By Moonyeen King
President of the Board for Tepehua
The sudden deaths that happened at the beginning of the alcohol ban, due to people drinking rough sugar cane alcohol that had not been cut properly, shone a light on a beloved past time of the villages... El Pajarate. The local Star Bucks for Sunday mornings, which is truly a delightful experience that many locals and visitors alike partake. East of Chapala the local is open most mornings. Opening time really relies on the cooperation of the cow. There is nothing hygienic about it in anyway whatsoever, which probably gives it the unique flavour.
A mixture of sugar cane alcohol, chocolate, sugar, coffey powder...and last but the most important a skirt of hot milk from the udder. In all the years recollection sudden multiple deaths have not been reported before, which doesn’t mean there haven’t been any.
In the Middle East, the underground drink there is Sadiki, the word meaning “friend”, when uncut is 90% alcohol, which if not cut properly leads to death, or blindness and alcohol poisoning. Sadiki is made from any natural sugar source with a catalyst like yeast. Sadiki doesn’t need a cow, it just needs a mix of your choice as you would treat Vodka...even a Sadikitini on the rocks. Or flavor it with various flavors like whisky or bourbon.
The dangers of alcohol have been known through the years, it can be poisonous for different reasons. In Ireland, Europe in general, when pewter mugs were used for alcoholic drinks, the metal in the mug would leach out and poison the unsuspecting drinker, this only happened to the heavy imbiber. The victim would go into a comatose state and back then proclaimed as dead. Old stories have it that many were buried alive which is why they introduced ‘Wakes’...a family member sat with the ‘corpse’ to see if he would awake in the morning. It is said that is where the saying comes from “For whom the bell tolls”...they would put a little bell in the coffin, so if the occupant woke up he could ring the bell.
Another Mexican drink that has a colorful history is Pulque, which dates back to the Mesoamerican era, when it was viewed as sacred and used only by a certain class. Today this unique drink is mainly found in rural or poorer areas, where its reputation is the drink of the lower class. In the 1930s Lazaro Cardenas campaigned against it to cut down on alcoholism in the barrios, but its decline was mainly caused by the rise in popularity of beer. Pulque is returning especially with the young and the tourists, very potent and deadly when abused. Known for its very short shelf life, the challenge today is to preserve it without changing its taste.
Men of the barrio buy it by the pint sometimes taking their own jug, and years of tradition has taught them how to use it without danger to self....or has it? This author has never tried it, although the opportunity in Tepehua Barrio is plentiful, the same for every kind of recreational drug known, an easy escape from poverty and the frustrations life throws at the poor and everyone else up the ladder.
How Pulque is made makes very good reading, its process is not a simple one, for those who need to know...
The Tepehua Treasures store in Riberas is open three afternoons a week, Wednesday thru’ Friday, if you are running out of reading material...follow the rules, wear a mask...it is the only way as there still is no cure, only prevention. Use your head, wash your hands.
MOONYEEN PATRICIA KING
Column: Profiling Tepehua
Settled in Mexico 13 years ago. The intention was to retire into the arts as a writer, poet and painter...that didn’t happen. Beneath the smiles of the peoples of Mexico there was such a great need for change, especially for the women and children of the barrios, Moonyeen has dedicated these years to change the face of this little corner of the world. The work done by the volunteers of the Tepehua Community Center is teaching that change is possible anywhere. Moonyeen was portrayed as “Woman of the Year,” also two Paul Harris Rotary awards for the work done at Tepehua. “Life in Mexico is very fulfilling. The Mexican people give so much more to us immigrants than we can possible return.