Travelling responsibly and having a positive impact on the communities which we visit has always been at the heart of Tucan Travel. Today we are talking with Keiko – our Latin American Reservations Manager who has been with Tucan Travel for an incredible 20 years. Along with the rest of the Tucan Travel Peru staff, Keiko has been organising an event in celebration of Chocolatada for the last 16 years – which brings chocolate and gifts to rural communities outside of the city.
When and why did Chocolatada start?
Chocolatada is an important tradition in Peru. It’s normally done in December and simply involves giving out chocolate and small gifts to local children in schools, churches and communities. It’s something the children really look forward to and everyone gets involved – often families and friends will get together and put some money into their own event. Tucan Travel has a very strong bond with Peru and it was something that we wanted to get involved with, especially since myself and so many of the other staff are Peruvian.
We started the project in 2004 and I can’t believe it’s almost been 16 years now! I did my studies in a Catholic school in Lima and during that time I helped organise a lot of events, so this felt like a natural thing for me to do. The first event we ever did was in our hotel in Cusco at the time. We arranged for Peeky (a Tucan Travel staff member) to be our first Santa and he arrived with the gifts – about 400 children showed up and the police had to close the street! We had no idea of the impact this would have but I think the yellow truck does draw some attention. Pretty soon we started doing it outside of the city, because we wanted to visit the communities which didn’t have the option of going into Cusco. We decided to involve the communities of our Inca Trail porters because it made the most sense – we wanted them to see us as family and not just employers.
How do you pick a village?
We ask our tour leaders to look out for rural villages that might benefit from some help, but over the last few years we have mainly visited the villages of our Inca Trail porters. That’s our tradition now! If our staff find a new village we will always be open to helping and bringing this tradition as far we can.
What happens at the event?
We have to prepare quite a lot now. We find out how many children are in the village so that we have enough toys and food. We then buy the ingredients for the hot chocolate – normally oats, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and milk. We will get some colouring books, pens and pencils for the children too. Everything gets put in bags and loaded into our vans and then we drive to the village, which can be a few hours outside of Cusco. Now we normally do it on a Saturday so that it doesn’t affect the working week. The communities will also offer us some food, sometimes guinea pig, trout or potatoes. It’s an exchange that everyone enjoys.
Tucan Travel have been operating in Peru for 33 years. With the help of the fantastic teams in Lima and Cusco they are able to keep the tradition of Chocolatada going strong. If you are visiting Peru in December or January with Tucan Travel and want to find out about contributing to Chocolatada please contact your Adventure Specialist. Small gifts for the children are always welcome.