Flying over the mountains of Mexico, rugged craters dot the landscape as they dissolve into flat farmlands. Slowly, the fields progress through clearly divided brown, green and red hues. Suddenly one appears, and then another, and soon fields of blue fill the tiny airplane window. I knew that I had arrived in tequila country. Fields of blue agave radiate unnaturally out of the typical idea of agriculture and shine in the afternoon light with an unprecedented ambience. Notice the progression of agave in various stages of growth. Younger plants only peak through the red soil with the slightest azul while the mature agave fill the field and the dirt is now the element striving to show itself. Blue is said to be a warning in nature, Mother Earth’s stop light for danger. In this case we are flocking to it. We are not afraid of the azul fields, in fact we embrace them and the people of Jalisco depend on them. The warning in this instance has been domesticated and it is spectacular.
My first look at the town of Tequila was like a journey through a documentary film about stereotypical Mexican life, only this one has a twist. The town is inundated with all things tequila, the drink that is. On the way into the valley the agave fields move closer and closer, the plantings continue right next to the road. Virtually any patch of dirt not being used for a road or building has one of the town’s trademark plants.
The incoming street is lined with small liquor stores filled with bottles and miniature oak barrels filled with the magic potion. Shopkeepers are seated under their canopies and in the doorways waiting for their next customer. I wonder how long they will wait; it is not a very touristy day in Tequila. One tienda took the downtime to burn the inside of the mini oak barrels so they are ready to be filled with today’s tequila.
The natural hues of the landscape set the tone for the neutral bases of every structure in town while brilliant accents pop out with a sense of urgency. These bold primary colors are essential for the ideal of Mexican culture and are simply breathtaking in real life. Poverty doesn’t seem so bad when you surround yourself with life and a rainbow of color. The narrow streets are lined with businesses, shacks and homes, each with their own gate and barred windows. It’s a surprise to see a patch of grass inside the gated veranda of one small courtyard. The school that is surrounded by chartreuse walls houses teenagers in school uniforms going about their typical day. Everything expected of a small Latin American town is here; only this town has the sweet, distinct aroma of baked agave.
Pulling into one of Tequila Sauza’s many blue agave fields, the real story of tequila comes to life. Jimadores in bright red shirts are scattered throughout the field with their coas, hacking away at the uprooted agave plants. The skies are bleak as the jimadores work their way though the field leaving dirt, hard agave leaves and stripped piñas in their wake. I found a deep appreciation for the skill these men have developed through their years of dedicated laboring when I grabbed a coa and chopped a few leaves from the core myself.
Down the road a few miles, Sauza’s nursery is an enormous operation of it’s own. Thousands of immature agave tequilana weber azul are waiting for the day at the beginning of the rainy season when they will find their home in the fields alongside their forefathers. Piles of agave fibers left over from processing also await their new task. Sauza’s commitment to conservation has led them to recycle these fibers for use as compost on the fields.
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