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Guatemala visit Jan 2011 - contacts sought

I’m going to Guatemala sometime in January or the first half of February 2011. My main objectives are to observe & record manufacture of traditional cacao drinks (Mayan recipes from before the conquest) and obtain samples of plants used in these drinks (e.g. "Ear Flower"). Additionally I'd like to find out more about the role of cacao in Mayan healing, ritual & cosmography/myth. Could anybody help me out or suggest any contacts? I’m particularly looking for specialists in this area or locals who could introduce me to the right people. Any help would be greatly appreciated as at the moment I have no contacts in this area.

Muchas gracias de antemano, gente amable! Marcos

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Comment by Mark J Sciscenti on October 2, 2010 at 11:53am
Hi Marcos, Thanks for your thoughts. I agree. Morphogenic fields include Tai Chi (I practiced that for a small bit as well). It is all synergistic.

As to astrology, you will laugh, my partner of 16 years has been studying astrology for over 20 years, and we are friends with Darrelyn Gunzburg and Bernadette Brady over on your side. Along with Liz Greene, they all love the chocolate I make, especially historic drinking chocolates and the chili chocolate disks. Darrelyn and Bernadette were just here in Santa Fe hosting a StarLogos Conference early last month. You can look up their webstite:

Do you have a website? I don't know if you've looked it up.

As to the recommendation by Sebastian, I have that particular book and while there is some good information, I've found some inaccuracies as well as poor writing. The focus is mostly on later chocolate history. I think that that book is a mixed bag.

Contact Nat Bletter too, he is really working down in Oaxaca on this subject too. Good luck with your travels! -Mark
Comment by Marcos Patchett on October 1, 2010 at 5:02pm
Thanks guys. Seb I'll check the book out.

Mark - I hear you, really. I like the 'morphogenic field' phrase a lot. I also think nature overproduces in all areas, so when you're doing/thinking something like as not several other people in the world are doing similar! I had a moment like that 3 yrs ago in a bookshop; I'm also an astrologer learning renaissance & classical astro on the sly, and I've been studying Wu Style Tai Chi for 10 yrs. Then I saw a published astrology textbook by some chap stateside who teaches Tai Chi and has been a herbalist for 25 yrs! Bang went my smug sense of individuality. I think being a herbalist one needs not to be massively ego-driven anyway, it should be about sharing the info and sorting people out with a modest slice of personal satisfaction on the side. That said I hope we both get to publish and they're both bloody good books. Given how much I enjoy reading about chocolate and plants I think I'll enjoy reading yours!

Anyhow. The shop situation sounds like bitter medicine but I guess being philosophical it wasn't what you were supposed to be doing at the time. Having your dreams crapped on from a great height is nobody's idea of fun but at least you know where all the pitfalls are afterwards (once you've hosed yourself off). I think if your prioriy is to be authentic and accurate and do things well rather than cut corners and shout loudest, then things take a lot of time and several (at least) major setbacks (not 'When in Rome do as the Romans do', rather 'Rome wasn't built in a day'!)

I'll let you know how I get on for sure. Yes it would be great to meet up & swap notes at some point too! All the best, Marcos
Comment by Sebastian on September 27, 2010 at 8:48pm
If you haven't already, i recommend you take a look at the following book:

I think you'll find some good information in it.
Comment by Mark J Sciscenti on September 25, 2010 at 2:05am
Thanks Sebastian, Thanks Marcos. I've been to the UC Davis site before and their work seems quite thorough. I am familiar with the project coordinator Louis Grivetti from papers I've read. As an independent researcher, I have a lot to learn and can use all the help I can get. The folks over at UC Davis are on the cutting edge it seems. I've just sent an email to get contact.

Marcos, I've only been studying the history of chocolate since late 1999. My passion is for recreating these historic drinking chocolates, and as I am unable to procure the original Mesoamerican spices, I use herbs and spices that have similar flavors. I've tried quite a few but some I've still yet to try and go on what the historic documents or friends say they taste like. As an herbalist, I am wary of consuming a few of these as they have known detrimental effects on the body. Nat is also trying some of these herbs in chocolate.

I too was surprised and am a bit ambivalent about finding someone else doing this work, but you know what? This information is already out there and I am really more surprised that someone has not written a book yet. Plus this passion is in the morphogenic field. I've really wanted to write a book as well on this very subject and am working on it but I just happen to have gotten really sidetracked with starting a chocolate shop where I live (where I served all these historic drinking chocolates), and which I ran for 4 years.

Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, a dishonest manipulative and abusive financial partner, and extreme duress, I left the shop I created a year ago last June. Long story and some hard lessons about not blindly trusting people.

So keep doing what you are doing Marcos - maybe sometime we can meet and speak at length. I think that would be fun. The knowledge IS hard won, and the same for me, but I love sharing my passion. That is why I have been giving lectures and presentations around the US on the history of chocolate. As far as I know, here in the US there are only a few chocolate historians who actually make the historic drinking chocolates. Most only focus on a specific time period and serve only what is relevant to that time period. My historical interest and taste bud have been on trying the full gamut and presenting this.

My herbal medicine training is what has allowed me to really appreciate and fully understand how to treat, prepare and utilize herbs in making these historic preparations. Without that training I doubt that I could have even begun to approach making the chocolate drinks.

I also understand about the lack of funds in which to do the ground research, but stick with your passion!

Very few of us out there doing this work. Keep it up and let me know how your trip goes. - Mark
Comment by Sebastian on September 18, 2010 at 12:35pm
I've actually done a ton of work in this area. Here's a good list of materials that will get you started if you're interested...
Comment by Marcos Patchett on September 17, 2010 at 5:01pm
Thanks Mark & Clay, much appreciated! I'll contact both. I visited Chiapas in 2008 for this purpose - my issue as usual is no funding, poor Spanish (getting better), no contacts. I didn't really get very far in Chiapas to be honest, I had better luck in Oaxaca last time. Now I have one or two contacts there though so I'll probably go back. I'm going to try and make next year's trip my last 6 weeker though as I'm self-employed with a pittance of an income & I'll be flat broke on coming back, and then it takes another 3 months to build my practice back up to pre-sabbatical levels, so whatever I visit this time has to count! I've got C McNeil's excellent anthology & Coe & Coe, both really good, and managed to bring a few plant samples back from Mexico in 2008 to experiment with, really to do the same thing as you Mark. I really didn't know whether to be bummed or excited that there's another medical herbalist (!) doing exactly what I'm doing (!!) on the other side of the Atlantic - only you've been doing it for longer. I've wanted to write a book on the traditional medicinal uses of cacao-based drinks since 2001 when I started studying herbal medicine in earnest, but only began researching it properly in 2006 so you're a decade ahead Mark! Ultimately I hope that the books we produce will be sufficiently different in content, perspective, style etc. to justify their existence. I'm very grateful that you've offered to share some of your experience and slightly shamed that I feel more reluctant to share specifics of my hard-won knowledge yet, no doubt feeling as though I have more to prove to myself. I'll keep you updated and I'll be in touch properly when I'm back from Guatemala & Mexico next year. Suerte grande, Marcos
Comment by Clay Gordon on September 13, 2010 at 7:16pm
ChocolateLife member Carlos Eichenberger (Danta Chocolate, member name Cheebs) is in Guatemala City - you might want to try connecting with him.
Comment by Mark J Sciscenti on September 12, 2010 at 1:37pm
Contact Cameron McNeil, Department of Anthro, Lehman College, The City University of New York. Email Address: Phone Number: 718.960.8129 Office: Davis Hall, 425A. She might know contacts. She's studied down mostly down in Honduras but has material. She wrote the book "Chocolate in Mesoamerica, A Cultural History of Cacao".

Nat Bletter (on this site) would be good to contact too. He is an Ethno-botanist and will know of these plants.

You've read Sophie & Michael Coes book "The True History of Chocolate" yes? Many references to traditional Mayan drinking chocolates.

You might also travel in Chiapas and Oaxaca and Tabasco MX looking for these. A lot of these traditional plants originally used in drinking chocolates are quite rare and endangered now, and are not really used in chocolate much so you might have a hard time finding them. I've made quite a study of this subject over the last 10 years and have been lecturing on this. I also have recreated Mesoamerican style drinking chocolates which I serve at my lectures and presentations. Feel free to contact me. -Mark

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