San Agustín, Colombia – 18 April 2004

Panela, a solid block of raw, unrefined sugar, is made by cooking and evaporation of the sugar cane juice into a golden, sticky syrup which is then poured into the wooden molds and allowed to solidify. Having the taste like a cross between molasses and brown sugar, panela is served as a hot or cold infusion (aguapanela). Due to the large amounts of proteins, vitamins and minerals and thus, panela is believed to have healing powers. Cheaper than sugar, it is consumed by the majority of Colombians and it is a major source of calories for children from families with low socioeconomic status. With more than 70,000 farms that cultivate sugarcane for mills, panela production is an important economic activity in the Colombian countryside, employing around 350,000 people and being the second largest source of jobs after agricultural coffee production.

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