Thursday, February 3, 2011

Would you like some gum?

The day started very early with a three hour drive to Carmelita, another FORESCOM member. Carmelita is a resident community located in the forest concession. The road is unpaved and pretty damaged, so sleeping was not an option.

Selecting xate for the US market (Photo: A. Vargas)

Upon arrival there was a presentation and a visit to Carmelita forestry facilities. I saw how Xate leaves are classified and packed to be exported to the US (the largest leaves) and The Netherlands (smaller leaves). Women are employed by Carmelita to do this job. Because the collection of Xate is not seasonal, these women have a steady income throughout the year.

Then I walked in this big room filled with squared blocks. They were made of resin collected in the forest concession from the Chico Zapote tree. The resin is boiled for some hours before it becomes gum.

When the group was invited to try the gum, I was a bit reluctant at first. But as more and more people dared, I decided to give it a try and it was worth doing it. The flavour is not something you can easily recognize. It was a smoky-woody flavour, but I could chew it as the gum I am used to. From now on, anytime I will chew gum I will remember the blocks piled waiting to start their long trip before arriving to me packaged as mint chewing gum.

Weighing gum block (Photo: A. Vargas)

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