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Religious views even impacted explorers when goods that were traded,specifically chocolate — a resource unique to Native American societies, and particularly held sacred to ancient cultures of Mesoamerica like the Aztecs, later turned into a European commodity. In order to properly comprehend the origin of European cultural integration of chocolate, it’s crucial to recognize the meaning of chocolate in its original cultural context.
Especially since chocolate, when first tased by Europeans, was an unrecognizable substance compared to what it would become after being assimilated into European mainstream society. This was particularly relevant to European religious society because in Mesoamerican cultures, chocolate was a drink endowed with the essence of the sacred, and was obviously made with spices and recipes that included only ingredients native to the Americas.
For example, chocolate was a substance that was used in religious Mesoamerican sacrificial rituals as it symbolized spiritual powers of blood “ritually consumed at betrothal and wedding ceremonies, and presented to visiting dignitaries”. This intrinsic connection of chocolate and blood is crucial to understanding the confections’ original context because through this relationship, chocolate is shown to have been more than just a drink to be enjoyed. Rather, chocolate stood for life and spirituality and was handled with the utmost respect as it held extreme cultural value to the Aztec people.
Chocolate played a huge role in not only spiritual but also social conventions due to its value and sanctity. And Christian missionaries, leaders, and colonialists saw these gatherings as a great threat that contradicted their own religious beliefs. In fact, “the Spanish missionary, Diego Duran, who heard this story from Indian informants, reported that ‘when the time came to drink the chocolate that had been brought to them, that most highly prized drink of the Indians, they were filled with fear”.
And once again, the sacred religious value that chocolate held in the Aztec society was highly overlooked by Europeans to the point where this divine good was shipped to the Old World and was mass-marketed, commodified, and appropriated. Europeans found a way to steer clear of chocolate’s religious and social essence since accepting this meaning was completely against their European notions of Christianity. It was a substance that was viewed as both dangerous and powerful to Europeans.
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