2012, known as the year of the Maya, is expected to be a year of cultural events throughout the country of Belize. In the Toledo District, where the Maya comprise approximately 50% of the population it will be no different. This year, in particular, the Cacao Fest organizers have ensured that the festival committee involves the local Maya people.
The Cacao Festival is embarking on its 6th annual event and is hoping that this year will be at least as well-attended as the previous years have been. The goal of the Cacao Festival is to raise awareness of the Toledo District with the result of that goal being improved lives of the local people through increased tourism and its ripple effects.
This year the Cacao Festival will run over three dates beginning in the evening of Friday May 18, 2012. There will be day long events and activities over Saturday May 19 and Sunday May 20. With Monday May 21 being a national holiday, Victoria Day, the revellers can fully participate in the events and spend the holiday recovering.
Starting the 2012 Cacao Festival will be a talk given by Dr. Jaime Awe. He will be talking about the Maya Calendar 2012 and it will be presented at 2:00 p.m. at the TCGA conference room on Main Street.
Then we move to the culinary event of the day—the Wine and Chocolate Fest. Same as last year, the event will be held at The Coral House Inn, hosted by Darla and Rick Mallory. The evening will be spent tasting wines and chocolate hors d’oeuvres. The actual menu is kept secret until the evening itself but past menus have included small tamales with chocolate flakes. So be sure to expect more interesting varieties of local Maya foods with chocolate influences.
As well, there will be musical entertainment of a jazz persuasion along with a solo musical presentation, by TumulKin Center of Learning Marimba Boys and Harp Music by Florencio Mes. Present will be local chocolate artisans and connoisseurs presenting their particular lines of chocolate. Included are Kakaw Chocolate, Goss Chocolate, Cotton Tree Chocolate, Cyrilla’s Chocolate and others.
Last year the attendance reached 350 who enjoyed this interesting combination of “sinful” treats. Of course, true chocolate connoisseurs know that real chocolate is not “sinful”, just delicious!
Saturday, May 19
The events on Saturday are structured to promote the Toledo District’s food and crafts, through culture and harmony.
The Saturday is set to take advantage of bus and market day. Even though the open-air market is open several days a week, the Saturday is the busiest day. Eight or ten buses filled with villagers from surrounding villages come to town to sell their food and crafts at the market. Front Street will be closed to vehicular traffic to make room for participating vendors who have paid for a booth to be active participants in the food fest.
There will be 6 different ethic groups represented at the food fair—Maya, Garifuna, East Indian, Mestizo, Kriol and Mennonites. Part of the emphasis this year for the vendors will be working the booth with a green attitude—ensure garbage is placed in appropriate receptacles, natural materials are used to decorate the booth and preferably the booth holders will be able to demonstrate the process involved in the making of their particular craft. In order to please repeat visitors the vendors are encouraged to create and demonstrate new recipes and crafts each year.
As well, during the daytime there will be events titled Cacao for Kids, Sea Toledo Marine, Cacao Trail Tours.
Cacao for Kids is a scheduled fun-time for children. There will be short documentaries presented on how chocolate is made, from the perspective of a cacao farmer. The Toledo Cacao Growers Association building will be used as a cacao market presenting how cacao was used as a currency for bartering or trade.
Cacao Trail Tours was first promoted by Toledo Cacao Growers Association where visitors have an opportunity to visit the farms involved in the cacao trade. T.I.D.E., Cotton Tree Lodge, and Belcampo Lodge have been participants in the past.
On Saturday evening the Cacao Festival turns its attention to the adults of the crowd. There is a variety of music planned, from jazz to Garifuna to Caribbean featuring Toledo’s locals like Lila Vernon, and District guests such as the New Rebels and a special Maya presentation by Palenque Rojo of Chiapas, Mexico There are several restaurants scheduled to participate and each will be presenting a different flavour, according to their own specialty. Fireworks are expected to be part of the concert evening this year as well.
Sunday, May 20
Day 3 of the Cacao Festival is scheduled as a day of culture, with specific focus on the Maya, and is set with the backdrop of the Lubaantun archaeological reserve. The atmosphere is expected to be subdued, respectful; keeping in mind the location which was used as a sacred Maya reserve.
Booths will be set up at the site, to promote foods, arts and crafts of the district. The activities of the day will focus on Maya history. This will unfold through a series of talks and tours of the archaeological reserve as well as in the form of the Deer Dance and a presentation by Palenque Rojo of Chiapas Mexico.
At various times throughout the day there will be live presentations with a renowned archaeologist and during the time between the presentations the participants can sit on blankets and enjoy the music or visit the booths. Or take in the local nature directly.
The closing activities are being held as a secret this year, but they are expected to be quite entertaining.