“More than 500 years ago, in the Quimbo canyon -located in the center of the Huila department, between the Eastern and Central Cordilleras of Colombia- lived the indigenous people of the “Michúes”. This community, which was characterized by its short stature, worked for a long time shoulder to shoulder to attend and worship who they considered their queen, the beautiful and giant Mirthayú.
One day a giant named Matambo appeared, and in his wake, consumed and destroyed the crops and chambers the Michúes had prepared for their queen. Faced with this outrage, Mirthayú, along with her people, went into combat. However, Matambo, seeing the beautiful queen, was stunned by her beauty, so he decided to make a truce, put himself at her disposal, and help restore the damage caused after his arrival.
With the passing of time, love arose between the giants and, to celebrate it, they decided to make an expedition to the source of the Guacacayo river ("the river of the tombs"), better known as the Magdalena river. This expedition was not very well regarded by the Michúes, and, in retaliation, they opposed their migration south, fiercely attacking Matambo like an enraged and coordinated swarm of bees. Faced with the violent affront against her beloved, Mirthayu tried to defend her by receiving coups de grace, and, together with her lover, they were killed by this small but brave indigenous town. Today their bodies lie next to each other and besides the great Magdalena River, the silhouette of the giant Matambo's face and the breasts of Queen Mirthayú being seen in the mountains."
The municipality of Gigante has a wide environmental offer. This is due to the fact that its limits go from the natural reserve of Cerro Páramo Miraflores, located in the eastern mountain range, to Cerro Matambo and the extinct beaches of the Magdalena River. This ecosystem diversity allows the municipality to have not only a variety of landscapes but also a diverse food production such as coffee, cacao, and other transitory and permanent crops.
In the 1960s, the municipality of Gigante came to be recognized as the cacao capital of Colombia due, in principle, to the fact that it was the meeting point of the first General Assembly of cacao growers, where it was decided to create the National Federation of Cacaoteros. But, particularly, it was the variety of trinitarian and hybrid cacaos found in its extensive cacao farms that gave the municipality such recognition.
However, after the establishment of a hydroelectric energy extraction project, Gigante was directly damaged and turned out to be the municipality with the largest area of flooded land, with a total of 3,770 hectares affected. This resulted in multiple socio-environmental damages: the crops that Matambo once helped to restore were definitively destroyed, centennial cacao farms disappeared, and different sources of employment that had been established as an ancestral vocation such as artisanal fishing and agricultural production, were submerged. The life projects of thousands of farmers and the ecological balance were directly affected, destroying multiple ecosystems in the region.
In spite of everything, the people of the municipality of Gigante have resisted in multiple ways the devastation promoted by a vision of development from above. In a resilient way, they have been able to develop a vital and important fish, coffee, and cacao production, thanks to the associative work of their producers. There has been a resurgence of families and young people interested in the establishment of regional varieties, based on conservation practices and research of the genetic diversity of the territory.
The people who preside over the associations have been able to effectively lead operations, aware of the potential of the variety of ancestral hybrid cacaos found in the municipality, and it is thanks to their curiosity and discipline that they have managed to capture the interest of multiple public entities and private networks with which cooperation and work networks have been established to strengthen the sector.