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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: The 19th-Century Finca

The Finca Chocolá was created in the early years of the 19th century when the Catholic Church in Guatemala sold land on which Maya had been living for thousands of years to individual wealthy European investors and local landowners, the first of whom was Jose Guardiola, a Guatemalan agricultural engineer and inventor.

The Church sold 55 caballerias of land (1 caballeria = ca. 105 acres), or approximately 81 square miles to various small local landowners, all of which was subsequently bought by Guardiola. Guardiola grew sugar cane and coffee; a giant roaster or secadora may still be seen in the beneficio de café, or coffee processing building, in Chocolá.

The town itself was created at the same time by K'iche' Maya who migrated from Totonicapán north of Lake Atitlán to Chocolá to work as laborers on the great finca. Before this, there were few people in the immediate area, although, in prehispanic times, a great breadbasket extended all around in the Guatemalan piedmont and west into Soconusco, Mexico.

Guardiola sold the land to a consortium of German businessmen in 1891. The Germans greatly expanded the size of the farm—at its height more than approximately 361 square miles—and constructed many fine high Victorian buildings to house the farm managers and their families. Vestiges of the luxury in which they lived, before they were deported during World War II, include swimming pools, gardens, and private railways.

Many of the Finca's historic Victorian-style
buildings are in restorable condition.

The Beneficio portion of the Finca houses a
workshop and coffee processing equipment
still in use by the Cooperative today.


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