Review of Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico

Review of Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico are too many fascinating facets to Marie Sarita Gaytan’s book, Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico.

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….”

[Tweet “Mezcal was seen lacking the “symbolic capital” necessary to represent Mexico.”]

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.

[Tweet “Thru programs like Distintivo T, people are recruited to demonstrate their commitment to tequila and Mexico.”]

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.

Among them are several solid resources from Ana Valenzuela Zapata, Sarah Bowen, and Ms. Gaytan herself, who have each been featured on Tequila Aficionado’s Women in The Tequila Industry series.

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 and other booksellers in both ebook and hardcopy.


Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Women In The Tequila Industry: Marie Sarita Gaytán

Sarita_book Ever wonder how Tequila got to be “The Spirit of Mexico?”

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 Sarita_crop (2)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?

SaritaMSG:  Women have always been working in the tequila industry.

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.

[Tweet “Not impressed with the CRT’s support of liquor corps and 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.


Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!