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Archaeology at Chocolá

Two archaeological sites are of equal importance at Chocolá. The oldest site is, of course, the ancient Maya city of Chocolá that lies beneath the current village and stretches for miles into the countryside. It is a great treasure that is threatened by urban growth and by weak over-site and enforcement of patrimony laws by the Federal Agency responsible for the protection of national monuments (IDAEH).

The second is the industrial archaeological site of the old German “Coffee Finca Chocolá” built in the 1890s. And it is our first archaeological target. We are working to raise money and fund research, restoration and maintenance of the old German Finca Chocolá because quite simply, it is the most at risk of the elements and because its stabilization is critical to the economic future of the people of Chocolá. The coffee beneficio is the economic engine of the community.

The coffee beneficio is a classic example late 19th century industrial engineering which relied upon a water power to energize the complex coffee processing technology and equipment. Much of modern technology used in today’s processing plants is based on machinery inventions made and first deployed at Chocolá. More importantly, the original equipment is still in the coffee beneficio and is still being used to process coffee. It is a living museum, albeit in severe need of repairs from years of deferred maintenance.

Included in the complex of old German buildings are a dozen major structures and many residential structures. The main buildings include the coffee beneficio itself, a huge machine shop, lumber mill, railroad station, hotel, administrative headquarters, water wheel power house, pay house, coach houses and more.

The community and Semillas work together to operate a Community Learning Center and Library, a children's library and computer learning laboratory. Guatemala’s noted historian Regina Wagner and author of the definitive work on the history of coffee in Guatemala has joined the effort to document and restore these great buildings. Guatemalan architectural historian Rodrigo Aparacio, who is a member of the board, is assisting in the effort as is the Guatemalan industrial archaeologist Ruben Larios.

The pre-classic Maya city that lies beneath Chocolá has been studied by archaeologists on and off for decades. Work was stopped temporarily in 2006 as scholars search for new funds to support the work.

Semillas would like to establish a trust fund for the support of resuming archaeological studies at Chocolá and to cover costs of “salvage archaeology projects” for parts of the site that are periodically threatened by urban expansion. The fund will be known as the Maya Site at Chocolá and we welcome contributions to help protect and research this important piece of human history.