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From Columbus to Fortunato - Part 1

From Columbus to Fortunato - Part 1

Hello and good day!

I’ve been reading some very good books on Peruvian history lately.I will give you the name of my favorite below.

As I was reading one day, it dawned on me that I could in theory track our discovery of a thought to be extinct variety of cacao in northern Peru all the way back to the Catholic Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabelle through a historical investigation.

The more I thought about that, the more I started to realize that all outcomes in human history are the culmination of long chains of events, sometimes going back hundreds or thousands or million of years.

For example, you can’t look at the poor fiscal position of a government in a vacuum. The current position is almost always the result of decades of policy. Therefore, it is unrealistic to think that it could be fixed in a single administration. It would probably take decades of movement in the opposite direction to get out of the problem.

Anyhow, I thought it would be fun and entertaining to track the founding of our company back through time and show how a long series of events, stretching back hundreds of years, made it possible for my dad and my brother to rediscover pure Nacional cacao by accident 15 years ago.

I’d like to say a couple of things before diving in.

First, I am doing this purely for the sake on entertaining our wonderful friends and customers. If you have purchased chocolate from us in the past or are considering it, I offer this as an add on to the experience.

As far as I know, there aren’t many other chocolate companies who will throw  a trek back through history in along with your purchase.

 Second, I am not an historian, and I am working from memory. I won’t be able to provide footnotes or anything like that.

I may make a couple of factual errors here and there, but I feel confident that the overall thrust of what I will write is correct. I’ve read something like 20 books on this material over the last 5 years, so I am well informed. I don’t have a photographic memory though, and I don’t have the time to double check every fact. All that being said, I do feel good that what is to come will be predominantly correct.

Without further ado.

In the late 1400’s two monarchs came to power in Spain.Their names were Isabelle and Ferdinand and their ascension occurred after what is now Spain had been under control of the Moors for around 800 years.

In case you don’t remember, the Moors were a mix of Arabic, North African, and sub-saharan African Muslims. Islam came on the scene during the seventh century and its empire expanded quickly. Isabelle and Ferdinand were both Catholics and were dedicated to establishing a Catholic reign that could expand the dominion of the church.

Also, during the late 1400’s, what is now modern-day Spain was divided into two separate kingdoms, Castille and Aragon. Each of the new monarchs was from a different kingdom and their marriage united to the two lands. The united country created an army large enough and powerful enough to expel the Moors.

As an aside, a lot of Spanish is derived from Arabic. This is because of how long the Moors controlled Spain.

Isabelle and Ferdinand were in tight with the Pope, and they launched an ugly inquisition, persecuting and torturing heretics, real and alleged. They also agreed to support an Italian cartographer and sailor named Christopher Columbus who wanted to try reaching Asia by sailing west from Europe.

 He’d already been turned down by several other governments, including that of his own country, Italy.

In the name of discovering new trade routes and potentially bringing new land under their rule, and also expanding the influence of the church, the Catholic monarchs agreed to finance Columbus’ voyage.

It used to be that sailing to Asia required a trip down and around the southern tip of Africa, then east across the Indian Ocean, and north into the smaller seas that lined the Asian coast. However, those routes were competitive and there was a lot of fighting between the British, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish.

A new, unfettered route would have been a very lucrative discovery. It was a known fact amongst navigators that the earth was round and that you were bound to run into Asia if you just kept going west.

 But nobody knew for sure exactly how big the earth was.

Columbus set sail in 1492 and after a long voyage west came upon land. Based on his calculations and the swarthy complexion of the inhabitants, he was sure that he’d landed in India.

He’d done it.

He’d discovered a western route to Asia, or so he thought. It became clear pretty quickly that he wasn’t in India. In fact, he wasn’t in a place that any European had ever set foot.

 He had come across an island in the Caribbean Sea that was already inhabited by people. Even further west, there were massive bodies of land, north and south America. Columbus did some more investigating and eventually went back to Spain to share the news.

Arrangements were made for more ships to sail.The goal was to bring as much land as possible into possession of the monarchs of Spain, as quickly as possible.

They wanted to stake a lot of claims before the competition showed up. More sailors and explorers came. And a class of fighting men came to conquer and rule over the native people. These were the conquistadores.

Columbus and the conquistadores would be part owners of all the land they could lay claim on in the name of the crown. There was more land than they ever could have dreamed possible.This was a golden opportunity to make a fortune that could last for generations.

One of the most famous conquistadores was Hernan Cortes. He is the Spaniard who overthrew the Aztecs and laid claim to Mexico in the name of the crown. The fellow who ended up taking down the Incas, Francisco Pizzaro, was part of the regiment that brought down the Aztecs.

Pizarro served under Cortes and learned the techniques for taking down a vast and powerful empire with just a few hundred men.

I am running out of space on this for now. More to come tomorrow!

By the way, the name of the great book on Peruvian history is The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics by Orin Starn, Ivan Degregori, Robin Kirk.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!