Site, Modern Town
19th Century: The Finca
and Cultural Challenges
the Town Today
Cautions for Western Visitors
Employment and Other Needs
Tourism and Crafts
The Cooperative and the Town Today
For some 40 years after the expropriation of the German farm, the
finca was run by the Guatemalan government, ostensibly for the purpose
of agronomic experimentation. In 1982, the government sold the land
back to the people of the town, who decided to create a cooperative,
the Empresa Campesina Asociativa (ECA) Chocolá. In 1990,
adjacent communities, until then part of the cooperative, opted
to leave ECA Chocolá and form their own cooperatives; accordingly,
today, there are three peasant farming communities in addition to
Chocolá—La Ladrillera. Lolemí, and Madremía.
All belong to the same municipality, the Municipio de San Pablo
cultural environment of Chocolá is mixed Maya (mostly K'iche',
some Kaqchikel) and ladino, or Maya who have acculturated to Western
dress and speak Spanish instead of Maya. Some 8,000 people live
in the town. Very little English is spoken.
template for a very Byzantine social organization must be said to
be a traditional Maya one, albeit with a heavily syncretistic character.
While Chocolá is a mixed Maya-ladino community, much that
is culturally mysterious and hidden from Western visitors exists
in the form of extensive and sophisticated governing entities, including
“mayors” (two for Chocolá), district chiefs for
the thirteen separate barrios or neighborhoods, various committees
(water, vigilancia, a cofradia or religious directorate).
addition, there are various informal sectors that operate with semi-autonomous
power, including some thirty different rival evangelical churches.
With somewhat stronger powers than these other social units, the
administration of the cooperative, ECA Chocolá, consisting
of a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and various
lesser officials, oversees many of the activities that bind the
community together as a great cooperative farm consisting of 774
individual farmers who cultivate their cosechas for sale through
of these various, inevitably competing power structures—and
also because as soon as an individual, such as a new president of
ECA, assumes an important office, he is regarded with suspicion
(often accused, for example, of mislaying public funds)—a
new administration of ECA is elected almost every year, contributing
to a lack of stability in the community’s relationships (commercial,
but others as well) with the rest of the world.
of note is that the Chocolenses do not consider themselves “Maya,”
referring instead to the gente indígena as “people
from the mountain”; these persons frequently come and go in
Chocolá, conspicuous for their indigenous dress, including
brown woolen skirts for the men and brightly colored huipiles and
elaborate coiffures for the women.