We’ve all been there: a Mexican-themed party, a good old house party, or just a “light” get-together with friends that ends up with a sea of tequila rushing into your body and a tornado of drunken insanity coming out. There’s just something about this clear yet (somewhat) sweet drink that captures our hearts and taste buds and keeps us coming back for more.
Trends do not lie. In the United States, the consumption of tequila has been increasing about 7% every year in the last decade. In some states, like Colorado, Connecticut, and Oregon it has even become the most popular alcoholic drink, but where does this delicious inhibition eraser come from? What is the origin of tequila? Well, it’s actually a gift from the gods.
The gorgeous landscape of the agave fields, crowned by the Tequila volcano, are, without a doubt, one of those places located halfway between the earthly plain and something we can barely begin to understand. Here was where Quetzalcóatl, one of the main deities of Latin America’s pre-Columbian cultures, planted the first agave. He felt compelled to do so after he and the other gods were done providing the humans with all the fruit they needed to feed themselves and the techniques to harvest them, and he realized it would not be enough to nourish human kind; they needed something that would make them happy and awaken their deepest passions.
So, Quetzalcóatl went to look for the Mayahuel (sacred fountain in English), whose grandmother kept her in complete isolation to prevent her from being desecrated. Mayahuel agreed to escape with Quetzalcóatl to provide the seed of joy to the world, but they were caught by the grandmother as they arrived to the earthly plane. In a fit of rage, the old woman tore Mayahuel’s body to pieces, leaving Quetzalcóatl to plant the pieces, and from that, the plant of agave, from which mezcal and tequila are made, was born.
Many, many years later, a few Jalisco locals had to seek shelter in a cave as a harsh storm fell on the agave fields. Lightning struck one of the plants directly in its heart and honey poured from it. When the storm passed and the men left the cave, a sweet smell drew them to the place. They found the white liquid and took it back to the cave to enjoy it and returned to their homes, but one of them left some of it behind for later, and when he returned, it was bubbling, and the smell it released had become irresistible. He drank it and immediately felt a change in his personality, thus becoming the first recipient of Mayahuel and Quetzalcóatl’s gift to humanity.
But then the Spaniards came. You’d think that because of the agave’s violent myth they would have tried to limit its uses and repress the worship of Quetzalcóatl and Mayahuel, but instead, they chose a different, and arguably wiser, path: they applied their knowledge of distillation, giving birth to the process that nowadays gives us mezcal and tequila, Mexico’s national drink and the companion to some of the greatest parties in the world.
Always remember that mezcal is not tequila. The difference is that Tequila must always be made with blue agave, whereas Mezcal can be made from many different types of the agave plant. And don’t forget, for it be called tequila, it must have been made in Mexico, specifically in or near Jalisco, as it has origin appelation, just like French wines, and you wouldn’t want a poor imitation anyway.
So, don’t feel bad when you enjoy these beverages. You are actually accepting Quetzalcóatl’s gift and praising Mayahuel’s sacrifice.