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A Brief History Of Chocolate From The Mayans To The Spanish

Brooke Hurbert

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The Mayans were the first people to make chocolate drinks. Xocolatl, as they called it, was a drink that was made by crushing the cocoa beans. Even though it was different from the chocolate we know today, it was consumed just like we do in modern times.

‘Bitter Water’ of the Mayans

Since the Mayans could not manufacture sugar from sugar cane, they couldn’t enjoy the sweetened drink that we have today. Instead, they mixed the cocoa bean crushes with chili pepper, then adding hot water. It was common for them to pour it from one cup to the other so there would be the formation of foam, which would look like the modern day Starbuck drinks.

The Mayans Associated Chocolate with a Gift from God

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Every Mayan had a belief that chocolate was given to them by gods. Due to this reason, every Mayan was allowed to enjoy the drink regardless of their social class. The drink was consumed every day, but all that changed when the Aztecs conquered them.

Since the growing of cocoa beans was halted after the conquest, it created a shortage which increased its worth. The only people who had the luxury of affording this drink were high priests, the wealthy, and royalty. To show how much Xocolatl was valued, it would be served in golden goblets that were only supposed to be used once.

Chocolate was used as a Medium of Exchange

The Mayans put so much value on chocolate that it was converted in the medium of exchange which is equivalent to the modern day money. However, after the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they were forced to pay taxes using cocoa beans. Cocoa beans were also closely guarded by the new regime, but that didn’t stop the underground market from thriving.

Chocolate used in Rituals

Since there was a common belief that xocolatl had the power to alter the brain, it was used in rituals by both Aztecs and the Mayans. The Mayans would hold a ritual festival every year to honor their god Ek Chauh for the gift of cocoa. They offered blood sacrifice, cocoa beans, and ritual dancing. The Aztec held their celebration as well which involved sacrificing a noble warrior from the rival tribe to their cocoa god.

The use of Chocolate during Births and Weddings

If you attended a Mayan wedding ceremony, you would be a served with a drink made of crushed cocoa beans and corn gruel. The drink was popular, and it was impossible not to find one at a wedding. The Mayans used clear water, flowers, and cocoa seeds to anoint the newborn. However, this changed when they were converted to Catholics by the Spanish.

Healing Power of Chocolate

The Mayans held strong beliefs that xocolatl had healing powers and would be used to treat different illnesses. The Aztecs would also take the bitter drink before heading for battle, as they believed it would give them extra strength.

The Sweetened Spanish Chocolate

After the Spanish invaded and defeated the Aztecs, they were introduced to the bitter drink but were not willing to adopt it. However, when they took the seeds to Europe, the monks realized that it would taste much better if it had sugar. That’s where the modern sweet chocolate came to existence.

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The Origins of Memorial Day in America: Rooted in a History of Former Slaves and Bravery

Cynthia Brooke

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Memorial Day is widely celebrated in the United States, as a way to remember the heroism and sacrifice of those fallen American soldiers. The day has become a time of celebration and community gatherings. With parades, food, and fireworks., it’s just like July 4th. But, while we all know the origins of other American holidays (including the 4th of July), Memorial Day is still shrouded in lost and misunderstood history. The full story is not known, and it’s quite a tale! 

Who Invented Memorial Day? 

The first acknowledged Memorial Day is linked with the tragic loss of life in Charleston, South Carolina that took place toward the end of the Civil War. Hundreds of Union soldiers were left for dead at the Washington Race Course, a makeshift prisoner-of-war camp by the Confederate side. With Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s abrupt surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. The war had taken a brutal toll on both sides, but the end of the war inspired a mass exodus of Charleston by soldiers and citizens alike. Former slaves stayed behind. Inspired by patriotic fervor, they called themselves the “Patriotic Association of Colored Men.” They took it upon themselves to bring honor and dignity to the fallen soldiers left in the race-course prison in unmarked graves when the Confederate soldiers fled. 

They excavated the unmarked mass graves and then dug 257 individual graves, surrounded by a fence to ensure a place of honor and security. Once their final memorial was complete, the community turned out for “Decoration Day,” which is now recognized by many as the first Memorial Day, in 1865.  The event included the march on the race track, singing by 2,800 black school children, preaching by black ministers, and the wide-spread decoration of the graves.  It was a way to honor the soldiers, who’d been viewed as martyrs by the Patriotic Association of Colored Men. 

The Rest is History 

Tragic loss and sacrifice are at the center of virtually every version of the first Memorial Day celebrations, but the scale is important. The Decoration Day tradition was later launched in Waterloo, New York (and yes, they claim to have invented the first Memorial Day). Memorial celebrations for Confederate soldiers took place in April 1866, and then Union Major General John A. Logan declared May 5, 1868, to be Decoration Day. There are a number of conflicting reports and claims for the events and meaning of the commemorations that took place following the cessation of hostilities at the end of the Civil War. But that last event took place at  Arlington National Cemetery. The formalization of the event at Arlington, with the mass decoration of graves with flowers and flags, is part of why the 1868 event is widely considered to be the first national Memorial Day event in US History. 

Memorial Day was then set as a May 30th national holiday, and it has continued to evolve. The true history of the day is complicated by historical bias and the fickle memories of the participants, but the role of these men and women who had once been slaves is important. After all, the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, was just a few years old when the war ended. Former slaves signed up to become Union soldiers en masse. An estimated 25,000 soldiers fought for the Union Army, but approximately 10% of their ranks were former slaves. They fought bravely and with distinction. In fact, 16 black soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their heroism in battle. It’s about time that we recognized the hidden stories that have for so long gone untold. 

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You Will Not Believe These Classic Era Celebrities Who are Still Rocking Their Golden Years

Anjali DeSimone

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Past and Present

Have you ever watched a classic movie from Hollywood’s Golden Era and wondered where are they now, or just assumed that they were not here? Read on to see some of the biggest stars from days gone by who are ruing their own world in the new millennium.

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Brave Babysitter Steps Up, Saves Child From Dangerous Burglar

Brooke Hurbert

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Making the decision to hand your child over to a babysitter can be a hard one. Every parent has that nagging thought that runs through their head, “What if something goes wrong?”. Jonathan Lai and his wife called on Jenna Lee Baker in order to watch their three-year-old son for an afternoon. What seemed like a regular afternoon soon turned into a nightmare situation. Keep on reading to find out how Jenny turned into a modern-day superhero!

Welcome to Irvine

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Jonathan Lai and his family are based out of Irvine, CA. As a tightly-knit family, Irvine has plenty to offer. The metropolitan area is located in Orange County, CA. The area is known for being home to some truly amazing local attractions. In fact, Irvine is considered one of the best cities to live in the entire United States, at least according to Business Insider and WalletHub! Still, that doesn’t mean that tragedy cannot strike!

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