Mexican Chocolate Co-op Stems Migration North

Chocolate is made from mixing sugar with cocoa paste and cocoa butter. (Photo via Diario de Mexico)

Chocolate is made from mixing sugar with cocoa paste and cocoa butter. (Photo via Diario de Mexico)

Santiago Atzizihuacán, in the Mexican state of Puebla, is a place where immigration to New York is the bread and butter [of survival]. But local women are trying to change their community’s history by launching micro-businesses that produce an artisanal chocolate, Atzireal, which is made right in town.

“The women of our town started this enterprise because there was a lot of immigration. A huge number of people are in New York and the town was losing businesses and job opportunities,” said Fabiola Rivera, a young woman from Santiago Atzizihuacán who came to New York 10 years ago for the same reasons as many other Mexicans: to seek new job opportunities in the Big Apple.

Rivera explained that many mothers, grandmothers, and wives who remained in Santiago Atzizihuacán began to feel that a change in their environment was needed in order to be able to survive the exodus of so many individuals headed toward the U.S.

“One of the things that sparked the creation of Atzireal was people emigrating to the U.S. There were no job opportunities or work. We were all coming to the North and the towns were left without people or jobs,” she said.

She said the chocolate co-op business began operating five years ago, and five families firmly believed [in its potential] to generate other resources.

At the moment, Atzireal is about to cross the border and finally come to the U.S., where the Mexican community is eager to have this kind of homemade product, made in its place of origin.

“They recently came to New York to start making the arrangements, and [their] dream is to be at one of the gourmet food festivals that happen here next year,” said Rivera.

She said that thanks to the sweet flavor of the chocolate her community makes, business opportunities are now opening up for poblanas, which they hope will provide a source of work for immigrant Mexicans who live in the U.S.

Today, chocolate made by poblanas can be found in distinguished hotels such as the Holiday Inn, which sells the artisanal chocolates made by the women of Santiago Atzizihuacán. Atzireal refers to the local people and alludes to the purity of the production process. In pre-Hispanic times, chocolate was used as a form of money, and only tasted by the upper classes and kings due to its delightful flavor and sought-after cacao beans.

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