SI Swimsuit Model Sixtine Explores the Cacao Farms of Belize

The two-time brand star learned how to make traditional Mayan chocolate on her day off.
Sixtine was photographed by Derek Kettela in Belize.
Sixtine was photographed by Derek Kettela in Belize. / Derek Kettela/Sports Illustrated

Born in Brussels, Belgium, SI Swimsuit model Sixtine says that she has always had an appreciation for good chocolate. However, it wasn’t until she explored the traditional Mayan cacao farms in Belize, that she truly understood all the work that goes into making the sweet treat.

The ’23 rookie, who was photographed by Yu Tsai in Placencia for her feature in this year’s 60th anniversary issue, spent her day off learning from cacao farmer Narciso Saqui and touring the grounds. He explained the difference between the various cacao trees and walked the New York City resident through the property. Sixtine began by breaking open a cacao fruit and eating the pulp inside, which she said tasted like lychee. The seeds at the very center are what can be turned into chocolate.

The 26-year-old then visited the factory, where chocolate makers Julio Saqui and his wife, Heliodora, work. Sixtine changed into traditional clothing, including a colorful pink flowy skirt and a puff-sleeve white top, for the occasion.

“We’re going to show you how the Mayan people made chocolate with no electric tools,” Julio said and showed a clay griddle filled with tons of cacao beans.

“We start out with the bean, remove the shell, and then put it on this stone and then grind it down over time. The heat created by grinding, the friction, brings out the oil of the bean so it stars looking like melted chocolate,” Sixtine explained as she watched the Saquis at work.

She then tested the process out on her own, joking “this is an arm workout.” After adding sugar, cocoa butter and oil, it really starts to taste sweet like chocolate. That creamy product can then be turned into bars or mixed with water to be a common sweet drink.

“I’m going to replace my coffee with this every morning,” Sixtine said after tasting the drink. “I’m definitely seeing cacao in a different way. I’m just used to the chocolate that we eat and get from the stores. I didn’t realize how many medicinal properties it has, and how much it’s used in [traditional] ceremonies.”

The influencer ended her day by taking part in a traditional Mayan cacao offering ceremony, where farmers state their intentions and gratitude.

“I am definitely a very big manifestation girly, because it’s something my mom has done since I was a kid—just asking the universe for the kind of life you want,” she stated.

Ananya Panchal