What’s in Your Tequila?

Although demand for tequila is booming, the younger generation of laborers is deserting the land of the agave in Mexico, from which the liquid is extracted. PHOTO: The Huffington Post

Although demand for tequila is booming, the younger generation are deserting the land of the agave in Mexico, from which the liquid is extracted. PHOTO: The Huffington Post

Find yourself taking a shot at the tequila often? Or are you one to cook with it, whipping up some tequila wings, tequila-cured salmon or infusing the liquid in cheesecakes and ice cream? Not to forget those breezy cocktail mash-ups featuring flavors of rose, mango, strawberry, and even pepper! Now that we have your attention, we are going to take a shot at bringing you this story from the home of the drink – Mexico. A story with a mood-board that will definitely not have you screaming “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor”. One that may possibly leave you with questions about the future of the drink and Mexico’s loss of a family tradition.

The craft of the agave harvest, still done entirely by hand, has remained virtually unchanged since around 1600 when tequila was first invented by the Spanish conquistadors. It is also one that has traditionally remained in families, with each generation teaching the next, ensuring that the mechanization of the tequila harvest has been kept at bay.

Yet traditions of the jimador, a figure still cloaked in romantic mystique in literature and even Mexican telenovelas, are slowly disappearing. While the demand for high-quality tequila is rising year on year, with the industry worth over $1bn and seven out of 10 liters produced now exported worldwide, the younger male generations who would once have taken on the mantle of their fathers to become jimadores are turning away from the agricultural way of life in droves.

The dearth of a new generation ofjimadores is symptomatic of a widespread decline in agricultural work in Mexico, with figures showing that the farm workforce fell by two million between 1995 and 2010, while pay for agricultural jobs has remained relatively static.

This became particularly stark during the agave crisis that hit Mexico in the early 2000s, when not enough succulents had been planted seven years previously to meet demand. The crop’s price per kilo rose by almost 1,000% but wages for the jimadores remained the same.

Find the rest of this intriguing story here.

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