Gustavo Díaz rebounds from the devastation of Hurricane Maria to win recognition at the 2019 International Cocoa Awards (ICA) in Paris.
Gustavo Díaz was one of the first farmers that we aided after Hurricane Maria. The storm destroyed 90% of the coffee, 70% of the cocoa, and all of the plantain on Finca Tavoliz, the 9-acre farm in the mountains of Ciales that has been in Gustavo's family for generations.
In early 2018, after viewing the damage to Finca Tavoliz firsthand and spending time with Gustavo and his family, we were inspired to support their rebuilding efforts. The Paloma del Carmen Fund donated a variety of materials to begin the re-growing process, including 1,500 cocoa trees and lots of soil.
Just a year and a half after our initial visit to Finca Tavoliz, Gustavo's cocoa was named one of the Top 50 Samples in the World by the 2019 International Cocoa Awards (ICA) in Paris. Fellow Puerto Rican David Valentin of Cacao Valent also made the Top 50 list.
Gustavo's cocoa was one of 225 samples received from 55 countries. To identify the Top 50 samples, ICA put the cocoa beans through a lengthy and rigorous evaluation process that included transforming the beans into cocoa liquor and chocolate.
With incredible pride and excitement, the Paloma del Carmen Fund sponsored Gustavo's trip to Paris to attend the award ceremony and network with other cocoa producers, buyers, and manufacturers. On October 30, 2019, ICA recognized Gustavo and the other finalists in front of hundreds of industry professionals, ambassadors, and some of the world’s greatest chocolatiers at the Salon du Chocolat.
We think Gustavo's proud aunt, María Cruz, sums up the meaning of the award nicely in her statement to the ICA:
"Our nephew, Gustavo Díaz, is a young cocoa producer in Puerto Rico who was not intimidated by the vast devastation that Hurricane Maria caused across Puerto Rico and in particular on his small farm. For our family, this recognition is extremely important, for it is also a recognition of Gustavo's resilience and courage."
Supporting young farmers like Gustavo who are dedicated to growing high quality food is at the heart of achieving our vision, which is to increase the amount of locally produced food in Puert Rico's food economy from 15% to 50% over the next 10 years.
In the following video, Gustavo shows us his farm in the mountains of Ciales and talks about how he started over after Hurricane Maria with the help of the Paloma del Carmen Fund.