Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production
University of California Press 2015
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in FoodNew Books in Latin American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network February 6, 2016 Debra Zides
In her new book, Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production (University of California Press, 2015), Sarah Bowen presents the challenges and politics associated with the establishment of Denominations of Origin (DOs) for tequila and mezcal. On one hand, establishing these DOs protects a crucial part of Mexico’s national identity as well as the quality of these fermented beverages. On the other hand, small farmers, jimadores, and other agricultural field workers who have been producing tequila and mezcal for generations now find themselves struggling because they are either outside the currently defined terroir physical boundaries, or their products do not fall within the currently defined production standards. Without the ability to market their goods using the terms “tequila” or “mezcal”, these small business owners and workers are losing opportunities to the largest companies who have industrialized the market. Bowen takes the reader through the history of the establishment of the DO rules, the challenges of, “Making mezcal in the shadow of the Denomination of Origin”, and the influence of the United States on the future of artisan mezcal. The book is rich with first-hand observations and stories of the proud small farmers and field workers who are trying to survive in a structure that can be perceived to favor big business.