OPTIMISM & PASSION AFTER HURRICANE MARIA
I’ve just returned from visiting Puerto Rico’s west coast and am full of inspiration! It is inspiring to personally witness the optimism and resiliency of the western folks since the ravage of Hurricane Maria.
The Hotel Cofresi, oldest on the coast, was severely damaged and reopened more beautiful than ever in mid December after much hard work. They opened their doors immediately after the storm to citizens and FEMA staff to offer shelter and provide meals. They gave FEMA a headquarters to work from. Here I am at the newly renovated lobby and bar right on the water!
HACIENDA JEANMARIE – A YEAR LATER
And nowhere has passion and optimism been more on display than at the Hacienda Jeanmarie. Last year I posted my excitement (Hacienda Jeanmarie – Visiting a Puerto Rican Cacao Farm) to meet Juan Echevarria, leader of the Puerto Rico Cacao Project, and visit his family’s beautiful farm, the Hacienda Jeanmarie.
The project’s goal is to build a working cooperative that connects small organic Puerto Rican cacao famers to the fine chocolate industry through direct, transparent relationships. Many farmers on the island joined the project and the fine cacao industry was beginning to take hold again in PR.
Hurricane Maria devastated most of this hard work. Juan’s large farm, purchased in 2014, is 90% lost. The smaller, old family farm (which I visited in 2016) survives. Of his 30,000 trees before Maria there are now 3,000.
Juan has started to produce new trees to replant for his and other farms and has resumed holding workshops to teach others. Since cacao trees take at least 2 1/2 years to make pods, he and other farmers in the project are targeting 2021 to be back. This target assumes all goes well and requires at least 3 full time workers at his farm.
TO LEARN MORE
More than 200,000 cacao trees were planted through the cacao project initiative since Juan began in 2009. Since cacao is considered a new crop in Puerto Rico, the Agriculture Dept does not offer insurance so all losses are personal.
For lots more information or to make a contribution towards rebuilding the island’s economy by providing high quality trees to farmers visit https://www.facebook.com/jeanmariechocolat/
I look forward to returning to the Hacienda Jeanmarie and watching the rebuilding of Project Cacao under Juan’s leadership. Yet another wonderful place that chocolate has led me.