Dr. Marie Sarita Gaytán explains how in her landmark book, Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico.
While we’ve interviewed other Tequila Boss Ladies who have a hand in producing their own brands, this tequila and mezcal researcher, who is also an Associate Professor at the University of Utah, can explain how it came to be known as Mexico’s National Drink.
Besides, when it comes to Women In the Tequila Industry, she’s the one best suited to explain how Tequila actually became an industry.
Here, she gives us her responses to our customary handful of questions. Afterwards, do yourself a favor and add her book to your tequila library.
TA: How would you describe your experiences as a woman in a primarily male dominated industry? What are the challenges you face when dealing with the male dominated Tequila/Mezcal Industries?
MSG: I think that it’s important to note that, although a woman, I am not actually involved in these industries. Instead, I’m a tequila and mezcal researcher, so my experiences are much different than those women who are navigating the business side of these trades.
What I can say, however, is that during the process of conducting fieldwork in Mexico for my book, industrialists, regulators, and tourism employees, both men and women, were generous with their time.
I approached the topic with sincere curiosity—I did not have a hypothesis to prove, I wanted to learn as much as I could, and folks were very open to sharing their experiences.
TA: How have you been able to change things within the Tequila/Mezcal Industries?
MSG: What I have done is try to resituate the focus on tequila by paying attention to the people behind the product.
I am less interested in which tequila tastes best, or experimenting with the latest agave-based cocktail.
My work underscores how and why tequila emerged as Mexico’s drink—that is, my aim was to dig into the politics that created the conditions for tequila’s rise to fame within the nation.
TA: What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila/Mezcal Industries?
What’s changed somewhat, is that now they are creating their own brands, starting their own companies.
As tequila and mezcal become more global, there is more room for the entrance of new actors, new competition.
Women are definitely making their mark as the market continues to widen.
TA: What facets of the Tequila/Mezcal Industries would you like to see change?
MSG: I am not especially impressed with the Tequila Regulatory Council’s close connection to the government, their support of the interests of transnational liquor conglomerates, and their myopic focus on profit.
Together with Sarah Bowen (from North Carolina State University), we’ve published several articles critiquing their politics—extralocal actors, in particular, multi-national companies—have more influence over the direction of the industry at the peril of small-scale agave farmers, local craftsmen/women, and the residents of Tequila.
This remains a critical problem, one that is not poised to change anytime soon.
TA: Do you approve of how Tequila/Mezcal brands are currently marketing themselves?
I’ve never thought about this question as a matter of approval or disapproval, but what I will say, is that I’m very interested in seeing how tequila and mezcal branding unfolds in China.
What do producers think about Chinese consumers? What will Chinese consumers be looking for when they purchase certain brands? This is fascinating stuff.
TA: Is there anything you’d like to say to women who may be contemplating entering and working in the Tequila/Mezcal Industries in one form or another?
MSG: Continue to network and find a mentor, woman or man, to help you understand the nuances of the industry.