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Just say no… colonial style

16 May 2007

(The Unapologetic Mexican has good things to say about Mike Gravel, who at least looks beyond the latest, and newest[and destructive] ways we have of not controlling people’s bad habits)


Pulque is a fairly low alcohol drink (the strongest commercial pulque you can buy is about 6 percent alcohol) and many people prefer aguamiel, the unfermented, fresh maguay juice (it’s an acquired taste). You’d have to drink a heck of a lot before you started seeing pink spiders. People did (and some still do) consume mass quantities, mostly because its cheaper than food, and has some nutritional value.



Pulque dates back to the pre-Hispanic period. According to some historians, it was not consumed on a daily basis but rather was associated with certain religious ceremonies. Whether pulque was a solely ritual drink then or not, after the Conquest, it became common among the entire indigenous population of New Spain. Mestizos, castas, and poor Spaniards also developed a taste for this alcoholic drink, as it was by far the cheapest available….


It’s not as if good old plain booze doesn’t make you violent, but that the authorities didn’t want the Indians getting off on anything but the same stuff the Spanish used. Then, as now, when it was just a vice of the outs (the Indigenous people) it wasn’t a concern. When they discovered THEIR poor (Mestizos, castas and Spaniards) were using the stuff, it was suddenly dangerous. Sort of the way marijuana became dangerous only when people other than rural Mexican and Mexican-American workers smoked it. And, too… there was another HUGE problem for the Colonialists. Americans had a way of coping (or escaping, depending on one’s point of view) with the indignities of the world that was not the way things were done in Spain. When the officials realized it wasn’t the plain old booze that they knew back in Spain, they were horrified:


…Despite numerous prohibitions, vendors sold not only the white, pure pulque, but also pulque mixed with herbs and roots and even peyote, which gave the drink a much greater kick.


… the problem of prohibited drinks did not emerge in eighteenth-century New Spain; their pernicious effects had been described as early as 1529: “And intoxicated (from a pulque and roots mixture, the Indians) perform their ceremonies and the sacrifices that they did before and as they are frenzied, they attack each other, and kill each other; and many carnal and evil sins result from this drunkenness, which from Our Lord is not well served.”


Never mind that peyote keeps people awake and makes them see things. If it’s not OUR drug, it must make you violent. And, of course, the answer is “just say no”… again, and again and again…


From this date, the Crown tried all possible remedies to end the practice of drinking these substances, but all to no avail. The testimony of this policy’s failure is evident in the repeated dispositions of 1545, 1635, 1650, 1657, 1671, 1724, 1736, 1742, 1748, 1755 and 1771.


(quotations from Juan Pedro Viqueira Albán, Propriety and Permissiveness in Bourbon Mexico [1999])


Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I guess drugs do make us crazy.


A bottle of scotch and a nickel bag will get you off, but the Mex Files might let you see things … and at the recommended $35 a year, is a hell of a lot cheaper (and won’t leave you fucked up):



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