The Huichol (Wixarika) people claim a vast expanse of Mexico’s western Sierra Madre and northern highlands as a territory called kiekari, which includes parts of the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Durango, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosí. This territory forms the heart of their economic and spiritual lives. But indigenous land struggle is a central fact of Mexican history, and in this fascinating new work Paul Liffman expands our understanding of it. Drawing on contemporary anthropological theory, he explains how Huichols assert their sovereign rights to collectively own the 1,500 square miles they inhabit and to practice rituals across the 35,000 square miles where their access is challenged. Liffman places current access claims in historical perspective, tracing Huichol communities’ long-term efforts to redress the inequitable access to land and other resources that their neighbors and the state have imposed on them.
Liffman writes that “the cultural grounds for territorial claims were what the people I wanted to study wanted me to work on.” Based on six years of collaboration with a land-rights organization, interviews, and participant observation in meetings, ceremonies, and extended stays on remote rancherías, Huichol Territory and the Mexican Nation analyzes the sites where people define Huichol territory. The book’s innovative structure echoes Huichols’ own approach to knowledge and examines the nation and state, not just the community. Liffman’s local, regional, and national perspective informs every chapter and expands the toolkit for researchers working with indigenous communities. By describing Huichols’ ceremonially based placemaking to build a theory of “historical territoriality,” he raises provocative questions about what “place” means for native peoples worldwide.
The array of bottles is impressive, their contents finely tuned to varied tastes. But they all share the same roots in Mesoamerica's natural bounty and human culture.
The drink is tequila—more properly, mescal de tequila, the first mescal to be codified and recognized by its geographic origin and the only one known internationally by that name. In ¡Tequila! A Natural and Cultural History, Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata, the leading agronomist in Mexico's tequila industry, and Gary Paul Nabhan, one of America's most respected ethnobotanists, plumb the myth of tequila as they introduce the natural history, economics, and cultural significance of the plants cultivated for its production.
Valenzuela-Zapata and Nabhan take you into the agave fields of Mexico to convey their passion for the century plant and its popular by-product. In the labor-intensive business of producing quality mescal, the cultivation of tequila azul is maintained through traditional techniques passed down over generations. They tell how jimadores seek out the mature agaves, strip the leaves, and remove the heavy heads from the field; then they reveal how the roasting and fermentation process brings out the flavors that cosmopolitan palates crave.
Today in Oaxaca it's not unusual to find small-scale mescal-makers vending their wares in the market plaza, while in Jalisco the scale of distillation facilities found near the town of Tequila would be unrecognizable to old José Cuervo. Valenzuela-Zapata and Nabhan trace tequila's progress from its modest beginnings to one of the world's favored spirits, tell how innovations from cross-cultural exchanges made fortunes for Cuervo and other distillers, and explain how the meteoric rise in tequila prices is due to an epidemic—one they predicted would occur—linked to the industry's cultivation of just one type of agave.
The tequila industry today markets more than four hundred distinct products through a variety of strategies that heighten the liquor's mystique, and this book will educate readers about the grades of tequila, from blanco to añejo, and marks of distinction for connoisseurs who pay up to two thousand dollars for a bottle. ¡Tequila! A Natural and Cultural History will feed anyone's passion for the gift of the blue agave as it heightens their appreciation for its rich heritage.