Chocolá lies in a rich agricultural region in which coffee is a key cash crop, although a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are produced for local consumption. The village residents collectively own the surrounding agricultural land, and the agricultural cooperative is the heart of Chocolá’s social and economic existence. From the 1890s through 1946, the town was administered by a German coffee company, and the finca buildings and manufacturing works the Germans built are still in use by the cooperative. Today, nearly 10,000 residents inhabit the village and the hillsides surrounding Chocola.
The Chocolá area is mild and temperate throughout the year, with the exception of two rainy seasons, in May and September. Heavy rains in 2005 led to devastating landslides in many nearby communities, although Chocolá was largely spared the worst of it. There are many health concerns in Chocolá, most of which are related to endemic poverty and lack of access to quality water and medical care.
The modern agricultural region known as Chocolá sits atop a very early, very historically significant Maya urban complex. In May 2003, The Chocolá Archaeological Project/Proyecto Arqueológico Chocolá supervised excavations of the ancient city, believed to date from the dynamic and influential Middle and Late Preclassic Maya periods, circa 900 BCE to 200 AD. Although the excavation ended in 2006, the study and preservation of this important cultural heritage is a cornerstone to the future well-being of the town.
The K’iche’-Maya speaking area residents have endured centuries of oppression, from colonization centuries ago to decades of brutal civil war just a few years ago, and negative aspects of globalization, unemployment and continuing poverty threaten the town’s future on a daily basis. Throughout the years of subsistence, the community has managed to preserve much of its cultural integrity, cultural capital and joy for life. But just barely. For the town to go beyond subsistence, it requires assistance and hope. Our mission at Amigos de Chocolá is to help provide that assistance and hope.