A large crowd gathered at Hot Rocks bar in Puerto Viejo Friday for the opening ceremonies of the third annual Chocolate Festival, only to have the event shut down by the Health Ministry. The community festival was planned to celebrate Puerto Viejo's re-emerging chocolate scene.
Before the Europeans arrived in the Americas on the hunt for gold, the region's indigenous people used money that literally grew on trees. The tiny brown seeds that came to be known as cacao beans held real value, and the Incas, the Aztecs and Costa Rica’s Chorotega people all used cacao as currency. For them, it was worth as much as gold.
Ecuador, where the fatty beans used to make chocolate have been grown since pre-Columbian times, is surpassing Brazil as Latin America's top cocoa producer after boosting planting and offering education programs for farmers.