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Early coconut distillation and the origins of mezcal and tequila spirits in west-central Mexico

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No evidence exists of distillation in Mexico before European contact. The Philippine people in Colima established the practice in the 16th Century to produce coconut spirits. Botanical, toponymic, archaeological, and ethnohistoric data are presented indicating that agave distillation began in Colima, in the lower Armería-Ayuquila and Coahuayana-Tuxpan river basins, using Agave angustifolia Haw. and through adaptation of the Philippine coconut spirits distillation technique. Subsequent selection and cultivation of agaves led to their domestication and diversification. This did not take place in the lower river basins, where agave populations tended to disappear. The distillation technique spread to the foothills of Colima volcanoes and from there to all of western Mexico, leading to creation of tequila and other agave spirits. Two factors aided producers in avoiding strict Colonial prohibitions and were therefore key to the diffusion and persistence of agave spirits production: (1) clandestine fermentation in sealed, underground pits carved from bedrock, a native, pre-European contact technique; and (2) small, easy-to-use Philippine-type stills that could be hidden from authorities and allowed use of a broad range of agave species.
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RESEARCH ARTICLE
Early coconut distillation and the origins of mezcal and
tequila spirits in west-central Mexico
Daniel Zizumbo-Villarreal Æ
Patricia Colunga-Garcı
´aMarı
´n
Received: 10 December 2006 / Accepted: 8 May 2007 / Published online: 14 July 2007
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007
Abstract No evidence exists of distillation in
Mexico before European contact. The Philippine
people in Colima established the practice in the 16th
Century to produce coconut spirits. Botanical, top-
onymic, archaeological, and ethnohistoric data are
presented indicating that agave distillation began in
Colima, in the lower Armerı
´a-Ayuquila and Coahua-
yana-Tuxpan river basins, using Agave angustifolia
Haw. and through adaptation of the Philippine
coconut spirits distillation technique. Subsequent
selection and cultivation of agaves led to their
domestication and diversification. This did not take
place in the lower river basins, where agave popu-
lations tended to disappear. The distillation technique
spread to the foothills of Colima volcanoes and from
there to all of western Mexico, leading to creation of
tequila and other agave spirits. Two factors aided
producers in avoiding strict Colonial prohibitions and
were therefore key to the diffusion and persistence of
agave spirits production: (1) clandestine fermentation
in sealed, underground pits carved from bedrock, a
native, pre-European contact technique; and (2)
small, easy-to-use Philippine-type stills that could
be hidden from authorities and allowed use of a broad
range of agave species.
Keywords Agave angustifolia Cocos nucifera
Diversification Domestication Genetic resources
Mexico Mezcal Tequila
Introduction
With 200 species, the Agave genus is the largest of
the Agavaceae family. Its center of origin and
diversity is Mexico, where 150 species (75%) are
distributed, 116 (58%) of which are endemic (Gentry
1982; Garcı
´a-Mendoza 2003). Before corn (Zea mays
L.) became a staple crop, agaves were the main
carbohydrate source for the native populations of
what are today western Mexico and the southeast
United States of America. They were eaten by first
cooking the stems and floral peduncles in stone ovens
(Callen 1965;Smith1986; Hodgson 2001). In
western Mexico, cooked agave stems and floral
peduncles were also used to produce nutritionally
and culturally important beverages, whereas in cen-
tral Mexico beverages were made of fresh agave sap
from cuts in the floral peduncle (Bruman 1940,2000;
Parsons and Parsons 1990; Nobel 1994; Parsons and
Darling 2000).
Dedicated to Henry Bruman in honor of his contribution to the
understanding of coconut and agave genetic resources history
in America.
D. Zizumbo-Villarreal (&)P. Colunga-Garcı
´aMarı
´n
Unidad de Recursos Naturales, Centro de Investigacio
´n
Cientı
´fica de Yucata
´n, Calle 43 No. 130, Col. Chuburna
´
de Hidalgo, Me
´rida 97200 Yucata
´n, Me
´xico
e-mail: zizumbo@cicy.mx
123
Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510
DOI 10.1007/s10722-007-9255-0
Production of spirits from fermented coconut and
agave became an economically significant activity in
western Mexico in the 17th and 18th centuries, in
response to the advent of mining in northern and
central Mexico (Luna-Zamora 1991;Zizumbo-
Villarreal 1996). The resulting competition with
grape-based spirits imported from Spain led to
prohibition of the production and sale of coconut
and agave spirits. Coconut spirits consequently
disappeared and agave spirits were then produced
clandestinely in remote areas far from the influence
of Colonial authorities (Sevilla del Rı
´o1977; Walton
1977;Burwell1995; Zizumbo-Villarreal 1996).
Legalization of agave spirits production in the mid-
19th century, in addition to increasing international
demand for agave spirits (particularly tequila, made
in Tequila, Jalisco) in the late 19th century and
throughout the 20th century, has since returned it to
being the most significant economic activity in
western Mexico (Luna-Zamora 1991; Valenzuela-
Zapata and Nabhan 2003).
There are currently diverse types of agave spirits
produced in Mexico, differentiated by the species
used and the traditional features of the cooking,
fermentation and distillation processes. Colunga-
Garcı
´aMarı
´n(2006) has reported 43 species use to
elaborate these drinks. They commonly receive the
generic name ‘‘mezcales,’’ but agave spirits can
receive about 80 different regional names because of
their different features. A Denomination of Origin
(DO) has been recognized to some of them, as the
DO ‘‘tequila’’ for the ‘‘mezcal’’ produced with
Agave tequilana Weber grown in the states of
Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoaca
´n, Guanajuato, and Tam-
aulipas; the DO ‘‘mezcal’’ for the agave spirits
produced with A. angustifolia Haw., A. asperrima
Jacobi, A. weberi Cela, A. potatorum Zucc., A.
salmiana spp. crassispina (Trel.) Gentry, and any
other species grown for this purpose in the states of
Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Oaxaca, San Luis
Potosı
´, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas, and that it is not
in any other DO; and the DO ‘‘bacanora’’ for the
‘mezcal’’ produced with A. angustifolia in the state
of Sonora. Traditional production processes of these
and other spirits made by distilling the ferments of
cooked agave stems have been documented by
Gentry (1982), Burwell (1995), Valenzuela-Zapata
(1997), Garcı
´a-Mendoza (1998,2003), Granados-
Sa
´nchez (1999), Aguirre-Rivera et al. (2001),
Espinosa-Paz et al. (2002), Colunga-Garcı
´aMarı
´n
(2006), among others.
No archaeological or historical evidence are avail-
able for the suggestion of Bourke (1893) and Lumholtz
(1902) for the existence of distillation in Mexico before
European contact. There are two hypotheses about the
origins and distillation of agave spirits. Bruman (1944a,
1945) proposed that agave distillation and spirits
production originated during the late 16th Century in
the state of Colima with the introduction and adaptation
of Philippine technology used to produce spirits from
coconut (Cocos nucifera L.). Other authors (Luna-
Zamora 1991; Valenzuela-Zapata 1997; Valenzuela-
Zapata and Nabhan 2003), however, have claimed it
originated during the early 17th Century in the Tequila
Valley, Jalisco, through adaptation of the sugar cane
(Saccharum officinarum L.) rum technological model
and using the Arab type still.
Walton (1977) provided linguistic and historical
data that suggest that the origin of the agave spirit
later named ‘‘tequila’’ after the town where it became
famous, can be traced to the Colima volcanoes region
in southern Jalisco, thus supporting Bruman’s
hypothesis (1944a,1945). Further supporting Bruman
and Walton, Colunga-Garcı
´aMarı
´n and Zizumbo-
Villarreal (2006) reported a greater number of agave
cultivars used in agave spirits production in southern
Jalisco than in the central Jalisco valleys of Tequila
and Amatita
´n, as well as generalized use of Philip-
pine-style stills. They also suggested that agave
spirits distillation in central-west Mexico began in
the lower Armerı
´a and Coahuayana river basins
in Colima. Vargas-Ponce et al. (2007) reported that in
the foothills of the Colima volcanoes, A. tequilana
was used for tequila production, and A. angustifolia
and A. rhodacantha for other traditional agave spirits.
They also documented 24 morphologically differen-
tiated, local cultivars that have not yet been taxo-
nomically or agronomically described. These have
been selected from wild populations and cultivated
by local producers, suggesting that this region is a
center of agave diversification and domestication
focused on agave spirits production.
Within this context, botanical, toponymic, archae-
ological and ethnohistorical research was done aimed
at answering the following questions: (1) Did agave
distillation originate from application of the coconut
spirits distillation technique in the lower Armerı
´a and
Coahuayana river basins of Colima and later spread
494 Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510
123
to the foothills?; (2) Did agave diversification and
domestication begin in the lowlands?; and (3) What
characteristics of the production process favored the
diffusion and persistence of agave spirits production
despite its legal prohibition and competition from
imported Spanish spirits?
Methodology
Study area and botanical evidence
Botanical exploration was done from September 2003
to September 2005 following the methods of Her-
na
´ndez-Xolocotzi (1971). This included collection of
botanical material and germplasm within the area
covered by Colima in the 16th Century, that is, the
provinces of Amula, Tuspa, Tepetitango, Coalcoma
´n,
Colimotl, and Motı
´n del Oro (Fig. 1) (Sauer 1948).
Particular emphasis was placed on sites along the
Ayuquila-Armerı
´a and Tuxpan-Coahuayana river
systems. Botanical samples were deposited in the
herbarium of the Centro de Investigacio
´n Cientifica
de Yucata
´n (CICY) (Carnevali 2004). Germplasm
accessions were placed in the CICY Agave Collec-
tion (Colunga-Garcı
´aMarı
´n2004) (Table 1).
Toponymic data
Based on the assumption that geographic names
indicate the cultural or economic importance given
by inhabitants to the referent in the place name,
records were made of sites with names related to the
agave plant, its uses and products. For example,
mexcatl or mezcatl are Na
´huatl words for agave, ixtle
is the Na
´huatl word for agave fiber and taberna is the
Fig. 1 Territory of Colima
in 16th Century (Sauer
1948) showing place names
associated with the agave
plants or the agave spirits
production (mezcal)
(Toponymic data: letters),
and collection sites for
botanical material and
germplasm (numbers, see
Table 1)
Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510 495
123
Table 1 Herbarium and germplasm collections: Population,
Municipality, State (St); Geographic location: Latitude (Lat),
Longitude (Lon), Altitude (Alt); Species (Sp): Agave angust-
ifolia (A); A. rhodacantha (R); A. hookeri (H); A. colimana (C);
Botanic collection number or photographic record (Co/RF),
Germplasm accession number (Ac)
No. Population Municipality St Lat Lon Alt Sp Col/RF Ac
1 Sayula 1 Atoyac Jal 19857010382601013 A1230 1237
2 Sayula 2 Atoyac Jal 19857010382601013 A1233 1235
3 Sayula 3 Atoyac Jal 19857010382601013 A1235 1235
4 Sayula 4 Atoyac Jal 19857010382601013 R1237 1237
5 Sayula 5 Sayula Jal 19841010384401586 Anc 03170v2
6 Sayula 6 Atoyac Jal 19857010383601356 Anc 03122
7 Sayula 7 Sayula Jal 19857010382601013 A3123 nc
8 San Gabriel 1 Sayula Jal 19845010384201864 A1318 nc
9 San Gabriel 2 Sayula Jal 19845010384201863 A1319 1319
10 San Gabriel 3 San Gabriel Jal 19845010384201864 Anc 1362
11 San Gabriel 4 Sayula Jal 19845010384201863 Anc 1422
12 San Gabriel 5 Sayula Jal 19851010383601489 Anc 1243
13 San Gabriel 6 San Gabriel Jal 19840010384601290 Anc 03173 -2
14 San Gabriel 7 San Gabriel Jal 19845010384201864 Anc 1362
15 San Gabriel 8 San Gabriel Jal 19845010384201864 A1353 nc
16 San Gabriel 9 San Gabriel Jal 19845010384301262 A1609 nc
17 Cocula Cocula Jal 20820010385301300 A393-2(p) nc
18 Tecolotla
´n 1 Tecolotla
´n Jal 20820010385301503 Anc 04301
19 Tecolotla
´n 2 Tecolotla
´n Jal 208160103859 1709 A1619 nc
20 Autla
´n 1 Autla
´n Jal 19849010481901166 Anc 1014
21 Autla
´n 2 Autla
´n Jal 1983901048050781 Anc 1126
22 Autla
´n 3 Autla
´n Jal 1983601038540872 Anc 03197
23 Autla
´n 4 Autla
´n Jal 19849010481901176 Anc 03351
24 Autla
´n 5 Autla
´n Jal 19850010481901190 Anc 938
25 Autla
´n 6 Autla
´n Jal 19849010481901166 Anc 1000
26 El grullo El grullo Jal 19849010481201111 Anc 953
27 Tonaya 1 Tonaya Jal 1984501038560881 R3176 03176
28 Tonaya 2 Tonaya Jal 19849010281201108 Anc 985
29 Tuxcacuesco Tuxcacuesco Jal 1983901048020793 Anc 1028
30 Tolima
´n Tolima
´n Jal 1983601038550740 A1401 nc
31 Paso del Real Tolima
´n Jal 1983601038550750 A1512 nc
32 Canoas Tolima
´n Jal 1983201038550730 R1591 nc
33 Tajipo Tolima
´n Jal 1983201038550730 A1589 nc
34 Perempiz Zapotitla
´n Jal 1983201038550700 A1547 nc
35 Zapotitla
´n Zapotila
´n Jal 1983201038490952 A04342 nc
36 Zapotitla
´n Zapotila
´n Jal 1983201038490952 R1601 nc
37 Tuxpan 1 Tuxpan Jal 19834010385001000 A1152 nc
38 Tuxpan 2 Tuxpan Jal 19834010385001000 R1181 nc
39 Tuxpan 3 Tuxpan Jal 19834010385001000 A1187 nc
40 Coalcoma
´n 1 Coalcoma
´n Mich 18845010381001400 HRF nc
41 Coalcoma
´n 2 Coalcoma
´n Mich 19840010380801200 HRF nc
42 Cerro grande Villa de A
´lvarez Col 1982501038580600 A2506 2506
43 Cerro grande Villa de A
´lvarez Col 1982501038580800 A2507 2507
496 Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510
123
Spanish term for an agave distillation site; all appear
in place names in the study area. Ethnohistoric
sources were used in this search, such as Lebro
´nde
Quin
˜onez 1554 (Sauer 1948), the ‘‘Relaciones Geo-
gra
´ficas de Michoaca
´n y Nueva Galicia 1579–1580’
(Acun
˜a1987,1988), as well as period maps (Miraf-
uentes and Sobero
´n1974) and current maps of the
region (INEGI 2000a,b,c).
Archaeological data
Visits were made to pre- and post-European contact
sites along river banks, and in the lower and middle
valleys of the river basins, in search of places where
agave stems may have been cooked and/or ground,
and the juices fermented and/or distilled. Identified
sites were characterized in terms of: oven
type; grinder type; fermenter type; still support
structures; still type; water transport structures (to
supply still); water storage structures; possible date of
abandonment and proximity of coconut groves to site.
Ethnohistoric data
Reviews were made of Colonial eratext (16th, 17th and
18th centuries) compiled by various authors: (1) The
complete works of Francisco Herna
´ndez (1571–1577)
(Somolinos 1960), (2) The descriptions of Colima in the
16th Century (Sauer 1948), (3) The testimonies in
Colima Village city council acts (1612) (Sevilla del Rı
´o
1977), (4) The Documents for the History of Colima,
16th to 19th Centuries (Caldero
´n1979), and (5) The
16th- and 17th-Century historical collection of the
Colima Village (Fuchigami 1990;Go
´mez-Amador
2000; Rendo
´n-Gardun
˜o2002; Romero de Solı
´s2004),
(6) The 16th Century Geographical Relations of
Michoaca
´n (Acun
˜a1987), (7) The Michoaca
´n Bishop-
ric income report (1631) (Lo
´pez 1973), (8) The
Michoaca
´n Diocese tithe series 1636–1810 (Florescano
and Espinosa 1987), (9) The 16th Century Geograph-
ical Relations of Nueva Galicia (Acun
˜a1988), and (10)
The 17th Century Description of Nueva Galicia (de
Arregui, 1619). Coconut spirits-producing haciendas
Table 1 continued
No. Population Municipality St Lat Lon Alt Sp Col/RF Ac
44 Cerro barrigo
´n Villa de A
´lvarez Col 1981301038520500 ARF nc
45 Cerro alcomu
´n Villa de A
´lvarez Col 1980501038500600 Cnc 2508
46 Cerro alcomu
´n Villa de A
´lvarez Col 1980501038500600 Cnc 2509
47 Cerro alcomu
´n Villa de A
´lvarez Col 1980501038500550 Anc 2510
48 La cumbre Colima Col 1981001038400550 A2501 2501
49 Las guazimas 1 Colima Col 1980801038430400 A2502 2502
50 Las guazimas 2 Colima Col 1980801038430400 A2503 2503
51 Los Ortices 1 Colima Col 1980801038430400 ARF nc
52 Las Ortices 2 Colima Col 1980801038430400 CRF nc
53 La salada Ixtlahuaca
´n Col 1880401038450300 A2504 2504
54 La salada Ixtlahuaca
´n Col 1880401038450300 A2505 2505
55 Chamila Ixtlahuaca
´n Col 1885701038420250 ARF nc
56 San Gabriel Ixtlahuaca
´n Col 1885401038440300 ARF nc
57 Mezcales C. de Ortega Col 188450103844025 ARF nc
58 San Jose
´Manzanillo Col 1981001048100550 ARF nc
59 La rosa Manzanillo Col 1981001048070500 ARF nc
60 Ostula Aquila Mich 1883001038300210 A2511 2511
61 Ostula Aquila Mich 1883001038300230 A2512 2512
62 Pomaro Aquila Mich 1882001038200200 A2514 2514
63 Pomaro Aquila Mich 1882001038200210 A2415 nc
64 Cacha
´n Aquila Mich 188150103815015 A2516 2516
65 Cacha
´n Aquila Mich 188150103815015 A2517 2517
Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510 497
123
and agave distilleries reported in the ethnohistoric
sources were located and visited.
Results
Botanical evidence
A total of 65 wild agave populations were recorded in
the study area (Fig. 1). Herbarium and germplasm
samples were taken in 55 of these populations, and ten
photographic records were made of one because it
was inaccessible and contained very young specimens
(Table 1). Agave angustifolia Haw. was registered at
elevations between 0 and 2,000 m, A. rhodacantha
Trel. between 700 and 1500 m, A. hookeri Jacobi
between 1,500 and 2,200 m and A. colimana Gentry
between 0 and 700 m no cultivated agaves were
observed in lowlands (0–700 m), save for a very few
A. tequilana sown less than 5 years before in the
Chamila and Tecoma
´n valleys. Wild agave popula-
tions were very scarce in the lowlands and found only
on very steep terrain free of human activity.
Toponymic data
Fourteen agave-related place names for human set-
tlements were recorded in the study area, and most of
these refer to an agave plant (e.g., ixtle or mezcal)or
a place for distillation (e.g., taberna) (Fig. 1). Some
towns have changed their name, such as Mezcales,
Jalisco, which joined with Tecolotla
´n (Sauer 1948)
and Mezcales, Colima, which changed its name to
Cerro de Ortega in 1945.
Pre-contact archaeological data
A number of early human settlements have been
described in the Tuxpan-Coahuayana and Ayuquila-
Armerı
´a rivers area with different types of stone
ovens that may have been used to cook agave plants,
as well as stone and ceramic objects for defibering,
grinding and fermenting agave (Scho
¨ndube 1994;
Kelly 1949,1980; Olay 2005) (Fig. 2: a–l). We
observed stone ovens associated with human settle-
ments at Los Mezcales on the Armerı
´a River, as well
as at Las Gua
´simas, Los Ortices, and Chamila, the
last a pre-contact cemetery site. In the Teuchitla
´n
region, near the study area, organic offerings have
been documented that indicate the predominance of
agave fiber use for utilitarian purposes in late
Formative Period (approx. 75 AD) tombs, and
ceramic offerings in Classic Period (710–1100 AD)
tombs in the Colima Valley that show the importance
of agave for food, fiber, and beverages (Scho
¨ndube
2000; Vela 2006, p. 50).
Ethnohistoric evidence of agave plants use in pre-
contact period
Ethnohistoric sources make clear mention of agaves
and their use in production of a fermented agave
drink throughout the Armerı
´a, Cuahuayana, and
Coalcoma
´n river basins at the time of European
contact (Fig. 2):
‘There is in this province [Zapotitlan] a tree
called MEXCATL (mezcal) that the Spanish
call ‘maguey,’ from it are made wine, vinegar,
honey, string, rope, wood for houses, needles,
nails, thread, balsam for injuries ...’’, ‘‘... And
the wine the natives of this region [Maquili,
Tlatictla, Oztutla, Motin, Pomaro, Qualcoman]
use is of maguey (mezcal) and plum, of which
there is an abundance ...of the magueys (mez-
cales) [a kind of aloe], the natives make use to
obtain honey and thread, from which they make
their clothing, and they make wine and vine-
gar’’, ‘‘... the Indians [Colima] have made and
make wine for their drinking sprees, from
canes, maguey (mezcal), plums, maize, and
other roots they have in their houses and on
their lands, they make them in large quantities
and cheaply.... the wines originating in this land
are of maize, plum, mezquite, cactus pears, and
maguey (mezcal)...’’ (Relaciones Geogra
´ficas
del siglo XVI: Nueva Galicia 1580 in: Acun
˜a
1988, p. 69; Relaciones Geogra
´ficas del siglo
XVI: Michoaca
´n 1580, in Acun
˜a1987, pp. 141,
158, 169; Osorio 1612, de Vera 1612 in: Sevilla
del Rı
´o1977, pp. 27, 60, respectively).
Ethnohistoric evidence about coconuts, the
Philippine people and distillation
Coconut was first introduced to western Mexico at
Colima in 1569 with raw material from the Solomon
Islands, although an earlier introduction from Panama
498 Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510
123
in 1539 may also have occurred (Zizumbo-Villarreal
1996). It was also brought from the Philippines on a
number of occasions between 1571 and 1821 (Bru-
man 1944b,1945). Philippines were brought to
Colima after 1571 and were primarily occupied in
coconut cultivation and production of coconut spirits
(vino de cocos) (Terrı
´quez 1984; Fuchigami 1990).
Several ethnohistorical sources indicate that vino de
cocos is spirits:
‘... it is incorrect to call it vino de cocos
because in reality it is spirits,... and to obtain it
requires skill, a still and lots of work.’’, ‘‘...
what the palms produce is spirits and must not
be called a vino de cocos because it is not,
because it is obtained with skill and work with a
still, like in Castile...’’ ‘‘...vino de cocos is
spirits that is produced with a still and is very
healthy spirits...’’ (de Polonte 1612; Garcı
´a
1612; Mun
˜oz 1612 in: Sevilla del Rı
´o1977, pp.
36, 43, 64).
The first record of a producing coconut plantation
dates from 1577 in Cajitla
´n (Romero de Solı
´s2004,
p. 55). In the same year, Francisco Herna
´ndez
mentioned that in New Spain:
‘...there are two main types of these palms, one
good for fruit and another good for extracting
spirits from ... from this tree wine, vinegar,
honey, sugar, oil, milk, and butter are produced
...’’ (Herna
´ndez 1577 in: Somolinos 1960).
Fig. 2 Archaeological sites
with reports of ovens
assumed to be used for
cooking agave plant
(Archaeological data: a–l);
sites referred to in historic
sources where agave plant
was used for fiber, food and
drink at the time of
European contact
(Ethnohistorical data: m–u)
(); and agave spirits
(mezcal) distilleries visited
and described (1–31, see
Table 2 )
Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510 499
123
Other ethnohistoric sources suggest that the distilla-
tion technique could have been established between
1580 and 1600, when coconut plants began their
reproductive stage:
‘... in this valley of Caxitla
´n the Indians and
Chinese make coconut spirits (vino de cocos).
The native Indians of these towns and the
Indian servants get drunk ...’’,
‘... from twelve years to this time, ...that is the
time that coconut spirits (vino de cocos) is
made in large quantities, because when it was
first made very little was made...’’ (Go
´mez-
Amador 2000, p. 214; Toscano 1612 in: Sevilla
del Rı
´o1977, p. 73).
During the final decades of the 16th Century the area
of coconut cultivation increased, and by 1600 a
number of haciendas in Colima and the Caxitla
´n
Valley were producing coconut spirits (Fuchigami
1990, p. 18; Go
´mez-Amador 2000, p. 163). In 1608,
14 haciendas were reported to have coconut wine
production and in 1612 the drink was sold in 60
taverns in the Villa de Colima (de Velasco 1612 in:
Sevilla del Rı
´o1977, p. 163). By 1612 about 50
haciendas in Colima are reported to have been
producing around 232,000 l of coconut spirits annu-
ally (Sevilla del Rı
´o1977; Zizumbo-Villarreal 1996),
and by 1631, 54 haciendas were producing about
262,000 l annually (Lo
´pez 1973; Zizumbo-Villarreal
1996) (Fig. 3). About 13 years later (1644) there were
110 registered producers among coconut plantation
owners and renters, 153 vintners and 70 dealers and
distributors (Fuchigami 1990, pp. 23, 24). The
Michoaca
´n Bishopric income reports for tithing
concept, indicate that between 1630 and 1670
coconut spirits production was the main economic
activity in Colima (Lo
´pez 1973; Florescano and
Espinosa 1987). The rapid expansion of coconut
cultivation and coconut spirits production led to
incorporation of indigenous peoples into the produc-
tion and distillation processes. Sources from the first
decades of the 17th Century report that indigenous
workers fell and died while harvesting sap from
coconut palms (Fuchigami 1990, p. 20).
We visited 24 of the 54 haciendas reported in 1631
(Fig. 3), but found no remains of the distillation
process. This is mainly because distillation infra-
structure was not permanent and was placed in
riverbeds to ensure sufficient water supply. Rivers in
the area have changed drastically in the ensuing years
due to storms, hurricanes and hydraulic engineering
projects.
Ethnohistoric evidence of the coconut distillation
process
Historic records indicate that coconut spirits produc-
tion was done using the Philippine technique that
produced a distilled drink called lambanog in that
country:
‘... the shoot of the palm emerges to produce its
fruit, they wrap it well with some ropes in many
turns, and slowly cut it, once in the morning and
again in the afternoon, and they have a calabash
or cup hanging from it into which the water
drips, which is called tuba, which when fresh is
a sweet and flavorful drink; they then pour it
into a vessel so it ferments a little and then they
distill it in a still, what distills is the spirits,
which is very strong, like the aguardiente of
Castile ...’’, ’’... The stills are some hollow tree
trunks the width of a man, covered with a
copper casing full of water that, as it heats it
changes, and in the middle of the hole is a
round, adjusted table with a tube that comes out
on one side which is where it distills ...’’ (Tello
1632 in: Sevilla del Rı
´o1977, p. 129).
The coconut spirits industry dynamic was dictated
by the high demand for spirits in the mining zones
of Guanajuato, Pachuca, and Zacatecas, and the
prohibitions against it emitted in response to the
competition it generated with Spanish spirits (Se-
villa del Rı
´o1977). The first prohibition was
emitted in 1603:
‘ ... from this moment on no Spanish or
Chinese person, whatever their status may be,
shall be so bold as to take from the plantations
and regions where coconut spirits is made, any
in any amount to any of the Indian towns of the
province [Colima], and, although it be with
license and a store, from there to other regions
or Spanish towns, under the punishment of
losing said wine ... And it is prohibited and
stated that no native Indian of this province
500 Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510
123
shall make or can make from his trees or
property any coconut spirits or tuba ...’’ (Escu-
dero 1603 in: Sevilla del Rı
´o1977, p. 13).
A new prohibition was dictated in 1610:
‘... By means of the present I prohibit all
inhabitants of said provinces [Colima], what-
ever their status or condition may be, from
making, profiting or selling publicly or secretly
said coconut spirits for any reason, with the
punishment of losing it and he who makes or
sells it will pay one thousand Castilian ducats if
he be Spanish ...’’ (de Velasco 1612 in: Sevilla
del Rı
´o1977, p. 164).
This same year the Royal Audience of New Spain
prohibited the production and sale of coconut
spirits and ordered the complete destruction of the
coconut palm plantations in Colima due to the
competition they generated for spirits imported
from Castile (Sevilla del Rı
´o1977). This order was
not applied completely since some concessions
were granted in 1627 and 1637 (Sevilla del Rı
´o
1977, pp. 170, 176).
Legal prohibition of coconut spirits production in
the early 17th Century together with a growing
demand for spirits in mining zones could have
promoted production of agave spirits and its dis-
placement up-stream. The first known description of
agave spirits production is from 1619 and appears in
the writings of Domingo La
´zaro de Arregui, a
Spanish cleric in Nayarit , subsequently compiled as
a description of Nueva Galicia:
Fig. 3 Location of
haciendas reported as
coconut spirits producers in
1631 (Lo
´pez 1973). Visited
() and not visited ()
Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510 501
123
‘Mexcales are quite similar to maguey and their
roots and leaf bases are eaten rosted, and from
the same, squeezing them thus roasted, they
extract a must from which they obtain vino by
distillation, clearer than water and stronger than
aguardiente and of the taste. And although
many virtues are imparted from the mexcale,
which is made, they (The Indians) use it
generally with so much excess that they
discredit the liquir as well as the plant... ’’ (de
Arregui 1619).
No evidence exists of agave spirits production in
the highland valleys of Jalisco during the early 17th
Century. As Walton (1977, p. 118) emphasized,
while de Arregui makes no mention in 1619 of
agave spirits production in his description of the
correximiento of Tequila, it appears a few pages
earlier the above description, related to the Indians
toward the coast and the Sierra de Nayarit. Later
on, in 1638, the Governor of Nueva Galicia decided
to regulate the elaboration and commercialization of
agave spirits (Muria
´2003), and by 1643 there are
records of its commercialization in Guadalajara
along with coconut spirits from Colima (Fuchigami
1990, p. 24; Go
´mez-Amador 2000, p. 224). By the
early 18th Century, agave spirits may have been
produced in the ravine bottoms of the Santiago
River using wild agave populations (Luna-Zamora
1991, p. 40; Valenzuela-Zapata 1997, p. 25). By
mid-century the first fields and stills had been
established in the Amatita
´n, Tequila, Magdalena,
and Arenal (Luna-Zamora 1991) valleys. By this
time coconut spirits were no longer being produced
in Colima due to the constant prohibitions from
Colonial authorities (Caldero
´n1979,p.161).Agave
spirits production survived, however, in the foothills
of the Colima volcanoes (Amula, Zapotitla
´n, and
Tuxpan), in the ravines of the Colima Valley (Pe
´rez
1776 in: Caldero
´n1979,p.200),andinIx-
tlahuaca
´n, in the Chamila Valley, where it was
considered an important product:
‘Mezcal plant is a genus of maguey, though not
as large and with leaves not as thick as those in
cooler lands, from this they take lots of mezcal
spirits because it is abundant, and it is the best
product of this land, it is valued for being wild.’’
(Morales 1778 in: Caldero
´n1979, p. 223).
Post-contact archaeological evidence of agave
distillation
We located and described 38 agave spirits distill-
eries (locally known as tabernas or vin
˜atas), 20 of
which were abandoned (Table 2,Figs.2,57). The
18 active agave distilleries used basically the same
technique of cooking, juice extraction and fermen-
tation, and have essentially the same structure. This
includes the Philippine still with an earth, stone or
wood base, two copper kettles, and a hollow tree
trunk, usually made of Enterolobium cyclocarpum
(Jaq.) Griseb. or avocado (Persea americana L.)
(Fig. 4). At an archaeological site in the Chamila
Valley, we identified a group of stone ovens of
different sizes and shapes next to a series of
underground wells, which had been reported as
tombs (Fig. 5a, b). The smallest of these (from 1 to
1.5 m deep) may have been used as fermentation
containers since an old dam, a basin and founda-
tions that could have held stills are located nearby.
In Comala we identified an abandoned taberna that
had been operated clandestinely until the late 19th
Century (Fig. 5c, d). In the Nahualapa Valley, next
to the Aguazarca River, we located two old,
abandoned distilleries, one called Tabernillas
(Fig. 5e, f) and the other La zacatosa.In the
Tepetitongo Valley, next to the San Jose
´River, we
located another two old distilleries, one called La
rosa (in use), and the other San Jose
´(abandoned)
(Table 2).
In the foothills of the Colima volcanoes and
Coalcoma
´n area, we identified a number of function-
ing stills (Figs. 6,7), that had incorporated significant
‘modern’’ modifications into the system: a gasoline-
driven mechanical grinder to mash the cooked
material, instead of the stone or wood grinder; plastic
fermentation tanks instead of subterranean pits carved
in the bedrock (locally named ‘‘rock pits’’); sub-
mergible pumps to take water from streams; plastic
pipe to divert river water; use of a serpentine Arab-
type still instead of the Philippine still in a tree trunk;
and plastic containers for spirits storage security and
transport instead of clay or glass containers (Table 2).
These modifications are all aimed at lowering costs
by reducing labor requirements, increasing distilla-
tion process efficiency and ensuring more secure
spirits storage.
502 Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510
123
Table 2 Location and descriptors of agave liquor distilleries (tabernas or vin
˜atas) recorded in the study area
No. Region Site Taberna name River Oven Grinder Drain Basin Fermentation
container
Foundation Still Funtion Coconut
groves
1 Tuxcacuesco Tonaya Las parotas Tonaya Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Cement Steele In use Yes
2 Tuxcacuesco Apulco Apulco Apulco Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Cement Steele In use No
3 Tuxcacuesco Tuxcacuesco El pueblito Tuxcacuesco Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Cement Steele In use Yes
4 Tolima
´n Tolima
´n El abuelo Tuxcacuesco Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Cement Steele In use Yes
5 Tolima
´n Tolima
´n Los Go
´mez Tuxcacuesco Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1960 Yes
6 Tolima
´n Tolima
´n De pen
˜a Tuxcacuesco Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1960 Yes
7 Tolima
´n Canoas Las carretas Armerı
´a Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1950 Yes
8 Tolima
´n Canoas Monte grande Armerı
´a Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Stone Steele In use Yes
9 Tolima
´n Canoas Tajipo Armerı
´a Stone Stone Tube Yes Piedra Stone Trunk In use Yes
10 Tolima
´n Canoas Las playitas Armerı
´a Stone Stone Channel Yes Piedra Stone Trunk 1960 Yes
11 Tolima
´n Canoas Porombo
´n Armerı
´a Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk In use Yes
12 Zapotitla
´n Zapotitla
´n El puente Zapotla
´n Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1930 No
13 Zapotitla
´n Zapotitla
´n Parotillas Zapotla
´n Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1940 No
14 Zapotitla
´n Zapotitla
´n Las tunas Zapotla
´n Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1940 No
15 Zapotitla
´n Zapotitla
´n La humedad Zapotla
´n Stone Mechanic Tube Yes Plastic Stone Trunk In use No
16 Zapotitla
´n Zapotitla
´n Parota Zapotla
´n Stone Mechanic Tube Yes Plastic Stone Trunk In use No
17 Tolima
´n Alceseca Los pozos Alsiseca Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1950 Yes
18 Tolima
´n Alceseca El paso Alsiseca Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1950 Yes
19 Tolima
´n Alceseca Los chiNos Alsiseca Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1930 Yes
20 Tolima
´n Alceseca El campanario Alsiseca Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1930 Yes
21 Tolima
´n San Jose
´La concha Los ganchos Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk In use Yes
22 Tolima
´n San Jose
´La cofradı
´a Los ganchos Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk In use Yes
23 Colima Comala Comala Comala Stone ? Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1950 Yes
24 Colima Comala Comala Comala Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Cement Steele In use Yes
25 Tepetitango San Jose
´San Jose
´San Jose
´Stone ? ? ? ? ? Trunk 1980 Yes
26 Tepetitango La rosa La rosa San Jose
´Stone Wood Tube No Plastic Stone Copper In use Yes
27 Nahualapa Tabernillas Taberillas Agua zarca Stone Stone Tube Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1940 No
28 Nahualapa Tabernillas Taberillas Agua zarca Stone Stone Tube Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1940 No
29 Nahualapa La sidra La zacatosa Agua zarca Stone Stone Tube Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1950 No
30 Chamila Chamila Chamila El salado Stone ? ? Yes Stone Stone ? 1778(?) No
31 Tuxpan Los arcos Los arcos Tuxpan Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1940 Yes
32 Tuxpan Los arcos Los arcos Tuxpan Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1940 Yes
Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510 503
123
Discussion
The data suggest that agave spirits production began
using A. angustifolia. This is the only species present
in the lower basin of the Armerı
´a, Coahuayana, and
Coalcoma
´n rivers that has characteristics favorable
for spirits production. Local rural communities still
use it as food and to produce a fermented beverage,
although this is limited by its scarcity. A. colimana is
also found in this area, but does not have qualities
favorable to spirits production and is not used as a
food or to make a fermented beverage.
Introduced in 1569–1771, coconut production
was used to make spirits early on (1580). This was
before establishment of sugar cane cultivation in
western Mexico and the production of commercial
sugar between 1630 and 1650 (Florescano and
Espinosa 1987; Zizumbo-Villarreal 1996,p.511).
The technology and knowledge for coconut spirits
production was initially implemented by the Phil-
ippine people in Colima. However, between 1580
and 1600, the indigenous population was incorpo-
rated into the activity as the area under coconut
cultivation expanded, coconut spirits production and
sales increased, and this activity became econom-
ically important during the early decades of the
17th Century. Through their involvement in the
spirits production process, indigenous workers
learned the distillation technique and then applied
it to the fermented beverages they already knew,
such as that made from agave. This process was
facilitated by the simplicity of the Philippine still,
which could be built from locally available mate-
rials (Bruman 1944a).
The ethnohistoric and archaeological records
indicate that coconut and agave spirits production
could have developed simultaneously at sites near
Ixtalhuaca
´n, Comala, and Nahualapa. All the identi-
fied evidence suggests that agave distillation origi-
nated through adaptation of the coconut distillation
process in Colima.
We identified no cultivated agave populations in
the low river basins, and found no ethnohistoric
records of its existence during the Colonial period.
There are only reports of collection of agave plants
from natural populations for use as raw material in
production of agave spirits, as still occurs in a limited
way. This suggests that agave cultivation, cultivar
diversification and domestication did not begin in the
Table 2 continued
No. Region Site Taberna name River Oven Grinder Drain Basin Fermentation
container
Foundation Still Funtion Coconut
groves
33 Tuxpan Los arcos Los arcos Tuxpan Stone Stone Channel Yes Stone Stone Trunk 1940 Yes
34 Tuxpan Arenal Arenal Tuxpan Stone Mechanic Tube No Stone Stone Trunk In use Yes
35 Coalcoma
´n Torrecillas Torrecillas Coalcoma
´n Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Cement Wood In use No
36 Coalcoman Las tabernas Las tabenas Coalcoma
´n Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Stone Wood In use No
36 Calcoma
´n Los parejos Los parejos Coalcoma
´n Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Stone Wood In use No
38 Coalcoma
´n Los telares Los telares Coalcoma
´n Stone Mechanic Tube No Plastic Stone Wood In use No
504 Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510
123
lower river basins, even though agave spirits distil-
lation could have begun there.
WefoundnowildagavepopulationsatIx-
tlahuaca
´n and Mezcales (near Comala), even though
archaeological and ethnohistoric records indicate
agaves were important there during pre-contact and
Colonial times, and the place names refer to the plant.
The same occurred at Los Mezcales (near Colima)
and Mezcales (near Cerro de Ortega), both commu-
nities named for this plant. The wild populations we
did locate were isolated, included few individuals and
grew on steep, inaccessible terrain far from human
settlements. This suggests that wild populations have
tended to disappear in the low river basins due to
overexploitation and the absence of cultivated agave
to shift pressure away from the natural populations.
Agaves were probably not cultivated in the area in
response to Colonial-era prohibitions on spirits
production and close monitoring by authorities;
cultivation of the raw material could have incrimi-
nated the producer.
Generalized use of subterranean pits carved in the
bedrock (‘‘rock pits’’) as clandestine fermentation
basins, the presence of Philippine type stills, and the
fact that the agave ferment use to distill is call ‘‘tuba’’
in the foothills of the Colima volcanoes suggest that
the distillation process spread from the lower river
basins to the foothill ravines. This was done to evade
constant and severe prohibition of spirits production,
and was favored by the presence of highland
populations of wild A. angustifolia, as well as A.
rodacantha in Jalisco and A. hookeri in Michoaca
´n,
both of which are apt for spirits production.
Increasing demand for spirits in mining zones in
the 18th and 19th centuries, together with the
disappearance of coconut spirits production and sale,
promoted agave spirits production in inaccessible,
isolated sites in the foothills of the Colima volcanoes,
far from any vigilant authorities. These conditions
also drove the spread of agave spirits production
throughout western Mexico. Four factors were key to
this diffusion process. First, the region is rich in Agave
species with characteristics that make them apt for
spirits production. Second, agaves had been used as
food and to produce fermented beverages in the region
since long before European contact (Bruman 1940).
Third, the carving of wells in rock as graves, an aspect
of ancient worship of the dead, was a traditional
technique well-known among the indigenous popula-
tion. This technique was readily adapted to excavating
Fig. 4 (a) Philippine still with
internal receiver: A condenser
(iron pan); B gutter (wood);
C distillate outlet; D wooden
cylinder; E boiler (iron pan);
F furnace; G, furnace opening
(Bruman 1944a). (b) Philippine
type still in use in Canoas,
Tolima
´n, Jalisco
Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510 505
123
fermentation basins, and in fact many ancient graves
were probably re-used for this purpose. And, fourth,
trade routes existed from the area to the mining zones
of Guanajuato and Zacatecas long before European
contact. These followed the biological-cultural corri-
dors of the Armerı
´a–Ayuquila–Tuxcacuesco, Tux-
pan–Coahuayana and Rı
´o Grande–Magdalena–
Tequila–Bolan
˜os river systems. During pre-contact
times these were used to transport salt, cacao, cotton,
tobacco, and luxury items such as shells, conch, and
ceramics (Sauer 1932; Standley 1996; Cabrero 2004)
from the lowlands to the inland valleys; these were
then used for salt and coconut spirits traffic and finally
for moving agave spirits to the mining zones.
These trade routes would have served to disperse the
Philippine still and distillation technique. Initially,
these would have followed the Colima–Autla
´n–Ame-
ca–Ahualulco–Etzatla
´n–Suchitepec (Magdalena)
route, used by the Spanish beginning in 1524 for their
northward explorations (Sauer 1932), and reached the
Tequila, Amatita
´n and Arenal valleys, where the
‘mezcal’’ from Tequila first became popular in the
18th Century (Walton 1977). Along the route to the
Bolan
˜os and Zacatecas mines the Philippine still
probably reached Bolan
˜os, where it was reported by
Lumholtz (1902) and Bruman (1944a). Following the
Coahuayana–Tuxpan route towards the Guanajuato
mines (Jiquilpan–Jacona–Lerma–Cuitzeo–Chupı
´cu-
aro) the still would have arrived at the Tarasca Plateau,
where it was reported by Bourke (1893), and at
Quere
´ndaro, where we observed it made from an
oyanel (Abies sp.) trunk. Along the Cı
´bola route (Sauer
1932), this technology could have moved towards what
is now the southeast United States of America and
reached the mountains of Sonora, where a modified
form was reported by Bahre and Bradbury (1980).
Clandestine agave spirits production was able to
persist, despite Colonial-era prohibition, through the
Fig. 5 Remains of agave
spirits (mezcal) distilleries
in the lower Armerı
´a and
Coahuayana river basins.
Chamila Valley: (a)
underground stone ovens,
(b) subterranean
fermentation pit carved in
the bedrock (‘‘rock pit’’).
Colima Valley (Comala):
(c) stone grinder (above)
and ‘‘rock pit’’ (below); (d)
dam and basin. Nahualapa
Valley (Tabernillas): (e)
basin, (f) main house
506 Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510
123
integration of two techniques: (1) adaptation of the
ancient indigenous practice of carving subterranean
pits in bedrock to create fermentation basins; and (2)
adaptation of the Philippine distillation technique for
coconut spirits production to agave spirits production.
Carved into bedrock, the subterranean wells allowed
production of ferments at relatively low and stable
temperatures for relatively long periods (21–30 days).
They were sealed with stones and earth, and thus
considerably lowered the risk of discovery, and
consequent destruction, by Colonial authorities, who
could easily identify ferments in clay pots (Sebastia
´n
de Vera 1612 in: Sevilla del Rı
´o1977, p. 60).
Because the Philippine still is small, could be
disassembled, easily transported and made of local
materials (two copper kettles attached to a tree trunk),
it could be installed, a batch of ferment distilled, then
disassembled and moved very quickly. Only the tree
trunk would be left behind, while the ferment
remained buried for long periods, unseen.
Colunga-Garcı
´aMarı
´n and Zizumbo-Villarreal
(2006) stated that the Philippine still also had a
significant effect on the selection and domestication
of agaves for spirit production. The still’s small size
allowed production of spirits from a single agave
individual, or very few individuals, meaning selection
could be made of individual plants with the proper
characteristics for spirits production. The vegetative
propagation of agaves also permits cultivation of
individuals with the characteristics of the selected
progenitor, and conservation of these characteristics
for many subsequent generations. Given these two
conditions, recurrent selection and cultivation of
agave individuals with characteristics favorable to
spirits production could have generated a large
number of morphologically distinct local cultivars,
Fig. 6 Agave spirits
(mezcal) distilleries in the
tolima
´n region: (a)A
subterranean fermentation
pit carved in the bedrock
(‘‘rock pit’’), B tool use to
take ferment out, C still
from trunk; (b) underground
stone oven; (c) ‘‘rock pit’’;
(d) Philippine type still; (e)
‘rock pit’’, sealed and
covered with soil while the
agave juice (‘‘tuba’’) is
fermenting; (f) opening of
the ‘‘rock pit’
Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:493–510 507
123
and led to domestication of agaves in the foothills of
the Colima volcanoes (Vargas-Ponce et al. 2007).
Acknowledgements The authors thank Ofelia Vargas-Ponce,
Marı
´a Cigales, Sebastia
´n Lemus, Fernando Gonza
´lez, Laura
Almendros, Angeles Olay, Francisco Santana and Mateo
Contreras for assistance in the fieldwork, to the traditional
mezcal producers from the south of Jalisco, Colima and
Michoaca
´n for their willingness to share their knowledge and
their courage to preserve their genetic resources, specially to
Macario and Apolinar Partida. To Victor Manuel Canche
´Ek
for help in maps elaboration. To the Red Agavaceas
SINAREFI-SAGARPA (P-007) and CONABIO (P-CS007)
for supplementary financial support.
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... 1656). Zizumbo-Villarreal and Colunga-GarcíaMarín (2008) reiterate that the selection of wild plants for the production of mezcal o tequila could have taken place in the foothills Colima volcano. Subsequently, Zizumbo-Villarreal et al. (2009b) point out that the distillation of agave could have ocurred in the same area, but since precolombian times. ...
... But two additional factors led mezcal and tequila production to the south of Jalisco: Firstly, it was one of the areas with the greatest richness in Agave species and secondly, it was the 1612 prohibition of the sale and consumption of liquors that weren't the Crown's. For this reason, coconut and mezcal spirits were clandestinely produced upriver on the isolated and remote slopes of Colima volcano, in southern Jalisco (Colunga-GarcíaMarín and Zizumbo-Villarreal, 2007;Zizumbo-Villarreal and Colunga-GarcíaMarín, 2008). The use of agaves for the production of distillates in the vicinity of the Colima volcano could also have taken place since precolombian times, by using the clay "Capacha stills" which would have been developed from bean cooking pots (Zizumbo-Villarreal et al., 2009b). ...
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The study of evolutionary history allows us to examine diversification, selection and domestication processes. Mexico belongs to Mesoamerica, one of the world's most important centers of origin and diversification of plants. One of the plants that has sustained its peoples for over 10,000 years is the agave (Agave sp.). Mexico is the center of diversity of the genus, with 75% of the species. Two agave products, tequila and mezcal, are of great economic and biocultural importance for Mexico. The description of genetic diversity and the identification of the wild relatives of the agave species used to produce these emblematic beverages is fundamental information for their production and conservation. Previous studies have proposed wild populations of A. angustifolia in Jalisco as possible wild relatives of blue agave or tequila (Agave tequilana). We use microsatellite (eight loci) to study the genetic diversity and the relationships between wild populations of A. angustifolia and traditional cultivars of the Agave species utilized in the production of tequila and mezcal in Jalisco. The studied taxa present intermediate genetic variation, with the exception of A. tequilana “Azul” which had the same genotype. A Structure analysis indicates that the “Azul” is closely related to A. angustifolia mainly to wild populations from southern Jalisco. Agave rhodacantha and the cultivars of A. tequilana (“Sigüin” and “Chato”) form a group separate from Agave angustifolia y A. tequilana “Azul”.
... The fermentation of numerous palms sap is common in countries of Asia and Africa [96,[98][99][100][101][102][103][104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111] and, in Mexico, taberna and tuba are examples of the adoption of new technologies and instruments, including distillers for the Philippine coconut spirits distillation technique [112][113][114]. Nowadays, there is a debate about possible pre-Columbian distillation, but the fact is that the Philippine distillation technique is commonly used in several localities for producing mescal and other beverages [115]. ...
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... 3 Esta reflexión se inscribe a contracorriente de la visión dominante de los estudios sobre los destilados de agave denominados Agave Studies, porque estos tienden en su mayoría a esencializar o naturalizar al mezcal como una bebida prístina, inmutable e inmemorial cuyo origen se remontaría a una época distante. Según esta perspectiva que lo reificó, el mezcal no habría cambiado desde su aparición en las costas del occidente de México hace casi cinco siglos (Bruman, 2000;Zizumbo y Colunga, 2008). ...
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... Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo wrote in 1535 A.D. that agave "…is cut from its stock, and the head or stump is cooked and made into a certain delicacy...and juice is extracted from the leaves by sweat through fire to distill [Spanish, destilarlo] it, and those people drink that liquor [Spanish, licor], because water they never see nor have, except for that of the sea..." (for translation and discussion, see Serra and Lazcano Arce 2010). This statement is nearly a century earlier than that of Domingo Lázaro de Arregui in 1619 A.D., which is often cited in support of the pre-Hispanic distillation hypothesis: "Mexcales [an agave variety] are quite similar to maguey and their roots and leaf bases are eaten roasted, and from the same, squeezing them thus roasted, they extract a must from which they obtain wine [Spanish, vino] by distillation [Spanish, alquitara], clearer than water and stronger than liquor [Spanish, aguardiente] and of that same taste" (for translation and discussion, see Serra and Lazcano Arce 2010;Zizumbo-Villarreal et al. 2009a;Zizumbo-Villarreal and Colunga-GarcíaMarín 2008). The last sentence is problematic, since aguardiente is now a generic term for any distilled beverage. ...
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... Increased levels of output and the overexpansion of blue agave plantations (used in the production of tequila) in the twentieth and the early twenty-first centuries have resulted in the diminished diversity of agave varieties or landraces (Valenzuela-Zapata and Nabhan 2004). Applying an ethnobotanical approach, Zizumbo et al. (2008) built upon Bruman's (2000) hypothesis that combined archaeological evidence with research on genetic diversity. Specifically, their findings emphasize the importance of Jalisco as a region with abundant evidence of antiquity crop production and a variety of native Agave angustifolia Haworth and A. rhodacantha Trelease. ...
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... Not surprisingly, it is difficult to determine the official origins of mezcal (as a distilled spirit). Some scholars maintain that mezcal's history predates the colonial encounter (Zizumbo and Colunga, 2008), while others hold that mezcal was created after the Spanish introduced the process of distillation to the New World (Muriá, 1997). The first written description of mezcal appeared in 1619, when a Spanish clerk published an inventory of regional products in the western part of Mexico (Muriá, 1997). ...
... Pag. 68 la fabricación del "vino mezcal" a partir de las piñas cocidas de agave de acuerdo a las antiguas tradiciones precolombinas ( Zizumbo and Colunga, 2008). En el siglo XVII la elaboración del vino mezcal, comenzó a tener mayor importancia cuando su producción se incorpora a las grandes haciendas de la Nueva España. ...
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El mezcal, como todos los productos artesanales ligados al territorio, asume propiedades vinculadas con lo que se ha denominado terruño o terroir. La historia de la bebida, sus propiedades, sus procesos tecnológicos, sus sabores y sus usos son la historia misma del territorio y de las comunidades en las cuales se produce mezcal. En este trabajo se describen las condiciones del sistema de producción de mezcal en la región Sierra Sur del estado de Oaxaca, México, y se analizan las transformaciones generadas por el auge nacional e internacional de la demanda. Se encontró que, en la actualidad, el sistema productivo miahuateco está construido a partir de subsistemas territoriales que hacen uso de los recursos sociales, culturales y naturales de los distintos núcleos comunitarios de la región. En dichos subsistemas, las unidades de producción se manejan bajo una lógica de unidad de producción rural familiar campesina. Se piensa que el incremento, durante los últimos años, de los precios pagados al productor puede contribuir a la continuidad generacional de la producción artesanal
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This text explores the material culture of Asian origin as it appeared in the province of Colima in the 16th and 17th centuries. Colima was a maritime enclave located on the frontier between New Spain and Nueva Galicia, whose inhabitants in the 1600s included no more than 200 married Spaniards. We asked why it seemed so important to the Spanish in that small corner of the world to possess objects "made in China", and what role different products played in people's personal appearance and the domestic space. The documental sources consulted provided wills, brideprice agreements, documents on mercantile relations, and inventories of goods. Among the principal findings what stands out among those residents of Colima was that they coveted apparel made from fine fabrics and exquisite decorative objects, as well as a "culture of the coconut" fostered largely by the Filipinos who had come to settle in Colima since the late 16th century.
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PhD thesis in architecture. El presente trabajo se desarrollo sobre la base de ausencias de fuentes de información confiables que permitieran documentar históricamente en forma plena todo el proceso investigado. Para cubrir los huecos que dejaba la documentación directa, los métodos y fuentes de investigación hubieron de diversificarse y substituirse los protagonistas. La presencia de los indios chinos en los archivos históricos de la localidad es mucho menor de la de su certeza real. Ante esta ausencia el protagonismo fue asumido por una entidad biológica omnipresente: El cocotero. El carácter protagónico de un sujeto tan ajeno a la investigación arquitectónica tenía que conducir al presente trabajo a las fronteras disciplinas distantes pero útiles al objetivo. Los métodos distintos y las diversas fuentes de información impusieron su mandato. La organización y estructura capitular obedecen a la diversidad de origen de la información. Para simplificar la exposición los contenidos de agruparon en cuatro grandes apartados, cada uno relacionado con un distinto origen de los datos desplegados. La denominación de los capítulos obedece a la intención explícita de conectar los temas tratados. De ese modo cada uno de los capítulos corresponde a una fase del proceso de la palma de cocos visto como un ciclo. Semilla, germinación, cosecha, beneficio, y consumo. El ciclo se cierra y comienza nuevamente con otra semilla, pero esta semilla, aunque es heredera de aquella importada, tiene ya un origen local, es una semilla criolla.