Despite the yodeling cartoon blonde girl who used to appear in late-1970s Swiss Miss commercials, hot chocolate originated some 6,000 miles from Switzerland—and several thousand years before ConAgra Foods started putting freeze-dried marshmallows in its branded paper package. Between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, the Olmec people of southern Mexico started cultivating the cacao plant, and they used roasted, ground cacao beans to make a thick chocolate drink that may have been used as a Mesoamerican version of Monster energy drink, and was also used in sacred ceremonies.
The later Maya and Aztec civilizations also had their own chocolate drinks, and 16th-century Aztec ruler Montezuma allegedly drank 50 glasses of a chili-infused chocolate beverage every day (a Kim Jong Il-worthy claim that has been questioned by historians). “It is a drink very much esteemed among the Indians, where with they feast noble men who pass through their country,” Spanish missionary Jose de Acosta wrote in the late 1500s. “They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that 'chili.’”
Hot chocolate’s Mexican origins aren’t something they tend to teach in elementary school classes, but it does make for a kind of delicious irony when it comes to one Travis County, Texas kid. Seven-year-old Benton Stevens has set up a stand where he’s selling hot chocolate… to raise money for President Donald Trump’s border wall.
Both of Benton’s parents are active members of the Republican National Committee, vocal Trump supporters, and they took their children to Trump’s inauguration, but his mother swears that he came up with this idea on his own after watching the State of the Union address. (Unlike 11-year-old Joshua Trump, apparently Benton stayed awake.)
“He wanted to know about the wall so we explained what it was about and he was like, ‘I want to raise money for the wall,’” Benton’s mother, Jennifer, told KXAN. “People think he’s brainwashed. Well, of course, he supports Trump because we do, and he hears how we talk and this and that. Call that brainwashing, but I call it parenting, because we instill our values in him.”
Those values apparently include having a child who is a decade away from being old enough to vote stand outside a strip mall wearing a Trump hat and selling $2 cups of hot chocolate. Customers could also select either a free “Beto” marshmallow from a bowl decorated with a picture of Beto O’Rourke, or a 50-cent “Pelosi” marshmallow from a bowl with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s picture on it. (No, none of that that makes sense).
In an hour, Benton sold enough hot chocolate to make $231, and then they closed down the stands after allegedly receiving complaints. “I guess some liberals—or whatever you want to call them—they were griping at the owner [of the store behind the stand] and going in and yelling at him and slamming him on Facebook,” Jennifer said.
Unsurprisingly, Benton has his detractors, and so do his parents. Someone called the boy “Little Hitler” while he was selling hot chocolate—or xocoatl, as Mexico’s own Aztecs called it—and accused the entire family of hating brown people. (“I don’t understand that at all,” Jennifer said).
But between Benton’s brief in-person sales, Venmo, and a GoFundMe that you can Google the link for if you really want it, the family has raised around $1,400 for the border wall. Jennifer says that she will “get [the money] into the wall,” because she and her husband are “pretty connected” to the RNC.
For what it’s worth, the Stevens family live close to Austin, Texas, a city that is 35 percent Hispanic, a demographic percentage that is estimated to increase to 40 percent by 2020. Austin is 225 miles from the Mexican border—roughly the same distance from Boston to New York City—and about 935 miles from Mexico City, where the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was located.
You know, the same place where they made hot chocolate for centuries before it was sold as powder-filled packets in the US.