Nothing has been more tied to Mexican identity than tequila. While this one Mexican spirit was celebrated, many others were pushed into obscurity.
If the agave is the bountiful mother of all mezcals, it is a mother which spoiled one of her mestizo children, tequila, to the detriment of all others. This temperamental child, the national drink of Mexico, is an opportunist benefiting from the economic and physical ravages of war. Mexico’s War of Independence from Spain left a large gap to be filled by the interruption in importation of European spirits. The Mexican Revolution overthrew a government which brought modernity to Mexico, but was seen as a puppet to foreign powers. Tequila, and Jalisciense charro culture along with it, provided an easy symbol to latch onto for a country searching for a uniquely Mexican identity. Tequila overpowered raicilla, a mezcal it shares the state of Jalisco with, so completely that it is only now developing any form of following. Agave spirits such Sonora’s bacanora and Chihuahua’s sotol virtually disappeared from public consciousness, and tequila became Mexico’s primary spirit.
Image source: Teresa Villegas, Phoenix New Times.