El Pulque

Annie Colleen O'Meara

Pulque is an alcoholic beverage produced from the sap of the maguey plant.This white, thick, yeast-like
pulque_pour.jpg
Thick, white pulque texture.

drink dates back to ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica and over the decades has held significant value for a number of various reasons[1] .





Maguey


The maguey cactus, also known as the agave plant, is a major cash crop in arid and rocky areas, such as the state of Hidalgo located in southern Mexico, where other crops cannot be irrigated [2]. The variety of maguey used for pulque production ranges from small plants which ooze sap for 20 days and much larger counterparts which produce sap for up to six months[3]. This sap is also known as a liquid called “agua miel” which translates to “honey water” and is the portion of the plant used to create pulque [4] .

Harvesting process

The process of making pulque is done in three stages known as “el capazón”, “el picazón” and “la raspa”. The first stage,
Agave
Mauguay plant and a harvester ("tlachiquero").

“el capazón”, begins by cutting out a new growth on a mature maguey planting known as the “quiote base”. The plant is allowed time to heal, up to several months before the second phase, “el picazón” can proceed by
rupturing the wound in the quiote base and allowed it to rot. The final and most important stage, “la raspa”, is the collection of the sap by scraping the cavity walls inside the wound of the plant all the way to the leaves stalks. The contents scraped from the inside are saved and the sap is then separated before being fermented into the final product, pulque [5] .
Traditionally, the sap was collected inside dried gourds and then poured into large ceramic jars. To aid the fermentation process, the seeds of the plant were often added to the sap [6] .

Pulque of the Pre-Conquest Aztec Era


In the Pre-Conquest era of the Aztecs both the maguey cactus and pulque were revered as sacred. The Aztecs believed their holy maguey cacti had been blessed upon them from the goddess Mayahuel who was personified as “a beautiful young female, embodied in a flowering maguey, who dispenses pulque from her breast of from vessels” [7] .

In respect, there were restrictions and social hierarchies associated with the consumption of pulque. The Aztecs deified themselves of this
mayahuel.jpg
Mayahuel, goddess of maguey

alcoholic beverage and reserved it as a drink for their gods, however even the gods could be punished for indulging in excess [8] .

The actual consumption of pulque was performed during feasting and ritual ceremonies during which time it was closely regulated and ritual
drunkenness was only permitted for priests and warriors. During certain occasions the commoners, elderly and pregnant woman were also allowed to partake in pulque consumption as it was recognized by the Aztecs that pulque held great nutritional value and it was occasionally used as a traditional remedy for ailments[9] .

The rituals involving pulque or the maguey cacti were carefully constructed into the 260 day calendar in which the Aztecs relied on. It was believed by the Aztecs that rituals were to be performed in honor of their gods in order to have the world continue in balance. The days of their calender were depicted with images representing either deities or a form of material culture signaling which ritual was required and when. In this particular case, a rabbit sign represented Mayahuel, the goddess of maguey, and a tuft of grass symbolized Patecatl, the god of pulque. The 260 days of the
60834_6.jpg
Patecatl, god of pulque

Aztec calender were divided into 20 day cycles, so to say months, in which both the rabbit and tuft of grass symbols appeared twice. Given this information, 26 times per Aztec year, or ten percent of their year, the maguey cacti and pulque were represented[10] . This amount of attention adorned to pulque and its plant of origin exemplifies the importance the Aztec associated with this alcoholic drink within their society.

Modern Pulque


In today's era pulque has lost most of its ritualist importance. In fact, due to various Catholic ideologies which emerged and developed into policies during the post-conquest period, pulque was nearly annihilated; Religious elites attempted to assimilate the indians and mixed races of Mexico into “good Christians”. During this time the ancient, pulque-thirsty Aztec gods were left behind in exchange for Catholic religion[11] . The production of pulque had been devastated by this change in ideologies; nonetheless, pulque has stood the test of time and found its revival through tourism and scientific finding [12] .
The highest pulque-producing state found in Mexico is Hidalgo which has a large amount of rural tourism throughout its high plains. In an
Pulque
Canned pulque.
attempt to re-popularize pulque, tourism is being used as an outlet to inform and educate about the consumption of this beverage which is being placed first and foremost to other alcoholic beverages such as beer, tequila and mezcal. To further the education, the Instituto Politecnio Nacional has recently released scientific research related to the nutritional value of pulque. These finding concluded that pulque is beneficial to ones health in that it contains microorganisms and is enriched with minerals. It was also stated that pulque may aid in the fight against anemia and is being used for this purpose in underprivileged populations of Mexico [13] .
















References


  1. ^


    Maestri, Nicoletta. "The Origin Of Pulque: Pulque: The Sacred Drink of Ancient Mesoamerica." About.com Archaeology. Http://archaeology.about.com, 2012. Web. 01 Nov. 2012.
    <http://archaeology.about.com
    /od/foodsoftheancientpast/a/Pulque.htm>.
  2. ^


    "Hidalgo." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2012. <http://www.history.com/topics/hidalgo>
  3. ^ Kasiak, Neil R. Fermenting Identities: Race and Pulque Politics in Mexico City between 1519 and 1754. Encompass.eku.edu. Eastern Kentucky University, May 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CGIQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fencompass.eku.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1067%26context%3Detd&ei=_Ia7UP36MZHkiwLizoC4BQ&usg=AFQjCNHv4mEI3bnigtvGH-R5Jm3knwwXLw&sig2=_UbbUP8JerdOhpmtUpvc9w>.
  4. ^ "Hidalgo." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2012. <http://www.history.com/topics/hidalgo>.
  5. ^


    Kasiak, Neil R. Fermenting Identities: Race and Pulque Politics in Mexico City between 1519 and 1754. Encompass.eku.edu. Eastern Kentucky University, May 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CGIQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fencompass.eku.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1067%26context%3Detd&ei=_Ia7UP36MZHkiwLizoC4BQ&usg=AFQjCNHv4mEI3bnigtvGH-R5Jm3knwwXLw&sig2=_UbbUP8JerdOhpmtUpvc9w>.
  6. ^


    Maestri, Nicoletta. "The Origin Of Pulque: Pulque: The Sacred Drink of Ancient Mesoamerica." About.com Archaeology. Http://archaeology.about.com, 2012. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <http://archaeology.about.com/od/foodsoftheancientpast/a/Pulque.htm>.
  7. ^


    Byes, Robert A., and Edelmina Linares. "Pulque." The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures: The Civilizations of Mexico and Central America. Ed. David Carrasco. Vol. 1. New York: Oxford UP, 2001. 38-40. Print.
  8. ^


    Kasiak, Neil R. Fermenting Identities: Race and Pulque Politics in Mexico City between 1519 and 1754. Encompass.eku.edu. Eastern Kentucky University, May 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CGIQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fencompass.eku.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1067%26context%3Detd&ei=_Ia7UP36MZHkiwLizoC4BQ&usg=AFQjCNHv4mEI3bnigtvGH-R5Jm3knwwXLw&sig2=_UbbUP8JerdOhpmtUpvc9w>.
  9. ^


    Maestri, Nicoletta. "The Origin Of Pulque: Pulque: The Sacred Drink of Ancient Mesoamerica." About.com Archaeology. Http://archaeology.about.com, 2012. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <http://archaeology.about.com/od/foodsoftheancientpast/a/Pulque.htm>.
  10. ^


    Kasiak, Neil R. Fermenting Identities: Race and Pulque Politics in Mexico City between 1519 and 1754. Encompass.eku.edu. Eastern Kentucky University, May 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CGIQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fencompass.eku.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1067%26context%3Detd&ei=_Ia7UP36MZHkiwLizoC4BQ&usg=AFQjCNHv4mEI3bnigtvGH-R5Jm3knwwXLw&sig2=_UbbUP8JerdOhpmtUpvc9w>.
  11. ^


    Kasiak, Neil R. Fermenting Identities: Race and Pulque Politics in Mexico City between 1519 and 1754. Encompass.eku.edu. Eastern Kentucky University, May 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CGIQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fencompass.eku.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1067%26context%3Detd&ei=_Ia7UP36MZHkiwLizoC4BQ&usg=AFQjCNHv4mEI3bnigtvGH-R5Jm3knwwXLw&sig2=_UbbUP8JerdOhpmtUpvc9w>.
  12. ^ Rizquez, Ana. "Pulque, the Elixir Recovered from Pre-Columbian Mexico." Suenamexico.com. Suenamexico.com, 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://suenamexico.com/experiencias/el-pulque-la-pocima-recuperada-del-mexico-prehispanico/?lang=en>.
  13. ^


    Rizquez, Ana. "Pulque, the Elixir Recovered from Pre-Columbian Mexico." Suenamexico.com. Suenamexico.com, 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://suenamexico.com/experiencias/el-pulque-la-pocima-recuperada-del-mexico-prehispanico/?lang=en>.