|In the plains of the state of Jalisco in central western Mexico, there is a plant we know as blue agave or tequila agave that is used to produce the famous tequila alcohol. But that plant has been used for various purposes for over 3 000 years. It's to honour this long tradition that the UNESCO recognized the area as part of the world heritage. The protection also includes the old tequila mansions and transformation plants.|
Way before it became the source of
tequila, the blue agave was cultivated and all the parts of the
plants were used. The leaves were used as roof tiles, the spines of
the leaves for needles and arrowheads, the fibres inside the piña
(big core of the plant, looking as pineapple, hence the name) were
used to make clothing and ropes, the sap was used in medicine and of
course the sweet core to make beverages as today.
However, the beverages made before the
arrival of the Spanish were much different than our days tequila,
because it was not distilled, only fermented. It was then known as
mesquite wine (vino de mezcal). With the shortage of liquors in
Europe, the Spanish seeked alternatives throughout their colonies
network. In the Caribbean they found rum and in here they found the
mesquite wine that could be improved and transformed into tequila.
They imported the machinery from the Caribbean islands to be able to
distil the wine.
Then, the production of tequila grew
and plantations were put in place. You usually had a large field
area surrounded by a fence. Inside the fence, you had the owner's
mansion, the residence quarters for the workers and the processing
factories. These plantations were self-contained and had all they
needed to produce tequila.
The UNESCO recognizes not only the
importance of the plant in the history of the region, but also all
the civil organization that all revolved around it. The plantations
and their structure, their processes at the various stages of the
production of the tequila are also protected. That is an important
part of the Mexican identity as we know it today.
With time, the demand increased and so
did the production. In 1795, José Maria Guadelupe Cuervo, a local
entrepreneur, received the very first license to operate a distillery
on a large scale. That company is still in existence today and it's
the largest producer of tequila in the world.