Until Terry G., an archaeologist, discovered a container with cacao residue in tombs from the Maya era, we know that cacao has been used from as early as 500 BC. Cacao has played a significant role in Maya people’s life. The cacao culture has been inherited by generations and generations till now. Nowadays, we consume chocolate which is a result of processed cacao, and its importance in today’s life can reflect its role back to 500 BC.
The fact that chocolate is nothing that can rarely be found nowadays might have just confused us its importance in our life. One may not be a big chocolate fan, however, there is a great chance that he/she has or will purchase a box of chocolate one day in their life as a gift to someone else. It is so common that people put down chocolate on their holiday shopping lists. Not just holidays; visiting a dear friend, wishing someone good health, and coming back from a trip to Europe can all be the scenarios that people choose chocolate as the present. This social norm of using chocolate as a way of expressing gratitude can perfectly reflect the fact that cacao was once used as currency in the 15th during Aztec era. To have a better understanding, one tomatoes relatively equals to one cacao bean. What we can draw from this is the social status of cacao. There is no need to mention the honor one was receiving when the Emperor Moctezuma II served his guests with cacao drinks. In addition, soldiers come home from victories would be invited by the ruler to the palace and consume cacao drink. Same as early as in the Maya era during the 7th century, cacao was also a symbol of royal blood. Picture below is a portrayal of lady Zac-Kuk. The interpretation of this painting shows she was painted as a cacao tree, which we can see from the top part of her head where the flowers and pods can be found to represent her royal identity.
Other than being used as a trade of currency, cacao also showed its importance through traditions of marriage during Maya era. Picture below illustrates a typical conversation scenario between the boyfriend and the girl’s father. The boyfriend would serve cacao drinks to her father as a respectful way of inviting him to discuss the marriage. The Mayan term associated here is “tac haa” which means “to serve chocolate”. The use of chocolate drink here, again, explained how the Mayans have seen cacao more than just a type of food, but more like a symbolic representation. Fast forward to 2015, when we think about weddings, chocolate somehow would jumps into our mind. Because of its taste of sweetness, not necessarily, chocolate often has been used to represent love. For example, contemporary chocolate companies always implement a great amount of love related elements into their commercials. For instance, the attached link below is a chocolate commercial that give audience a sense of romance, satisfaction and sex. Throughout the commercial we can see how the girl was enjoying the chocolate, thus chocolate also often give people the sense of happiness.
Chocolate Commercial Link:
In conclusion, no matter in which part of our daily life, chocolate has been used to serve a very similar function or purpose through centuries. To say that the modern role of chocolate reflects its cultural history in the Maya era, we must always appreciate the culture our ancestors have brought to us.
1. Maricel, Presilla. The New Taste of Chocolate. N.p.: Ten Speed Press, 2009. 9-40. Print.
2. Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 1996. Print.