Message #156:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Sonora's Most Traditional Drink
Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 23:17:58 -0700 

Here's a little social anthropology and archaeology mixed...

[AZ Republic] News Digest for Sunday, April 20, 1997

OUTLAWED DRINK GAINS HIGH STATUS -- Deep in the hills of Sonora's back
country, a liquor as clear as crystal and more potent than tequila is
distilled according to 300-year-old methods. Outlawed as moonshine until
1992, bacanora reigns today as Sonora's status drink. Everyone from
politicians and bankers to campesinos and bricklayers knows an invitation
to share a glass is an honor. For exclusivity, bacanora is hard to beat.
Pueblo bootleggers were the sole purveyors of the elixir until recently.
Now, there is limited commercial bottling and distribution of Sonora's most
traditional drink. But bacanora remains a rare find--even in Mexico. Like
it's better-known cousins, tequila and mescal, bacanora comes from a spiky
agave plant, or maguey as it's called in Sonora. But while the
multimillion-dollar tequila industry depends on agave plantations and
modern machinery, bacanora remains true to its rugged origins. The drink
takes its name from a small pueblo famed for it's unique alcohol, distilled
from a wild yaquiano maguey that grows untamed in the prickly, central
Sonoran foothills that slope east toward the Sierra Madre.

[  SASIG Ed. Note -- 

AZ Republic today (4/20/97) carried a full page article with photos on the
production of bacanora.

Anyone desirous of a copy should first send e-mail then SASE (address at ).  I will keep the article
for about a week.
The article describes the physical features constructed and used to produce
the liquor and production methods.  If the methods described in the article
are indeed 300-year-old methods...

the article describes use of steel drums, pitchforks, machetes and axes,
wooden mortars, plastic bottles, tin cans, pits, stone-lined subterranean
ovens, above ground stone ovens, tarps, feed bags etc)...

then,... the archaeologist in me wants to look at 300 and 200 and 100
year-old bacanora sites to examine the change in the spatial configuration
and material culture of indigenous Sonoran liquor production!  

A great deal of mesquite wood is used to produce the liquor distillate and
producers must search far and wide for yaquiano maguey (un agave que crece
silvestre); while six dozen or more plants are needed to produce a five
gallon batch of bacanora -- the size of a producer's resource gathering
catchment area was not reported by the article.

The AZ Republic article noted that fewer than 500 Sonoran families
(Indigene ?) continue making bacanora.  A brewer can produce 26 gallons per
month and earn $450 per each 26 gallon lot. About 10 to 12 percent of the
26 gallon lots are rejected by the liquor distributor.   Two Sonoran
companies distribute bacanora, one producing 8,000 litres annually.

Prior to 1992 it was illegal to produce or sell bacanora, so I imagine that
the size and spatial layout of production facilities have changed since the
lifting of the ban.

The newspaper article was written by Graciella Sevilla and was produced
with the help of anthropologist Abraham Francisco Osuna of the University
of Sonora ].

Related web sites:
Bacanora - Una especie de mezcal preparado a partir de la destilaci—n del
jugo de la cabeza asada de un maguey. Para su elaboraci—n se recolecta el
agave que crece silvestre, se le quitan las hojas dejando s—lo el centro o
cabezas y Žstas se acomodan en un horno rodeado de piedras. Una vez asadas
(durante dos noches), se dejan enfriar y se machacan con hacha para luego
destazarlas en un hoyo de m‡s de un metro de profundidad, donde permanecen
cubiertas con costales unos cuatro d’as para que se efectœe la
fermentaci—n. El producto se deposita en el tambo revestido de piedras que
funciona como olla, se tapa y se le vuelve a prender fuego. DespuŽs, pasa a
otro tambo enfriador que contiene agua fr’a, del cual sale ya destilado el
bacanora. Esta bebida es de consumo domŽstico y ritual, y es originaria del
estado de Sonora.
Bacanora: Ladera de Carrizo
BACANORA -- En este lugar se elabora la bebida t’pica de Sonora que lleva
el mismo nombre del poblado. En las cercan’as se puede cazar mapache,
liebre, conejo, perdiz, codorniz y paloma.

[mapache y bacanora....hmmm....I'm ready to go ! ]
Food Sources for Lesser Long-nosed Bat: February: In Sinaloa and in the
"barrancas" of central and southern Sonoran, nectar is available from
flowers of the northern-most tree morning glories and bacanora century
plants. (The "barrancas" are similar to the Grand Canyon. The local people
make bootleg mescal, a local form of tequila, from these century plants.)
Localities for these plants in bloom include Pericos and Concordia, Sinaloa.
In the Land of the Wild Chiles$ebony/tw/www/tw/01-12-95/cover.htm
Searching for the Cure
proyectos de investigaci—n
maguey designs in rugs
an image of an Indian extracting sap from a Maguey plant to prepare the
fermented drink, pulque
"gusanos de maguey" .... y mas !