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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Celebration of Cacao

EL SALVADOR | Saturday, 4 February 2012 | Views [2287]

All three of us were up at the crack of dawn this morning! Erick and Christian were discussing going to to Cacaopera, but I was thinking of visiting the war museum in Perquin. As we ate breakfast and sipped coffee I decided on joining them! And it worked out really in my favour; I'll tell you why in a bit. The three of us walked to the communal washing area. There is no shower; we had to fill a bucket and dump it all over our bodies the old-school way. My hygiene hasn't been particularly well on this journey, but you have to take it with a grain of salt in some places. Back at the house, we filled our water bottles and I packed a few things, thinking we were just going somewhere for the day but then I heard Christian talking about camping, so I packed up my toothbrush, tent, and a whole heap of other gear. From there we filled our water bottles, said goodbye to Erick's mom and we were off on an adventure. Heading south on the bus, we got off just before San Francisco Gotera. When I called in at a tienda to pick up some toilet paper, the owner said "Do you speak English?" When I replied he told me he lived in New York for 20 years and then moved back to El Salvador recently. It's a whole different life here! Out here there's no planning months in advance just to get coffee with friends (like in LA). We hitchhiked in the bed of a pickup with the sun beaming straight on us and after 20 minutes or so we were in Cacaopera. I'd think it means "chocolate pear" but it doesn't. Seeking out some grub we got a plate of casamiento, steak, and fried plantains. El Salvador is famous for pupusas but I still haven't tried some. Elections for the Morazan district are coming up, and there's a big rally here in the central square. Everyone seems to be wearing orange and blue T-shirts saying GANA.

Politics are big in Central America, and just about every country except Costa Rica has had a corrupt government at one point. Now it's peaceful and travellers have more than trickled in. After sipping some hot cacao, Christian, Erick, and I got an ice cream and then caught a rickshaw to an ethnographic Maya museum seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. It was hot as we trekked up a hill but I must say it's extremely beautiful! El Salvador is the most deforested country in Central America but you couldn't tell with what I've seen. With our heavy backpacks, we put our stuff down, and a boy spoke in Spanish as he showed us around the musuem. There's traditional dress and various information on the Kakawira and other Maya tribes. Most of the info was in Spanish so I couldn't understand a lot of it. As interesting as the museum itself is the toilet: it's a concrete pit toilet and the toilet paper holder has a tiny map of El Salvador on it.

The indigenous people are called the Kakawira and their traditions staunchly survive here. After our museum tour, we were invited with a group of others to have lunch. We had already eaten but we took up the offer. At 3 PM there was going to be a Mayan ceremony for the celebration of cacao. This only happens once a year! Photos are not allowed at Mayan ceremonies due to spiritual reasons; it's one of those memories that I have to keep in my heart. The ceremonial site has a pole in each corner, and each corner has a different colour: red, white, black, and yellow. Red means initiation, white means refinement, black means transformation, and yellow means completion.

We all got to participate, and a fire was lit; we burned candles, cacao beans and wood in the fire. Liquid cacao was poured all around the fire. The locals, dressed in traditional Maya attire chanting to the gods calling for a bountiful cacao harvest this year. What a special ceremony! It was dark and the moon was out by the time the ceremony was finished, and we had to express our spirit and give someone a hug at the end. Miguel, the museum director told us that we could stay at the hut that night. Our plan was to camp, but we decided on staying here. When Erick asked how much it'd cost, Miguel said "nothing." When we put our stuff in the hut, we walked up to the museum for dinner. A cup of cacao alongside some good food tasted great, and I was chatting to a man named Ricardo. When I asked about his travels he said he'd been to Japan and that he lived briefly in the United States. I really wanted his T-shirt: it said "El Salvador" across the front and had a handprint and footprint, but I can pick up a T-shirt in San Salvador or Suchitoto. When we were talking about the photography restriction, he explained that the Mayans are very spiritual people, and that photography is said to capture and steal the spirits. When you travel, there are going to be many moments in which you can't take photos. For me, some of those include the glowworms at Waitomo, the turtles at Tortuguero, and so forth. Many museums, churches, etc. don't allow photos. After dinner we helped wash dishes and we then rested in the hammocks for awhile. Rain is on the forecast for tonight, so that's part of why Miguel offered us a bed. Dark clouds filled the sky and I can see lightning off in the distance but I could hear no thunder. Stars were shining through and it's beautiful! We're far, far away from the nearest big city. El Salvador, you are charming! The hut is rustic: no electricity and made of mud bricks, and you can open the window to see the stars right from your bed. It's like I'm in a dream...

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