The Community Food Revolution in Guatemala

The Community Food Revolution In Guatemala

Tue 27 Aug 2013

Story by Melissa Alonzo

Guatemala is often acclaimed for its cultural richness and biodiversity, but is rarely recognized for its cuisine.

We are a group of entrepreneurs made up of myself, David Tala, Eunice Barcarcel and Ana Luisa Perez who believe in the potential of our country. In Guatemala, we are dedicated to the preservation of our culinary traditions, eating is about tradition.

Our contribution to the world is ingredients of course!
Maize: Better known as a sacred ingredient for our Mayan Culture, the four colours of the maize symbolizes the cycle of life, because of its symbolism and accessibility it has become the main ingredient in Guatemala with tradition , delivering wonderful first class dishes.
Vanilla: An orchid from the Mayan Tropical Forest.
Cacao: Better known as “ food for gods”. Cacao holds a special place in Guatemalan cuisine. It was used as currency and in religious functions in addition to its culinary applications. It was also the Mayas who thought Europeans their custom for drinking chocolate. Today the importance of cacao remains deeply rooted to Guatemala culture gifting the world with wonderful recipes.
Ramon: This tall majestic tree, their nuts contains more protein than corn, more fiber and iron than oat, and more potassium than soy. It is used in the preparation of flour and bread, as well as ice cream and all sorts of beverages.
Loroco: Flower used as a traditional ingredient in Guatemalan popular cuisine. Is a condiment with a rich distinctive taste, highly appreciated also for its deep scent.
Achiote: Ingredient used since ancient times for culinary and religious purposes. It gives color to food and beverages such as chocolate.
Black Salt: Even though there are many different kinds of salt in the world, the black salt of Guatemala is unique. Its the only one that comes from the fresh water of a river. This hidden treasure is waiting to be discovered by the world.

Cooking for Hope

Tourism is one of the pillars of the Guatemalan economy and ‘Cooking for Hope’ is a project sponsored by Porta Hotels in Guatemala, which aims to create opportunities in Guatemalan communities through the development of culinary skills.

The main objective of the project is to develop opportunities to our communities and help offset our countries social and health problems by teaching people the right manipulation of food and providing job opportunities in tourism areas.

Currently the project is in its first stage with 33 students from the community of Pastores, which is located near Antigua Guatemala , one of the most important tourist destinations in our country. It is estimated that the project benefits 165 people (33 families) intervened in a direct way and around 700 in an indirect way. Our goal is to be able to replicate this project in other communities near tourist destinations; currently the project is being executed with the support of Ben ONG.

The project began as an idea, while I was working in the hospitality and tourism industry. I realized the constant need that hotels and restaurants of the destination had in the search of skilled labor in the service and kitchen area, being the biggest lack, despite the reality of our country and economy, the development of opportunities in communities close to the destinations.

The project itself was presented as a solution by United Way to me; this project had already been submitted to another hotel in the area to be integrated with other community, the project was not implemented by that institution, since I’ m the type of person that think big, outside the box, I decided to take the project with a very ambitious goal and adapt it to be able to be implemented and replicated elsewhere in Guatemala or even the world as an integral solution for sustainable development.

I decided to take the risk and execute the project without any budget with the support of my boss and the hotel I’m currently working, since I needed chefs to develop the project I decided to launch an open call on Facebook seeking for chefs that would volunteer to execute the project, this is how I meet my co workers in the project, David, Eunice and Ana Luisa.

Eunice worked for this NGO called Ben, which luckily me, BEN is an ngo that develops projects involving sustainability and the correct manipulation of food in communities.

So here we are all, working together to make a difference in our country, to make it count!

For more information about this project please contact Melissa Alonzo at

About the author: Melissa Alonzo , Entrepreneur, traveler, photographer, worked developing sustainable tourism programs in different communities in Guatemala for several years, Studied Hospitality and tourism management and business administration; currently corporate marketing director at Porta Hotels. I always believed that tourism can help in the development of my country not only in a sustainable way for the preservation of our history and culture but also in economy, I’ ve always said that I work in the love of my life, just as an expression, my passion. I’m one of the few Guatemalans that have that love for its country beyond rational comprehension.

Author contribution: Chef Mirciny Moliviatis Through her recipes she has reach millions of Latin America Homes, who watch her daily show “ Puro Chef” by Fox Channels. She is our food ambassador, her vision is to present to the world our culture and flavor through a culinary experience. She knows the importance of giving back to communities. She combines her passion with her experience working with chefs such as Ferran Adria, Juan Mari Arak, Karlos Arguiño.


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