We've had a change with our visit.The Truffle Class Wed. 3/18 has been cancelled.We are still doing the 3/18 SJ Library "Bean to Bar" presentation/ tasting event, Wed. 3:15-4:45 pm.
We found out this morning that half of the chocolate team - Enrique - will not be coming due to having his visa held up by the U.S. Embassy in Quito. (Please see embassy contact info below) Rebecca Roebber, the translator and intern that is the other half of the team will still visit. She is the person who does the Powerpoint about what is happening with the Kallari cooperative in Ecuador, and is directly involved with cacoa production and chocolate making in Ecuador, along with working with the tribe in their interactions with governments and corporations, and is very knowledgeable on these things and more.
Becca will be doing the free presentation 3/18 at the Library, and the chocolate tasting that goes with it, which is what she usually does anyway, and our visits to classes, and meetup with farmers, but Enrique will not be there to contribute.
Becca will be a compelling guest, and along with the chocolate tasting in her presentation, will talk about sustainable farming, indigenous rights, the environment, her role as a college student, intern and translator with Kallari and probably a little something on the politics that hold up visas. She has many visuals, chocolate, and will make time for questions. She has been doing the presentation alone on the east cost at universities and for other groups for the dates already booked for the visits that were supposed to be with Enrique, and they've been going very well.
About the visa and passport: 23 year-old chocolatier Enrique Cerda was told in February that he could have his visa and passport reissued after it was stolen enroute to the airport. Enrique has never left the country before embarking on this trip; he has been away from his village and in the capitol city of Quito for weeks now awaiting the promised reissue. Despite the personal intercession of Ecuador's ambassador to the U.S., a big supporter of Kallari, the personal appeals of Canadian master chocolatier Eric Gilbert, who trained Enrique in truffle making in Ecuador and who is presently in Quito to help Enrique get his passport reissued, and other well respected intermediaries, the passport reissue has been held up on technicalities. Each time the application must be corrected and a new fee paid: the fee has been paid 4 times now. One of the last objections by the embassy to the reissue? The dates listed on the original application for some of the scheduled events Enrique would be going to on the East Coast were now passed. The dates had passed, of course, because the passport had not been reissued, resulting in Becca having to go to those events alone. Result? Pay another $151 and reapply. Enrique's passport and visa had originally been issued for 5 years so that he could travel to the U.S. to talk about Kallari. The promotional materials for this visit and Kallari presentation talk about chocolate and truffle making, and about indigenous rights and the Kallari cooperative as an “innovative economic model [that ] is nothing short of revolutionary in the global chocolate industry”. The Kichwa people of Ecuador’s Kallari are now self supporting, able to keep the forests around them whole, and sending their children not just to school for sometimes the first time, but to universities where the first of those children are graduating with professional degrees.Kallari has their U.S. headquarters in Chicago and is distributed by the U.S. organic foods company Applegate Farms, whose CEO and founder Stephen McDonnell, helped form the Kallari Chocolate Co. Whole Foods Markets just had a big launch of Whole Food/Kallari chocolate bars, noting their exclusive packaging of bars of "the best chocolate in the world". Kallari started in 1997 as a craft cooperative with less than fifty families from the Kichwa tribe. A story on Kallari by Leonora Oppenheim on treehugger . comexplains "Now the cooperative includes 660 families, and as well as craftwork they now produce organic chocolate and coffee. These products are being exported to 12 countries around the world and provide a sustainable income for the Kichwa people without them having to succumb to logging, mining or petroleum interests." Enrique's village is situated near a very large undrilled petroleum deposit in Ecuador. Robert Steinberg, founder of Scharfen Berger chocolate traveled to Ecuador and trained the Kichwa in the first steps of chocolate making. 23 year old Enrique Cerda had initial success in the complex and demanding process of tempering and is thought to be the only indigenous cacao grower to achieve such a high level of expertise in the art of chocolate making. Enrique has now begun experimenting with Amazon fruits to create unique truffle fillings. Canadian chocolate master Eric Gilbert traveled from Montreal to Ecuador so Enrique could apprentice with him on the fine art of truffle making.
Becca has given the presentation solo at universities, including MIT, on the East Coast and in Chicago. She has offered to cancel the events, but has been asked to continue at each of the venues. In her note to me this morning, she said "I have lived with the Kichwa communities and learned a lot about the process that accompanies the cacao production and chocolate making. I encourage you to continue with the planned event, because it supports Kallari [the Kichwa worker owned cooperative] and it really is an educational experience for everyone..."
Becca would appreciate if anyone disappointed with not being allowed to hear Enrique talk about his village, Kallari, and chocolate, call or email the American embassy in Quito to let them know that it is unfair that they have not supplied Enrique with any real reason that he should not be allowed to come once they have already given him a five year visa. She says "It really is very political, and they will pay attention if they get 50 messages, I hope..."
contact info forEmbassy of the United States of America in Quito, Ecuador: Embassy Switchboard: From abroad: 593-2-398-5000
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Our wonderful friend farmer Keith Bolin, at Biordi Imports in San Francisco with Gianfranco Savio
Keith Bolin (right), life-long farmer and Pres. of the American Corn Growers Association (click photo for link), a leading voice in the pursuit for renewable energy sources, as well as farm and trade policy, issues such as seed patent law, GMO policies and other issues that affect farmers. The ACGA is a voice representing the interests of farmers without the influence of agribusiness interests. Keith, and his friend Illinois farmer Jim Braun, inspired us, and we hope to have these brave men as guests to our island someday soon. (And Biordi Import owner Gianfranco Savio is from the same region of Italia as Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini, rides a bike to work, and was very kind and helpful during our visit to the Slow Food Congress/Nation!)