“I who come from Tabasco
with knots of Mayan blood
where the ground cacao
gave a new meaning to water”
Carlos Pellicer Cámara
Jose’s family is a typical Tzotzil family. They work hard in the milpa and cacaotales throughout the day and they only eat what they grow, which sounds modest, but they grow a great diversity of traditional crops. They grow up to 40 different crop and tree species in their cacaotales alone, including such delicacies as cacao, tomatillo, chili, vanilla, allspice, cinnamon, breadnut, and annatto. All grows under the canopy of cedar and other forest trees. In the traditional milpa, maize grows together with beans, pumpkin and melon. And they have perfected the same farming – and culinary – traditions for millennia.
They bring in freshly harvested cacao fruits. Furrowed, bright yellow and red pods. I am obsessed with the fruit-pulp that encases the cacao beans: it tastes so sweet and fresh. Maria Suzanna roasts the cacao beans lightly over the fire and grind them together with maize. As she stirs the drink with a peculiar-looking wooden tool, the Pozol – as they call this drink – becomes frothy. They make the Pozol every morning, as the indigenous people of the Selva Zoque have done for 4000 years since the ancient Olmecs invented it. Night and day meet in the Pozol: cacao, traditionally grown in shade, represents the night, the underworld and rebirth, while maize, grown in the sun, represents the day and the light. In Mesoamerican cultures, the world of shadows is not to be feared, but to be celebrated in its balance with the light.
To this family, the Pozol is something that they make daily to take care of themselves since it’s a great source of nutrients. It’s their 5 am routine, the awakening of the day. As you drink the freshly made Pozol, you really get a sense of place, a sense of the history and traditions of this amazing place and these amazing people.
“Cacao is our traditional way of life”, as Jose tells me. He adds that his family uses 60Kg of cacao in their kitchen annually, which they use for Pozol, Polvillo, and Mole.
Photos by: Jacqueline Dersjant – PHTGRPHR