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Project Philosophy

Ancient Site, Modern Town

19th Century: The Finca


Economic and Cultural Challenges

The Cooperative and
the Town Today

Cautions for Western Visitors

Employment and Other Needs

Tourism and Crafts

Development Goals



Chocolá Community: Ancient Site, Modern Town

Chocolá is the name of both a great ancient Maya city and a small modern village or aldea located in the piedmont or Bocacosta of southwestern Guatemala, one of the most agriculturally fertile and productive areas in Central America. Chocolá is about three hours by car from Guatemala City and two hours by car from the popular tourist attraction of Lake Atitlán.

Nearby towns and cities include Santo Tomás la Unión, San Pablo Jocopilas, Samayac (the renowned “capital of Mesoamerican shamanism”), San Francisco Zapotitlán, and Mazatenango—all attested as great producers of cacao in prehispanic and immediately post-Conquest times.

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 ancient site lies beneath and around the village. Chocolá today is a community of small-plot coffee farmers, mostly Quiché Maya, formally integrated under Guatemalan law as an agricultural cooperative. Currently, the impact and detritus of 500 years of conquest, colonialism, post-colonialism, and, now, globalism, are manifest everywhere.

Anciently the population of the site possibly outnumbered the approximately 10,000 inhabitants of the modern town; one can see in the town today and in the archaeology the waxings and wanings of, and, more recently, the violent attacks on, millennia-old Maya peoples and cultures.

The modern town of Chocolá is an
arresting blend of ancient and modern.

The sense of community that has kept
Chocolá together through centuries of
upheaval is evident in the town today.


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