Nestled in the valley of the cloud forest lies the isolated village of Chuao in Venezuela. Only reachable by boat or on foot through the jungle, the village takes you away from the modern world to a setting of overwhelming nature and a 400-year tradition of cacao production, carried out by its native African American residents. Chuao's last-surviving aristocratic Spanish heir, Dona Catalina, gifted the plantation and her slaves to the Franciscan friars, who erected Chuao's iconic church, cacao drying patio, processing area, and a place for social and cultural gathering. In the 1960s, historical justice arose from the valley when the workers were given the farm. Today only descendants of the original slaves, mostly women, work the cacao plantation. The women sing while they work, "long live the Chuao cacao, founded by Dona Catalina, it's rich and tasty and harvested by all of us."
I commissioned an artist in Caracas, Venezuela, Ivoly Niguera, to create the watercolor painting used on the front of the package. When Ivoly traveled to Chuao, she told me how once you get to Chuao the world seems to move slower and your sense of time changes as you are overwhelmed with nature. She said that the people are the loveliest and very connected with their music. She felt that walking across the cocoa hacienda was almost a religious experience.