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Agave Spirituous And The Landscapes Of Mexico

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4.- Raicilla from the Sierra Madre Occidental of Nayarit and Jalisco

Raicilla, like Tequila or Mezcal, is a spirituous distilled beverage from agaves and its name comes from an ancient popular belief based on a visual deception: it was believed that it was the root of the agave plant, and not its depenched stem, that was used as the raw material for the distilled beverage.

Distilled beverages are the result of the process by which the fermented musts of fruits, stems, tubers or seeds are separated, through the application of heat, from the alcohols. In the case of distilled agave beverages, the stems of mature, baked and fermented agave plants undergo a double distillation process to achieve higher alcohol concentration and greater purity of the resulting product.

As a fundamental part of the rural lifestyle, agaves have multiple uses, complementary to the cooking and consumption of the stems: the flowers are used in local gastronomy and the quiotes or floral scapes are used as beams in the construction of traditional houses. The agave fibers, extracted from the stalks, have also been used to make ropes and backpacks since pre-Hispanic times.

In the mountainous zone of the Western Sierra of Jalisco and Nayarit, the municipalities that participate in the Raicilla-producing region are: Atengo, Chiquilistlán, Juchitlán, Tecolotlán, Tenamaxtlán, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo Corrientes, Tomatlán, Atenguillo, Ayutla, Cuautla, Guachinango, Mascota, Mixtlán, San Sebastián del Oeste and Talpa de Allende, in Jalisco, and Bahía de Banderas, in Nayarit.

For several years, Raicilla producers have been fighting for national recognition of the quality of their beverage, to improve the conditions for the sale of their products and to obtain the Raicilla Denomination of Origin, regulated by NOM- 239-SE-2020. Currently, the promotion of the Raicilla beverage is linked to tourism due to the large influx of national and foreign visitors to Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta and nearby beaches.

Tourism companies link a series of local events to the cultural offerings of the mountainous region, such as patron saint festivals, hiking trails and birdwatching sites, which offer experiences related to exuberant nature and the rural lifestyle. These include guided visits to the Raicilla taverns or factories, which promote the particular characteristics of the production of the distilled agave beverage, offer tastings and, in some cases, traditional food and tours of the area as part of the guided visit.

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