From a recent chat with Rafael Trigueros Hecht, President of the small cacao cooperative ES-CACAO in El Salvador, here is the story about Mesoamerican cacao and Finca Cuyancúa, near the volcano Izalco:
The history of cacao in El Salvador is very old, dating back to about 3000 years ago, at the time of the Olmecs and Mayas that stirred the west of the country. They were the ones who domesticated the cultivation of cacao, for their consumption in special events and as currency.
When the Spaniards arrived in these lands in 1525, they already found large cacao plantations in the area of Izalco, where our farm Cuyancúa de Izalco in El Salvador, Soconusco in southern Mexico, and Suchitepequez in Guatemala began.
The eruptions of the volcano Izalco in the 1700s caused the original Salvadorian cacao plantations diseases and losses. Production declined due to epidemics that decimated the indigenous population, external political conflicts, and the growing competition from large producers such as Venezuela and Ecuador. Gradually, cacao was replaced with coffee, cotton, and sugar cane, and with it went the knowledge and technical capacity for producing and growing cacao. There were very few old cacao plantations left in El Salvador, Finca Cuyancúa being one of them.
In 2009, we created a cooperative of several farmers interested in recovering this millennial crop, called ES-CACAO, of which I am the President.
In 2014, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation provided $20 million to boost cacao planting in the country, especially among small farmers.
Through the project Alianza Cacao, estimates indicate that in over five years 4,500 metric tons of cacao can be produced, contributing to import substitution, and positioning the country as a net exporter and place of origin of high quality, fine aromatic variety cacao.
Some photos from Finca Cuyancúa: