Early Mesoamerican civilizations believed Quetzalcoatl brought them the cacao tree on a beam of starlight (how cool is that!). Cacao was called “the food of the gods” and valued so highly that it was used as offerings in ceremonies and as a form of money.
Cacao played a special role in both Mayan and Aztec royal and religious events where priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. During the Aztec rule of the empire, the Aztecs traded with the Maya and other peoples for cacao and often required that citizens and conquered peoples pay their tribute in cacao seeds — a form of money. Cacao could also be used to buy items at market.
Christopher Columbus overlooked the little brown seeds in favor of other treasures, but Hernando Cortez saw the value of the seed to the Mesoamerican people and brought a few trunks of beans back to Spain in 1528. Soon after, the Spanish began their own cacao plantation to send the priceless cacao seeds back home. In essence, they were growing their own money. So strike it rich and savor a chocolate bar today 🙂
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