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food / travel

Forget Willy Wonka: The Fantastic Tales Of Spanish Chocolate

A chocolate museum nestled in Spain's small town of Astorga reveals how an exotic delicacy became a veritable 'opium of the masses.'

Cocoa beans at the Museum of Chocolate in Astorga
Cocoa beans at the Museum of Chocolate in Astorga
Alfonso Masoliver

ASTORGA — Mention chocolate in Astorga, a town in north-western Spain, and you'll plunge into pages of Ibero-American history. This spiced, sweet delicacy, available in any corner shop or gas station, wasn't originally easy for Spaniards to get their hands on. When it first arrived, it tasted harsh and bitter, like the iron and gunpowder used to conquer its homeland, Mexico, in the 16th century. The conquistador Hernán Cortés and his companions noted a drink served at Aztec banquets "in delicate, golden cups, made of cocoa itself, which they said was in order to consort with women." They soon learned the drink would infuse any man with unusual energy— a magic potion that could energize warriors before battle.

A similar idea probably crossed Emperor Charles V of Spain's mind when he ordered the import of this miracle drink in order to fire up his foot soldiers in the frigid Netherlands. Cocoa became a hot commodity and a prized dowry, and when Cortés' own daughter was betrothed to the future Marquis of Astorga, the aroma of chocolate likely began to waft through the streets of this small, historic town.

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Geopolitics

Venezuela-Iran: Maduro And The Axios Of Chaos In The Americas

With the complicity of leftist rulers in Venezuela, Bolivia and even Argentina, Iran's sanction-ridden regime is spreading its tentacles in South America, and could even undermine democracies.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro visiting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iran on June 11. Venezuela is one of Iran's closest allies, and both are subject to tough U.S. sanctions.

Julio Borges

-Analysis-

CARACAS —The dangers posed by Venezuela's relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran is something we've warned about before. Though not new, the dangers have changed considerably in recent years.

They began under Venezuela's late leader, Hugo Chávez , when he decided to turn his back on the West and move closer to countries outside our geopolitical sphere. In 2005, Chávez and Iran's then president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, signed collaborative agreements in areas beyond the economy, with goals that included challenging the West and spreading Iran's presence in Latin America.

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