It is well known that chocolate is a proud Mexican heritage, even a pre-Hispanic legend dictates that it was the god Quetzalcoatl who gave a couple of cocoa beans to the Toltecs to ensure the health and wisdom of their inhabitants through their diet, thus explaining the origin of cocoa, one of the pillars of Mexican cuisine.
During the Colonial period, the confrontation between American and European cultures was constant, and the Spaniards failed to understand the Aztec cosmogony, traditions, beliefs, and customs. At some point, the easiest thing was to accuse everything they did not know as witchcraft.
For this reason, in a very dark period of history, during the Spanish Inquisition, chocolate was stigmatized as a black magic potion.
To exemplify this historical fact, the anecdote of Melchora de los Reyes is often told, a young mestiza and the secret relationship she had with her lover. The lover swore that they would get married if they had sexual relations before marriage. Melchora naively believed him, and after getting married, her lover abandoned her while she was pregnant, breaking his promise.
Completely enraged, the woman sought the help of a witch to calm her misery, and the sorceress prescribed her a special powder and told her to prepare it with hot chocolate so that the man would return to her. But her lover realized her plan and decided to accuse her before the Spanish Inquisition for the serious crime of witchcraft. Melchora, like many women, was burned at the stake after receiving public humiliation with a lot of violence when her consumption of hot chocolate was proven.
This is known thanks to Martha Few, a history and gender studies professor at Penn State University, who discovered it while studying the Spanish Inquisition. Few determined that the relationship between chocolate and witchcraft was not only a belief of the conquering Spaniards but also another means of control and subjugation towards women, obliging them to cook chocolate but prohibiting its consumption, distancing them from their roots and traditions.
The Aztecs believed that chocolate was a vital food that gave them strength and helped them have greater skill and mental clarity. Women used to drink it during menopause and childbirth to strengthen themselves, the heat and antioxidants helped a lot for this.
The Spaniards not only prohibited cocoa but also associated other plants with witchcraft, such as psychoactive mushrooms that were used in religious ceremonies and activities such as astronomy, which was beyond their comprehension.
In the seventeenth century, the Inquisition specialized in blaming women, whether slaves, indigenous, mestizas, or Spaniards, anyone who dared to question established norms or perform acts outside of European understanding. This is why women organized themselves to be as discreet as possible and share their homemade remedies and herbal knowledge, inherited from their ancestors.
As time passed, the conquerors lost strength, and these types of beliefs were debunked, giving way again to chocolate as a healthy and common food, to this day it has a completely positive connotation and is associated with good details and treats to the palate.
The Spanish Inquisition was a very dark period in human history, thousands of women were unjustly condemned to public executions and cruel torture as part of the colonization that sought to nullify ancestral spiritual traditions and practices. Fortunately, this knowledge was not exterminated, and thanks to the courage and ingenuity of thousands of women from different generations, many of their remedies continue to heal a large part of the population.
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva.