Beyond Development……. Re-dis-covering Intercultural Hospitality

We’re happy to share a letter that was written by ChocoSol’s Founder, Michael Sacco, to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico for a recent event.

Beyond Development: Re-dis-covering Intercultural Hospitality

Toronto, December 10, 2013

In 2001, I was invited by the great Mexican thinker Gustavo Esteva to share my work on solar concentrators within a powerful and driven civil society matrix in Southern Mexico. I never imagined how transformative this journey and work would become. The first thing I discovered was that Mexican civil society has a great deal to teach Canadians about the spirit of community.

During more than a decade of work I re-dis-covered what we have long known, and that is that both Canadians and Mexicans have a great deal to learn from each other. I am happy to report that we have a powerful message and story to share. This is the basis of my doctoral degree on the Teachings of Cacao at Trent University. We call this Mexican/Canadian exchange: interpersonal and intercultural encounter and dialogue. It is rooted not in the idea that we will change the world and solve all of its problems. It is rooted in the long-term sustainability of meaningful relationships and the drive to contribute to a higher purpose for all of humanity. This powerful project is rooted in the hospitality of: reciprocity, conviviality, trust, listening, and dialogue.

ChocoSol’s work is a beautiful, meaningful, profitable, by-product and embodiment of this approach. Through the vehicle of chocolate we seek to engage people in a process of healing that is at once healthy, ecological, and intercultural.

In Mexico, I learned from Indigenous women the art of roasting cacao, and making chocolate. To do this I developed a solar concentrator to roast the cacao. Furthermore, we discovered that roasting was not enough, so we began to develop bicycle-powered machines to process the ingredients at the artisanal scale in an ecological and efficient manner. Ten years later these machines are better and more practical than ever before.

However, machines are not enough. What gives a project sustainability and long-term vision are people, not machines. So the ChocoSol vision is about embodying the principles of healthy chocolate rooted in traditional forest garden agriculture that is the most sustainable in the world while at the same time contributing to the learning, the creativity, and the dignity of those engaged in the work. ChocoSol is about chocolate making tools that are resilient, ecological, effective, and that create a high quality product. ChocoSol is about recipes that combine ecological growing and artisanal tools to make a chocolate food that draws on the tradition of cacao as the food of the gods, and the European tradition that elevates chocolate to the aesthetic of the gods. In this intercultural fusion, we have discovered a renewed chocolate, which is the by-product of this intercultural fusion. Hopefully, you will all get a chance to eat some of this today.

We have striven to do this as a learning community/social enterprise respecting the teachings of our elders like Ivan Illich and Gustavo Esteva, while at the same time providing for our families and the families of those we have committed to work with in Southern Mexico.

Today, on the verge of 2014, I am happy to report that because of this hard work, friendship, and intercultural dialogue we are on the verge of something truly world changing not only for Mexican cacao farmers, or the student cooperatives making ChocoSol in Oaxaca, or our terrific partners at Cusibani…what we are seeing is that through this dialogue and reciprocity we are re-dis-covering the importance that forest gardens have to contribute in Ontario, and we are seeing that through the vehicle of healthy chocolate making we can share a vision and a technology package that can greatly contribute to the ecological, the economic, and the food security of the some of the most vulnerable and at the same time visionary farmers and artisans in the world.

With great gratitude for the support of the Canada fund, and for the friendship of the wonderful people at the Canadian embassy in Mexico, I send you these words of hope, of respect, and of commitment.

My mission is to serve the people who made me the man I am today here in Toronto, Canada, but my pleasure is to continue learning and unfolding this vision with the beautiful generous and hospitable people of Mexico.


Michael Sacco

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