A Sip of History: The Prohibition of Mezcal
Updated: Nov 29, 2019
Mezcal was a product banned for consumption. Thank God it isn't anymore.
Although today Mezcal is considered a heritage and an important ingredient of Mexican gastronomy, it was not always this way. In Mexico’s colonial period, Mezcal was a product that was banned for consumption. And not because it posed a health risk, but because it was a subject of envy.
At the time, with the arrival of the Spanish colony to Mexico, the Spaniards had the interest to promote, sell and produce their liquors originating from Europe to all the indigenous settlers.
The surprise came when the settlers realized that not only did the Indians already consume alcohol, but they also produced and marketed it.
The envy of the merchants and rulers of the Spaniards was not long in coming and in 1585 a royal order was issued in Spain to extinguish in the “La Nueva España” all the drinks coming from the maguey (Mezcal, Tequila, Pulque, etc.), to achieve a monopoly on alcoholic beverages and bring benefits to the Spanish economy.
The Spanish Monarchy took the ban so seriously that they asked the Catholic Church to support them in this struggle. The Bishop of Valladolid (Michoacán) ordered the excommunication of any producer, seller and consumer of Mezcal in the region.
In addition to ecclesiastical punishments, the government of “La Nueva España” had also very specific punishments: If you were Spanish, you could lose your property and you were a candidate to be banished from your city of residence, and if you belonged to another kind of caste the penalty was flogging.
In spite of all of this, due to the popularity of the drink, the Spanish conquerors had many conflicts to eradicate the drink. The indigenous people were able to create small production “Palenques” in order to process Mezcal and smuggle it into the market.
Years passed, and the Spanish settlers were never able to eradicate the drink, causing the production process to be shared between generations and kept handmade all these years.
Thanks to this, today we can not only freely enjoy this elixir, but we can also be sure that it is one of the richest and authentic distilled beverages.