Chocolate Runs Through My Veins: The Insightful History of the Women of Chocolate
by Connie Spenuzza, M.S. ED.
Libros Publishing

"The first Spanish chroniclers found the Mesoamerican-style chocolate beverage offensive."

In this exploration of chocolate and the role of women in its production, readers find an engaging read that spans history and cultures. The book immediately acknowledges that "eaten in its many chocolate forms, it is the most popular sweet treat in the world." More significantly, the book becomes a memoir, detailing the author's life and experience with chocolate's long and important history. It is an elegant unveiling of the women linked to Central America's chocolate history. Intriguingly, many women were "accused of sorcery because of their knowledge of chocolate and natural healing," and others were "branded and imprisoned for their chocolate larceny." The book also removes the sweet spotlight from Europe and places it on countries like Ecuador. Additionally, the book sheds light on not only the historical injustices the chocolate trade placed on women but also the ones the modern chocolate industry places on children.

This text is a careful and respectful examination of the cultures that shape Mesoamerica. The book also details how many of these groups continue today by leading "the indigenous ethnic groups of Ecuador in activism, determined to protect their territory and argue for their independent rule." Nonetheless, the book continues its focus on women by advocating that "Women were important traders in the workplace." The book also sheds light on interesting facts like how cacao became a form of currency, how counterfeiting sometimes took place, and how cacao vendors—like other vendors—had to adhere to their strict assignments within the marketplace or face punishment. At the heart of these markets were, of course, women: "It's been noted that nine out of twenty types of producer-traders are women. There are errors in the Spanish chronicles where the fruit sellers are defined as masculine, but the pictographs reveal that the fruit vendors were women."

The book also incorporates the histories of European women like Mary Tuke, a bold woman who "refused to pay for membership to the Company of Merchant Adventurers for the right to sell chocolate, coffee, chicory, and spices from her store." Along with the histories of women like Tuke, the book poses another interesting insight about chocolate: its politicization thanks to King Charles who worked to "close down the chocolate houses in order 'to quell the sedition and radical sentiments they nurtured.'" Another interesting anecdote that the book poses is the violent history associated with the cacao trade and its close parallels to the slave trade.

By the book's end, readers have traversed history and the globe in pursuit of chocolate's delectable and sometimes bitter story. Some readers will gravitate to the book's discussion of chocolate as a means of economy and even colonialism. Others will enjoy learning about this important commodity's role in human rights and environmental issues relevant today. Those seeking a refreshing take on the role of women in industry and trade will find this book holds needed discussions pertinent to contemporary times. In many ways, it's the perfect read for anyone looking to expand their knowledge about the true influence Mesoamerica has had on the world.

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