Aldo E. Ramos: Seeking Alternatives to the Colonial Relation with Cacao

Thesis Advisor: Bassam el Baroni

Second Advisor: Rachel O'Reilly

June 2018


This thesis addresses the meanings of chocolate and its plant source cacao, as they appear to us in their destructive entanglements with colonial power. Navigating these entanglements will hence entail an account of the historical repercussions of cacao's commoditization. Secondly, I propose and promote decolonial methods of relating to the plant, which concern the fostering of respectful community relations and artistic practices. Here research is drawn from my encounters with communities in Abya Yala (the decolonial term for Central America), especially in Ayotzinapa, La Realidad, and Arhuacos, whom I have been in contact with during my personal and artistic development and research.Each of these communities, among many others in Central and South America, are defending the mountains, the rivers and the forests with their lives. Cacao is present in all three communities not only as a crop but as a medium for wide-ranging traditions and cosmological relations.In Ayotzinapa, as La Realidad and Arhuacans, in different ways, the people are fighting against the “monster of a thousand heads” – a concept crafted by the Zapatistas[1] to explain the world of colonial-patriarchal-capitalism as a system of oppression. This monster steals their lands, punishes their traditions, betrays the people, and turns them against the land.

Embracing a situated knowledge in their relationship to the earth, the Arhuacans refer to Western civilization, and its origin in colonialism as, “the younger brothers and sisters”. My thesis works in accordance with, and from this acknowledgement:Westerners bring a very limited understanding to many of the materials, knowledges, and relations they have extracted from Abya Yala, and the South more broadly, throughout the ongoing colonial relationship. To deal with this, ethically, politically, epistemologically and increasingly as a matter of planetary survival, a decolonial approach in practice and theory makes its demands upon us all.



[1]The Zapatista Army of National Liberation is an organization of indigenous communities in Southeast Mexico looking for “a world where many worlds can coexist”.