This story began 8 years ago, when against all odds we arrived in Necocli, Urabá antioqueño, to cultivate our first cocoa forest. For years this has been a region that has carried the burden of violence and all that this implies: poverty, inequality, lack of education, loss of meaning of life and hope. Upon its arrival, Luker decided not only to have the best Fine Flavour Cocoa crop in the country, but also to become a model of sustainability where people are the centre: its ultimate goal.
After 7 years of positive impacts on the neighbouring communities of the 550-hectare forest, in 2017 one of the districts most benefited from the project took the initiative -hand-in-hand with The Chocolate Dream team- to celebrate the company’s historic arrival in their lives through a festival.
Caribia, a province where neither the State nor other private companies had reached, had not celebrated any festivities in years, it had no patron saint’s day and the Cocoa Festival was the best opportunity to start a new tradition.
2017 marked the beginning of this milestone for the Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Chocó and indigenous communities that inhabit this territory, the celebration was a success, and today it is only compared to the arrival of electricity 40 years ago. So they had to continue with the tradition, turn it into the territory’s heritage, the celebration of the cocoa harvest, and its effects on the lives of the locals.
And so it was that in 2018, we decided to do it again and now we are planning it together with Luker, the locals, the leaders, the Luker Foundation, as a single entity jointly defining what will be the most awaited festival of the year.
This planning has involved great revolutions based on events that seemed irrelevant at first such as the definition of the agenda of activities. Together we began to meet to define timetables, people, allied budgets and activities.
During this process of consensus and dissertations we discovered the importance of cultural, social, empathic and respectful dialogue involving different beliefs.
The community’s first proposal included topics such as cock fights, beauty pageants, motorcycle tours, cultural presentations, gastronomic samples, dances, songs and thousands of other things that identified them. Luker presented photography contests, craft workshops, chocolate tastings and other things that represented us.
In both proposals, there were enormous coincidences that made us feel like we had a single dream, a single purpose. But at the same time, as is natural when cultures meet, there were differences in some themes. And as we have always done, we decided to start conversing to find common ground.
We had two themes that distanced us, cockfighting and the beauty pageant, both so traditional in Colombian culture. So we began to talk about these issues.
From the company we respectfully proposed to omit the cockfights generating environmental and animal awareness. We also proposed that instead of celebrating women’s beauty, we should acknowledge their talent and their role in the more than 5 ethnic groups that live in the same territory.
Our respectful stance on deep-rooted culture was that over time we would modify beliefs and behaviours and that the Cocoa Festival could reflect a joint way of looking at life, where people, animals, nature, and culture deserved the greatest respect.
We had a big, beautiful surprise.
Far from being discarded and generating discord, our proposals were immediately understood. We also saw how these positions were already incorporated in the community on an individual level, and that, in their own personal reflection, they all had had these concerns, but this had not reached the collective. The Cocoa Festival was becoming a vehicle that would help to put certain topics on the table.
In a 3-hour long conversation, more than one and a half hours of planning were devoted to reflect on the beauty pageant; topics were touched on, led by the community, around the great talent of their women, the change in understanding the role of women, their importance in the culture and the differences between one ethnic group and another in that understanding. There was a reflection on what it means to put a young woman on a catwalk in a territory that had ben sexist for years, the risk it represents and the message it sends to children.
It was incredible to see and hear in the voices of those who are sometimes considered uneducated or behind in world trends, as they wish to contribute to gender equality, women’s empowerment, human rights education, and how they can use the festival to implement a ritual for the creation of values, to reinterpret beliefs and to celebrate the abundance and opportunities that a product, cocoa, has brought into their lives.
The same thing happened with the cockfight, the consensus around this issue was very fast and we all decided to highlight values of care for the environment that this practice does not reflect.
We left this meeting not only with a new agenda, with competitions for talented women and with environmental tours, but also with the firm conviction that these actions that sometimes do not seem to have as much impact as a festival, in the end are nothing more than the manifestation of the reinterpretation of the culture of a community and its encounter with other beliefs and communities.
We witnessed a change that is not easy to witness in a country of traditions. The 2018 Cocoa Festival was a tribute to farmers, women, animals and nature.
In three days we will be living the third edition of the festival, everybody is welcome!