Agave Growth and Harvesting

02. The Agave in Mexican Culture


Tequila wouldn’t exist without the noble agave (“agave” comes from the greek word agavos,” which means notable” or admirable”) and the significance of the plant in Mexican culture is impossible to overstate. For thousands of years, agaves were vital to the survival of ancient Mesoamerican people, serving the dual purpose of practical tool and food source: fibers were used to make rope, cloth, and netting, thorns were used as sewing needles and in medicinal and ceremonial applications, and flowers, leaves and stalks served as important nutrient sources. Even the worms that fed on the leaves of the plant were captured and consumed. For this reason, the plant has long symbolized health and abundance in Mexican culture.

Because the plant was so fully woven into the fabric of everyday life, the agave’s life-giving and ‑sustaining properties elevated the plant into the mythological and spiritual realm of early Mexican societies. This is best depicted in Mayahuel, the Aztec goddess of fertility and nourishment, who is generally depicted as an agave plant or its spirit or guardian. The agave’s spiritual significance was also clear through the use of its byproducts; the sweet sap of the plant was fermented into pulque, an alcoholic beverage that became a key element in celebrations, diplomacy and religious rituals. Mezcal, the first distilled spirit made from agave, held a similar place in Mexican culture, figuring prominently into celebrations of life’s important moments and rites of passage (births, baptisms, weddings, and funerals).

source: PD-US

MAYÁHUELThe goddess of fertility, as depicted in the 16th century Aztec Codex.