Friday, March 26, 2010

The Filipino roots of mezcal

The Filipino roots of mezcal
Published by Luigi on June 11, 2008

“Clash of civilizations” is a common rhetorical trope these days. But it is as well to remember that good things can — and often do — happen when cultures come together. A paper just out in GRACE gives an example involving agrobiodiversity. In it, Daniel Zizumbo Villareal — the doyen of Mexican coconut studies, among other things — and his co-author set out the evidence for the origin of mezcal, the generic name for agave spirits in Mexico.

It turns out that this most Mexican of drinks is unknown from pre-Columbian times, although of course the cooked stems and floral peduncles of various species of Agave were used as a carbohydrate source by the ancient populations of what is now western Mexico, and drinks were made from both these and their sap. But, apparently, distillation had to wait until a Filipino community became established in the Colima hills in the 16th century. They were brought over to establish coconut plantations, and started producing coconut spirits, as they had done back home. The practice was eventually outlawed in the early 17th century, and this prohibition, plus increased demand for hard liquor by miners, led to its application to agaves instead, and its rapid spread. The first record of mezcal is from 1619. Mexicans (not to mention other tequila afincionados the world over) have a lot to thank Filipinos for.

link to - The Filipino roots of mezcal - article

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, 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.

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

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.

And if you have any doubts about the above article I suggest going to Ian Chadwick's authoritative site on Mezcal and Tequila - great site

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

History of Colima

History of Colima from the History Channel

Early History
Little is known about Colima's early history except that the Otomi, Nahuatl, Tolteca, Chichimeca and Tarasca cultures flourished there between approximately 2000 B.C and 1000 A.D.
When the Spanish arrived in the area around 1525, much of West Mexico was under the political control of the Kingdom of Tzintuntzan, which was the second largest and most powerful Mesoamerican Empire. Its influence stretched from the state of Mexico into Guanajuato, around the shores of Lake Chapala and through part of Colima to the Pacific coast. The Purépechas, known as the Tarascans by the Spanish conquistadors, occupied the area from about 1100 A.D. to 1530 A.D. along with the Colimas Indians, who are closely related to the Tarascas. King Colimán, the leader of the Colimas, waged a successful war against the Purépechas just before the Spanish arrived, forcing the Purépechas to the southern part of the region.

Middle History
Led by Juan Rodriguez de Villafuentes, Juan Alvarez Chico and Cristobal de Olid, the Spanish arrived at Colima in 1522. King Colimán, recognizing the threat presented by the conquistadors, resisted the incursion. The indigenous forces initially won battles at Trojes, Paso de Alima and Toluca, but in 1523 they lost a decisive battle against Gonzalo de Sandoval at Caxitlán. Sandoval immediately established a Spanish settlement, San Sebastián de Colima, in what is now the city of Colima. In 1524, Don Francisco Cortés de Buenaventura arrived and became the citys first mayor.

Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza visited the city of Colima in 1540 and ordered the construction of a royal road between Colima and Mexico City. The new route quickly made Colima a vital center of commerce. The port city of Manzanillo, with its central location on the Pacific coast, also played a key role in gathering and transporting goods for the Spanish crown.

When the fight for Mexican independence began in 1810, Colima priest José Antonio Díaz led a group of revolutionaries in support of Miguel Hidalgo. A relatively small number of royal troops occupied the region when hostilities began, and they were easily defeated by the rebels. Afterward, little military action took place in Colima. In 1821, the Plan of Iguala established the direction for an independent Mexico. When Spain signed the Treaty of Córdoba later that year, Colima and the other Mexican territories formally gained their independence.

Recent History
Colima was made a Mexican state in 1857. Less than ten years later, Mexicos President Benito Juárez, refusing to recognize French authority, moved the seat of government to Colima (1864-1867) and other locations until the French were driven from power and the capital returned to Mexico City.
Porfirio Díaz served as president from 1877 to 1880 and again from 1884 to 1911. Under his leadership, the region saw great economic growth. Díaz ordered the construction of roads, railroads and communications networks. The improved infrastructure significantly strengthened Colimas economic ties with Mexico City.

The Mexican Revolution that began in 1910 brought political instability to Colima as factions loyal to various revolutionary and anti-revolutionary leaders operated throughout the state. In the 1920s, the military conflict subsided as the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) rose to power, dominating political life for the rest of the 20th century. Colima, along with the rest of the country, finally enjoyed some measure of peace.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Pre-Columbian Lacquer of West Mexico

The Pre-Columbian Lacquer of West Mexico
by Celia Heil
Evidence of Lacquer Technology Diffusion

Lacquer, known in Mexico as Maque, in China as Ch'í-Ch'í and in Japan as Urushi, was a technology well-known in Michoacán, on the west coast of Mexico, at the time of the Spanish invasion. The process of lacquering was practiced for several centuries by pre-Columbian Amerindians in what today are the States of Chiapas, Guerrero, and Michoacán, and perhaps as far north as Sinaloa. The pre-Columbian Maque technology is mentioned in the Mendocino Codex, by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún in his Historia General de las Cosas de la Nueva España, [General History of the Matters of New Spain] and also by Fray Mendieta in his Crónicas de Nueva España [Chronicles of New Spain].

China is regarded as the original home of lacquer. The Chinese recognized the protective qualities of the sap at least three thousand years ago (Casals, 1961:7). From China it was introduced to Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and India, (Abrams 1984:19; Garner, 1969:16), and it seems, also to west Mexico. The earliest known example of Chinese lacquer dates from the Shang Dynasty, ca. 1523-1028 BC, when the middle kingdoms of China began using lacquer on household utensils, furniture, art objects, and to preserve historic records carved on bones and bamboo (Abrams, 1984:20).

The oldest fragments of lacquered objects found in Japan so far, occur before the Jomon period, ca. 6th to 3rd centuries B.C. Archaeological excavations have produced artifacts and fragments of lacquered objects dating from the Yayoi period ca. 250 BC-250 AD (von Ragué, 1967:4-5). In Japan lacquer producing trees became as important as the Mulberry for silkworms and paper making, and tea producing plants (Hayashi, 1983:360). Formal lacquer production in Japan can be defined to occur during the Kofun period, ca. 3th to 6th century (von Ragué, 1967:5; Casals, 1961:8). With the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century lacquer became the medium to religious decoration.

Uruapan in Michoacán is considered the cradle of maque together with other centers in Chiapas and Guerrero. Maque art flourished there long before European contact. How did the Michoacán people come to know this art? Did they develop it? Was it introduced from Asia? If so, when and how? Maque in Michoacán probably dates from between the 8th and 12th centuries, when a wave of cultural innovations appeared in Michoacán, along with metallurgy and a new ceramic style.

Perhaps it was introduced earlier by the Buddhist monk, Hui Sheng, who in 458 A.D. led a group of monks from the kingdom of Jibin, today called Cachemira, on a voyage to the land of Fusang or Fusangguo, as recorded in the Chinese encyclopedia and other historical documents. Fusang is the Japanese word for a tree and describes the saguaro cactus plant native to Mexico, and guo means "country" or "land." Hui Shen returned to China 41 years later, in 499, and reported his findings to the Xiao kingdom of the Qi state. It was recorded as his personal testimony during the Liang dynasty between 520 and 528 (Vargas, 1990:13-14).

In 1920, the Secretary of the Chinese Legation in Mexico and the artist Gerardo Murillo, better known as Dr. Atl, were convinced that about the year 600 AD, the Chinese reached the west coast of Mexico to where now are the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Michoacán, Jalisco, and Nayarit. Dr. Atl published an article titled "The Chinese were the discoverers of our nation" in the newspaper Excelsior, on May 22, 1921. He speculated that merchants introduced the lacquer technology (de Paul León, 1922:56; Zuno,1952:145).

There is a story in Nayarit of a pre-Columbian Asian ship that arrived on their coast and was cordially received by the chief of the Coras. Archaeology in Nayarit has produced artistic tripod ceramic funerary urns in tombs known as tumbas de Tiro y cámara (shaft and chamber tombs); dated ca. 1000 to 200 BC.

The culture known as Ancient Coras (400-900 AD) practiced terraced agriculture, and between 900 to 1200 metallurgy was introduced (Encyclopedia de Mexico, Vol.9:671-672). Indeed, a multitude of evidence indicates that a vast network of Pacific rim merchants traded along the coast of the American continent from Peru to Alaska (Murra, 1991). (Fig.1,2)

Link to full article without graphics
Link to original article with graphics