Humans enjoyed chocolate 1,500 years earlier than thought: Study

Chocolate is humanity’s favorite food, and a new research paper published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution has proven that people have been making and enjoying chocolate for 1,500 years longer than previously thought. According to the study from researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada, humans have been growing cacao (the principal ingredient in chocolate) for over 5,300 years.

The study looked at intentional cacao planting as opposed to cacao plants in the wild which thrive in the warm tropical climates of Central and northern South America. The researchers analyzed the DNA of modern cacao trees and discovered that new varieties started emerging over 5,000 years ago in indigenous settlements along the Amazon basin. The researchers were then able to prove that this farmed variety of cacao is the same as the cacao that was grown by the ancient Maya culture in Belize and southern Mexico.

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 15th century, the principle way that chocolate was consumed in the Americas was as a drink. The theobroma cacao species that is found across Belize and the rest of Central America was used to make sacred drinks which were consumed during religious ceremonies and feasts. Cacao beans were so highly prized by the ancient Maya that they were also used as currency.

By studying pottery and other artifacts at ancient sites that still contain remnants of cacao beans, researchers were able to push back the earliest verified data for intentional cacao farming to more than 5,300 years ago. Researchers discovered traces of theobromine, a component of modern cacao beans, inside the pottery fragments and were thus able to analyze the plant’s DNA, showing that it was the cultivated variety as opposed to the varieties found nearby in the wild.

The ancient Maya believed that chocolate was the “elixir of life,” and there are records of Maya kings drinking up to 50 cups of chocolate per day. Today, chocolate is known as a superfood, rich in antioxidants, copper, manganese, iron, and other essential nutrients.

Ready to try some ancient chocolate recipes for yourself? The best way to indulge your passion for this sublimely delicious superfood is to visit the Belize Chocolate Festival in May or sign up for one of Chabil Mar’s chocolate tours. Chabil Mar is an award-winning beach resort located just steps from the Caribbean on the beautiful Placencia Peninsula in southeastern Belize.

Three Belizeans Receive Artist Emeritus Award

In a VIP ceremony at the Museum of Belize in Belize City on October 19, 2018, three Belizean artists were given the award of “Artist Emeritus” of Belize and official recognition of their achievements by the government.

The ceremony was led by Patrick Faber, the Deputy Prime Minister of Belize, and Sapnah Budrani, president of the National Institute of Culture and History, who presented the Artist Emeritus award to Florencio Mes, Myrna Manzanares, and Gerald “Lord” Rhaburn in front of a packed crowd of cheering enthusiasts. Budhrani told a packed hall that “Belize is blessed with so much diversity, and these living heroes have made us laugh, dance, and appreciate our country’s rich artistic traditions.”

Florencio Mes is of Maya origin and is known for his sublime skills on the harp and his relaxing, soothing music. Hailing from San Pedro Colombia in Toledo District, Mes is the last surviving member of the “Three Kings,” three legendary Maya musicians from Central America.

Myrna Manzanares is an internationally recognized writer, poet, and storyteller who is known for her in-depth expressions of the Creole culture in Belize. Manzanares is a strong advocate of Creole culture, including traditional forms of music and dance.

Gerald Rhaburn, better known as Lord Rhaburn, is a well-known calypso, soca, reggae, and brukdown (breakdown) musician famous for songs such as “Pump it up” and “Gumagarugu Water” that stem from his deep Garifuna roots. He gained international recognition in the 1970s when performing with the Lord Rhaburn Combo. In 2004, the Lord Rhaburn Music Awards were first held, an annual award show that recognizes outstanding Belizean musicians.

All three Artist Emeritus award winners were given a plaque and a $500 monthly government stipend.

Speaking during the ceremony, Minister Faber said, “On behalf of the entire nation, we thank you for your lifetime of contributions to culture in Belize. We hope you will take your monthly stipend to continue to produce your art to further enrich generations of Belizeans to come.”

Also present at the ceremony were Dana Rhamdas of the National Creole Council, Hilario Mes, son of Florencio Mes, and Karen Vernon, the theater director at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts. Attendees were also treated to a live phone call of congratulations from Dr. Linda Mcartha Sandy-Lewis, better known as the calypso musician “Calypso Rose.”

The staff and management of Chail Mar heartily congratulate these magnificent artists and thanks them for their contributions to Belizean culture.

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins


Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in Belize

Pronounced shoo-na-too-nitch by most people, this ancient Maya site is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize. With an interactive museum on site, visitors can learn about this majestic city that was once a luxury residence for Maya elites. Today, visitors approach the site by crossing the Mopan River using a hand-cranked ferry and then climbing to the top of one of the site’s fabulous temples to be rewarded with an amazingly panoramic view of the countryside.

About Xunantunich

In modern Belize, Xunantunich is located just a short distance from the town of San Ignacio in Cayo District and one mile north of the border with Guatemala at Benque Viejo. Built on a natural limestone ridge, the site was constructed to serve elite nobles and their retinue during the Classic Period.

With a central area measuring just 300 square meters (3,230 square feet) in size, Xunantunich isn’t the largest Maya ruin in Belize, but it’s unique residential structures and ceremonial center make the site one of the top attractions in the country. One of the first lost cities rediscovered in the modern era (excavations first began in 1892), archeological renovations at Xunantunich have revealed three ceremonial plazas, houses, and a large palace decorated with friezes and masks.

The most famous building in Xunantunich is “El Castillo” (The Castle), a pyramid soaring 130 feet above the main plaza. El Castillo was the tallest man-made structure in the country until the Sky Temple at the Maya site of Caracol was discovered a few decades ago. El Castillo is remarkable due to its large stucco frieze on its eastern side that details stories of the gods and stories from Maya creationist myths. Xunantunich was heavily populated until an abrupt event in the Classic Period that left the top of “El Castillo” partially damaged.

Although no one knows the original name of the city, today the site is called the “Stone Lady” (Xunatunich in modern Mayan) due to persistent stories of a woman in white that haunted the original British archeologists and has been regularly seen even up until modern times.

Chabil Mar in Placencia Belize & Xunantunich

The lovely Chabil Mar resort on the Placencia Peninsula is close to all of the most exciting mainland destinations in Belize. Guests of the resort can include a visit to Xunantunich as part of one of Chabil Mar’s fantastic Belize Reef & Jungle vacation packages.

Visit our website for more information on Belize, and don’t hesitate to send us an email, or call US/CAN Toll Free: 1-866-417-2377, Local: (011-501) 523-3606, if you have questions or need help in planning a Belize vacation.

Exploring the Natural Beauty of Toledo District

Modern-day Belize is divided into six districts, and Toledo is the southernmost district. Located in the southeast of the country along its border with Guatemala, Toledo District is home to some of the most pristine sections of rainforest, a bevy of offshore islands that few tourists visit, and several traditional Maya villages which have changed little over the past 2,000 years.

The capital of Toledo District is Punta Gorda, often abbreviated simply as PG by locals. Despite it’s Spanish-language name, Punta Gorda is now primarily inhabited by the Garifuna people, a unique Afro-Caribbean culture that was recognized by the United Nations in 2001 for their music, language, food, and dance.

Located so far south of Belize City, the main entry port for most visitors to Belize, Toledo District is still treated as being far off the modern path. But the recent upgrade to the Southern Highway now makes it quite simple to drive entirely along modern, paved roadways from Dangriga. Punta Gorda is home to both an annual chocolate festival where chocolatiers and cocoa farmers from around Toledo come to show off their wares and the Battle of the Drums that sees Garifuna and Creole drum corps face off during a grueling and yet exhilarating all-night competition.

Outside of Punta Gorda, attractions include some of the finest ancient Maya sites in the country, Nim Li Punit and Lubaantun. Nim Li Punit means “Big Hat” in the local Mayan dialect because the site has several large engravings of ancient Maya rulers, including one chieftain shown in a large headdress or hat. Lubaantun is another ancient Maya site but one that has puzzled archeologists because it was constructed in a far different style than other Maya cities in the region. Instead of mortar, all of the buildings in Lubaantun are made of perfectly sized stone blocks made from slate rather than the more typical limestone.

Besides cultural visits to local villages, other exciting things to do in Toledo District include visiting one of the many waterfalls that dot the landscape. Several of the rivers in Toledo District are also eminently suitable for activities like canoeing and rafting.

Travelers interested in exploring the beauty and wonders of Toledo District can stay at the award-winning Chabil Mar Resort. Located just steps from the beach on the Placencia Peninsula in southeastern Belize, Chabil Mar is a full-service luxury resort with elegant villas, a lush tropical garden, and two freshwater infinity pools.

For more information about Belize and the Toledo District, feel free to chat with our Concierge at: or contact our Reservations Manager at: Or perhaps you would like to call toll free from the US or Canada: 1-866-417-2377.

Don’t Miss the Belize International Film Festival

Twenty-one countries will be represented at the 13th annual edition of the Belize International Film Festival (BelizeIFF). From November 8-11, 2018, in Belmopan’s University of Belize Jaguar Auditorium will be where a diverse range of full-length and short films will be screened for an excited audience. There will also be a limited screening of some of the same films in Belize City from November 8-11, 2018.

Over 30 films will be shown at the BelizeIFF in five different categories: films that focus on the human condition, films about “collective memories” (discussing people, events, and places that have shaped the history of the region), short films, music videos (all filmed in Belize and featuring Belizean musicians), and “Green Globe” films that raise awareness about environmental issues.

The BelizeIFF will begin with a red carpet opening night gala on Thursday, November 8. Winners for each of the different categories will be announced during the closing ceremony on Sunday, November 11, followed by a concert. The official film selection list includes movies from Colombia, Norway, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, the United States, Mexico, Japan, Aruba, Togo, and, of course, Belize.

The cost of general admission for an individual film is $10 or $5 for students and seniors with a Golden Social Security Card. The cost to attend the opening night red carpet gala is $25, and the cost to attend the award show is $25.

Fifteen music videos will be screened in the music video category, eight films in the human condition category (including one directed by Christopher Coppola), five films in the collective memories category, and 17 movies in the short film category. Films with dialogue in a language other than English will be subtitled for the conveniences of attendees.

The Green Globe category is new to the BelizeIFF this year and is being led by the World Wildlife Fund and their local partners in Belize. No award will be given to a film in the Green Globe category as they are designed to be educational in nature.

Film lovers and nature lovers alike love to stay at the beautiful Chabil Mar resort on the Placencia Peninsula where something exciting is always going on. Just this week, researchers at Louisiana State University discovered a huge salt factory in Payne’s Creek just south of Chabil Mar, and everyone is now gearing up for Garifuna Settlement Day on November 19. 

November is the perfect month to enjoy some scuba diving or snorkeling, learn more about the Garifuna culture, or visit the Battle of the Drums competition in nearby Punta Gorda.

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