Agave Spirituous And The Landscapes Of Mexico

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Sotol and Lechuguilla Mezcal

Several holes in the ground, in the archaeological sites of Paquimé, in Chihuahua, or on the banks of the Gila River, in Arizona, show the vestiges of this archaic practice of baking plants for their consumption as food in the Apache, Rarámuri, Seri, Cora and Huichol cultures, in the immense territory of Aridoamerica, which includes northwestern Mexico and southwestern United States. Lechuguilla and other agaves, the samandoca palm or yucca, candelilla, mesquite, nopales and sotol are some of the plants consumed since before the existence of the U.S.-Mexico border. In several localities the tradition of preparing barbacoa de pozo and, of course, the baking of agave and sotol plants persists, as part of the production process of distilled beverages.
The extraction of natural fibers from the lechuguilla agave is another archaic activity that persists and is still in force as a typical industry of northern Mexico, duly regulated to optimize the quality of the finished products; the leaves or stalks must reach at least 25 centimeters long to be considered good working material. The natural fiber extracted from the agave plant has diverse industrial uses since it resists chemical solvents, acids and abrasive products, in addition to being resistant to very high temperatures in continuous exposure and absorbs liquids much better than synthetic fibers.
Agave and sotol plants cover the hills and valleys in the desert, and have been used to make excellent quality distilled beverages since the Spanish colonial period. At the beginning of the 20th century, prohibition was imposed in the anti-alcohol campaign undertaken by the Mexican government, at the same time that the "dry law" prevailed in the United States. The production of sotol and lechuguilla mezcal competed with whiskey production and threatened the interests of alcohol smuggling mafias.
In the 21st century, sotol and lechuguilla mezcal are considered emblematic products of the region and regional development enhancers on both sides of the border. In Texas, producers of distilled Sotol beverages consider it part of their traditional culture and cuisine, and an economic option linked to rural towns. In Mexico, Sotol production is regulated by Official Standard NOM-159-SCFI-2004, which includes the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango. Durango, also participates in NOM-070-SCFI-2016 which regulates the production of mezcal from lechuguilla, but not the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila, whose territories are not included in the Mezcal Denomination of Origin.

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