In the U.S. we face the reality of inept government. Some hope for the possible end of the Trump dynasty.
Others await – expectantly – true law and order to engulf that hapless administration.
Many recoil in disgust at the hypocrisy of Trump’s “Made in America” campaign. Ivanka still makes her products in Vietnam. Trump makes his suits and ties in Mexico. I say Buy Mexico!
Pobre de México. “Poor Mexico.” They don’t deserve Trump’s rhetoric and policies. They constitute much of our past history and present culture. At best, they are treated with disrespect, at worst, punished. Yet, they make Trump’s suits and ties. They also make many other products.
Mexico makes unique products—such as mezcal—a hot commodity right now. What a shame to threaten free trade, to endanger the jobs and profits that come (in Mexico but in the U.S. too) from producing, buying, selling, Mexican products—especially mezcal.
And what is this nectar of the Gods? You may have come close to it—with that Tequila-based Margarita you had in Progreso. “Tequila is mezcal but mezcal is not tequila” (Yari Vallejo, Director,“Mezcal from Oaxaca”). My first glorious taste was at an archaeological site in Oaxaca while teaching at La Universidad de las Américas (Cholula, Puebla) – an aperitif – half mezcal, half fresh pineapple juice. Tequila is mainly produced in the state of Jalisco, from the blue agave, mezcal mainly in Oaxaca, from various agaves. But other differences remain.
Mezcal gets its smoky flavor from production. Hearts of the agave plants (piña) are cooked in pits in the ground in a style similar to making barbacoa. The cooked agave is then crushed, combined with water and allowed to ferment. It’s baked in a clay pot or in copper for smother taste. It contains from 40 percent to 50 percent alcohol, so beware and behave. Gracias a Dios, it’s only made in Mexico. Trump can’t mess it up.
Mezcal was once thought of as a lowbrow way for college kids to get hammered and eat a worm, but now enjoys a wide reputation outside of Mexico. Some consider it like fine wine and enjoy in a wine glass, at room temperature. Most agree: “you kiss mezcal, you don’t shoot it” (Vallejo). Blogs and book extol its taste and effects (Holy Smoke! It’s Mezcal, John McEvoy). Liquor companies are now on a mezcal binge. Mezcal, tequila’s smokier cousin, has now found its way from bars in New York City to Los Angeles, with a stop along Guerra Street, McAllen, Texas (Robbie Whelan, “Mezcal Binge,” Wall Street Journal, 27 June 2017).
The drink is handcrafted, with a connection to Mexico’s indigenous village culture. A long growing time for the agave is required, so it is hard to mass produce. Pernod Ricard joined Bacardi, José Cuervo and Diageo with high-end mezcal brands in the last three years. Beer and wine sales world-wide are down, but cocktails are up, increasing 17 percent annually. Export production surpassed domestic consumption in Mexico, rising in the U.S. 27 percent. Could you scale up and still have good quality? “That would make it tequila, amigo” (Cooper, Del Maguey’s founder). The arguments rage, much as those among connoisseurs of Scotch or fine wines.
Mezcal is still a tiny market, but with great potential. The profits and benefits for the small villages and farmers in Mexico are huge. Macroeconomics and global policies trickle down and affect—positively or negatively—human beings, workers and their families. The take-away? Focus on our neighbors. Pay attention to their growth and potential. Assist their entrepreneurial spirit and cultural uniqueness. That helps both countries and both societies.
Meanwhile, we beg Donald Trump: “don’t mess with Mexico” – its products, its trade with Texas and the U.S., its people and their future. Stop the hypocrisy. Sure, “Make it in America” – as much as possible. But also “Make it in Mexico” too and buy it from them as much as possible. The goal should be un acuerdo Parejo – an “even deal.” Buy mezcal and other things. Buy Mexico!