Gaytan takes the reader on a sweeping journey of Aztec myths and legends, pre-and post colonial occupation; from the Mexican Revolution to Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema, all the way up to 2014, the date of the book’s publication.
Written in an academic-style format, complete with footnotes and references, one realizes the scope of Gaytan’s daunting undertaking–
Detailing tequila’s trajectory from a drink just for “country people” to the spirit of a nation.
In every epoch explored, the author pinpoints where tequila (and pulque and mezcal) fit into the overall image of lo mexicano—what Ms. Gaytan refers to as “an idea, a sensibility, and the fiction that there exists a collective, unified Mexican national consciousness. The notion that there is one true way of being Mexican….”
Some of the memorable highlights exposed are:
–Pulque was seen as “associated with native identity and urban unrest” and “made it an unlikely contender to symbolize the modernizing [Mexican] nation.”
–Likewise, mezcal was seen as lacking the “symbolic capital” necessary to represent Mexico.
–Pancho Villa’s reputation as a violent bandit fueled by excessively drinking tequila was actually an image made up by the American Media, most notably, the Los Angeles Times, which arguably may have cost him his life.
–Mexican cinema (1936-1969), and its popular charro icons like Jorge Negrete and Pedro Infante, managed to indelibly imprint “macho” images and gender roles between men and women. Yet, there were a handful of women on screen, as well as on stage and in radio, who at the time successfully pushed the limits of these gender roles.
–The jimador, the Aztec goddess Mayahuel, and even the Virgen de Guadalupe have each been used to “portray Mexico as a simultaneously modern, unified and prestigiously prehistoric,” as well as, “…fostering the perception of a nostalgic indigenous past [that] is crucial for appearing to unite the population under a single—and easily commodified—Mexican identity.”
–Mexican state and federal officials, executives of transnational tequila companies, and the tourism industry help to fashion tequila as “…a vital and vibrant symbol of the nation.”
–Through the use of programs like the Distintivo T and others, individuals are recruited to “demonstrate their commitment not only to tequila but to the nation [of Mexico] itself.”
The most intriguing section of Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico, is by far the interviews Ms. Gaytan conducted with several individuals that examined consumers’ drinking traditions on both sides of the border.
Considering the current political climate between the United States and Mexico, and the present uncertainty surrounding NAFTA, the outcomes of these interviews prove to be culturally enlightening.
Here’s a hint…
Take a look at the substantial footnotes and references listed at the end of Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico. You are sure to come across several books and published papers that you might feel compelled to investigate yourself.
Our apologies to Ms. Gaytan for being so tardy in insisting that every student of tequila, and lover of Mexico, should include this extremely important book in your personal reference libraries.
Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico is available at Amazon.com and other booksellers in both ebook and hardcopy.