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Native to the tropical forests of Central America, the cacao tree was cultivated by the Mayas and the Aztecs. Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover cacao in July 1502 on the small island of Guanaja (now part of Honduras) but he didn't consider it of any importance. It was only after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire that chocolate was imported to Europe, where the chocolate drink soon became a favourite of the Spanish court. As a result, the craze for chocolate developed in Spain, South America and the Caribbean islands long before it reached the rest of Europe. France discovered cacao in 1615 when Ann of Austria (the daughter of Philip III of Spain) married Louis XIII of France. It was during the 19th century that the chocolate industry was born thanks to the development of new techniques. From then on, chocolate was gradually consumed less for its supposed medicinal properties and more and more for pleasure.
Cappiello Leonetto (1875-1942)
Paris, musée d'Orsay
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