Ever since ancient times, millions of people have been seduced by chocolate, yet few truly know what it is. Most people have no idea where it actually comes from. They’ve never set eyes on the famous (and beautiful) cacao pod. They’ve never tasted the sweet white pulp of the fruit, and know even less about the complex process of extracting, drying and converting the pods’ seeds into what, at the end of the day, is the world’s number one irresistible delicacy…
Ecuador’s Cacao Route, promoted by Maquita, allows travelers to recognize the benefits of the fruit and learn about its production, but also provides them with routes to discover the charms of Ecuador’s “cacao country”. The journey takes them to learn about diverse cultures, discover fascinating ecosystems, savor culinary traditions and engage with small producers and families who live and protect their traditions in rural worlds.
Together with the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) and the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), and with great patience and determination, Maquita has worked diligently to strengthen the communities it supports.
The creation of a tourism school, endorsed and linked to important academic institutions in Ecuador, has created a systematized process of training for members of cacao-producing communities, improving the service and quality of their tourism products. This process has been key in, among other things, the organization’s most successful projects, whose aim is to take advantage of nearby tourism attractions, complementing local agricultural activities, giving visitors more reasons to stay longer in each destination.
“In Los Ríos, you can visit Maquita’s Technology Center, a scientific laboratory that produces top-of-the-line organic fertilizers and works to stabilize the genotype of fine aroma chocolate, an essential aspect of helping farmers gain greater agricultural quality and job security,” explains Orquídea Chicaiza, Maquita project manager, enthusiastically.
As well as visits to the Center, Maquita promotes experiential interactions, with Amazonian Shuar communities, for example, who have curiously relocated to the western side of the Andes in coastal Naranjal; or at riverside farms in Esmeraldas province where the popular “Cevicangre” is served; or there’s an historical tour of Vinces, which at one point was known as “Little Paris” due to the wealth cacao exportation brought it. Maquita’s network extends across the entire country, offering a complete overview of Ecuador’s cacao and chocolate culture.
“It’s continuous work,” explains William Villanueva, Maquita’s Tourism Manager. “Community tourism was born as an economic alternative for small farmers. This is why there is a tendency to create thematic tourism products like the cacao and chocolate route, whereby producers, service providers and business managers offer added value to their products, which combine entertainment and tourism activities. Visitors and the private sector can then access a product with a sound business model and high quality standards in operation and service…”
Maquita represents a sustainable, conscious and responsible tourism for Ecuador into the future. A tourism that combines community, culture, nature, pride, inclusion and spirituality.
Community projects linked to the Cacao Route
Shandia Lodge, Napo
Quinkigua Lodge, Manabí
Tsuer Etnsa, Guayas
Tahuin, El Oro
Centro de Tecnología Maquita, Los Ríos
Av. Rumichaca S26-365 y Moro Moro.
+ (593 2) 267 3366