admin

Jul 132015
 

Sombrero Books is delighted to announce the publication of  Mexico by Motorcycle: An Adventure Story and Guide.

Author William B. Kaliher is widely published and a regular contributor to Mexico Today. He has been traveling Mexico’s highways and byways since 1964. A born storyteller, he holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of South Carolina.

kalliher-motorcycle

Mexico by Motorcycle: An Adventure Story and Guide includes numerous photographs and describes Bill Kaliher’s travels off the beaten track in Mexico by motorcycle in 1971 and again in 1993. With travel tips and sound advice gained since his first trip in 1964, this is a book for the armchair traveler, the bike aficionado, and Mexico fans. Read it before you cross the border, then tuck it in your backpack or purse as a reference on the road.

Join the author as he chats about changes in Mexico over the years, cultural differences between the USA and Mexico, Mexican motorcyclists and Bike Clubs, and shares driving tips, historical facts about Mexico, the best cities, regions and sites you might want to visit, and his invaluable insights gleaned from six decades of visiting Mexico. This 272-page book also includes a handy fold-out map showing the routes described in the text.

Milford Burris (a retired businessman and South Carolina legislator) writes, “I am a Harley rider who has toured Mexico twice by auto with Bill Kaliher. On our first trip, Bill patted a thick book resting on the console and said, ‘If anything happens to me, call the people in here. They will help you.’ We lunched with multi-millionaires one day and squatted to talk with peasants in a shack the next, all Bill’s friends…. Everyone knew him in small towns like Catemaco, Puerto Escondido and Tapalpa.”

Mexico by Motorcycle: An Adventure Story and Guide is currently available as a regular softcover book (272 pages); an e-book version will be released shortly.

Initial reviews on Amazon.com are highly favorable. Buy your copy today!

May 122014
 

These extracts come from Dale Hoyt Palfrey’s review of the latest (4th) edition of “Western Mexico, a Traveler’s Treasury” for The Guadalajara Reporter, 18 April 2014.

9780973519150-Cover-thumbnail“Whether you’re an intrepid on-the-road adventurer or a relaxed armchair traveler, Tony Burton’s “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury” is an ideal companion… One factor that lends special appeal to this singular travel book is Burton’s departure from the stock formula found in conventional guides. He adheres to a more organic approach, drawing on personal experience and meticulous research to divulge the virtues and peculiarities of every destination.”

“Another major strength is the author’s attention to historical details that enrich the individual profile of each place. In some cases he scratched up intriguing facts by chatting with the local people, in others he tapped on tireless study of a vast array of previously published works. The bibliography lists writings going back as far as 1899, as well as “Lake Chapala through the Ages,” Burton’s own compilation of excerpts from works by other travel writers covering the era of 1530-1910.”

“Above all, the British-born geographer is a bold adventurer who delights in departing from the main travel routes to explore back roads and discover unexpected corners that other travelers and writers often see as nothing more than dots on the map. He has a knack for digging up the idiosyncrasies of each destination he visits, be it local legends and folklore, off-beat museums, geological characteristics, mining deposits of minerals, stones and precious metals, or an outstanding restaurant, inn or spa worthy of mention.”

“First published in 1993, the revised and expanded fourth edition of “Western Mexico”… opens with what qualifies as the most comprehensive guide to the Lake Chapala region available in English. “The next segment explores the agricultural valley and the Sierra highlands stretching west from Guadalajara. Part three covers Tapalpa, Mazamitla and other high altitude spots, plus the city of Colima. From there the text follows a route northeast of Guadalajara into the region of Los Altos and beyond Jalisco’s borders to León, Guanajuato and Aguascalientes, continuing into Zacatecas and the far-flung northern “hand” of Jalisco.”

“Material in parts six and seven spans the Pacific coast from San Blas, Nayarit to Cuyutlán, Colima. The final chapters thoroughly survey the state of Michoacán.”

“The development of Puerto Vallarta and the birth of the Paricutín volcano stand out among the book’s fascinating historical accounts. Expositions on Jalisco’s Manantlán Biosphere Reserve and the Monarch butterfly sanctuaries of Michoacán are obligatory reading to grasp the value of Mexico’s extraordinary natural treasures.”

“Burton’s clear writing style and bonus sidebar boxes added to each chapter make for easy, breezy reading. A series of area maps drawn by the author and Mark Eager’s attractive pen and ink illustrations of different locales complement the text. The cover art work is a reproduction of a watercolor scene of Ajijic by the late Georg Rauch.”

Both paperback and Kindle editions of “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury” may be purchased from amazon.com. Ajijic outlets that keep the printed book in stock are Diane Pearl Colecciones, Opus Boutique and La Nueva Posada. Guadalajara residents may place orders through Sandi Bookstore.

[This review, by Dale Hoyt Palfrey, first appeared in The Guadalajara Reporter, 18 April 2014]

Mar 222014
 

For anyone who lives or travels in western Mexico, Tony Burton’s Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury is a “must have.” I own a well traveled copy of the third edition (2001) but I was delighted to see a fourth edition (2013) recently appear…in part because so many changes have taken place in the decade or so that has followed the third edition. For example, Guachimontones, the round pyramids west of Guadalajara, is described in far more detail than in the third addition.

There are lots of other changes as well. “A federal project to promote cultural tourism, called Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns), has brought much more publicity to no fewer than 15 towns featured in previous editions, including Tapalpa, Tequila, Mazamitla, San Sabastián del Oeste, Lagos de Moreno, Comala, Pátzcuaro, Santa Clara del Cobre and Angangueo.” In this past decade, the “quality of hotels has also improved, with the opening of excellent boutique hotels, some of them in quite unexpected places….”

New chapters have been added, new material has been added to existing chapters, maps and directions have been updated, new destinations, like Zacatecas, have been developed in detail.

Reading Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury, I felt that old desire rise up in me to be on the road, if only for a day or two. And so, even before writing this review, I called a young Mexican adventuress in Guadalajara. With the Kindle version of Western Mexico in hand we headed up a now modern highway to the charming old colonial town of Mazamitla, high in the mountains on the south side of Lake Chapala… and far more sophisticated than when I visited it twenty years ago. We even stayed in the inexpensive ($40US) boutique hotel Hostal Ciervo Rojo (a member of the Haciendas and Country Houses of Jalisco) recommended by Tony in his book.

A few days I went with a Chapala buddy on a day trip to Guachimontones, the round pyramids west of Guadalajara, passing trucks loaded with sugar cane, passing stands of a local potent drink called pajarete (a combination of milk, aguardiente, brown sugar, and sometimes chocolate) to arrive at what has become in a few short years, “one of the most astonishing archaeological sites anywhere n Mexico,” although only twenty years ago it was only “mounds of earth”. “The dramatic circular structures at Guachimontones, tiered in concentric terraces, are absolutely stunning….”

As Tony notes in his Introduction, this is “not intended to be a comprehensive guide to all the possible day trips and longer tours in the region…. Rather, it is a personal, idiosyncratic collection of my favorite places in Western Mexico….” The book is filled with whatever Tony finds fascinating… interesting and curious details of history and geography and geology and flora and fauna, and art and architecture and archaeology.

My kind of book!

Parts One and Two cover destinations within three hours of Guadalajara or the north shore of Lake Chapala…day trips. Part One begins with a history of the region from ancient times to the present, and discusses in detail Mezcala Island—“Lake Chapala’s National Monument”—and the “The Riviera communities: Chapala, Ajijic and Jocotepec,” although the spas at San Juan Cosalá, like the luxurious Monte Coxala with its large-scale pre-Hispanic replicas, are also included along with interesting places to stay, like the Los Dos Bed & Breakfast in Jocotepec, which was the home and studio of internationally famous Austrian artist Georg Rauch. Although Rauch passed away a few years ago, his charming wife Phyllis continues to operate their bed and breakfast.

Part One also takes us to the south shore of Lake Chapala, to places like Jiquilpan, a nondescript town that gave birth to two important Mexican presidents—Anastacio Bustamante and Lázaro Cárdenas), and several distinguished artists, like José Clemente Orozco, “one of the famous “Big Three” of Mexican Muralism.” Rafael Méndez (whom I heard when I was a teen, back in Ohio), “arguably the world’s greatest ever trumpet virtuoso,” was also born in Jiquilpan.

In Part Two we go west of Guadalajara to Guachimontones—those round pyramids—and to old haciendas (with concise histories of each), and to Tala, the sugar town, and to the giant stone spheres near Alhualulco. We also learn about mines…silver, opals, obsidian, and of course we visit the ever popular town of Tequila.

Part Three takes us on longer trips, best for overnight stays, to picturesque mountains towns like Tapalpa, and through pine forests to Mazamitla, and to Colima, a provincial state capital with important archaeological sites. Near Colima is Volcá de Fuego, sometimes called Volcán Colima, “the most active volcano in Mexico, and indeed one of the most active in the world, having erupted at least 30 times since 1576.”

Parts Four to Nine cover longer trips, to places like León, the “Leather Capital of Mexico,” and to Aguascalientes, and Zacatecas, and Bolaños, where the “old mining town revives its fortunes.” In Part Six we head west to the coast, to San Blas and Guayabitos (a youthful beach town for “a modestly-priced family holiday”) and even to Puerto Vallarta, “the resort that keeps reinventing itself.” In Part Seven, Barra de Navidad and Melaque—places once popular with pirates like Sir Francis Drake and Thomas Cavendish–are jewels not to be missed, and discovered by tourists only a few decades ago. Part Eight finds us on the road to Tzintzuntzan and to Pátzcuaro, a region where the first Bishop of Michoacán, Don Vasco de Quiroga, “based his approach on the Utopian principles espoused by Thomas More. He established a series of communities in the vicinity of Lake Pátzcuaro, the heart of Tarascan country, where the people would receive training in arts and crafts alongside religious instruction.” He allocated “specific crafts to specific places,” and thus today, Paracho is famous for its guitars, Tzintzuntzan (named after the sound a hummingbird makes with its wings) is famous for its pottery, Santa Clara for copper, and so on.

The final section, Part Nine, is mostly about the beloved monarch butterflies of Michoacán. “Every winter, some one hundred million monarch butterflies fly into Mexico from the U.S. and Canada. On arrival they congregate in a dozen localities high in the temperate pine and fir forests of the state of Michoacán.” Tony discusses the various reserves where visitors can witness the amazing number of monarchs, but Tony also insists that you sample the delicious local blue-corn tortillas. He also takes you farther west to Tuxpan and the country where John Huston shot Treasure of the Sierra Madre, staring Humphrey Bogart. The first bend on the narrow road from Tuxpan to Jungapeo is the bend to have a name on the official topographic survey map: La Curva de la Gringa, a rather dangerous 110-degree bend.

Leaving The Gringa’s Curve behind, you come to the best place to overnight or vacation in this “scenically-stunning part of Mexico,” at the Agua Blanca Canyon Resort, “a charming, small spa-hotel with just 20 rooms, its pools and lawns overlooking the deeply carved valley of the River Tuxpan.”

As in the earlier editions, Tony concludes with a useful appendix that has a “Table of elevations and approximate driving times,” for example from Chapala to Barra de Navidad is four hours and thirty minutes, from Chapala to Mazamitla is one hour and forty-five minutes. He also advises you to take a look at “online forums, such as those on MexConnect.com, to ask for up-to-date information and advice from people who have recently made the same journey or visited the same places.”

If you live in western Mexico or are thinking about living here or visiting here, make this the first book you buy. It has always been a favorite of mine and this latest edition of Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury is the best ever!

This review first appeared on MexConnect.com.

Ready to buy a copy?

The 4th (2013) edition of “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury” is now available at select bookstores, and at:

Want to learn more?

Jan 072014
 

San Sebastián del Oeste (Editorial Agata, Fotoglobo, 2001).

san-sebastian-del-oesteFotografias del pueblo de San Sebastián del Oeste, con textos cortos. Muy interesante.

Photographs of this magical town in the state of Jalisco, which is one of the most atmospheric mountain towns you could ever wish to see. Short texts (in Spanish) accompany the photos. A fine tribute to a wonderful place.

Softcover, 72 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 8.75 x 8.75 x 0.4. ISBN: 970-657-083-7 Price: US$20.00 (plus shipping, contact us for details)

Want to learn more about San Sebastián del Oeste?

 Posted by at 5:48 pm
Jan 072014
 

Tapalpa (Editorial Agata/Fotoglobo, 2001)

tapalpa-foto-globoShort articles on the locations set the scene for dozens of vintage sepia photographs of this historic village which has become a prime tourist destination (and is one of the “Magic Towns”) in Jalisco, Mexico. The book includes photos of Tapalpa, La Constancia, las Piedrotas, Los Frailes, Ferrería de Tula, Ojo Zarco, Arroyos, Buenavista, El Tacamo and Cascada el Saltito and Cascada de las Palomas.

Softcover, 64 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 10.6 x 7.8 x 0.2; ISBN: 970-657-102-7 Price: US $15.00  (plus shipping, contact us for details)

Related books:

 

 

 

 Posted by at 5:31 pm
Jan 072014
 

La Fiesta de San Andrés – Historia Visual (Editorial Agata/SCJ/Conaculta, 2003). Visual history, with Spanish-language text, of the Huichol Fiesta de San Andrés, related and photographed by anthropologist Kal Muller.

Famous photographer Kal (Kalman) Muller, who grew up in this Huichol Indian village in the sierras of Western Mexico, documents the relatively new tradition of celebrating the  fiesta of San Andrés. A highly unusual book, which could only have been produced by a great anthropologist-photographer.

fiesta-san-andresLa Fiesta de San Andrés nos muestra un rostro diferente del pueblo Wixarika (Huichol). La nación Wixarika famosa en todo el mundo por sus peculiares y arraigadas tradiciones, ritos, fiestas y cosmovisión, lo que ellos mismos llaman El Costumbre, se nos muestra inovadora, dinámica y adaptable. El antropólogo Kalman Muller, quien se crió en esta misma comunidad de San Andrós, y quien ha tenido contacto permanente con la misma durante toda su vida es el encargado de traernos estos vivencias. Mismas que nacieron por iniciativa de la propia comunidad, bajo la invitación de Rosalío Rivera Sánchez “Chalío”, para el legado histórico de las futuras generaciones Wixarikas y del mundo entero.

Language: Spanish. Softcover, 78 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 10.7 x 8.0 x 0.25 ISBN: 970-657-122-1 Price: US$20.00 plus shipping (contact us for details)

Want to learn more about the Huichol Indians?

 

 Posted by at 4:47 pm
Jan 072014
 

The Jew with the Iron Cross: A Record of Survival in WWII Russia, by Georg Rauch (iUniverse, Inc., 2006).

rauchPaperback: 269 pages; ISBN-13: 978-0595379873; dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches; Price: US$15.00 plus shipping (contact us for details)

As a teenager, author Georg Rauch helped his mother protect the Jewish couples hidden in their Viennese attic. Officially classified as one-quarter Jewish, Rauch is drafted into Hitler’s army and sent to fight for causes he detests. Rauch finds himself near death many times, but his talents as a shortwave radio operator, chef, and even harmonica player all play a role in his survival. Captured by the Russians in the autumn of 1944, Rauch faces brutality and near-fatal illness as a POW. Recruitment for Russian espionage saves his life this time, but his story isn’t over yet.

Based on eighty letters sent home from the Russian trenches, The Wooden Spoon is a riveting tale of paradox and survival during World War II.

“A fascinating account of what it was like for a partial Jew to serve in the German military during World War II. Rauch’s experiences and hardships dramatically depict the physical and emotional struggles of a ‘Mischling’ during the Third Reich.”—Bryan Mark Rigg, author of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers

“Not about combat tactics but about what it meant to be in an army at war. Rauch has put a human face on aspects of the war that are usually only referred to in passing.”—Tom Houlihan, WWII cartographer

Georg Rauch was a successful professional artist who exhibited extensively in Europe, the United States and Mexico. Rauch and his wife, Phyllis, made their home overlooking Lake Chapala in the central highlands of Mexico for more than thirty years.

Want to learn more about this very interesting artist?

Jan 072014
 

Jalisco en el progreso de México – aportación a la obra de gobierno del Lic. J. Jesús Gónzalez Gallo. 6. Estudios Fundamentales. Published in Guadalajara, Jalisco, 1947.

gonzalez-gallo-jalisco-en-el-progreso-de-mexicoPaper bound. Papel cultural. 287 pp. Some minor stains and marks, but no annotations, notes or signatures.

Includes chapters:

  • Cronología Jalisciense by Prof. Ramón García Ruiz
  • Estudio Demográfico by Srta . Aurora P. Magallon
  • Estudio Económico de la Industria by Juan Victor Verges
  • Economía Agrícola y Ganadera Forestal de Caza y Pesca by Lic. Francisco Arguellos Castañeda
  • Comercio y Transportes by Lic. Augusto Avalos Lemus
  • Politica Hacendaria by Srts. Lic. María Steimpress Esponda.

(1947)

RARE. Price US$20.00 plus shipping. Please contact us for rates.

 Posted by at 10:18 am
Jan 072014
 

A visit to Don Otavio, A Mexican journey, by Sybille Bedford  (Eland, 1982).

bedford-don-otavio-red319 pages. Price: US$8.00 plus shipping. Please contact us for rates.

This is the classic travel account based on a prolonged visit to Mexico (principally the area around Lake Chapala) in the early 1950s by the fine British travel writer Sybille Bedford. Slight crease to top right of front cover; tiny stain on frontispiece; otherwise a clean, tight copy with no apparent markings.

 Posted by at 10:14 am
Jan 072014
 

A visit to Don Otavio, A Mexican odyssey, by Sybille Bedford  (Eland, 2002).

bedford-don-otavio-grey312 pages. Price: US$8.00 plus shipping. Please contact us for rates.

This is the classic travel account based on a prolonged visit to Mexico (principally the area around Lake Chapala) in the early 1950s by the fine British travel writer Sybille Bedford. Former owner’s signature on frontispiece; otherwise a clean, tight copy with no apparent markings.

 Posted by at 10:06 am
Jan 072014
 

Manual de Ecología by Jonathan Franco López y coautores – SOLD

franco-lopez-manuel-ecologia2a. edición. Trillas 1989. 266 pp including index.

Spanish language text.

Guide to fieldwork techniques and quantitative methods in ecology, including a variety of statistical tests, written especially for entry-level college students. Some wear to upper section of front cover; otherwise a clean and tight copy (has no inscriptions and appears to have zero annotations).

SOLD

 Posted by at 9:54 am
Jan 042014
 

Tapalpa – Pueblo mágico (“Tapalpa – Magic Town”), was published by Editorial Agata/Fotoglobo in 2001.

tapalpaThis photo book with captions in Spanish has beautiful full-color photos of this magical mountain town. (Fotografias del pueblo mágico de Tapalpa con textos cortos).

Softcover, 143 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 11.0 x 8.5 x 0.4.

ISBN: 970-657-088-8 Price: US$35.00 (plus shipping, contact us for details)

Related books:

Tapalpa  (Editorial Agata, Fotoglobo, 2001) -64 pp; sepia photos

 

 Posted by at 6:12 pm
Jan 042014
 

The Line – La Linea, by Beldon Butterfield (Ediciones de la Noche, 2007).

butterfieldSoftcover, 444 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 8.25 x 5.5 x 1.0. ISBN: 978-1-60461-176-2 Price: US$20.00 (plus shipping, contact us for details)

This novel is set in the nether world of the Mexican drug trade, where men and women on both sides of the border wage an ill-fated “war on drugs” against a formidable enemy in command of an army of ruthless killers with endless resources.

Amid this amoral world of violence, a three way romance is forged between the striking and athletic DEA agent Fernanda Deering, the dashing but conniving Jaime Nuñez, a sub comandante in the PGR – Mexico’s elite law enforcement agency – and George Redfield, a bon vivant bi-cultured Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Born and raised in Argentina, Beldon Butterfield is a U.S.-educated author who came to Mexico with Time Inc. and now divides his time between Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende.

 

 Posted by at 6:08 pm
Jan 042014
 

Tlajomulco (Editorial Agata, Fotoglobo, 2004).

tlajomulcoLanguage: Spanish. Softcover, 96 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 8.7 x 8.7 x 0.2 ISBN: 970-657-144-2 Price: US$20.00 (plus shipping, contact us for details)

A full-color book of great color photos and short descriptions of all the major sites and scenes in the municipality of Tlajomulco. Tlajomulco is an historic town located between the city of Guadalajara.and Lake Chapala in Jalisco, Mexico.

The book includes places such as Santa Cruz de las Flores, San Agustín, Cajititlán, San Lucas, San Juan Evangelista and Cerro Viejo.

 

 Posted by at 5:42 pm
Jan 042014
 

Laguna de Sayula; humedad del sur de Jalisco, México (Laguna de Sayula; wetland in southern Jalisco, Mexico”) Unión Editorialista. 2005

sayulaLanguage: Spanish. Softcover, 174 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 10.8 x 8.5 x 0.6. ISBN: 970-657-158-2 Price: US$40.00 (plus shipping, contact us for details)

This beautiful book about the Laguna of Sayula (located alongside the main toll highway linking Guadalajara and Colima) in Jalisco begins with a short historical introduction to the region. Most of the volume is dedicated to a comprehensive account of all aspects of the Laguna’s natural history: geology, flora and fauna, particularly the rich bird life that characterizes this region. The book is richly illustrated throughout with excellent color photos.

A very hard-to-find item. Only two copies in stock.

 Posted by at 5:34 pm
Jan 042014
 

Exploring Yucatan: A Traveler’s Anthology, selected and edited by Richard D. Perry (Espadaña Press, 2001).

perry-yucatanSoftcover, 318 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 9 x 6 x 0.9. ISBN: 0-9620811-4-0 Price: US$20.00 (plus shipping, contact us for details)

For centuries, explorers, adventurers, artists, naturalists and archeologists have recorded their experiences of work and travel in Yucatan. Their vivid memoirs give us historic insights into the attitudes of the past, document how conditions have changed over time, and help to illuminate the present in this exotic tropical region of Mayan Mexico.

Now, a broad and varied selection of these classic writings have been excerpted and collected in one volume to entertain and enlighten today’s traveler to Yucatan.

The selections include all the major Mayan sites and regions of the Yucatan peninsula, from Campeche on the Gulf coast to Tulum on the Caribbean coast. The narratives are accompanied by numerous historical and new illustrations, maps, a glossary and full index. Essential reading for anyone traveling the Ruta Maya.

 Posted by at 5:29 pm
Jan 042014
 

Past Times in Chapala by J. Jesús González G. (1994)

aquellos-tiempos-chapalaThis 56 page book is an evocative, bilingual (Spanish-English) description of the delights of the popular resort community of Chapala, on the shores of Mexico’s largest natural lake, written by a prominent politician. The book includes 75 sepia-tone photos dating from the early decades of this century. The translation is by Tony Burton.

Hard to find item. Price US$15.00 (plus shipping, contact us for details)

 Posted by at 5:22 pm
Jan 042014
 

Some Common and Interesting Plants of San Miguel de Allende, by John and Anne Packer, is a bilingual flora guide, with Spanish translations by Manuel Lopez, published by Plant Press Publications, 1999.

packer-plants-san-miguelSoftcover, 120 pages; 52 colour photos. Dimensions (in inches): 9.0 x 6.0 x 0.3 ISBN: 0-9684769-0-2 Price: US$15.00 (plus shipping, contact us for details).

This useful and authoritative bilingual field guide can be used anywhere in central Mexico. It is particularly well-suited for visitors from the north who are encountering semitropical plants for the first time. The book describes some of the more common trees and shrubs, cacti and herbaceous perennials, as well as many of the colorful climbers that make Mexican towns such interesting places to visit.

As well as a technical description, general information is supplied telling whether the plant is introduced from Europe or elsewhere, and other details that make the plant memorable. Common and scientific names are provided for every entry. “Easy to use, well laid out, concise and well written” – Atencion San Miguel

 Posted by at 5:14 pm
Jan 042014
 

A Drink Named Tequila by José María Muria and Ricardo Sánchez (Ed.Agata, 1996).

Softcover, 81 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 8.6 x 8.6 x 0.3. ISBN 968-7310-79-0  Price: US$15.00 (plus shipping, contact us for details)

All genuine tequila comes (by law) from within a limited region of Western Mexico, centered on the small town of Tequila, an hour’s drive west of Guadalajara.

Beautifully illustrated with 32 color plates, A Drink Named Tequila traces the history and mystery of tequila (the liquor) from its ancient roots to today. The text, by one of Jalisco’s foremost historians, José María Muria, provides many fascinating insights into Mexico’s national drink.

For example, did you know what the agave (maguey) plant, from which tequila is derived, represented in the ancient Nahuatl culture? “In the Nahuatl culture, the maguey was a divine creation that represented Mayáhuel, a goddess who had four hundred breasts to feed her four hundred children.”

For a long time, the production of liquor of any kind was completely prohibited in New Spain:

“With the intention of favoring the importation and sale of produce from the major Iberian peninsular landowners, the Spanish Crown had prohibited the production of liquor in America, and brutally persecuted those who disobeyed. This, as well as to ensure – at least, so they said – that the Indians and mestizos would consume less, was why mescal was born and raised clandestinely. In turn, this explains why it took so long to leave clear proof of its existence and why today we know so little of its teething stages and first, tottering steps.”

Many of the early tequila brands were given feminine names:

“It became common for distilleries to be baptized with a feminine variant of the surname of their owner; Martinez: “La Martineña”; Guarro: “La Guarreña; Gallardo: “La Gallardeña”; Flores: “La Floreña”; Quintanar: “La Quintaneña”, etcetera. It also became common to link the brand name with some positive quality, as in the case of … “La Perseverancia” (“The Perseverance”), or…  “La Constancia” (“The Certainty”).”

Of interest to historians looking at the migration of rural businessmen from the site of their wealth in the countryside toward the cities, Muria writes that,

“Of all the great rural businessmen, the tequila producers were the last to move their places of residence from the countryside. As the twentieth century began, it is well known that practically all the hacienda owners had relegated their ancestral residences to the role of summer homes or for occasional visits, given that now their greatest desire was to figure prominently in the loftiest circles of society in Mexico’s provincial capitals, the capital of the Republic, or even in Paris or some other flashy European city.”

The book does have a handful of minor flaws. For example, Muria writes that the cocktail known as a margarita is made from “a combination of tequila with a dash of lime juice, mint and salt”. Perhaps he wrote this phrase after tasting one too many tequilas, since for a genuine margarita, his “mint” would need to be replaced by a shot of orange-flavored liqueur such as cointreau or Gran Marnier…

Despite such minor details, A Drink Named Tequila (Editorial Agara, 1996) remains a fascinating and well-illustrated read.

Want to learn more about tequila?

 Posted by at 3:28 pm