Cacao Ceremony in Lake Atitlan
Cacao Ceremony in Lake Atitlan

Navigating Cultural Appropriation in Cacao Ceremonies

Eric Federico Fridman
4 min readJan 29, 2020

Cacao is back. The resurgence of cacao ceremonies and the view of cacao as a plant medicine has brought about a new wave of cacao ceremonialists. Many of whom are not of Mayan decent. While it is not uncommon for wellness practices to be adopted by other cultures, it is receiving a lot of scrutiny. Many harsher critics view the title of cacao ceremonialist as inaccurate, as a means of cultural appropriation, and believe it is indicative a new wave of colonialism in which this spiritual practice and other cultural elements are being exploited.

There is a fine line between observing other practices and adopting them as one’s own. Undoubtedly, globalization and mass migrations are bringing members of various backgrounds together like never before. This means that some overlap is inevitable. However, it’s important to consider if the overlap does more harm than good. Let’s begin by looking at the different perspectives on cultural assimilation, and how it affects marginalized groups.

The term “acculturation” differs from the term cultural “appropriation” in that the latter denotes taking without permission. Generally appropriation occurs when the dominant group takes on practices of an oppressed group. Members of the dominant group are able to role play “an exotic other”; inaccurately reinforcing stereotypes, removing the platform from said group, and further alienating those who have been marginalized.

On the other side of the coin, acculturation is generally praised. It occurs when members of a minority group take on the qualities of a dominant culture in order to ‘fit in.’ As an Argentinian American, my process of acculturation and assimilation was rather forced. I am inclined to confess that I would have preferred my identity remain intact. For me, this process began my first day of school. I was forced to assume the name, Eric, as opposed to, Federico which coincidentally is more American. My name has always reflected my heritage. It is a part of who I am. While it’s normal in America to call people by their first name, as a young child, I interpreted it as something to feel shame for. I felt that I immediately needed to find other ways to fit in in order to be accepted.

While the process of assimilation can be painful, there are are many positive take…

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Eric Federico Fridman

Business Builder — Social Impact Investor — Cacao Enthusiast