Criollo cacao, also known as cacao cimarrón or montañero, is produced on the slopes of Santa Marta, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The tree can grow up to four or five meters, though the trunk is not very large, while the bright green leaves are resistant, short, and angular. The fruit can measure between 10 and 15 cm in width, and its initial coloring is green before turning yellow when it is mature. The white seeds are small, thick, and covered in less pulp than common cacao. This cacao has a delicate scent and a low level of productivity. This cultivation spread thanks to the exchanging of seeds among the various ethnicities that lived in the Guajira region, as well as through the mixing of indigenous cultivations with illegally imported varieties. The first bibliographical mention of this cacao being produced in Dibulla dates back to 1895. Recently, the Association of Organic Producers of Dibulla – APOMD is the Spanish acronym- decided to create a nursery for criollo cacao. So far they have been able to obtain 50 seeds with the idea of bringing this native species of tree back to the territory. This cacao is still used today, as in the past, to make balls of chocolate. There is no real registry for the production of criollo cacao, and as such it is difficult to say how much is produced each year. This product is available on the market, but it is often mixed with other hybrid varieties of cacao. It is at risk of disappearing due to the low productivity and profit margin for the producers. Cacao criollo plants have slowly been replaced by others that are more productive, though these are of an inferior quality. Furthermore, when illegal cultivations began on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, many producers substituted their cacao plants with either marijuana or coca. The federal government used herbicides like glyphosate to eliminate the illegal plants, but these also damaged the zone’s biodiversity. Finally, those producers who have returned to producing cacao have decided to use hybrid varieties instead of this indigenous product.
The traditional products, local breeds, and know-how collected by the Ark of Taste belong to the communities that have preserved them over time. They have been shared and described here thanks to the efforts of the network that that Slow Food has developed around the world, with the objective of preserving them and raising awareness. The text from these descriptions may be used, without modifications and citing the source, for non-commercial purposes in line with the Slow Food philosophy.