Calling all chocolate lovers! Have you ever thought about where chocolate comes from? Travel Impactful is providing you a unique opportunity to talk face-to-face with a cacao farm owner, Decenia, who shares not only your passion for chocolate but also a love for Puerto Rico!
The spirit of Travel Impactful is to provide you a unique travel experience where you can interact directly with the community while you enjoy an amazing vacation. We strive to connect our travelers with local businesses, especially those run by women entrepreneurs, like Decenia. We hope that you will be inspired to share her story and use your unique skills to help grow her business, Cacao 360!
I first connected with Decenia in December 2021 through a volunteer trip to Puerto Rico with one of our partners, an organization called Conservation Opportunity. They organize monthly events to bring volunteers to help out at the cacao farm. Since Decenia doesn’t have a lot of money, she relies on volunteers to help her do work around the farm. After working there for a while, I learned quite a bit about cacao.
Cacao has many benefits that promote health. Studies have shown that the fiber found in cacao powder promotes healthy digestion and reduces the risk of other digestive problems. Cacao also contains flavonoids, which are nutrients that can lower blood pressure, improve blood flow in the brain and heart, and also prevent blood clots. In addition, cacao increases insulin sensitivity, which can reduce the risk of diabetes. Further, its high levels of potassium decrease the risk of heart disease, and the flavonoids can reduce inflammation throughout the body, which has been shown to have preventative properties against some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and slows the onset of Alzheimer’s. Cacao is also an excellent source of antioxidants while also containing many important nutrients, such as iron, protein, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and fiber. Lastly, cacao is a natural mood elevator and antidepressant, which is no wonder why Decenia is always so bright and welcoming!
In return for our work, she gave us chocolate to taste and taught us how cacao grows. She and her husband run a café, serving fresh hot chocolate to visitors. They were extremely hospitable and generous. Their products are unique, including cacao nibs and even cacao tea. Decenia also taught us about the many different methods of eating cacao. She showed us that after making cacao tea, we could then eat the remaining bits of cacao. After listening to her, I no longer have to feel guilty about eating chocolate as long as I am eating the right kind of chocolate!
Starting a business is no easy task, especially for women who are trying to break into a predominately male-dominated industry, such as farming. During our tour of the cacao farm, we learned from Decenia that her dream of becoming a cacao farm owner had many obstacles. Despite having two master’s degrees, she had to overcome the traditional gender roles in order to assert herself as a leader and innovator. She used different tactics to persuade the farmers to work with her and even had to ask her father to represent her—he became the face of the company while she was the brains.
In 2017, Decenia’s farm, Semila, along with many other local farms, were ravaged by Hurricane Maria. The farmers begged her to stay to help them revive their cacao farms. Despite having the opportunity to leave Puerto Rico for a better paying job in America, Decenia decided to stay to help local farmers rebuild. She taught them how to grow cacao using more efficient methods and bought the cacao from them at the fair trade price, which she then used to make cacao products for her company. She helped the farmers make more than 50k per year so that they could stay in Puerto Rico with their families instead of leaving for the mainland. Today, a few years later, the cacao plants are growing again! It is a truly heartwarming story. So when you taste the chocolate, you not only taste the sweetness of the cacao but the passion and the genuine kindness that Decenia puts into it.
After listening to Decenia’s story, I felt inspired. She found purpose in life doing what she loves: working on the farm, being in nature, supporting local families. She is the true definition of success—doing what she loves while living within a paradise in her cacao farm. Chocolate usually comes from Africa and South America, but the cacao that Decenia produces in Puerto Rico is truly unique. Travel Impactful choses to support her and her company because her cacao is a domestic product, she is a woman entrepreneur, and we are inspired and moved by her story. We would love to play a significant role in helping her business grow!
I hope to find people who strive for a purpose in life, like Decenia, to bring them to her farm Semila, and inspire them to share her love and passion. So, if you feel stuck in life and are looking for a mental break, come join us on our April vacation. We will do some mindfulness exercises, including meditation and gentle yoga in the mountain for two to three days. Afterwards, we will go to the cacao farm to meet and talk with Decenia. Our mission is to inspire you to “Travel Impactful”. We want to inspire you to take action to help others, providing you with a unique opportunity to connect with local entrepreneurs—especially women like Decenia—and hear the “why” behind their business and their impact. You can use your own skills, such as social media managing, marketing or simply buy some chocolate to help people like Decenia. Perhaps, it is the beginning of finding your paradise within.