After traveling along the Máximo Gómez through the picturesque province of Monte Plata for 45 minutes (15 kilometers) to the northwest, you will come to the village of Yamasá. Here, you can visit the Cerámica Taína Hermanos Guillen of the Guillen brothers. Once you arrive, the energy of the Taíno gods takes over and you feel it all around you. These are the same brothers who host the Fiesta San Antonio for the community in June of every year. The factory is set amidst cocoa trees and the very palpable tranquility that the Monte Plata province exudes.
These brothers claim to have honed their own Taíno ancestral artistry of ceramics to perfect what are the closest replicas made. Most archaeologists agree this is true, save for the signature on each piece. When you come to their factory, they show you the steps that they take to mold their clay by hand, fire the pieces in huge ovens, and paint them by hand. You will then have the opportunity to purchase pieces of their handiwork in the shop at a greatly reduced prices. For details, contact Yamasá Tours (Calle Duarte 9, tel. 809/525-0756, Yamasá), where English and Spanish are spoken.
You are in the land of cocoa! Over the past 20 years, CONACADO (Confederación Nacional de Cacaocultores Dominicanos or the National Confederation of Dominican Cacao Producers) has been building a strong web of bloques, or cocoa farmer associations, in the Dominican Republic . Over 40 percent of CANACADO’s cocoa is sold in the Fair Trade market. Each year, the cooperative’s Fair Trade premiums are distributed to the bloques for use in community projects like education, infrastructure, health, and development (like the development of cacao ecotourism!).
You can visit one of the bloques and see how cocoa is fermented, dried, and processed: Bloque Cacaotalero No. 2 (Calle Rafael de la Cruz 2, El Cercadillo, Yamasá, tel. 809/525-0641, blao.cacaotero [at] claro [dot] net [dot] do). At the end of the tour, they give you a cup of hot chocolate that is like none other in the world, totally organic and sustainable. Good for the karma, too.