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Un Viaje al Corazón de México

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Un Viaje al Corazón de México

BOOKS > HEAVEN, EARTH, TEQUILA

Un Viaje al Corazón de México

Throughout Mexico’s complicated, often violent history, one drink, an ancient sacrament and gift from the gods, has remained a constant in the culture: tequila. Blue Agave, the source of tequila, has been cultivated, fermented and enjoyed for over 9000 years. Over time many traditions and rituals were born, later incorporated into and modified by conquering cultures. It was in the 1500s that the Spaniards applied their brandy distillation technology to fermented agave juice to create what we call tequila.

The history of tequila and its role in Mexican culture is largely unknown to most Americans. After photographing in Mexico periodically over twenty years I thought I was excluded from this ignorance. Of course I was not. So I began the process of discovery that led me to realize that actually I knew very little about tequila, Mexican history or its culture. After six months I was able to locate one of the oldest distilleries in Mexico, where they still produced tequila using naked “tequileros” and methods handed down from pre-Columbian Indians, and was granted permission to photograph.

This was the start of a four year project with an initial focus on the manufacturing of tequila, specifically the rituals and traditions related to cultivating the fields, roasting and fermentation, and the ways tequila is incorporated into culture. The project eventually took on a broader coverage that included the region surrounding the town of Tequila and it (A town called Tequila!?) As my knowledge and understanding of the Mexican mestizo culture and history grew, I knew the work I created would never be definitive. Yet I believed I could absorb something of the richness, mystery and reality of rural Mexican life and express that in my images.

Mexico is a land where despite all the contradictions and struggles for political and economic justice, anything is possible.

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Heaven, Earth, Tequila simply won’t let you go. The images in this collection remain etched in the mind, in the heart. Menuez takes us to the pueblo of Tequila, Jalisco, where our national beverage was born of the earth. Tequila, our consecrated palliative we raise high to toast the bride and groom, or sip with salty tears in times of sorrow. As we turn each page we can smell the the tierra tapatía, we can hear the music of the mariachis who can summon tears or fill the heart with allegría…we can hear an old woman down on her knees talking to God, touch a weary laborer’s callous hand. In the courtyards of the old haciendas, we smell the air fringed with orange blossoms, savor the tequlia reposado. Each image lives, and by the time you reach the end you become aware that all your senses have been aroused. And you start again from Page 1. Menuez has assembled more than 70 black-and-white and color photographs con Corazon, con almo- ¡con sudor!
— Daniel Reveles, San Diego Union Tribune

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