Venezuela. Makers of a sweet world | In deep

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Thousands of bees flutter throughout the sugar mill. It is a place where panela or papelón is made by hand. That's what they call it in Venezuela, although the name depends on each country: for example, piloncillo in Mexico, in some in the South they call it chancaca, in Central America raspadura or atado de dulce.


Venezuela: an Angel for nature

The La Cruz family lives in a small town in the Venezuelan Andes. For 200 years they have been dedicated to extracting the juice from sugar cane and making panela with it. The machine they have to do it was bought in the first half of the 20th century; It was one of the first with an engine. Before that time the family crushed cane with stones.

In Venezuela it is known as panela or papelón. Photo: Yarleny Rosales, Telesur

“My dad and grandfather bought it in the year, around 1938, 1940. I wasn't even born and my dad was about 18 or 20 years old. He has been improving his spare parts,” the mill owner, Azael La Cruz, tells us.

Venezuela panela movement

Machine or cane mill from the 1940s belonging to the La Cruz family. Photo: Yarleny Rosales, Telesur

Even though it is an open shed, the high temperature is overwhelming. There is no corner where you don't feel hot. “It's hard work… Without fire there is no heat and without heat there is no panela,” he says while placing the remaining bagasse in the oven to burn. “Everything is used from the cane; There is no waste,” says José Pico Rondón. He knows what he says; He has been in this job for a decade.

Venezuela panela movement

José Pico Rondón feeding the oven with cane bagasse. Photo: Telesur

The panela preparation process is manual. The guarapo or juice is passed from pool to pool with large ladles. You can see how the bubbles reproduce in each of these cauldrons. In the last one, the mixture begins to thicken. With huge wooden paddles, they beat and beat until it solidifies. Then it takes on a very bright brown color.

Venezuela panela movement

Everything is used from the cane; there is no waste. Photo: Telesur

Douglas La Cruz is the heir to this farm and does a little bit of everything, “because this is the job, it comes from far back, from the family, from generation to generation.”

It's time to form the blocks. We see how he lifts a rustic, wide wooden mold with 24 divisions and pours the candy into each of them. Now it's time to wait until it sets and dries.

Each block is packaged for sale. It is estimated that the eight mills in this area, Campos Elías, manage to market more than 4,000 bales per month.

Currently panela is used for traditional desserts and drinks. It has been known in Venezuela since 1586.

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