Geography of Chocolate
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Professor, Bridgewater State University Geography
Associate Faculty, ISIS Belize
Affiliated Scholar, Vanderbilt University Institute for Coffee Studies
Barista Guild Member, Specialty Coffee Association of America

Revised December 11, 2012
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Mayan Gold: The Geography and History of Maya Chocolate
June 15-29, 2013 -- Approximately $2,675 plus airfare, double occupancy
A three-credit course taught at I.S.I.S. Belize: The Institute for Sustainable International Studies
Instructors: James & Pamela Hayes-Bohanan

(Other coures are offered during the first half of the June session. The total cost for a full June session is $4,225)

See Course Syllabus. Contact James with questions the course.  
Make San Ignacio your home for next summer. See other course listings at ISIS.

Chocolate is now consumed as a sweet in many parts of the world and most of the cacao from which it is produced is grown in Africa. But chocolate began as a spicy, savory food cultivated by Maya in what is now Belize and neighboring Mexico and Guatemala. The first half of this course is an introduction to Maya civilization, past and present, with an emphasis on those aspects related to the cultivation and uses of cacao. Attention then turns to the geography of chocolate, beginning with the historic diffusion of its cultivation and consumption. After examining contemporary social and environmental aspects of cacao production and chocolate trade, attention returns to community-based production within Belize.  This field course will visit Maya ruins and sacred caves, organic cacao producers’ organizations and chocolate producers; meet with cacao farmers, Maya elders and healers; and participate in the production of cacao foods and drinks.


Pam & James picking coffee
                    in La Corona, Nicaragua 2012
Pamela Hayes-Bohanan is a Librarian and Spanish professor at Bridgewater State University (BSU) in Massachusetts and author of the chapter “Prehistoric Cultures” in 21st Century Anthropology: A Reference Handbook, edited by James Brix.  James Hayes-Bohanan is a Professor of Geography at BSU, where he teaches environmental geography, the geography of Latin America, and courses on the geography of coffee. He is currently writing The Geography of Coffee & Tea, forthcoming, and speaks frequently on social and environmental dimensions of coffee.

ISIS Belize
The Coffee Maven
with Cacao in Nicaragua
January 2010

As we develop the course, more information about the geography of chocolate will be posted on this page.

Learn about those other beverages
Geography of Coffee
and Geography of Tea

View Larger Map

Our course will be taught on the campus of ISIS in San Ignacio, Cayo, with excursions to Mayan and cacao sites. The town is about halfway between Belize city and the famous Tikal Mayan site in Guatemala.
Mayan Calendar
We are confident that this course will be offered,
even though it will be 2013!
(Thanks to Professor Cindy Ricciardi for this image.)

Course Sites

Details of our itinerary will be in the course syllabus. Sites we expect to visit are listed below and mapped to the right.

Our campus at I.S.I.S. in San Ignacio
Lecture on campus by Dr. Jaime Awe
Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins
Caracol archeological site day trip
National Institute of Archeology museum visit
Blue Hole National Park
Xuanantunich site (perhaps accessed via hand-cranked river ferry)
Maya Centre Village
Placencia beach
Guilsi Museum in Dangriga
Laguna Village (Toledo Ecotourism Association)
Cyrila's chocolate factory, Toledo
Cotton Tree Chocolates, Toledo
Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA)

Optional Excursions at Extra Charge
Tikal (Guatemala)
Actun Tunichil Muknal (near ISIS campus)

View Belize Study Tour in a larger map


Students will need to purchase one book prior to the course:
Off, Carol. 2006. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York: The New Press. (Selected chapters)

Most other readings in this class are available online, including:
Maya Calendar
The Chocolate Journey: From Bean to Bar, from Equal Exchange
The Brawl over Fair-Trade Coffee, by Scott Sherman for The Nation
Origins and Interpretation of the Prebish-Singer Thesis, by John Toye and Richard Toye for History of Political Economy
Latin America's Keynes (Raúl Prebisch), for The Economist
The Creation from Popol Vuh (optional: Popol Vuh: Definitive Edition)
Time of Kings and Queens by Robert Sharer. 2012. Expedition 54(1): 26-35.

Additional readings will be provided to students electronically under fair-use guidelines:
Hammond, Norman. 1977. The Earliest Maya. Scientific American 236(3): 116-133.
Popson, Colleen P. 2003. Extreme Sport. Archaeology 56(5): 42+.
Vail, Gabrielle. 2009. Cacao Use in Yucatán Among the Pre-Hispanic Maya. Chapter 1 in Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro, eds. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

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