The Spirit of Agave

Reading Time: 21 min


Zack Sanders grew up in the small town of Chester in Connecticut.  “Everyone knew each other, it was the kind of place you could walk into somebody’s home and it was totally fine.” Growing up in Chester made Zack what he calls “a community oriented person”, and when he left his hometown to study urban planning, Zack found community working as a bartender.

“You meet a lot of people working behind a bar, a lot of people who need to pay rent, a lot of people who lost their jobs… It is definitely a place where people go to find community when you don’t have family support or you don’t have that traditional connection.” I’d always appreciated a bar as a kind of meeting place to connect with friends or family, but I’d never visited one to meet people for the first time, even though I was meeting Zack for the first time, as we sat at the bar of De La O Cantina in Guadalajara. Zack was part of a delegation of Los Angeles-based bartenders — Zack and Max Reis from Mírate; Matthew Belanger from Death and Co.; and Edwin Rios, who works at both venues — that took over De La O for one night, to serve cocktails with Mexican produce and to connect with Guadalajara’s hospitality community. I was invited by one of De La O’s owners, Pedro Jiménez Gurría. 

A glowing red sign reads "MEZCAL", above an open door that leads to the Los Angeles restaurant Mírate.
The entrance to Mírate.

I met Pedro in 2018. I was in Guadalajara to learn Spanish and my teacher recommended I visit De La O. I sat at the bar and raised my eyebrows while smiling at one of the bartenders who came over and introduced herself, “yo soy Karla”, and then asked what I wanted. I tentatively used my newly acquired Spanish, “puedo poder un mezcal?” Karla smiled, “Inglés?” I nodded. She told me I had come to the right place as one of the bar’s owners, Pedro, ran a not-for-profit called Mezonte. She turned around and took a bottle from one of the shelves behind her and placed it on the bar in front of me. The glass bottle was adorned with a simple red and white label: big letters in the middle spelled “MEZONTE” and “JALISCO” was printed in smaller text at the top. 

“A not-for-profit mezcal company?” I’d never heard of such a thing. She smiled and nodded and asked if I wanted a “coppa”. I didn’t know what that was, but figured it was a cup. “Sí!” Karla placed a small shallow dish on the bar, it was made with a material that resembled wood. She noticed my curious eyes, explaining “this is what the communities traditionally drink mezcal from, it’s made from cuastecomate” as she poured the liquid from the bottle into the coppa and small bubbles or pearls appeared on the liquid’s surface. I looked up at her, she raised her eyebrows, “salud”. 

She turned and entered my order into an iPad as I picked up the coppa and sipped: different layers of flavour graced my tongue as a warm heat descended down my throat and suspended in my chest. It was a unique experience distinct from my memories of drinking tequila. While savouring the taste in my mouth, I considered this concept of a not-for-profit alcohol company. Karla’s eyes met mine and again I raised my eyebrows while smiling. She walked over. “I’ve never heard of a not-for-profit alcohol company. How does Mezonte work?” She smiled. “You should meet Pedro. He conducts tastings close by, there is one tomorrow.”

The next day, I visited Mezonte, a small tasting room close to the Mercado Juárez in Colonia Americana. I knocked on a closed wooden door and was greeted by a tanned bearded man. “Pedro?” He nodded. I introduced myself, explaining the conversation I had shared with Karla the night before and the curiosity it sparked within me. “Come in, come in.” He guided me to a stool at a small bar and introduced me to his two friends already seated there. América and Rico both worked with mezcal: América as a researcher focused on agave management, Rico in a bar in San Francisco. The four of us tried different mezcales as Pedro shared the stories of their producers. I asked him when did he start Mezonte? “I started Mezonte when we started Pare de Sufrir.” 

Pare de Sufrir is a bar next door to De La O. “I had just moved to Guadalajara and I was very into mezcal… It was at the beginning of the 2000s when there was more access in Mexico City to traditional mezcales through La Logia de los Mezcólatras, this group of biologists, agronomists, sociologists, all types of people, obviously producers too, that were gathering in different places to talk and taste traditional mezcales. It started to create this awareness of this type of mezcales, because most of the places that were selling mezcal weren’t selling the traditional ones, but the first commercial mezcales. And I got hooked, I was really happy that the city where I was living finally had access to really good mezcales, but then I decided to move to Guadalajara, and when I arrived here, there was nothing… So every time that I went to different places in Mexico for work”, Pedro was working in film production, “I would go and ask for any spirits that they had in that place and brought them back to our house. It was surprising for me, because obviously Guadalajara is a place of tequila, but I didn’t know that a lot of people didn’t know about mezcales, not even tasted them, and I was like wow, we have to do something about this.” 

So with his partner at the time, Monica Leyva, they started doing tastings at their house. Initially for friends, around ten people would join, but soon their friends wanted to invite their friends, and suddenly these small tastings attracted fifty or sixty people. “It was too much.” So Monica and Pedro decided to create a small mezcalería, and in 2009 they opened Pare de Sufrir.

Pedro Jiménez Gurría, founder of Mezonte, stands amongst the green leaves of the trees in the garden of Santos Juárez and his family.
Pedro Jiménez Gurría.

“When we started Pare de Sufrir it was about making a lot of tastings and talking about the producers and how they produce this beautiful spirit… We were aiming for a very small, quiet place, somewhere to appreciate the mezcales… But that’s not what people needed… At the time, a lot of the bars were really hip, they were focused on their decor, like it had to be really fancy and you had to wear certain clothes to get into that place and so on. Pare de Sufrir was like we don’t care, you have fun with good music and good mezcales and that’s it… It quickly became something completely different from what we planned, a place of party… And we were like just have fun, dance if you want, don’t dance if you don’t want, just enjoy yourself while you’re here, stop suffering.”

Despite the success of Pare de Sufrir, Pedro and Monica still wanted a small tasting space, a place where the mezcales were the focus.

“We decided to open another place where it was only and exclusively to taste the spirits and talk more about it and the importance of the surroundings of the making of these mezcales or agave spirits, to create that awareness. And that’s our belief that if people get more information and get to know all what is surrounding the making of these spirits, they will appreciate it more and will try to preserve it as we do.”

This is the focus of Mezonte, which is dedicated to preserving and disseminating the biocultural values ​​of traditional mezcales. Discussing these values extend to Mezonte’s production costs, which they openly discuss on their website to increase consumer awareness of traditional mezcales and what is necessary for their existence. In 2018, while sitting at the bar with América and Rico, the threats to traditional production were less severe than now, in 2023, as I sat with Zack at De La O, and the popularity of this spirit continues to grow, with a significant proportion of demand emanating from the USA. In 2023, agave spirits — tequila and mezcal — are set to become the best-selling spirits category in the USA, and its growing significance is reflected in Zack’s relationship with mezcal: despite working in bars for most of his adult life, his interest in mezcal developed over the past twelve months.

“I was a big rum head, I had worked in whisky bars for years, so I had a lot of experience in those fields, and I knew that agave was a weak point of mine. And probably like four months before I moved,” Zack moved from Washington DC to Los Angeles last March, “one of my friends and I were like we don’t know enough about mezcal. So we pooled our mezcal collections, we had like fourteen different bottles, and that tasting set a seed, and by the time I got out to LA, that seed was blossoming into something bigger.” During the first few months of his life in LA, Zack met Max Reis, who leads the bar program at Mírate. “I was like, this guy’s a pro, I need to work with him, he is intimately connected with the producers, with the curators, he is intimately connected with the tension that is a white man selling Mexican spirits, and as soon as we started talking I was like, oh you, I can relate to you.” I looked over to Max, who was behind the bar mixing a version of a Paloma that was designed specifically for the pop-up. He was busy, so I waited until after the event to speak with him. 

Max was born and raised in California. He was a musician, so he was drawn to the restaurant industry due to its empathy for his death metal band’s touring schedule. Initially employed as a server, he shifted to bartending on his 21st birthday. He lived this double life — touring and bartending — for a few years, until he felt a shift.

“A lot of my friends in music, I would see them pick up a guitar and people would be like, oh my God you’re amazing, you’re a natural, you were born to do this kind of thing, and I was always like shit, I want to pick something up for the first time and just have someone go, oh my God you’re so good at that, you know? And eventually I had gotten to bartending and I was better than people and more creative than people years older than I was… And I remember realising that I was enjoying bartending more than my band… And eventually I went man, I want to play music for fun, because I enjoy it more when it’s not my career, and so I decided to make the transition to bartending full time.”

With all of his energy now focused on life as a bartender, Max’s career gained more momentum and he was offered a job at Gracias Madre. It was here that he fell in love with agave.

“I had already been very spirit obsessed for a while, but I started getting more and more exposed to agave spirits, which is why I came over to Gracias Madre, as it had an extremely high reputation for their agave selection at the time. Mezcal was very new, like very very new, and for years there was just like Chichicapa, you know, and there was not a lot on the market. So I took the job at Gracias Madre, I was learning.” 

As his knowledge and awareness of mezcal and its production developed, Max began to question Gracias Madre’s bar program.

“The agave spirits selection we were curating was pandering to the neighbourhood. It was a vegan organic restaurant, where they were all about ethics and ethical sourcing, but then at the end of the day, we were one of the top accounts in the United States for Casamigos and Clase Azul. The restaurant cared so much if there were additives in the food and it was supporting the farmers, but when it came to alcohol, we were just like everyone else you know?” 

Max Reis and Zack Sanders mix cocktails with agave spirits behind the bar of De La O in Guadalajara.
Max and Zack at De La O.

Max felt he needed to further his education, and though he continued working at Gracias Madre, he took a job at Republique, splitting his week between the two venues.

“I was drawn to Shawn Lickliter’s program at Republique, I was amazed at how ethically driven he was. It wasn’t an agave spirits bar, but it was all about different rums and whiskies and not carrying things you didn’t like because people liked to buy them. It was about educating our audience by taking control of what we were selling.” 

It was through this period that Max met Pedro, as he continued to deepen his relationship with mezcal, often traveling to Mexico to do so. It was also when Max was offered the job to lead the drinks program at Gracias Madre, and when he truly started “going down the agave rabbit hole”. 

“I remember going down to Mexico and coming back and I went to the owners of Gracias Madre, and I said hey guys I want to pull Casamigos and Clase Azul and all these brands off the shelf that I think are unethical and here’s why, and they told me no because it was too financially ingrained within the program. So I put my head down and went back to work and went down to Mexico again, and came back and said hey guys, I think we should pull these things off and they said no again.

“And then I remember I came down to Mexico, I was with David Suro”, the founder of Siembra Spirits, “at a hotel in Morelia, and we had a conversation about ethics, and I talked about what I believed in and he was asking me details about how I was running my program. At the time I had negotiated a pretty amazing deal with Pueblo Viejo, and we were getting litre bottles of mezcal for $10.20, and then David broke down the math for me, and he was like, listen, in order to get a litre of agave distillate into the United States it costs $16, so if you’re buying it at $10, where do you think that money comes from? And we had a whole conversation about it, I remember we were both tearing up and getting very emotional. So I came back and I said, hey guys, it’s me or the shitty tequila, and they said we’ll do it, but you have to make it make sense financially… I put my head down and got really focused on what I believed in, which was ethical spirits and educating based around that, and the rest is kind of history. I turned that program from a Casamigos factory into what was one of the top earning agave bars in the country, like top three, and we were only selling ethical spirits, like private batch mezcal that we sourced for the restaurant, and nothing with additives.”

Max has since left Gracias Madre and is now leading the bar program at the newly opened Mírate.

“The whole idea behind Mírate is a bar full of lots of special items, things you can’t get somewhere else, and every single bottle on the back bar is something we’re excited about… I wanted to create a more focused, ethically sourced bar program with fewer items that we know exactly where they are coming from, and go education forward.”

After hearing Max mention the word many times, I asked him what makes a mezcal ethical?

“Have you ever visited any producers?”

I shook my head, “not yet, but Pedro is taking me tomorrow.”

“That will be amazing, he will show you.”

An earthen vessel collects the mezcal dripping from a Filipino-style still.

I went to sleep then woke and met Pedro at La Trompada Caligari, a small cafe next to Pare de Sufrir. We drank coffee and ate tortas then got into a small van and drove south toward two towns, Canoas and Chancuellar. As he drove, Pedro explained that these towns are in “a region where there are a lot of producers, but very few stick to the traditional way of making mezcales.” Recalling my question to Max regarding ethics, I asked Pedro what makes a mezcal traditional?

“It’s basically the real ones, like the first ones that were produced in regions that had the tradition to make mezcales for several generations. They don’t use any kind of chemicals, like from when they are planted, they don’t use any agrochemicals, pesticides, herbicides or anything like that. They cut only the mature agaves when they’re ripe or capon, as they say. The agaves are cooked in an underground oven, then they crush the agave and ferment it naturally, without any accelerators, which a lot of brands now use. And they use just natural water, like spring water, well water, something like that. And then they are distilled in a very traditional way… And those mezcales are a cultural element in their communities, they are produced to satisfy cultural purposes like weddings, baptisms, funerals and religious ceremonies. And some of that production is sold, but it’s mostly made for the local people.

“The difference from traditional to artisanal or industrial mezcales is that artisanal or industrial mezcal is produced to satisfy an external market. So it can actually be done by a traditional producer but for commercial purposes. Traditional producers are known in the community because they make the best mezcales for that community, and both the community and the producer decide what type of flavours and aromas they like, what they call gusto historico. So it’s a thing that they are known for, and they know how to make that mezcal and how it should taste. They do it for themselves, and if people from other places don’t like it or don’t want to buy it, they don’t care, it’s just for their consumption. But now things have changed and they’re open to other markets, there is a need to preserve those traditional flavours and profiles, the way the producers have been making these mezcales in the old way.”

While listening to Pedro, I looked out of the window as we passed the many greenhouses that lined the highway. We then started to ascend, leaving the valley to climb the nearby mountains. The landscape passed by our windows as the greenhouses made way for agave plantations. Row after row of what looked like blue agave, the necessary ingredient in the production of tequila. I ask Pedro, “that’s blue agave, right?”

“It is. It really worries me. We’re in a moment of growth that is overwhelming all the fields in Mexico, and there’s a possibility that this will become a bigger ecocide than it has already been.”

“An ecocide? Because of agave?”

“Well, Carlos Lucio wrote about the four horsemen of the apocalypse: blue agave, avocado, berries and hortalizas.” Hortalizas are the many vegetables grown in the valley, particularly tomatoes. “And the increase in popularity of tequila and mezcal is creating massive plantations of agave, deforesting mountains, which changes the soils and plants, it’s crazy. You can see right now how the landscape is changing so fast, and this is happening because we’re only thinking about the land for commercial purposes and commercial value. We’re just thinking of the value of money instead of the other things that are at stake like biodiversity, and not only agave diversity, but different types of trees, different types of bushes, different types of cactus. There’s a whole desert forest, as they call it, between Puebla and Oaxaca, that has already been devastated, losing specimens that have been there for hundreds of years because they’re shaving the whole landscape to plant more agaves to make more mezcales, and it’s just like how far do we have to go?

“Like climate change is not a joke and for us to be contributing to that, like adding more danger and heating up more soil and making a lot of changes that actually doesn’t help the earth… There’s a lot of things to be worried about and what we’re trying to do with a whole network of Mezonte – because it’s never a single person, it’s always a lot of people working – is to at least protect the ones that are making it right, they’re doing it, taking care of the balance of the ecosystems. And they care about not only the plants but also the animals that live in those ecosystems. Because you’ll see, the lands that surround those of the traditional mezcaleros, they are filled with intensive plantations of agave, so there’s no trees left for squirrels and birds or bushes for different types of rabbits and deers. But in the properties of the traditional mezcaleros there are dozens of different species of animals, and in a kind of a beautiful way, they are taking refuge where the mezcaleros are. And though I say that it’s beautiful, if you go back to the reason why they are there, it’s not pretty, they’re being pushed away. And if these traditional mezcaleros don’t preserve these refugee islands, I mean I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The further into the mountains we drove, the more agave plantations appeared. It was like Pedro had described, monoculture farms, rows and rows of agave without the biodiversity that once inspired these plants to grow.  

“In the USA, which is the biggest market for agave spirits and particularly mezcal, there is now the trend of making and buying artisanal mezcal or traditional mezcal, so all of the new producers and new companies who are focused on that market, they have to reproduce this idea of artisanal mezcal. So what they do is to create the same scenario, oh you have to do it in a pit to make it artisanal, okay we will do 20 pits to make our mezcal, and for those 20 pits you’ll need probably 40 tonnes of wood, and for those 40 tonnes of wood you’ll have to cut a whole forest. So what’s the point? I mean it’s not helping at all, it’s just like wasting more wood and wasting more water, because you also need a lot of water to ferment and to distill… And then they are producing five to ten thousand litres per month, which is not artisanal mezcal. So there’s a lot of hazard in how to read these things, it has become a marketing tool instead of representing the real nature of an artisanal or traditional mezcal.”

Santos Juárez fills a cow horn with mezcal descending from a Filipino-style still during distillation. Behind him is the rugged Jalisco landscape.
Santos fills a horn with mezcal from a Filipino-style still.

Pedro turned down a dusty road and up a dusty driveway. He stopped the van, lifted the hand brake and turned off the engine, as I asked him “what makes the producers that you work with different from those marketing themselves as artisanal?”

“I’ve met some great producers of mezcal and some of them are even traditional producers, but their only goal is to make money, they don’t care about preserving certain things that are surrounding the making of mezcal, like the ecosystems, the biodiversity or diversity of agaves and other species that grow in the same place where the agaves grow. So we wanted to work with people that were really fond of the places where they grew, and where they learn how to have this balance of making mezcal and making other things from the soil, from the earth.”

He nodded towards the front of the van, towards a small open air structure ahead of us.

“You’ll see.”

We got out of the van and walked towards the structure where two men were standing next to two steaming tree trunks. I was told later that these are Filipino style of stills: a copper dish buried below a hollowed out parota tree, on top of which sits another copper dish filled with water. Inside the trunk, a wooden spoon made from a tescalama tree carries the liquid toward the trunk’s base, where a tube of agave leaves release a stream of distilled mezcal into a large earthen vessel waiting below. 

I was introduced to Santos and Ricardo Juárez, father and son. Pedro immediately asked how the distilling was going and Santos walked us over to one of the stills. He sat down on a stack of empty buckets and picked up two cow horns from the ground. Santos placed a horn under the stream to catch the mezcal, filling it to the brim, and then transferring the liquid into the horn in his left hand. Pedro leaned towards me, “he’s cooling it down”. We watched Santos: left to right, right to left, left to right, pouring mezcal between the horns before. He offered Pedro a horn filled to the brim. Pedro enjoyed a few sips of freshly distilled mezcal before passing it to me. I took a sip as Pedro explained Santos observes the strength of the mezcal through trying the “puntas”, the head or the beginning of each distillation. This was the “puntas” of the second distillation and Santos would continue distilling the mezcal, tasting throughout, until he decided the strength was appropriate and the flavour represented both his family’s methods and the community’s taste.

Santos Juárez sits on a rock in the afternoon sun.
Santos Juárez.

While we passed the horn between us, we watched Ricardo get into a bulldozer parked on a hill behind the stills. Santos explained they were excavating the land, looking for stone fermentation vats that a local woman believed had been buried by floods and landslides. Not knowing they were definitely there, Santos and Ricardo hired the necessary equipment to begin the resurrection process. Santos gestured for Pedro and I to follow him as we walked down the hill, passing Ricardo in the bulldozer. We climbed a small mound of earth and four stone wells became visible. Santos believes these fermentation vats are over 400 years old, he explained there could be another eight still buried.

We walked back to the stills and Santos asked Pedro if we had eaten lunch, he shook his head. Santos told us to drive to his house, so we got back into the van and Pedro drove along a dirt track to a bridge that crossed the Armería River. We ascended a hill on the other side as the landscape shifted from rocks and dust to a beautiful garden of trees and plants. We parked the van next to a chicken coop, opened a gate and entered the garden where we were met by Santos’ wife Ilda, who welcomed Pedro and I with open arms. “Are you here for lunch?” Pedro nodded and Ilda led us to a table on the house’s verandah, indicating for Pedro and I to sit. She served a jug of aqua jamaica, and when Santos eventually joined us, he placed a tall glass of mezcal beside it. Ilda then placed a stack of tortillas, salsa, salad and chicharron on the table and Santos began serving himself. Pedro and I followed. The meal was one of the best I have eaten in my many trips through Mexico.

Once we finished, Pedro walked to the van, returning with large plastic containers. “These are necessary for the bumpy road back to Guadalajara.” Santos brought out three 10 litre glass bottles filled with mezcal that Pedro transferred into the empty containers. “Once I am back in Guadalajara, at the warehouse, I will immediately transfer the mezcal into glass bottles that are waiting there.” This process took about half an hour, and when they finished, Pedro and Santos sat down at the table, each with a notepad to document the transaction. Pedro and I then carried the heavy containers of mezcal back to the van and followed Santos’ truck back to the stills where we said goodbye to him and Ricardo.

Pedro Jiménez Gurría transfers mezcal from a glass bottle to plastic containers using a funnel and a tube.
Pedro transferring mezcal.

We drove twenty minutes to Chancuellar. We parked in the town square — a church characteristically at its apex — across the road from a small shop. A man emanated from the shop’s door, waving at us. “There’s Tomás”. Pedro got out of the van, embraced Tomás and then introduced him to me. We then walked across the road, through the shop door, through to the back room and into the family’s kitchen. There, I was introduced to Tomás’s wife Guadalupe and his son Jesús, as we sat at the kitchen table.

Tomás is the son of Lorenzo Virgen, or Don Lencho, an 87 year old mezcalero that Pedro has been working with since first starting Pare de Sufrir. As Lorenzo ages, Tomás assumes more and more responsibility for the family’s land and the making of their mezcal, with support from his son’s Jesús and Rodrigo. Tomás, Jesús and I sat at the kitchen table, listening, as Pedro discussed the events of our day and explained why I was accompanying him, “Anton wants to tell a story about Mezonte. But Mezonte is just the story of the producers, our story is your story, it’s your father’s story, it’s your family’s story.” Tomás smiled at me, raised his eyebrows and then started laughing. “Of course you don’t need to share any stories if you don’t want to, but please share anything you feel to.” This sentence and its sentiment was not represented by my limited Spanish vocabulary, so I asked Pedro to translate. Tomás nodded and then asked, “do you want a mezcal?” I said “yes”, Pedro said “of course”. Tomás stood, took a bottle and three cups from a nearby shelf, and then filled the cups he had placed in front of Pedro, Jesús and I.

Tomás Virgen stands in the square of Chancuellar.
Tomás Virgen.

With my basic understanding of Spanish, I listened as Pedro and Tomás talk of Lorenzo, how he used to live and how he makes mezcal.

“I was so inspired by his way of working that to date we are doing the same… It feels the same to the ear, the eye, the smell. Not much has changed, but let’s say that we are industrialized because now we are producing more, much more… But other changes, no.”

Tomás has remained true to his father’s values despite the many changes to the community and industry that surround him.

“People are taking advantage of the fact that mezcal has gained a value that it did not have before. Before, if they distilled a mezcal, it was for us to drink, the community. And if you offered it for $100 it was an offense to sell it. In other words, nobody was going to buy it. Now people are seeing the opportunity that everything is a business. Now over there, there is a new mezcalero… Even though they have no idea what a mezcal is, they are already selling a mezcal with their brand. They are good at selling. In other words, they want money, they are no longer interested in how it is done, how it is supposed to be done. Where does that plant come from? How did it grow? They don’t care… You can bring them anything and they’ll think it’s a good mezcal…

“Everyone thinks they can do it, but can they? They think ‘yes yes just tell me how to do it and I’ll figure it out’, but behind that, there are things that even I myself don’t know. I mean saying I want to make a good mezcal and actually making a good mezcal are different things. These people will say that it is a good mezcal for fear of not being sure of what they are selling, that is, because they have never seen how good mezcal is made. They do not know what is behind a good mezcal. So then what they want is, I repeat, money…

“Each distillation for me is like having a child… And it is your child, you see it grow and it does not look like any other. And it will not be repeated in time or years, because I put 2019 on this bottle. When am I going to make a 19 again? I will never in my life make a 2020, 2021, 22, 23, 18, it goes by… And these are things that cannot be explained so easily, it is a feeling that, as I say, the days do not repeat themselves.”

As the conversation deepened, it focused on the changing landscape. Not the landscape of mezcal, but the landscape that creates mezcal.

The sun rises over Volcán de Colima, the Virgen family's land and the many agaves that call it home.
Volcán de Colima and the Virgen family’s land.

“My future are my lands. I don’t have many, I have five hectares. I want to see them with a lot of local mezcal.”

In this moment, when Tomás says mezcal, he is referring to the plant. When driving, Pedro had explained that in this region mezcal is the name of the plant; vino de mezcal, or sometimes just mezcal, is the name of the spirit; mezcal also means cooked agave; and mezonte is the heart of the cooked agave.

“This is what I want my sons to learn, I want them to see what I have, to keep my lands full of mezcal, and not tidy mezcal, I want it in random places. And over there, a different tree, local trees, and also animals like rabbits and quails, they can all live here, this is how I see my place.”

I sipped the remaining mezcal from my cup, appreciating how its complex flavour reflects a moment in time, like Tomás had explained, but how it also represents the biodiversity of his land.

“I have to do something different from what is being experienced around our land. It’s good to hope that this spreads, because you have to lead by example. Hopefully more people understand why it’s being done like this here… Because right now, the truth is, it is a very difficult time, things are getting very critical, there is climate change and there are elections and there are horrible politics, and there are wars and there is everything, like the outlook is pretty ugly. But how to redevelop oneself, to live one’s life?

“Here my world is very different, because I do not live in a city, I live in Chancuellar. Here we live at ease, not that we are calm, but we live without stress, we do what we like to do. I mean, I can’t change the world, I can’t change people, but I can do what I want and do it with pleasure. I don’t live in the city, I live here, this is my reality, it is very different from the people there, in the city, in a different world. It looks different every single year, it keeps changing by leaps, and they bring us new things that we don’t even know about. I mean yeah, it’s worrying, it is very worrying, but” 

Tomás noticed that we had all emptied our cups of mezcal.

“Please, help yourselves.”

He poured us all another cup. 

“Please, enjoy!”


Anton Rivette is a writer and photographer. He leads storytelling at eco-nnect.


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