Mexico and the Worm

The Folklife Festival has taken off (both figuratively and literally) and has been quite moving.  Well, The Mexico exhibit is so different from previous years.  Last year Wales showcased what you typically expect to see when you visit that country (Read my 2009 post on Wales) . Same for Bhutan the year before.  And even Northern Ireland (Read my 2007 post on Northern Island) the year before last. Every year, I make life-long friends from the countries that visit and are featured: From the Silk Road to the Mekong Delta.

This year, the exhibit is trying to show how diverse Mexico is and to focus on the arts, culture and trade of the indigenous groups who even have their own dialects.  These people are not what most people come to see when they study or visit Mexico -- and their culture is in danger of being lost -- even more reason to showcase their talents and skills in the Nation's Capital.

And there certainly is so much to preserve (many of these languages are in jeopardy of being lost forever -- that is why it's critical for mankind and our society to take note and to appreciate what these cultures have to offer for our generation and for future generations, even if it means looking at the past.

Can't think of a better place than Washington D.C. to showcase the rich, gastronomical fantasy world of Oaxaca.

For those who appreciate the finer things in life, south of the border such as mariachi music and well, tequila, the Folklife was nice enough to import and showcase tequila and mezcal production skills as well.

Joanne Salas showed me how the people from Oaxaca made mezcal from the sweet fruit agave.  While Tequila is made from only the blue agave, mezcal is made from a variety of agave.   (The people from Oaxaca are one of the most indigent from Mexico). She also told me the story about the cactus worm.  Since the mezcal is more pure and  potent than tequila, it is important to not use as much sugar.

Sometimes, producers would add sugar and water to cheat customers.  When this happened, the worm would not sink all the way to the bottom.  Eventually, the consumers loved the taste of the worm -- sweet, aromatic flavor.  It almost became something that tourists and locals expected to see and they loved to eat it for fun -- some people even said that it made them hallucinate. Well, in short, it became a triumph in marketing.  Recently the government of Mexico has decided to ban the use of the cactus worm in mezcal and tequilla production which has angered distillers.

Since the Mexican government is now regulating the liquor industry, they have also discovered that the little worms when released into mezcal releases fat.  So what -- if it worked for the distillers and the consumers, and there is no harmful effect to drink it, the government should not get in the way of sales, which is now moving in a snail's pace.

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