travel accounts commonly mention use of cacao/chocolate throughout the island, with a cup of chocolate commonly being taken to start the day. Chocolate was a common field ration during the Ten Years’ War (1868-1878) as reported by James J. O’Kelley, an lrish journalist and war correspondent for the New York Herald, who noted that chocolate was sweetened using honey. O’Kelley also wrote how the Cuban revolutionaries were delighted after they had captured bars of solid chocolate imported by from France by Spanish soldiers. A sudden increase in cacao production occurred in 1883, due to unexpected rises in the global price of cacao caused by military blockades of certain Pacific ports. This would be a trend that continued into the following decade. Chocolate also was manufactured in Cuba by local factories located in Santa Clara and at Baracoa. After the prolonged wars for Cuban independence, local and regional agricultural was devastated and the majority of cacao plantations in Oriental Province (eastern) were destroyed by insurgents and not re-established, and when the Cuban Republic was proclaimed in 1902, approximately 50% of the land was cultivated with sugar cane, with only 15% dedicated to the cultivation of cacao, coconuts, coffee, fruits, vegetables, and tubers. By 1928 Cuba exported 9.8 million pounds (4,900 tons) of cacao, primarily from Oriental province. During World War II cacao experienced a further resurgence but as prices fell after the conclusion of the War, production dropped, then rose again in 1952. With the Cuban Revolution in1959, agricultural diversification became a national priority and the cacao plantations in the eastern region were revitalized, and a new chocolate factory inaugurated in Baracoa in 1963. The majority of cacao farms in Cuba today are managed by small-scale farmers formed into Credit and Services Cooperatives or Agricultural Production Cooperatives.

Chapter 39

Authors: Estrella Gonzalez Noriega and Niurka Nunez Gonzalez

Title: History of Cacao and Chocolate in
Cuban Literature, Games, Music, and Culinary Arts.

Cuba has a rich cultural heritage that stems from its unique geographical location in the Caribbean. Cuba was a center for Spanish fleet operations, a reunion point for Spanish galleons returning to Spain loaded with treasures from the New World, and a debarkation point for conquest expeditions of the American continent. Providing food and supplies for the Spanish fleet and the Conquistadores required considerable hand labor. The arrival of different ethnic African groups to Cuban shores marked the birth of the Afro-Cuban traditions and their influence on different aspects of Cuban life, especially literature, music, and culinary practices. Prominent Cuban poets and novelists have included Jose Maria Heredia (1803-1839); Ramon de Palma y Romay (1812-1860); Gertrudis Gomez Avellaneda (1814-1873); Jose Marti, (1853-1895); Cirilo Villaverde, (1812-1894); Dolores Maria Ximeno y Cruz (1866–1934), and Miguel de Carrion (1875-1929); Dolores Maria Loynaz (1902-1997); and Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980). Numerous proverbs contain references to cacao or chocolate, among them: Es mas Viejo que el cacao de Mosquiter [He is older than the cacao from MosquiteroJ; Esta como agua para chocolate [He/she is like water for chocolate]; Toma chocolate, paga lo que debes [Drink your chocolate, and pay what you owe); and La cuentas claras, y el chocolate espeso [The accounts are in order, and the chocolate is well done]. Chocolate also figures prominently in the games of Cuban children, and especially is important in Cuban music through what are known as altar songs. Popular music contains numerous references to chocolate as in well known Alma Guajira [Guajira Soul) written by Ignacio Pineiro; El Bodeguero [The Groce] written by Richard Egues with its classic refrain -Drink chocolate, pay what you owe. We collected numerous chocolate recipes from Cuba and present them here, especially how to make chorote, a thick chocolate beverage, typical of Cuba. Chorote is considered an excellent food for children and adults, and appropriate for breakfast, afternoon snack, and especially good for supper when the weather is cold. Chorote, too, is considered good for lactating women as it is thought to stimulate the mammary glands and produce abundant milk for nursing infants. The importance of chocolate to Cuban history and culture is clearly demonstrated through the abundant references in Cuban literature, music, and culinary arts. Chocolate has as regional flavor within the nation, where it plays an integral role in daily meals throughout the year. It is difficult to separate chocolate as food from chocolate as medicine in the Cuban tradition.


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