Sacred Cacao: a bittersweet process that makes me feel rooted at home

I love cacao’s flavor. I love the raw dark bitter cacao sabor. I was introduced to its taste while in the womb of my mother, and during the first forty days after birth through the breastfeeding period.

In Indigenous traditions, a person has to drink hot cacao for the first forty days after giving birth. Its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components support the body’s healing process. It also connects to an emotional need for warmth and connection. 

Cacao was a beautiful treat and one of the very first traditions mother and grandmother introduced and taught our family. One of the underlying lessons was that when feeling sad, there are ancestral home rituals for comfort that I can do to support me to feel apapachada within. 

Mother and I shared this bonding time [second lesson] while doing the process together, I call this a circle of deep love. I recall one weekend on my routine trips from college where I visited her at our village. I was feeling down because one of my professor’s teaching styles was very challenging and I was afraid of not passing the course. 

Mother knew me very well, so she used her spiritual wisdom to find ways to support me. She didn’t experience that type of challenge as she was not financially able to attend college, but she knew how to be compassionate and caring with my siblings and me so we felt that no matter what, she loved us unconditionally. 

That weekend, she went to meet me in Chalatenango city so we could go to the market together. We bought a few essential goods and one of the most important parts of this was buying cacao beans. We both loved the exquisite flavor of hot cacao drink. We rode the bus together for about an hour. When we got home, we prepared a meal together. Afterwards, we knew we wanted to talk but to get to that point, we needed to follow the process that made me feel rooted. 

We began by carrying wood to the Adobe kitchen stove where we made the beautiful fire. Hum, I can still smell that smoky scent filling our home with the dance of the wind and fire elements fused. Once the wood seemed to be burning, we would get un trapito, wet it in water, and use it to clean the comal de barro. The latter is a very important cooking tool as part of Indigenous traditions in Central America [with capitalist influence, this ancestral tool is commercialized as a metal skillet nowadays]. 

Once the comal was at a specific temperature, we would put the cacao beans to roast. Mother and I would talk while moving the beans and letting them roast to the specific taste we wanted. Hum, I take a deep breath in now, as I remember how all these smells filled the kitchen with a deep sense of home. She would ask me “how are you doing?” and I would sigh and respond “not so good mami, college is really hard, college is not a system that supports people like us from the rural communities”. Then, she would come closer and hug me, then I would cry in her regazo as I surrendered.   

How are you doing mama?” I would ask, and she would tell me about the various struggles going on in the community, and her frustrations with some of the leaders. Then, I would come closer and hug her, she would then surrender and cry. We both would sit in the discomfort of our respective struggles while we continued to roast the cacao beans. The next step was to bring two chairs to the patio under the cashew, mango and coconut trees as we peeled the cacao beans together. She would hold the huacal with the roasted beans and I would hold the huacal with the peeled cacao. Our fingernails got black and rusty from all the peeling. 

Mother would begin singing and I would tag along. Then, we would start sharing stories in which collective resilience was at the center, sharing so much laughter. Bien juntitas we walked to the molino to grind the cacao while mixing it with some brown sugar cane, and cinnamon. We would cover the huacal in which we carried it with a manta embroidered with so much love. On our way back home we would greet every person we encountered “buenas tardes”. 

When the moment to make hot cacao drink  arrived, mother would place a pan with water to boil and then add the cacao mix, she would stir and stir until it thickened, she would always point out that the amount of cacao should be more than the amount of water so the result of this magic process brought an intense flavor: bittersweet

Once it was perfectly cooked, she would serve us both a cup. In this ritual we both loved sitting next to each other on the hamaca while holding hands and talking. Cacao was not only our treat, it was the process of an unspoken language of love, an active unconditional love. Cacao was our way to open up our souls and lift each other up emotionally and spiritually. Mother supported me with her wisdom which in turn she received from her mother. Today I am humbly grateful for all those sacred moments together. Mama, thank you for your spiritual visit last Sunday, thank you for whispering this story on mother’s day.

May Mama Marcela’s spirit rest in power

May Mamita Virginia’s spirit rest in power

May all the womxn in our lineage before them rest in power.


Copyright © 2020-2021, Erika Murcia | All Rights Reserved

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