Originally published in Tequila Aficionado in 2003
Did someone mention tequila? !Dios nos agarre confesados! Since when has tequila become a spirit for the upper class, something to write about?
Everyone knows that tequila is a low grade spirit, appropriate para la gente pobre, peones, mecapaleros, railroad workers, boxers, eclectic writers, artists that charge by the square foot and one or two abogado de barrio bajo. People say it’s to strong, it’s bad for the body and gets you drunk, a distillate adequate for maliantess y asaltantes, because it makes people go nuts.
And even though charros like it and it’s very folkloric, es cosa del mal. At any rate, its a beverage without class. I would never offer tequila to my guests, and don’t even mention mezcal, ah so smoky, me pica! If I want to look good, I need to offer them whisky, brandy, vodka, cognac, or any of those spirits made for people with reason and good taste.
And never the less It sells. Tequila and Mezcal sell lots in Mexico and 50 other countries of the globe for a total production of over 50 million gallons . In the US, we love it and adore it just as the Aztecs praised Mayahuel. In Europe, it is featured at events attended only by royalty; it visits the table of the old guard, and it has conquered those with “good taste”, the musicians, film producers, and poets that frequent the pubs, taverns, ramblas and the new coliseums of the old world. It may be a bad thing, but since the Japanese don’t give that any credit, they to enjoy tequila and are determined to plagiarize its formulas and processes just as the South Africans. In America, the doors have been wide open to receive it, from the south of Brazil to the land of the Esquimos. And in Asia…some well informed youngsters are not sure if Mexico is two or three steps from the paradise called Toronto, but they are certain that the tequila that they drink joyously comes from that far away and mystical land called Mexico.
Mexico has been producing tequila for 400 years and today at the begging of the XX century, it stands in the middle of the ring, listo para recibir la alternativa. It has had to survive the Virreinato, the entire Colonization, the war of Independence, la Reforma, two foreign interventions, the Porfiriato, la Revolucion, and seven decenios post-revolucionarios para portar honorosamente el estoque. What would you think that the Revolucionarios were drinking, atole con el dedo, or hand fed puree. Y ahora si, que viva el tequila amigos! Thousands and thousands of men and women, from the campesino, to the most powerful positions, have devoted a significant amount of their effort to convince the world that in the genealogy of tequila there has never been a pact with the forces of evil and that in reality, it is a true gift form god.
Tequila is sold as aguardiente de agave, vino de mezcal, furor liquido, divine pleasure and many other concepts that range from the intimacy of a forbidden thought in the corner of a cantina to the most radical ideas that publicists in the US and Europe utilize to promote some 400 Mexican brands and the thousands of labels that dress mezcal and its younger brother Tequila from Jalisco to Tokyo, and back “the other way around”. The mythical scriptures say that the gods formed the ancestors of the present Mexican Nation with corn meat and maguey blood. But if one where to travel the world it would be easy to realize that beyond the Mexican border, what the common folk knows about Mexico is very little. Sad but truth. Even among the educated and well read, that have heard of the Maya and its astronomical centers or about Aztec medicine and its extensive pharmacology. The concept of Mexico is very limited. !Ah!, but if you mention the work “tequila”, there is no doubt : you are talking about Jalisco, Mexico.
Enough of that, Let’s talk about tequila. We are at the beggining of the XX century, the new nation will soon be 200 years old, the Mayan stars can gather some streangth after 5 milleniums and the god Ome Tochtli, and his mother Mayahuel and the 400 bunnies of the agave plant can very easily toast and grant us a party in honor of the mezcal from Tequila, for the world to be precise. If tequila is the pivotal point, partamos. In every coin there are two sides, in Mexican coins one side is always “el sol” and on the other side “el aguila y la serpiente”.
For now, let’s drink tequila sobre la barra mestiza de su origen, and the flat surface of the sun on the coin. It will be in an other occasion, in a few sips of tequila, that we can talk about the feathers of the eagle, y las muchas mañas que nos ha enseñando la serpiente. And mabye, just mabye, we can explore the distilleries, taste the Tequilas and enjoy the food and folklore Jalisco, has to offer.
By Alain Romero,translated and adapted from Tequila Tradicion y Destino, Enrique Martinez Limon 1999.
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