March 11 - 15, 2019
Maya Mountain Research Farm, Belize
AN IMMERSIVE CHOCOLATE EXPERIENCE IN THE HEART OF BELIZE. TASTE THE FRUIT, PROCESS THE BEANS, DELIGHT IN THE FOOD OF THE GODS.
EAT AND DRINK THE PURE FORM OF CHOCOLATE TO YOUR HEART’S DESIRE IN ITS MANY PREPARATIONS AND FORMS, LEARN ABOUT THE PROCESS BEHIND CHOCOLATE, FROM BEAN TO CUP AND BAR.
MEET LOCAL CACAO FARMERS AS YOU EXPLORE THE BEAUTIFUL LUSH KEQ’CHI MAYAN LAND. CONNECT WITH THE ANCESTRAL WISDOM OF THOSE WHO NOURISH AND SUPPORT THIS SACRED BEAN.
Highlights of Cacao Convergence…
Cacao ceremonies have been practiced by many indigenous communities like the Mayans and Aztecs for centuries, due to their heart-opening, mind focusing qualities; connecting the community together while bringing a deeper sense of self. This medicine is being adopted today by Westerners as we take the first steps away from an industrialized, disconnected, chemical-heavy society on our journey back to the source of life. Mayan elders will lead us through this sacred tradition back to the heart. We will also offer modern ways of how this plant medicine is being shared today through ceremony and ritual.
We are surrounded by a cacao forest. This is an invitation to find ourselves in direct contact with this sacred plant. Why is this plant so revered by ancient and modern-day cultures alike? Meet cacao farmers, learn about the processes of cultivation and fermentation, taste the fruit, and spend time with the trees in their native endemic habitat.
Learn from premier chocolatiers how to make chocolate. From ceremonial cacao beverages to truffles and tempered bars, you will make a variety of delicious treats while learning about the tools, techniques, alchemy, and science behind one of the world's most sacred treats.
Cacao History & Mythology
Cacao comes from the land of the Ancient Maya, the plant is symbolic and highly valued. In fact, at one point, the beans were used as currency for trade. Listen to the history and folklore from the region about this sacred plant that shaped the Maya civilization.
Our body is our largest organ and it protects us from ultraviolet sunlight and dangerous microbes. Do you give your skin the attention it deserves? Learn how to care for our skin by making cacao butter products like chapstick and salves.
Mayan Sacred Fire Ceremony
The fire ceremony gives life and energy to all those who participate. The sacred fire is the centerpiece of rituals and ceremonies in the Mayan culture. For thousands of years, the Maya have engaged in sacred fire ceremony to honor the four directions, invoke the Nawales or energies of the sacred calendar while communicating and receiving messages from the ancestors. Experience a traditional fire ceremony, give thanks to Mother Earth, and feel the warmth of community around the fire.
Walk and Harvest Step into the mystical cacao forest and learn from experienced cacao farmers about the diverse orchard, how to care for the trees, and identify different varieties of cacao. Then, harvest a mountain of ripe cacao pods that we will process into chocolate.
Permaculture is one of the most valuable and potent technologies accessible to humans today. It gives us the tools to plant and water the seeds of the new system. It is grounded in ancient indigenous traditions. It is more than growing food - it is growing and cultivating life. Be immersed in a living, breathing permaculture education center, and learn both hands-on techniques and their conceptual foundations from internationally renowned professional permaculture instructors and local experts.
Yoga and movement
Yoga has been in existence for thousands of years, a powerful practice that aligns mind, body, and spirit in the cultivation of awareness and presence. When we achieve this state of presence, we can bring it with us into each moment of the day.
What You’ll Love about Mayan Mountain Research Farm …
Mayan Mountain Research Farm is located near the Kekchi Maya village of San Pedro Columbia and the Maya ruins of Lubaantun, close to the source of the Rio Grande. With the Columbia Branch of the Rio Grande at its doorstep and the vast expanses of the Maya Mountains behind it, MMRF is located in a critical location for conservation. Wildlife is abundant here, with hundreds of species of birds, and occasionally mammals like ocelot, puma, jaguar, brocket deer, agouti, tapir and peccary. A high percentage of the food eaten on the farm is produced on site. Most of the work here is agrarian, involving planting and maintaining plants, harvesting and processing food.
MMRF has 15 acres of land managed as an agroforestry system that has reached the level of maturity and is used as canopy for sub canopy species like cacao, coffee and cardamom. This cacao is established in the context of a completely created agroforestry system with multiple species. This agroforestry system closely mimics the ecological functions of an intact ecosystem, with nutrient cycling, varied fruiting/flowers episodes, and a vertically integrated production model that resembles the arboreal architecture of the primary rainforest.
MMRF has a well established seed bank of rare and indigenous cacao. Except for some trials on a Nicaraguan heirloom criollo, and some Venezuelan cacao, all of the cacao grown here originates in the Maya Mountains.
Much of this cacao is criollo heavy trinitarios which were hybrid cacaos created in this watershed with the first colonization of the watershed by the first wave of Kekchi Maya migration, arriving here in around 1900. The cacao that the Kekchi brought in with them was already a criollo heavy trinitario, with a minimum of 75% criollo. A percentage of it was crossed with pure criollo cacao that was encountered here, creating cacao that is almost pure criollo. It is a very robust and productive cacao that yields superior cacao beans for chocolate.
How to Get There…
Fly to Philip Goldson International Airport, then get a national flight to Punta Gorda which can be done on Maya Island Air or on Tropic Air.
Punta Gorda is the closest town to Maya Mountain Research Farm.
We have organized transportation from Punta Gorda to MMRF for $125 round trip, which include a 2 van/bus rides and 2 boat rides.
Meet your Facilitators…
Co-Producer + Workshop Facilitator
Marissa is a lover of all things chocolate and is one of the co-producers of Cacao Convergence. She has been working with food from seed-to-table for the last eight years as a permaculture designer, garden educator and homesteader. In 2018, Marissa completed a year long apprenticeship at Rancho Mastatal Sustainability Center in Costa Rica, where she studied and applied agroforestry techniques, harvested and processed tropical produce, and curated farm-to-table menus and dishes for guests.
As a lover of quality food, she enjoys exploring the world of fermentation and has made a number of products. While in Costa Rica, she volunteered with La Iguana Chocolate and helped harvest and process chocolate. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with minors in Biology and Geography from San Francisco State University and has completed two Permaculture Design Courses from IMAP and Rancho Mastatal. Marissa is a renaissance (wo)man -- she is a designer, natural builder, place maker, culinary artist, educator, and event producer. Her work is driven by and values the regeneration of our planet. She is inspired by the intersection of restoration ecology, food systems, and social justice.
Founder of Maya Mountain Research Farm + Workshop Facilitator
Christopher founded and operated Maya Mountain Research Farm and Maya Mountain Cacao. He has been based on the land in Belize for 25 years, growing up a tropical food forest and off-grid education centre out of a cattle field.
Co-Producer + Workshop Facilitator + Ceremonialist
Florencia is a natural-born healer and self-empowerment artist working with heart opening therapies involving holistic nutrition, Ceremonial Grade Cacao, yoga, sound journeys, and breath work as instruments for transformation; creating a safe vessel for self exploration. She facilitates ceremonies in different cities within the US and Central/South America.
She has worked with Maya elders from Guatemala, studied at Las Piramides Del Ka-- a metaphysics training that dives deep into the consciousness of dreams and meditation, has been working with rebirthing (a breathing modality) since the age of 8 with further training in her late teens, and received her yoga certification from Laughing Lotus in 2013.
In 2016, Florencia and her brother started a distribution company known as Cacao Lab to bridge the gap between the modern culture and the indigenous communities. Her mission is to expand the hearts and minds of those who are ready to wake up. Bringing consciousness to the importance of honoring the indigenous traditions and the indigenous communities living these traditions.