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"La bebida nacional": pulque and Mexicanidad, 1920-46.

"It is said that all true Mexicans like pulque."

--Larry Barretto (1)

"El pulque ha sido uno de los componentes bdsicos de la cultura mexicana, desde antes de la Conquista hasta nuestros dias [Pulque has been a basic component of Mexican culture since before the Conquest until today]."

--Raul Guerrero (2)

Mexico, the 1930s: guided by tour books, inspired by Mexican mural painters, and intrigued by Mexico's Aztec and Mayan past, foreign travelers arrived daily by rail, by car, and by boat to discover this exciting land that was "as beautiful in its own peculiar way as anything you go to Europe to see." (3) Mexican marketplaces, with the smell of fresh frijoles and tortillas cooking, the sight of colorful masks and delicately adorned skeletons for Day of the Dead swinging from market stalls, provided the exotic experience these tourists were searching for. (4) In the countryside, travelers saw broad fields of the spiky agave plant growing to heights of over six feet, and in the towns and cities, they sampled the nectar of the agave, "la bebida national"--pulque. (5) The desire of these travelers was to experience the quintessential "Mexican" adventure, and in the period 1920-46, one of Mexico's most important nation-building periods, pulque became known domestically and internationally as a crucial national symbol. (6)

According to Frida Kahlo's biographer, Hayden Herrera, pulque was Kahlo's favorite drink because, for her, it epitomized Mexicanidad: the sense of Mexican national identity fostered in the post-revolutionary period that valourized Mexico's indigenous origins and quotidian culture. (7) Kahlo's husband, noted Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, famously included pulque and pulquerias in his artistic works as a way to symbolically incorporate workers and indigenous communities--two groups associated with pulque production and consumption--within the discourse of Mexicanidad. (8) Internationally, thousands of American travelers, like Larry Barretto, journeyed to Mexico in the post-revolutionary period eager to sample the quintessential "Mexican" experience, which included tasting "the national drink," pulque. (9)

Traditionally, pulque was an Aztec drink restricted for elite, medicinal, and festive purposes; however, by 1920 pulque was the most popular drink in Mexico, particularly amongst workers and everyday Mexicans. (10) Today, tequila is more famous as the "national drink" of Mexico, but in the critical period of Mexican nation-building, 1920-46, pulque was Mexico's "la bebida nacional" because of its indigene ts roots and ability to connote Mexicanidad. (11) Domestically, the Mexican government, with prominent Mexican intellectuals like Rivera and Kahlo, actively worked to promote a broadly participatory Mexican identity that included national symbols, like pulque, which incorporated everyday Mexican and indigenous elements alongside Spanish and elite aspects. (12)

The notion that pulque embodied indigenous and the modern everyday elements of Mexicanidad were reflected on the cover of Josd Paz's En Defensa de Pulque (1935). (13) As shown in Figure 1, Aztec glyphs rimmed the top and bottom of the cover, yet the typestyle was Art Nouveau. This depiction stressed two elements of pulque's history, its ancient past and its modern present. Nowhere on Paz's cover, and only briefly in his text, does he allude to pulque's three-hundred-year history as a taxed and incorporated colonial product. With few exceptions, during this period of Mexican nation-building, pulque's origins were discussed almost exclusively in relation to its "authentic" Aztec traditions. (14) Such depictions, as in Paz's pamphlet, continued even as pulque's usage in the 1920s-40s was under scrutiny for its perceived degenerating impact on indigenous and plebeian communities. As described in The New York Times in 1930, authorities feared "the drink curse of Mexico." (15) Paz wrote his book "in defense of pulque" to rally against this perception domestically, arguing that pulque provided important economic revenue. (16) Interestingly, he did not utilize the extensive colonial tax records to support his argument, but instead based his findings on pre-Columbian and modern information.


Historian Eric Hobsbawm has called such disjunctures between the presentation of symbols and their actual history evidence of "the invention of tradition." (17) Hobsbawm argued that understanding how symbols and customs are naturalized through invention is necessary for a nuanced understanding of nationalism. (18) During the 1920-46 period, essentialized depictions of pulque represented a concerted effort to naturalize the nation-building values of the post-revolutionary period--including the valorization of plebeian and indigenous dements--and to assert the primacy of Mexicanidad, while also minimizing Mexico's long legacy as a former Spanish colony.

In 1920-46, Mexico faced a period of reconstruction and recovery not only from the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), but also from economic and social transformations enacted by the Liberal oligarchy during the Porfiriato (1876-1911). (19) The Diaz regime stressed Mexico's European heritage and values as pathways toward modernity. (20) However, in the nineteenth century, as today, Mexico was a mestizo nation with mixed Spanish, indigenous, and African heritage. The nation-building project of 1920-46 sought to change the precedent set by the Porfiriato and instead reflect Mexico's mestizo history through a twin strategy of indigenismo and mestizaje. The former emphasized and promoted Mexico's indigenous heritage, while the latter extolled the virtue of Mexico's current mestizo present. Pulque mirrored both these ideologies and exemplified Mexicanidad. (21)

Today, pulque is still a popular Mexican drink, especially among tourists. Many travel sites refer to pulque specifically in connection to its Aztec roots. The Mexico Tourism Board site, Visit Mexico, notes pulque's association with the Aztec god Ometochtli-Tepoztecatl, "the God of pulque." (22) The state of Tlaxcala tourism board describes pulque and tortillas as the basis of this state's traditional cuisine, and notes that "tlaxcalteca food [has] a highly pre-Hispanic influence, which characterizes and makes it unique and delicious." (23) Even current scholarship, such as an article on the processing of pulque by food scientist Juan F. Ramirez, uses this past-present dialectic. In discussing contemporary pulque consumption in Mexico, Ramirez labels current behavior an "intermediate" drinking culture in which "modern elements [mix] with ancestral customs." (24) Yet, what is often overlooked in these essentialized depictions of pulque is that current consumption patterns are not a product of residual Aztec customs, but instead result from behaviors developed during the colonial era (1521-1821).

In the colonial period pulque was so popular that on any given day in Mexico City up to 13 per cent of the population was allegedly drunk from pulque. (25) In addition, due to the Spanish mercantile system, colonial administers encouraged the widespread cultivation of agave and the commercialization of pulque in order to create cash crops and taxable revenue for Spain. (26) The impact of these changes were such that by the late colonial period the number of pulquerias, mostly illegal, had climbed to over eight hundred, and pulque, previously a restricted drink in the pre-Columbian period, became an "everyday" Mexican drink. (27)

Most of the existing scholarship on pulque in English has not considered the contradictions between the colonial and post-revolutionary period, or pulque's relationship to Mexican nationalism. Rather, due to pulque's extensive incorporation during the colonial period, most scholarship with pulque as its central focus concentrates on economics, using tax records and administrative reports as its primary sources. (28) Alternatively, other scholars have looked at pulque from a cultural perspective, but have generally done so either through the lens of New Cultural History or the "Black Legend" of Spanish colonialism. (29)

Seen from these two scholarly perspectives, pulque and pulquerias are either invested with cultural meaning that starid in contrast to dominant discourses, or they are considered within a discussion of Mexican alcoholism, which Gibson. considered the inevitable result of indigenous disenfranchisement under the colonial "Black Legend." (30) However, viewing pulque through either of these lenses can overlook nuanced individual motivations and minimize the inherent incongruities in pulque's history not just in the 1920-46 period, but also the colonial and modern eras. (31) It is therefore worth examining depictions of pulque over a range of time periods, focusing particularly on the construction and mobilization of pulque's "history" for the purposes of reinforcing the Mexicanidad concept during the nation-building period.

Key figures in the 1920-46 nation-building project, Manual Gamio and Jose Vasconcelos, believed that one of the most successful ways Mexico could achieve a strong sense of patria (fatherland) was through a widespread cultural presentation of Mexican values and post-revolutionary ideas of Mexican identity. Vasconcelos achieved this through the government-sponsored muralist project, and Gamio by encouraging international tourism to visit Mexico's pre-colonial ruins. (32) Anthropologist Deborah Poole has noted that disseminating such stereotyped ideas of identity and culture profoundly affects the creation of typology. (33) Poole's argument provides a framework in which to evaluate how the visual imagery produced by Gamio and Vasconcelos's incentives worked to create essentialized Mexican "types" and thereby promote ideas of Mexicanidad.

This essay seeks to understand why the Mexican artists and intellectuals of the 1920-46 period constructed such a unitary and consistent image of pulque, a drink with a notorious past, but without a single "identity" throughout most of its history. In the pre-colonial period there were three grades of pulque--fino, ordinario, and otomite--each reflecting significant regional, social, and economic differences. (34) If this is so, then how did this diverse drink come to be a unified "bebida nacional"? Moreover, why does pulque remain a persistent symbol of Mexicanidad, particularly among modern tourists, when its actual consumption by Mexicans has experienced a sharp decline since the 1980s? (35) I argue that the nation-building period persuasively constructed pulque as a "type" that represented both the pre-Columbian roots and the valourized everyday elements of the present critical to Mexicanidad. I explore how these constructions, excising pulque's colonial history and minimizing controversial aspects of pulque's domestic history constituted an invention of tradition. Pulque was not a traditional symbol of Mexican identity, I argue, but rather a highly mediated one.

Pulque is one of three archetypical "Mexican" drinks, the others being tequila and mescal. All three are made from agave, but due to its fermentation process pulque, unlike the others, cannot be exported in large quantities as it sours quickly. (36) Pulque is also considered the oldest of the three beverages with some unsubstantiated, though oft-repeated, stories dating pulque back to the mythical Toltec civilization. (37) Tequila and mescal, by contrast, emerged during the colonial period and utilize a different part of the plant, the agave's roots and lower leaves. (38) Though tequila is commonly called Mexico's official drink today, many scholars and travel literature still refer to pulque as the true "bebida nacional" due to its relative inaccessibility, which makes it quintessentially "Mexican" in a way that tequila is not. (39)

Pulque is produced from the nectar of the agave's flowering centre or quiote. (40) The Spanish quickly recognized the agave's value, and in 1570, King Phillip II dispatched scientist Francisco Hernandez to conduct the first colonial study on the plant. (41) Pulque production begins with the removal of the quiote and the retrieval of juices harvested from this cavity. This process is noted in some travel literature of the 1930s; Katherine Anne Porter described this process in her novel, Hacienda, as proof of pulque's continuity from pre-Columbian past into modern day. She noted that
 pulque-making had not changed ... since the first Indian set up
 a rawhide vat to ferment the liquor and pierced ... the first
 gourd to draw with his mouth the juice from the heart of the
 maguey. Nothing had happened since, nothing could happen.
 Apparently there was no better way to make pulque. (42)

Pulque is associated with two prominent Mexican festivals: the Day of the Dead and the fiesta for the Virgin of Guadalupe. (43) During Day of the Dead celebrations, a variety of food is offered to deceased family members, and may include pulque. (44) The offerings are a mix of traditional pre-Columbian items, and more modern foodstuffs, introduced during the colonial era. Yet it is interesting that celebrants still include pulque in these festivals in favor of more common modern drinks like tequila or beer.

Pulque's symbolic connection to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, is even closer. While conducting fieldwork in San Juan in the 1950s, anthropologist John Bushnell observed that during fiestas, men venerated statues of the Virgin with raised pulque glasses, proclaiming, "pulque--the milk of the Virgin." (45) Bushnell argued that this connection stems from the agave's truly "life-giving" value in parts of Mexico with minimal access to water. (46) He noted, "in many San Juan households pulque is virtually the only liquid imbibed. It is the first food which the infant is given in addition to his mother's milk. Both children and adults drink pulque daily with their meals." (47) "Small wonder, then," Bushnell concludes, "that this beverage is linked to the Virgin who serves as a surrogate mother." (48)

In spite of these two traditional associations, Mexico's relationship with pulque in the 1920-46 period was conflicted. On the one hand, pulque represented Mexico's deep historical roots, something that the Mexican government emphasized to travelers. The introduction to Mexico Vade-Mecumfor the Visitor, a guide for American tourists published by the Departamento de Turismo, begins by saying that, "we hope that our customs with their ancient traditions and originality, will fill you with admiration." (49) But domestically, the government associated pulque with moral and nutritional depravity--a sentiment which historian Jeffrey Pilcher attributes less to fact (pulque is actually quite rich nutritionally) than to the government's concern that traditional foods like pulque and tortillas were "backward" and "indigenous" and therefore impediments to the modernization of Mexico. (50)

Government concern about international perceptions of Mexico was due largely to the proliferation of negative imagery abroad in the wake of the Mexican Revolution, as seen in Figure 2. (51) Mark C. Anderson researched depictions of Mexicans in the American press from 1913-15 and found that such images overwhelmingly implicit that, unless Mexico put aside such "backward" behaviours such as its perceived proclivity to drunkenness, it would continue on a path of self-annihilation. (52) This type of negative imagery would continue to haunt Mexico's nation-building period, and served as the basis for the "pulque debate" of the 1930s and 1940s. For the present though, Mexico in 1920 embarked on a twin nation-building strategy of indigenismo and mestizaje to embrace and rewrite its indigenous origins as something other than "backwards."


Two influential events in this nation-building process, and two excellent opportunities to improve Mexico's image abroad and at home, were the archaeological excavations of pre-colonial sites by Mexican anthropologist Manuel Gamio in 1913, and the founding of the Mexican Ministry of Education by Jose Vasconcelos in 1921. The former worked to promote Mexico's mythical and historical indigenous roots to a domestic and international audience, while the latter sponsored pedagogical programs throughout Mexico to promote national self-respect in Mexico's mestizo identity. Both worked to foster pride in Mexico's pre-colonial and indigenous heritage.

The excavations of sites in Teotihuacan and Chichrn Itza garnered significant international attention and allowed Mexico to boast of having its own deep and significant precolonial history. (53) Gamio believed these discoveries could aid the formation of a new "Mexican patria." (54) He had studied under anthroPologist Franz Boas, and was heavily influenced by Boas's theory of "cultural relativism"--a theory that went against prevalent nineteenth-century empiricist ideas about progress. If, as Boas maintained, progress was a relative concept, non-European nations like Mexico could finally "compete" with European nations on their own standards, their own histories, and could break out of the trend of aping European behaviour to achieve "progress." Gamio believed that, by unlocking the secrets of its indigenous heritage, Mexico could provide a proud, unifying, and modernizing national ideology throughout Mexico.

The other prominent nation-building ideology during the 1920-46 period, mestizaje, was also concerned with modernizing the nation. Mestizaje is most closely affiliated with the ideas of Jose Vasconcelos, Secretary of Education between 1921 and 1924. Like indigenismo, mestizaje was concerned with incorporating all cultural elements into Mexican society--particularly plebeian and indigenous populations. (55) The difference is one of emphasis. Indigenismo stresses the importance of the Indian, whereas mestizaje is more concerned with promoting Mexico's creolized Spanish and indigenous ethnicities. (56)

Vasconcelos believed that the popular arts provided a compelling window for engaging all Mexicans through the creation and promotion of broadly participatory national imagery. The largest project he undertook to implement these ideas was the country-wide program of muralist art sponsored by Mexico's Ministry of Education. (57) The principal artists of the early Mexican Mural Renaissance were Diego Rivera (1887-1957), Jose Orozco (1883-1949), and David Alfaro Siqueiros (1897-1974), whom the Ministry of Education commissioned to produce murals on the walls of public buildings and spaces, including former churches and convents, secondary schools, universities, and medical facilities. (58) Vasconcelos initiated the mural project with an explicit pedagogical and nation-building purpose. (59)

Vasconcelos sponsored Rivera and other muralists to tour Mexican archaeological sites, including Chichen Itza, as a way of inspiring and informing the mural projects. (60) Many of the most famous projects, such as Rivera's Palacio Nacional murals in Mexico City, explicitly combined glorious and grandiose scenes from Mexico's indigenous Aztec and Mayan history alongside valourized elements of its modern present, like revolutionaries and proletarian workers. (61) Rivera even attempted painting the Secretaria de Educacion murals using nopal cactus juice as a pigment binder, a technique used in pre-colonial period Teotihuacan. (62) Though Vasconcelos left the Ministry of Education in 1924, the work of the muralists continued, and Rivera and Orozco in particular gained international fame. Many of the still-emblematic images of Mexico are from the paintbrush of Rivera, Orozco, or Rivera's wife, Frida Kahlo. Rivera and Kahlo are particularly notable for their valorization of the quotidian elements of Mexican life. Rivera carefully cultivated an image for himself as an everyday Mexican worker, always dressing in carpenter's overalls and working twelve-hour days. (63) Kahlo engaged in similar performative elements of Mexican culture, dressing in traditional indigenous clothing, wearing pre-Columbian jewelry, and even braiding her hair in a traditional style. (64) Rivera and Kahlo also promoted pulque and pulquerias as symbolic of Mexican national identity.

Both Kahlo and Rivera were art teachers at La Esmeralda, Mexico's revolutionary alternative art school, from 1943 to 1953, and in this capacity, both promoted the idea of Mexicanidad well into the 1940s. (65) Kahlo encouraged her students to paint on the walls of the pulquerias as a way of learning to paint "everyday" Mexico, and Rivera described his style of painting--mural painting with a strong social conscience--as "pulqueria painting." (66) Rivera's and Kahlo's public promotion of pulquerias was so persuasive that multiple travel accounts from the 1920-46 period describe pulquerias as indicative of "true" Mexicanidad. (67) Furthermore, even contemporary travel to Mexico is influenced by Rivera's and Kahlo's love of pulque; I have noted several "Frida Kahlo Routes," offered by tour companies include stops at pulquerias along with visits to Kahlo's and Rivera's houses. (68)

Suddenly pulquerias, the dingy and often ill-kempt shacks of the colonial period, were considered cultural links in a chain of tradition dating back to the Toltecs and Aztecs. This is interesting, as late-colonial legislation required pulquerias to be open on three sides in order to discourage illicit behavior and lingering. (69) Yet in the period of the muralists, the term, "pulqueria painting" was used synonymously with "mural painting" to refer to the everyday subject matter and cultivated plebeian style of Diego Rivera and others. (70) Art critic Jeraldine Kraver considered pulqueria paintings within the long fresco history of Mexico, and heralded Vasconcelos's promotion of mural painting as a return to indigenous traditions. (71)

This "return" to tradition is especially seen in Rivera's mural, "La Danza de Huichilobos" (Dance of the Huichilobos), which he painted for Mexico City's Hotel Reforma in 1936 and is now housed 'on the third floor of the Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City. (72) In this mural, pulquerias became even more synonymous with Mexicanidad and with valourized images of Mexican antiquity. "La Danza de Huichilobos" does not depict a scene from the pre-Columbian past but rather illustrates the victory of the local forces over Maximilian's troops during the French occupation of Mexico in 1864-67. (73) Rivera paints this modern triumph as if it were a traditional victory dance, combining contemporary and ancient elements--the Mexican soldiers in this mural are all clothed in feather headdresses and leather sandals. According to painter Maltby Skyes, who aided Rivera with the Hotel Reforma murals, the commanding officer on horseback, although he wears nineteenth-century uniform, "ostensibly represent[s] an Aztec god of war." (74) In the background of this victory scene is a pulqueria with the sign, "La Gran Victoria." Here, Rivera raises the symbolic value of pulquerias from taverns to participatory witnesses overseeing glorious events in Mexico's history.

Rivera's 1944 painting, "Las Ilusiones" provides almost ethnographic details about pulque production. (75) In the painting, a man is pictured outside a pulqueria, transporting pulque in pigskins on a donkey. Pigskins or other animal hides were traditional containers for pulque, and even by the 1930s, the pulque trade was still a cottage industry. (76) Also, the grade of pulque, "fino," is written on the pulqueria wall behind the man, demonstrating a continuation of the precolonial tradition of selling different grades of pulque. (77) However, "Las Ilusiones" somewhat romantizes pulque production. Although in many places during the 1930s, pulque production remained a cottage industry, full-scale industrialization of the process had started in Mexico City and Oaxaca, traditional centres during the colonial period of pulque production. (78)

By contrast, travel writer Katherine Anne Porter described pulque production on a pulque hacienda in less romantic terms. Porter related how inherited peons, bound to the landed estate, "began to empty the fermented pulque into barrels, and to pour the fresh maguey water into reeking bull hide vats. The chanting and counting and the rolling of barrels down the incline began again." (79) The peons then rolled the barrels onto a train for transport into Mexico City--a more industrialized, and less quotidian image of pulque production than that cultivated by Rivera. Also, by the 1930s, and particularly in urban centres, pulque sellers offered travelers and Mexicans alike non-traditional fruit-flavoured options, such as "Pulque con pina," or pulque with pineapple juice. Rivera's paintings ignored such "inauthenticities."

Like Rivera and Kahlo, muralist Jose Orozco, in a letter to fellow painter, Jean Chariot, described pulquerias and the paintings on their walls as a "Mexican thing"--symbols representative of everyday Mexican life. (80) Orozco, followed Rivera and Kahlo in popularizing the idea of pulquerias as relevant to every Mexican, not just the plebeian classes, and pulque as an Aztec tradition passed down for everyday use. Orozco's painting, "Echate la Otra," depicts a pulqueria with the Aztec goddess Mayahuel, goddess of the agave, emerging in the painting's background from a tankard of pulque. (81)

Recasting the elements of Mexican life in this symbolic way inspired thousands of Americans in the 1930s to travel to this exotic land where Aztec traditions seemed to survive. However, travelers' initial reactions to pulque reflect mixed feelings about the drink. Terry's Guide to Mexico (1923) cautioned against "the visitor who samples wayside drinks and dishes because of their novelty." (82) Terry described how "old residents" of Mexico like himself would not trust these beverages; instead, he recommended boiled water or milk. (83) His statements reveal concerns about interacting with plebeians or servants who were "ignorant of the fundamental principles of hygiene." (84) Campbell's New Revised Complete Guide to Mexico (1909) conveyed a similar sentiment. Campbell observed that "pulque spoils (if it can really spoil) within twenty-four hours. If drank at all it must be done at once; which may account for the energy of the Mexicans in this direction." (85) Campbell and Terry imply that Mexicans are not only unhygienic for drinking pulque, but that they drink a lot--and with gusto.

By the 1930s, however, many American travelers overlooked such hygienic concerns in favor of experiencing firsthand these Mexican "symbols" for themselves. Multiple fictional accounts, such as Susan Smith's The Glories of Venus, Katherine Porter's Hacienda, and Larry Barretto's Bright Mexico, referenced pulque and pulquerias in their works as emblematic and romantic symbols of the Mexican "experience." Smith's work features a New York socialite who flees an unhappy love affair to find peace and contentment amongst the colorful goings-on at a pulqueria called, "The Glories of Venus." (86)

Not surprisingly, there was a considerable amount of interaction between these writers and the muralists described earlier. Both Rivera and Kahlo spent much of the early 1930s in New York and Detroit, where Rivera exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and where he started (but never finished) a controversial mural for the Rockefeller Center. (87) Jose Orozco spent much of the late 1920s and early 1930s in New York; he was a personal friend of Susan Smith's and painted all the images for The Glories of Venus. (88) Additionally, Edward Weston, one of the most famous American travel photographers in this period, was a close friend of Rivera, and Weston devoted a whole series of pictures to pulquerias--depicting them as heroic, yet naturally rustic, markers of the Mexican landscape. (89) Weston's work was also shown in the Palacio Bellas Artes in Mexico City in the 1920s, and historian Michael Nelson Miller called the exhibit "a sensation ... praised by Mexican artists." (90)

All of these interactions between muralists, Mexican intellectuals, and American artists and travelers created normalized ideas of Mexicanidad in a profound way through the dissemination of typical Mexican "images." Tourists then looked for these "types" when they visited, so that they too might experience the quintessential Mexican visit. This eagerness of tourists prompted Larry Barretto to warn travelers to "try [pulque] by all means, but don't try it too often." (91) Yet consistent in the travel literature from the 1920-46 period is a treatment of Mexico as a worthy neighbor and a country possessing what Terry's Guide described as a "history pre-dating the Pilgrims." (92) This attitude could be due to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor" policy, but this perspective nonetheless represents a victory over the negative imagery that appeared after the Mexican Revolution. However, what was needed to create this persuasive national identity?

Among the main elements were the redefinition of pulque as an Aztec drink, and the emphasis of its cultural value over its socially controversial aspects. Charlot noted that "pulqueria painting" as a folk art was often despised due to the "bacchanalian fumes of such aesthetic excesses" association of pulque production with the working class. (93) Travel literature of this period also alluded to a domestic debate raging over pulque and the future of the pulque industry. A New York Times article from 1935--the same year that Paz published En Defensa del Pulque--related how, "Mexico has opened a campaign against pulque. New and higher taxes on alcoholic beverages announced south of the Rio Grande strike chiefly at this traditional Mexican drink." (94)

The Mexican government had two concerns; firstly, that pulque was an unhygienic and alcoholism-inducing drink that posed an special danger to Mexico's indigenous communities, and secondly, the drink was not an appropriate component of Mexico's new "modern" identity. Historian Ben Fallow has argued that prohibition ideologies within Mexico co-existed with the promotion of indigenismo and mestizaje, and shows how some government revolutionaries, like Governor Salvador Alvarado in the state of Yucatan, believed prohibition was a vital step forward for the modernization of Mexico. (95)

Two Mexican sociologists, Lucio Mendieta y Nunez and Francisco Rojas Gonzalez, wrote specifically on these elements of the pulque debate, in 1939 and 1942 respectively, and argued that pulque haciendas had contributed to widespread alcoholism in Mexico, and that ultimately this was an unviable and unhealthy industry. (96) Mendieta y Nunez, working with statistics from the Consejero del Departamento de Asuntos Indigenas maintained that due to the efficient production of alcohol and introduction of foreign alcoholic beverages by the Spanish, up to 60 per cent of indigenous people were drunk daily. (97) Men were usually inebriated more often than women, but Mendieta y Nunez noted with alarm that especially during festival times both sexes imbibed pulque in great qualities and gave it to children. (98) Finally, he concluded that pulque encouraged indigenous people to commit violent crimes like homicide to such an extent that all agave (maguey) plants in Mexico should be removed. Barring that, he suggested stronger taxes on pulque and the strict prosecution of people who sold and made alcoholic beverages illegally. (99)

Rojas Gonzalez did not take as forceful a stance as Mendieta y Nunez, but he did suggest that the appropriation of land by the Spanish and the hacienda system had created a vicious cycle leading to alcoholism. The hacienda system first began under the Spanish, but continued through the Independence period until 1917 when it was formally abolished by the Consfitution. (100) Rojas Gonzalez believed that the large hacienda estates had decimated the Mexican landscape, pushing plebeian and indigenous communities into sterile valleys with little or no water. (101) Due to such conditions, Rojas Gonzalez asserted that "to alleviate thirst men of all ages become obliged to ingest daily a good quantity of the juice of maguey." (102)

In many instances, however, the people at the centre of the pulque debate, the indigenous and plebeian populations, supported the pulque industry for traditional and economic reasons. This industry employed hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, as Paz's title page to En Defensa del Pulque noted: "668,677 people work in the pulque industry--the way of life of these proletarians must be respected." (103) Furthermore, many of these workers had no other means of economic livelihood. The government's promise to redistribute hacienda estates to indigenous communities to use as ejido land (communal property for farming) never reached its intended ends, and the desire to outlaw pulque and pulque haciendas went hand-in-hand with tough punishments for people caught illegally fermenting pulque. (104) Unfortunately, most of these small illegal pulque producers lived in indigenous communities and engaged in the practice for traditional reasons such as the veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. (105)

Yet the government may have been persuaded to attempt banning pulque less for social or hygenic reasons than for economic ones. Beer was introduced in Mexico during colonialism and was commercialized in 1928. (106) Then, during American prohibition (1920-33), many American companies moved their alcohol-distilling factories to Mexico, creating a tremendous opportunity. (107) Perhaps the government's principal concern was not centered on alcoholism, but rather a desire to lure Mexico away from a traditional indigenous drink like pulque to a more "modern"--and certainly more profitable--drink like beer.

Despite the different opinions voiced in the "pulque debate," a common theme is how pulque was discussed as an essentially ancient drink combining Aztec, Toltec, and Mayan origins. In the 1940s Mexican scholar Alfredo Barrera Vasquez attempted to prove pulque was also a Mayan drink. Although his evidence was inconclusive, this type of scholarship reflected the growing notion in the 1920-46 period that pulque was an element of a homogenized and unified Mexican past. (108)

Generally, the muralists of this period depicted pulque in similar ways through stylized Aztec iconography, mimicking imagery and design such as that found in the Codice Borgia and other early pre-colonial texts. (109) However, the muralists selectively recreated elements of the Aztec past, and this is particularly reflected in their treatment of pulque's origin stories. There are two versions of the story explaining pulque's discovery, and each prominently features a female figure as the innovator. In the first, the goddess Mayahuel discovers the agave, and its nectar--pulque, and shares it with the other gods. In the second version, a woman, Xochitl, presents the nectar of the agave plant to the Toltec ruler, Tecpancaltzin. (110) In both these versions, there is strong link between what Taylor calls "divine femininity" and the discovery of pulque. Yet, in spite of this, Mexican muralists and American writers essentialized pulque as a traditionally masculine drink, excising its feminine roots. (111)

Another important piece of pulque's history concerns its usage patterns--specifically its consumption as an everyday drink. Under Aztec rule pulque consumption was not a widespread occurrence, but rather an exclusive, elite, and restricted activity. (112) The Aztecs limited pulque consumption to festival times and medicinal purposes, and further controlled consumption by social class. These patterns are noted in the Florentine Codex, a missionary account of Mexico's pre-colonial history recorded in the 1560s and 1570s by Father Bernardino de Sahagun. (113) During feast celebrations, the Florentine Codex explains, Aztecs priests limited pulque consumption to "only four cups of pulque, not five, so that no one would get drunk." (114)

Our knowledge of pulque as an elite drink also comes from the Florentine Codex. In one passage Sahagun describes how during Aztec of rendas to the departed, only "the rich sang and drank pulque in the honor of these gods and their dead: the poor can only offer them food." (115) Anthropologist Stanley Brandes notes that striking similarities exist between these culinary aspects of Aztec mortuary rituals and contemporary Day of the Dead celebrations. (116) However, stressing commonality between Aztec and modern ritual uses of pulque overlooks the beverage's long history during the colonial period, during which its usage expanded. This expansion, probably more than a residual Aztec history, is now found in contemporary Day of the Dead rituals.

In spite of this more complicated reality, Aztec imagery and depictions of pulque as an "everyday" drink went hand-in-hand with tourist accounts, the art of the muralists, and even the literature surrounding the "pulque debate." This quotidian aspect of pulque consumption and usage did not emerge until the colonial period, nor did pulquerias as institutions start until the widespread commercialization of pulque under Spanish colonial rule. Colonialism left more than a legacy of popular attachment to pulque--it was during the colonial era that the contradictory relationship of the state and public towards pulque arose.

The principal reason for pulque's expansion in the colonial period was the invested economic interest of colonial elites in the sale and production of pulque. After the Spanish conquest, pulque was more widely cultivated for geographic and cultural reasons, including falling lake levels in the Mexico valley, which made the land more arid and infertile--the agave grew fruitfully in these conditions. (117) Whatever concerns there might have been about pulque's social ills, the economic opportunities presented by the pulque trade were too numerous for elite and middle-class citizens to resist. (118) Historian John E. Kicza has found that pulque production and pulqueria ownership in Mexico City was mostly an elite domain, one in which many penisulares (Spanish citizens from Spain living in Mexico) participated. (119) However, ownership of pulquerias was not limited to the elite, and many middle-class Mexicans used pulqueria ownership or pulqueria management as a way to improve their social and economic status. Pulque in this period was not just a widespread economic commodity, but it was also attached to elite and middle-class elements--depictions minimized in Rivera's conceptualizations of pulquerias as exclusively "working-men studies."

Pulquerias did begin to attract an increasing amount of attention by the late colonial period due to their perceived association with debauchery. Along with bullfighting and other "illicit" public activities, pulquerias were targeted in the late eighteenth century by the Bourbon Reforms, administrative changes enacted by the Spanish Crown to stem the flow of such public activities through morality campaigns and ramped-up policing. (120) These reforms centered on "the pleb," who represented an estimated 80 per cent of the urban population and whose activities played out primarily in "public" spaces. (121) The government worried that plebeians' unrestrained social mixing and unashamed openness in public spaces represented social disorder and unrest. (122)

Such fears about pulque's connection to civil unrest had been steadily growing since 1692. Colonial administrators valued pulque for its tax revenue--it produced hundreds of thousands of pesos annually--but the drink was also seen by colonial elites as an intoxicant and inciter of violence. The 1692 Grain Riot in Mexico City is the most evocative example of this. The disturbance started over the death of a plebeian woman in the marketplace during a protest over com shortages, but the central tension was plebeian anger at rising grain costs. (123) Mexico City's municipal authorities blamed "Indian drunkenness" and an alleged conspiracy, hatched in a pulqueria, to burn down the city palace. (124) Fear of indigenous and plebeian violence caused pulque to be banned in Mexico City, except for medicinal purposes, until 1697. (125)

Pulque, however, could not be cast out for good. Even the Bourbon Reforms could not overlook its economic value as a significant source of income for many middle- and upper-class Mexicans, as well its value to the colonial purse. Instead, the colonial relationship to pulque remained a conflicted one, as demonstrated in multiple casta paintings from the period.

The Spanish bureaucracy devised the sistema de castas (the caste system) as a means of social control and organized the population according to multiple socio-racial categories such as criollo (Spanish born in Latin America), mestizo (offspring of Spanish and indigenous), mulato (offspring of African and Spanish), and, in a separate category, Indian. (126) Casta paintings operated as social mechanisms to reaffirm upper- middle-class audiences' commitment to the righteousness of whiteness amongst the Spanish criollo and peninsular classes. (120) These pictures depicted marriages between individuals of different castas and were labelled with corresponding background information. A criollo and mestizo might be depicted with an idyllic home setting. By contrast, a picture featuring the home of a lobo (the offspring of an Indian and an African) anda mulato might include violent actions or other negative symbols. (128)

Several casta paintings depict pulque or pulquerias and include many mixed members of the casta class, reinforcing the notion that pulque was both an everyday plebeian activity and often, though not always, a dubious one. In spite of this, pulque and pulqueria depictions in these paintings were not consistently negative or judgmental, though a rare image of drunken indigenous citizens or other low caste members did appear.(129) Art historian Ilona Katzew has proposed that, due to pulque's economic value and Spanish pride in their profitable new world "discoveries," most depictions of pulque represented it in a moderate light. (130) Colonial administrators supported pulque for its economic potential, yet reviled the drink for its perceived intoxicating and morally corrupting properties. This contradictory relationship would continue into the modern period.

A justice report published in 1849 attributed crime in the centre of Mexico City to the presence of pulquerias. (131) This report was followed by a police decree in 1850, which carried a motion urging the government to prevent meetings in pulquerias. (132) The early post-colonial period was also plagued with continuing fears over morality and pulque. Historian Susie Porter discusses how "morality campaigns" in the last quarter of the nineteenth century made it illegal for women to stand outside pulquerias. (133) Such limitations restricted women's roles to the home and curtailed the livelihood of the many working-class indigenous women who made a living selling food outside pulquerias. (134)

Yet, at the same time, pulque continued to be a valuable economic commodity for hacienda owners, and the Mexican government recognized the cultural currency of promoting pulque internationally to demonstrate Mexico's ancient past. At the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, Mexico prominently displayed Jose Obregon's "El descubrimiento de pulque," a painting describing the mythical discovery of pulque by the Toltecs. (135) Mexico was concerned with its international image as a new nation, and wanted to demonstrate that it had the same kind of deep historical roots and traditions as European nations. At the same time, the government campaigned against the perceived "natural proclivity to alcoholism that was believed to be present among Indians." (136)

During this same period, the mid-to-late nineteenth century, pulque was being popularized domestically as a symbol of plebeian and indigenous people through the etchings of Jose Guadalupe Posada. Posada popularized the material culture of average Mexicans, drawing people as calaveras (skeletons) engaged in a variety of everyday activities. (137) Orozco, as a boy of ten, watched Posada in his workshop, and inspired him to make popular and politicized art. (138) Rivera likewise noted that Posada had inspired him to challenge the status quo and make political art. (139)

Even travelogues from the mid-nineteenth century viewed pulque as a quotidian element of everyday life. Fanny Calderon de la Barca, a visitor to Mexico in the 1840s, observed both pulque's popularity and its controversy, noting that in the rural areas, "pulque is the universal beverage, [but] in Mexico [City], tortillas and pulque are considered unfashionable." (140) Campaigns against pulque occurred in both the late Porfiriato and the 1930s and 1940s, during which fears materialized that pulque was unhealthy, unhygienic, and "backwards." However, in the 1920-46 nation-building period, and despite sharp internal debates, the Mexican state and intellectuals felt a need to return to Mexico's indigenous roots for symbols of nationalism, like ma'ize or pulque. (141)

This "imagining" of a post-revolutionary Mexican community linked by participation in material culture--including the consumption of pulque--has made a lasting impression on ideas of pulque and Mexicanidad. Raul Guerrero states that, "Pulque has been a basic component of Mexican culture since before the Conquest until today." (142) Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History published Guerrero's book in 1985, putting it forward as a definitive work on the history of pulque. Guerrero does not mention the domestic controversies surrounding pulque in the 1930s and 1940s, nor does he reflect on pulque's long history as a colonial commodity. Instead, Guerrero reflects on two series of images as representative of pulque's history: images from the ancient past, such as those from the Florentine Codex, and images from the recent past, such as those from Posada's pen of pulque-drinking calaveras. (143)

A similar disjuncture is present in other modern memories of pulque and Mexicanidad. Between 1920 and 1946, travel accounts and mural artwork conceptualized pulquerias as "working men saloons," but pulquerias were typically run by women, as seen in multiple casta paintings from the colonial period. Pulque had a long association with the "divine feminine" from its Toltec and Aztec origins to its incorporation during the colonial period, when many women ran, worked in, or sold food outside of pulquerias, to its modern connection with the Virgin of Guadalupe. (144) This recasting of pulque as a masculine drink and pulquerias as masculine realms seems to suggest another "invented tradition" of Mexicanidad--that though "women entered this official discourse in greater numbers than before," they did so principally as adjuncts to male revolutionaries, or, like Kahlo, by embracing "masculine" practices such as pulque-drinking and smoking. (145)

Perhaps even more striking is that, though the drink remained popular in rural areas, by the 1940s most inhabitants of Mexico City considered pulque "old-fashioned" and abandoned it in favor of beer, the more modern beverage. (146) However, the persuasive image of the Mexican workingman drinking pulque, and pulque as the true "bebida nacional," has survived. At the time of this writing, the Tlaxcala Tourism office describes pulque as an "indispensable" accompaniment to traditional Tlaxcala food, such as white or blue maize tortillas made by hand. (147) Its homepage has scrolling flash images, and among them are pictures of bullfighting. This is an interesting contrast, as bullfighting, like pulque, was both considered in many ways "old fashioned" and detrimental to the modernization of the Mexican state. Yet here both pulque and bullfighting are presented as archetypes of Mexican "tradition." (148)

This examination of pulque has revealed two things about the construction of Mexicanidad. First, that excising colonial history formed a conscious part of the nation-building project, and second, that in order to "invent traditions" for this new period of Mexican identity, a flattening and essentializing of these symbols' myriad histories was needed. Historian Enrique Krauze has argued that "Mexico's birth as an independent nation coincided with its rejection of the colonial tradition." (149) The symbolic omission of pulque's colonial history is particularly noteworthy and ironic, since it was during this period that the modern patterns of pulque consumption developed. In order to portray pulque as a "traditional" product, the muralists essentialized it by expunging social criticisms of pulque prevalent in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as its colonial history.

Pulque's transformation from an economic commodity in the colonial period to a cultural one in the post-revolutionary one demonstrates changing ideas about the place of indigenous and plebeian communities in the nascent Mexican national identity forming at the time. Yet, the conscious rejection of certain elements in pulque's history also reveals incongruities in the construction of post-revolutionary Mexicanidad. If the values of Mexicanidad were traditional ones, if pulque had indeed been a traditional drink of the Aztecs unmediated since the pre-Columbian era, there would be no "pulque debates," and Mexico would not have to consciously present certain elements of its culture to outsiders in order to refine typology. However, in order to find a place for Mexico among modern nations, and to create a broadly participatory national identity, Mexicans reduced the complex history and meaning of pulque to a greatly-simplified set of symbols.

In creating a national drink, Mexico created an archetype which, it was hoped, would resound with all Mexicans regardless of ethnic affinity, region, or socio-economic level. Lopez has described the appeal of material culture as follows: "even today, for Mexicans and foreigners alike, to hold in one's-hands a piece of Mexican popular art is to hold something larger than a mere object; it is to hold Mexico in all its diversity, its rich past, its complex present, and its uncertain future." (140) I would argue that pulque has had this same appeal. Pulque became a symbol of Mexicanidad, because it represented the twin values of post-revolutionary ideology--to represent in one distinctive sip the ancient history of Mexico and the history of its valourized plebeian present. Tequila may be more famous today and beer more widely consumed, but for many Mexicans, pulque was and remains the true, "bebida nacional". (151)

(1) Larry Barretto, Bright Mexico (New York, 1935), p. 37.

(2) Raul Guerrero, El Pulque (Mexico, 1985), quote from book's back cover.

(3) Barretto, Bright Mexico, p. vii.

(4) Similar imagery is found in Susan Smith's non-fiction travelogue, Made in Mexico (New York, 1931), p. 24.

(5) These sensations of Mexican travel are noted in a series of 1930s books including Barretto, Bright Mexico; Susan Smith, The Glories of Venus: A Novel of Modern Mexico (New York, 1931); and Smith, Made in Mexico, and Katherine Anne Porter, Hacienda (New York, 1934). Pulque is a mildly fermented alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant--a succulent plant native to Mexico.

(6) Henry Bruman, Alcohol in Ancient Mexico (Salt Lake City, 2000), pp. 12-15, 61-82.

(7) In the Daily News Latino (New York), 15 March 2008, 15_75 years after first visit manhattan_has.html, Herreranotes that Kahlo did not like what she saw as New York's "pretension"--wealthy people sipping cocktails while so many others waited in food lines. By contrast, Herrera argued that Kahlo preferred the "democratic" pulque--and what it represented. For my definition of Mexicanidad, I have built on ideas put forth in the edited volume from Mary Kay Vanghan and Stephen E. Lewis, The Eagle and the Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920-1940 (Durham, 2006).

(8) Pulquerias are taverns where pulque is consumed. Rivera's use of pulquerias is discussed in Maltby Skyes, "Diego Rivera and the Hotel Reforma Murals," Archives of American Art Journal, 25 (1985), p. 35.

(9) "La bebida nacional" translates to national drink.

(10) Both John Bushnell, "La Virgin de Guadalupe as Surrogate Mother in San Juan Atzingo," American Anthropologist 60 (April 1958), p. 265, and Mexican sociologist Francisco Rojas Gonzalez, "Estudio Histrrico-Ethnografico del Alcoholismo entre los Indios de Mexico," Revista Mexicana de Sociologia, 4 (second quarter, 1942): pp. 121-22 note pulque's popularity.

(11) Vaughan and Lewis, in Eagle and the Virgin, mark the beginning of the Mexican nation-building from 1920 and the commencement of Alvaro Obregon's presidency (under which several of Mexico's largest nation-building projects including mestizaje, indigenismo, and the start of the Secretary of Education's muralist project) until 1940 and the end of Lazaro Cardenas's presidency. Though my study begins in 1920, I have extended my perimeters until 1946 to allow for what Michael Nelson Miller, in Red, White, and Green (El Paso, 1998), calls the "maturing of Mexicanidad" in the years, 1940-46, and to include a greater variety of primary sources.

(12) Rick A. Lopez, "The Noche Mexicana and Popular Arts," in Vaughan and Lewis, Eagle and the Virgin, pp. 24-26 notes that during the Centennial Celebrations of 1921, organizers made conscious efforts to incorporate plebeian elements into the celebrations--including the selling of popular foods.

(13) Jose Paz, En Defensa del Pulque (Mexico, 1935). Paz's book is likely self-published, though both this and the extent of circulation cannot be confirmed. Regardless, his book demonstrates that even on a small scale, individuals in this period perceived pulque in an essentialized ancient/modern dichotomy.

(14) An exception too is Larry Barretto's observation in Bright Mexico (pp. 161-62) that some indigenous ceramic bowls bore symbolic marks of colonialism, as in the form of the Hapsburg eagle.

(15) Guerrero argued that this negative image continues to surround pulque today in Guerrero, El Pulque, p. 1. Fears of pulque's corrupting influence in the 1930s are discussed in New York Times, 31 January 1930, p. 9 and Alan Knight, "Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico, 1910-1940," The Hispanic American Historical Review 74, no. 3 (August 1994), p. 397.

(16) Paz, En Defensa del Pulque, pp. 10-12.

(17) Eric Hobsbawm, "Introduction: Inventing Traditions," in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, 2002), pp. l-14.

(18) Ibid., p. 14.

(19) Enrique Krauze, Mexico, A Biography of Power: A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996 (New York, 1997), pp. 1-22. The Porfiriato (1876-1911) was the seven-term dictatorship of Liberal leader Porfirio Diaz.

(20) Krauze, Mexico, A Biography of Power, 1-22.

(21) Nicola Miller, In the Shadow of the State: Intellectuals and the Quest for National Identity in Twentieth-Century Spanish America (New York, 1999), pp. 138-52; Rick A. Lopez and David Brading provide good discussions of indigenismo in Lopez, "The India Bonita Contest of 1921 and the Ethnicization of Mexican National Culture," Hispanic American Historical Review, 82 (2002), pp. 291-328; Brading, "Manuel Gamio and Official Indigenismo in Mexico," Bulletin of Latin American Research, 7 (1988), pp. 75-89.

(22) Mexican Tourist Board, "Tepoztlan, Morelos: Refugio de los dioses," in Visit Mexico (Consejo de Promoclon Turisticade Mexico, 2007) Visit_tepoztlan. This site is a result of the initiative of the Commission of Tourism of the House of Representatives in Mexico.

(23) Tlaxeala Secreatariat Tourism, "Gastronomy," Tlaxcala (Official site of Tlaxcala tourism board, 2009),

(24) Juan F. Ramirez et al., "Industrialization of Mexican Pulque," in Keith Steinkraus (ed.), Handbook of Indigenous Fermented Foods (New York, 2004), p. 549.

(25) John E. Kicza, "The Pulque Trade of Late Colonial Mexico City," The American, 37, no. 2 (October 1980), p. 197 and Michael C. Scardaville, "Alcohol Abuse and Tavern Reform in Late Colonial Mexico City," The Hispanic American Historical Review, 60 (November 1980), p. 646. The 13 per cent is an estimate that Scardaville makes using pulquefia records of the amount of pulque sold daily cross referenced with police records.

(26) William B. Taylor's Drinking, Homicide and Rebellion in Colonial Mexican Villages (Stanford, 1979), pp. 25, 45.

(27) Scardaville, "Alcohol Abuse and Tavern Reform," p. 646.

(28) The following works discuss pulque in the colonial economy: Taylor, Drinking, Homicide and Rebellion; Kicza, "Pulque Trade"; Scardaville, "Alcohol Abuse and Tavern Reform"; and Juan Pedro Viqueira Alban (trans. Sonya Lipsett-Rivera and Sergio Rivera Ayala), Propriety and Permissiveness in Bourbon Mexico (Wilmington, 1999).

(29) New Cultural History, a popular approach in modern Latin American scholarship, views cultural symbols as forms of "resistance" to dominant discourses, and builds on political economist James C. Scott's works, Weapons of the Weak (New Haven, 1985) ; and Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven, 1990). The "Black Legend," supported by Charles Gibson, The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule (Stanford, 1964), sees colonization as an obliterating force that left indigenous communities psychologically and physically decimated.

(30) Tim Mitchell uses Scott to evaluate pulque consumption in Intoxicated Identities: Alcohol's Power in Mexican History and Culture (New York, 2004), 24-25. For discussions of pulqueria art as symbolic actions, see Jean Chariot, The Mexican Mural Renaissance, 1920-1925 (New York, 1980), pp. 35-39.

(31) For concerns with unilateral applications of New Cultural History see William H. Beezley, "Review: False Mystics: Deviant Orthodoxy in Colonial Mexico," New Mexico Historical Review, 82 (Winter 2007), pp. 1-2 ; and Nora Jaffary, False Mystics: Deviant Orthodoxy in Colonial Mexico (Lincoln, 2004).

(32) Vaughan and Lewis, Eagle and the Virgin, pp. 10-16.

(33) Deborah Poole, "An Image of "Our Indian": Type Photographs and Racial Sentiments in Oaxaca, 1920-1940," Hispanic American Historical Review, 84 (2004), pp. 53-58. I have also built on the findings of other scholars who study the role of material culture in fostering nationalism, such as Jeffrey M. Pilcher !Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity (Albuquerque, 1998) ; and W. Dirk Raat, "The Mexican Pet and Other Stories," in W. Dirk Raat and William H. Beezley (eds.), Twentieth-Century Mexico (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1986), pp. 46-48.

(34) Gibson, Aztecs Under Spanish Rule; p. 10.

(35) BBC News, 26 December 2004,

(36) The drink has recently begun to be exported in limited canned quantities: see Pulque La Lucha importers, PulqueLaLucha/pulque.html.

(37) Pulque's association with the Toltecs was reflected in Mexico's participation in the 1889 World's Fair during which Jose Obregon's painting, El descubrimiento depulque, oil on canvas (c. 1869) was prominently displayed as part of the Mexican exhibit. This painting and the 1889 World's Fair is discussed in detail in Maurico Tenorio-Trillo, Mexico at the World's Fairs: Crafting a Modern Nation (Berkley, 1996), pp. 118-21. Bruman, in Alcohol in Ancient Mexico, pp. 63-64, attempted to trace pulque's discovery. Based on mythology he argued that the first people to discover pulque mighthave been the Huaxteca, a Mayan group, though this claim is unsubstantiated.

(38) Reau Campbell, Campbell's New Revised Complete Guide and Descriptive Book of Mexico (Chicago, 1909), p. 13.

(39) Guerrero, El Pulque, pp. 1-6. This is interesting especially as tequila is a more creolized and quintessentially "Mexican" drink, which only started with mass production and distillation with colonization.

(40) Bruman, Alcohol in Ancient Mexico, p. 61. Though published in 2000, Bruman's book is based on the findings of his previously unpublished doctoral dissertation research, conducted in Mexico in the 1930s. As such, this book also serves as a primary source of the period, 1920-46, demonstrating the strong international interest in Mexico's indigenous pre-Columbian past, and, in particular, interest in its alcoholic beverages.

(41) Paz, En Defensa del Pulque, p. 3.

(42) Porter, Hacienda, p. 22.

(43) Taylor, Drinking. Homicide and Rebellion, p. 58.

(44) Stanley Brandes, "Sugar, Colonialism, and Death: On the Origins of Mexico's Day of the Dead," Comparative Studies in Society and History 39, no. 2 (April 1997), pp. 276, 286-287.

(45) Bushnell, "La Virgin de Guadalupe," p. 261. Bushnell's fieldwork was conducted in San Juan Atzingo--an Ocuilteca village in south-central Mexico.

(46) Bushnell, "La Virgin de Guadalupe," p. 264.

(47) Ibid.

(48) Ibid.

(49) Departamento de Turismo de la Secretaria de Gobernacion, Mexico Vade-Mecum for the Visitor (Mexico, Distrito Federal, 1941), pp. 2, 14-15. The government of Mexico published numerous tourist guides in English during this period including, Mexico Awaits You (Mexico, 1940s), and Itineraries and Approximate Costs of a Motor Trip to Mexico (Mexico, 1940s).

(50) Pilcher, iQue vivan los tamales!, pp. 1-6

(51) Los Angeles Times, "How Long Will It Continue?," 30 March 1915; discussed in Mark C. Anderson, "What's to Be Done with 'Era?' Images of Mexican Cultural Backwardness, Racial Limitations, and Moral Decrepitude in the United States Press, 1913-1915," Mexican Studies/ Estudios Mexianos, 14 (Winter 1998), p. 32.

(52) Anderson, "Images of Mexican Cultural Backwardness," pp. 30-33.

(53) For an example of the far-reaching international attention that these discoveries received, see the two addresses delivered by Alfred P. Maudslay, president of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, "Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Mexico," in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 43 (June 1913), pp. 10-18 and "The Valley of Mexico," The Geographical Journal 48 (July 1916), pp. 11-23.

(54) Brading, "Manuel Gamio and Official Indigenismo," pp. 75-76.

(55) Mitler, In the Shadow of the State, pp. 142-44.

(56) Miller, In the Shadow of the State, pp. 138-52.

(57) Rochfort, "The Sickle, the Serpent, and the Soil," pp. 43-45.

(58) Cynthia Newman Helms (ed.), Diego Rivera: A Retrospective (New York, 1986), p. 53.

(59) Charlot, Mexican Mural Renaissance, p. 89.

(60) Charlot, Mexican Mural Renaissance, pp. 4-5.

(61) Helms, Diego Rivera, pp. 260-67.

(62) Helms, Diego Rivera, p. 56. Whether or not this technique was used at Teotihuacan is unclear, but Rivera clearly believed it was an ancient technique and hoped to emulate this style for the Secretaria murals.

(63) Jeraldine Kraver, "Laughing Best: Competing Correlatives in the Art of Katherine Anne Porter and Diego Rivera," South Atlantic Review 63, no. 2 (Spring 1998), p. 64.

(64) Sarah M. Lowe, "Painting in the Shadow of the Big Three," in Vaughan and Lewis, Eagle

and the Virgin, p. 62.

(65) Liza Blakewell, "Frida Kahlo: A Contemporary Feminist Reading," Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 13, no. 3 (1993), p. 170.

(66) Blakewell, "Frida Kahlo," p. 170; Charlot, Mexican Mural Renaissance, pp. 36-37.

(67) New York Times, 14 December 1941, p. XXI2; New York Times, 29 March 1942, p. XX5.

(68) Such as the one offered by Mexico Eco Tours: "Frida Kahlo Route" (2009) mexico-city-and-surroundings/32/fi-ida-kahlo-route/107/ which includes a stop to taste pulque while exploring Aztec archaeological sites and Kahlo's and Rivera's houses.

(69) Kicza, "Pulque Trade," p. 197.

(70) Chariot, Mexican Mural Renaissance, p. 37.

(71) Kraver, "Laughing Best," p. 64. Kraver, incidentally, views the Mexican muralists and their work to build a Mexican national culture as a cultural resistance. She refers to Edward Said's "Themes of Resistance Culture" and notes that Said, "considers the embracing of a national culture as an aspect of the colonized's cultural resistance."

(72) Diego Rivera, "La Danza de Huichilobos," mural (c. 1936) in Helms, Diego Rivera, p. 306. An image of this mural can also be seen in Skyes, "Hotel Reforma Murals," p. 34.

(73) Skyes, "Hotel Reforma Murals," p. 35.

(74) Ibid.

(75) Diego Rivera, "Las Ilusiones," oil on canvas (e. 1944) in Javier A. Rivera (ed.), The Virtual Diego Rivera Web Museum,

(76) Bruman, Alcohol in Ancient Mexico, p. 65.

(77) The three grades of pulque, fino, ordinario, and otomite, are noted in Gibson, Aztecs under Spanish Rule, pp. 7-10.

(78) Ramirez et al, "Industrialization of Mexican Pulque," p. 554.

(79) Porter, Hacienda, p. 76. A hacienda is a large landed estate--similar to a plantation.

(80) Jose Clemente Orozco quoted in Jean Chariot, "Orozco in New York: Based on His Letters

to the Author," College Art Journal 19, no. 1 (Autumn 1959), p. 8.

(81) Jose Clemente Orozco, "Echate la Otra," oil painting (c. 1930) in New York Times, 9 February 1930, p. X12.

(82) T. Philip Terry, Terry's Guide to Mexico: The New Standard Guidebook to the Mexican Republic with Chapters on Cuba, The Bahama Islands and the Ocean Routes to Mexico (Boston, 1923), p. xxviii. Terry published a guide to Mexico starting in 1909. The guide was updated in 1922/1923 and later in 1935.

(83) Ibid., pp. iv, xxviiii.

(84) Ibid.

(85) Campbell, Campbell's New Revised Complete Guide, p. 13.

(86) Smith, Glories of Venus.

(87) Laurance P. Hurlburt, The Mexican Muralists in the United States (Albuquerque, 1989), pp. 123-74.

(88) Orozco's painting, "Echate la Otra," was first displayed in New York in 1930 and is described in New York Times, 9 February 1930, p. X12. Unfortunately, none of Orozco's illustrations for Glories of Venus are of pulque or pulquerias which is perhaps surprising given the important role of pulquerias in this story; instead, most of his illustrations are of the "Day of Dead" celebrations or Mexican markets.

(89) Dayton Art Institute, "Modotti and Weston: Mexicanidad," (7 August-3 October 1999), newsm1/nlm443.htm. Modotti is Tina Modotti, Weston's lover and influential figure in this period. Modotti was an Italian immigrant who moved to Mexico with her first husband who had been inspired by the Mexican Revolution. Soon after moving to Mexico, her husband died of illness and she met Weston.

(90) Miller, Red, White, and Green, pp. 145-46.

(91) Barretto, Bright Mexico, p. 55-57.

(92) Terry, Terry's Guide, p. xxiv.

(93) Charlot, Mexican Mural Renaissance, p. 36.

(94) New York Times, 20 January 1935, p. SM14.

(95) Ben Fallow, "Dry Law, Wet Politics: Drinking and Prohibition in post-Revolutionary Yucatan, 1915-1935," Latin American Research Review. 37 (2002), pp. 39-40.

(96) Lucio Mendieta y Nunez, "Ensayo sobre el Alcoholismo entre las Razas Indigenas de Mexico," Revista Mexicana de Sociologia 1 (August 1939), pp. 77-93; Francisco Rojas Gonzalez, "Estudio Historico-Ethnografico del Alcoholismo entre los Indios de Mexico," Revista Mexicana de Sociologia, 4 (2nd Quarter, 1942), pp. 111-25.

(97) Mendieta y Nunez, "Ensayo sobre el Alcoholismo," pp. 77-85.

(98) Ibid., pp. 88-89.

(99) Ibid., pp. 90-91.

(100) Krauze, Mexico, A Biography of Power, pp. 288-304, 446-52.

(101) Gonzalez, "Estudio Historico-Ethnografico del Alcoholismo entre los Indios de Mexico," pp. 120-21.

(102) Ibid.

(103) Paz, En Defensa del Pulque, p. 1.

(104) The Constitution made law the right to ejido land--a traditional pre-Columbian privilege that eroded under colonialism. The break up of pulque haciendas for ejido land is noted in Raymond E. Crist, "The Pulque Industry," Economic Geography, 15 (1939), pp. 189-90; Mendieta y Nunez, "Ensayo sobre el Alcoholismo," pp. 77-85.

(105) Bushnell, "La Virgin de Guadalupe," p. 261.

(106) Ramirez et al, "Industtialization of Mexican Pulque," p. 550.

(107) Gabriela Recio, "Drugs and Alcohol: US Prohibition and the Origins of the Drug Trade in Mexico, 1910-1930," Journal of Latin American Studies 34 (February 2002), pp. 28-30.

(108) Alfredo Barrera Vasquez, "El Pulque entre los Mayas," Cuadernos Mayas, no. 3 (Merida, Yucatan, 1941), p. 6.

(109) One of the most copied is that of, "Mayahuel, la diosa del maguey, amamantando a un pez" [Mayahuel, the goddess of maguey, nursing a fish], illustration (c. late 15th century), in the Codice Borgia and as reproduced in Guerrero, El Pulque, p. 36. Though missionaries compiled the Codice Borgia, like the Florentine Codex, after the Spanish Conquest, the Codex materials are considered "pre-colonial" sources for the purposes of this study due to their treatment as primary documents by supporting sources. Bruman, for example, refers to the Florentine Codex in this way in, Alcohol in Ancient Mexico, p. 63.

(110) Tenorio-Trillo, Mexico at the World's Fair, pp. 118-21.

(111) Taylor, Drinking, Homicide and Rebellion, p. 30. The one exception is Orozco's, "Echata la Otra," which acknowledged, on some level, the divine femininity of pulque, though the painting's certain focus is that of male patrons in a pulqueria.

(112) Ibid., pp. 32-33.

(113) Bernardino de Sahagun, General History of the Things of New Spain: Florentine Codex (Santa Fe, 1950; originally published 1580).

(114) Bruman, Alcohol in Ancient Mexico, p. 63.

(115) Sahagun, "Florentine Codex the thirteenth month of Tepeilhuitl (Book 2:131-133)," in General History of the Things of New Spain: Florentine Codex (Santa Fe, 1950; originally published 1580).

(116) Brandes, "Sugar, Colonialism," p. 278.

(117) Gibson, Aztecs Under Spanish Rule, p. 7.

(118) Kicza, "Pulque Trade," p. 216.

(119) Ibid., pp. 211, 213.

(120) Viqueira, Propriety and Permissiveness, pp. 203, 206.

(121) Ibid., pp. 97, 198.

(122) Ibid., p. 216.

(123) R. Douglas Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720 (Madison, 1994), pp. 129-30.

(124) Cope, Limits of Racial Domination, pp. 136-39.

(125) Ibid., p. 34.

(126) Ibid., pp. 126-43.

(127) Ilona Katzew, Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico (New Haven and London, 2004), pp. 114-21.

(128) Ibid., pp. 114-21.

(129) Francisco Clapera, "No. 15 De genizaro y mulata, gibaro (From Genizaro and Mulatta, Gibaro)," oil on canvas, (c. 1785) in Katzew, Casta Painting, p. 31.

(130) Jose de Paez, "No. 11 De ambujo e India, produce zambaigo (Cambujo and Indian Produce a Zambaigo)," oil on canvas, (c. 1780) in Katzew, Casta Painting, p. 119.

(131) La Suprema Corte de Justicia, "El fiscal de la Suprema Corte de Justicia, manifiesta la causa de los crimenes que se cometen en la capital, atribuyendolos al establecimiento de las pulquerias en el centro," Archivo General de la Nacion. 374, exp. 9 (Mexico, 1849), pp. 180-85.

(132) Asuntos Economicos, "Expediente sobre remocion hecha por el Senor Dominguez para que se excite el cello del Gobierno a fin de que se cumplan literalmente los bandos de Policia que impiden las reunions de gente en las pulquerias y tabernas," Archivo General de la Nacion (Mexico, 1850).

(133) Susie Porter, "And that it is Custom makes Law: Class Conflict and Gender Ideology in the Public Sphere, Mexico City, 1880-1910" Social Science History, 24 no. 1 (Spring 2000), pp. 111-48.

(134) Porter, "And that it is Custom makes Law," pp. 111-48

(135) Tenorio-Trillo, Mexico at the World's Fair, pp. 118-21.

(136) Ibid., p. 121.

(137) Jose Guadalupe Posada, "Calaveras," etching (c. late 20th century), in Guerrero, El Pulque, p. 245; Charlot, Mexican Mural Renaissance, pp. 34-39.

(138) Charlot, Mexican Mural Renaissance, pp. 34-39.

(139) Ibid.

(140) Fanny Calderon de la Barca (eds. Howard T. Fisher and Marion Hall Fisher), Life in Mexico: The Letters of Fanny Calderon de la Barca, (Garden City, New York, 1966), pp. 150, 228, 452.

(141) Pilcher !Que vivan los tamales!, p. 153.

(142) Guerrero, El Pulque, quote from back cover.

(143) Ibid., pp. 36-53, 212-45.

(144) Kicza, "Pulque Trade," and Porter, "And that it is Custom makes Law," discuss women's roles in the pulque trade during the colonial period and during the Porfiriato (1876-1911).

(145) Vaughan and Lewis, Eagle and the Virgin, pp. 8-9.

(146) Stephen R. Niblo, Mexico in the 1940s: Modernity, Politics, and Corruption (Wilmington, 1999), pp. 15, 27.

(147) Tlaxcala Secreatariat Tourism, "Gastronomy." There does seem to be acknowledgement that "traditional" foods like the pulque of hand-rolled tortillas may not be the preferred foods in the modern day, as the restaurant section on the homepage shows where the nearest fast food restaurants are.

(148) Ibid., "Homepage,"

(149) Krauze, Mexico, A Biography of Power, p. 60.

(150) Lopez, "The Noche Mexicana," p. 41.

(151) As expressed in Guerrero, El Pulque, pp. 1-6.

Amie Wright completed her history degree at Concordia University in 2008. She is currently pursuing a degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Western Ontario. With this article she won the Canadian Journal of History Graduate Essay Prize for 2008.
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Author:Wright, Amie
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
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Date:Mar 22, 2009
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