Pulque, one of the oldest drinks in Mexico and with a thousand-year-old tradition, has been throughout its history a delicacy only for the privileged. Therefore, the woman was the main relegated with the so-called “elixir of the gods”; but now with the arrival of the 21st century, they have made their way in many sectors, including the tasting of the drink, in addition to the production and distribution of this artisan product.

This drink that is extracted from the maguey plant, has its origins in the Mexica or Aztec empire, originally it could only be drunk by the emperor himself, high priests and people of high rank, but other people could enjoy it in special celebrations with certain restrictions, since it was forbidden to get drunk on pain of being punished even with death.

During the Colonial and Independent times, the consumption of pulque spread and became the most consumed drink together with tequila or mezcal, due to its low alcohol level and its high nutritional value, it was customary in some towns that people drank pulque instead of water and even children were given it to grow strong.

However, after the Revolution, the restrictions for the consumption of pulque returned once again, since the drink was reserved almost exclusively for men: in the pulquerías or outlets, where the spirit drink was served, women were prohibited from entering .

This custom lasted until the 20th century and outside the pulquerías a legend could still be read on the doors of the outlets where “women, uniformed men and minors” were prohibited from entering. Failing that, the pulquerías had an “annex” or a window, where women were sold without entering the bar.

After the arrival of the 21st century, customs changed and among them regarding alcohol consumption among different social groups. Now the pulquerías stopped being those dirty places with sawdust on the floor where bricklayers or workers usually met, and they became businesses where anyone is allowed to enter and also eat and listen to music.

The key to why women visit pulquerías today is that the sale of the famous “curados” has become popular, which is pulque prepared with fruits and other flavorings, which gives a special touch to the spirit drink.

On the shelves of the new pulquerías, the colorful glass jars with green, pink, purple, white, yellow or orange cures stand out; containing the different flavors of fruits.

According to those in charge of some traditional pulquerías in Mexico City, such as “La Risa”, “El Museo del Pulque” or “La Canica”, the type of customers who come to pulquerías has changed a lot, since in the past it was a place where Mostly older adults or construction workers attended, but now the new generations have taken a liking to pulque and the businesses are usually full of young people, especially women who have adopted pulquerías as a center of entertainment.

Those in charge of the pulquerías point out that, currently, 70% of their clients are women and the atmosphere is different, since there are almost no problems with drunken patrons or fights, since the atmosphere has become familiar.

Some of the clients point out that sweet cured foods are usually their favorites, such as oatmeal, marzipan, strawberries with cream or red wine.

Not only in the consumption of pulque is that women are already protagonists, but also in the industry of production, distillation and distribution of the drink is that little by little they have managed to make their way.

In what used to be a purely male business, some women have become important owners of pulque-producing ranches that distribute their product in Puebla, the State of Mexico or Mexico City itself.

In the town of Nanacamilpa, in the state of Tlaxcala, two enterprising women have established themselves in this pulque industry by leading their maguey and pulque-producing ranches.

Magdalena Taboada Sánchez, a businesswoman from Rancho de La Soledad, has managed to make her way in the pulque industry. Administrator of a family business that has been going on for more than 50 years, Mrs. Taboada, in addition to planting and cultivating maguey, is also dedicated to the production of mead, which is the base of pulque.

Currently, the Rancho de La Soledad is dedicated to the rescue of the maguey that was abandoned for more than 25 years and now with its large-scale planting in open-air nurseries, a good production of pulque is guaranteed.

Magdalena mentions that to obtain the raw material for pulque it is necessary to scrape the heart of the maguey from which the sap of the plant known as mead is extracted, which is a sweet liquid that becomes pulque when fermented.

Currently, the Rancho de La Soledad produces around 150 liters of mead per day; However, in its golden age in the eighties, 20 to 40 barrels of pulque were sold, each holding 250 liters, which represented about 10,000 liters of the elixir of the gods.

Doña Magdalena remembers that in her childhood, supported by her parents, she began to work in the fields planting maguey and learned how the pulque produced on the ranch was processed, so she naturally learned to manage the beverage production.

The task was not easy in a macho world, but based on work and with the support of his family, he managed to revive Rancho de La Soledad, which continues to grow in sales today. In addition to being a businesswoman, she is an experienced pulque taster, so she knows when a drink is of quality because, as she says, “it has to do with color, viscosity, aroma, and flavor.”

Doña Magdalena also wants to break the myth that has been around pulque for years, since it was said that to accelerate fermentation, a cloth bag with human excrement was placed in the vats where it rested.

She categorically denied this version and said that this was invented by the beer companies that were beginning to grow in Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century and created that myth to discredit their competitor.

Mrs. Taboada pointed out that this is not possible, since pulque is a very sensitive drink and it is very easy to spoil, so the person who is in the tinacal where the fermentation vats are must have their hands clean, not even soap is allowed, because the grease or perfumes affect the drink and so that the workers can work they wash their hands with lime.

According to Doña Magdalena, the rise in pulque sales among the new generations is primarily due to the fact that it is an organic drink that does not have any industrial or chemical process, which makes it very healthy. In addition, pulque is attributed nutritional and even aphrodisiac values, since it is said that in men it helps his virility and in women it favors fertility to have children.

Doña Magdalena is proud to dedicate herself to this trade, because first and foremost she represents her Mexican roots and above all her family. She says that she is grateful to the maguey plant, because it gives her food, drink and clothing; not to mention the pleasure of sharing the delights of pulque. In addition, the plant prevents field erosion and helps prevent climate change.

Evangelina Márquez Aguilar, a woman who manages and works in the Rancho El Tlapehue tinacal, in the community of Nanacamilpa, Tlaxcala, does not ignore the difficulties of making pulque.

The 55-year-old woman, who has dedicated a large part of her life to the planting of maguey and the production of pulque, points out that this industry is noble; however, it represents many problems and sacrifices.

Evangelina said that she started in the pulque business out of necessity when she became a widow and with children from a very young age and as the years went by she grew fond of it. She had to fully immerse herself in a purely male business and at first it was difficult, as many pulqueros distrusted the lady’s knowledge and experience regarding drink. She estimates that it took her five or six years to gain the trust of the pulque workers.

“Before, I was looking for someone to distribute mead to start making pulque, but people didn’t believe that a woman could run the business and they even feared that they would not pay them if they didn’t like it.”

“It took me a lot of work, the tlaquicheros (maguey scrapers) let me down and little by little when they realized that it didn’t look bad on them and I was paying them week by week, and they already began to know and sell me,” he said Evangelina.

In addition, the lady tells that she had to break some myths regarding women.

“Previously they said that a woman could not enter a tinacal because the myth said that the pulque was cut. That, if the woman went on her menstruation days, it caused her pulque to spoil ”.

Currently, the lady produces about 2,500 liters of pulque per week in her tinacal, which she distributes mainly in Cholula and Puebla.

Although maguey fermentation is a relatively quick process that is completed in a few hours, obtaining pulque takes a long, long time, starting with scraping the maguey plant.

However, for a plant to be ready for scraping and mead extraction, it must be about 10 years old, and once the “heart” of the plant is opened to extract its sap, the life of the plant is limited to three to six months before dying.

Among the enemies of the maguey that threaten the production of mead are natural elements such as heavy rains that affect the purity of the sap and also some insects, such as the pinacates that devour the roots sometimes until they kill the plant, for which reason they must be to be watching the planted magueyes that sometimes reach thousands in hectares of cultivated land.

One more problem that affects the production of mead is the acts of banditry by some cooks, such as barbecue vendors or mixiotes, who steal the leaves of the maguey to prepare the food they sell: once the plant, which for 10 years has been been cared for, it dies.

Despite the adversities, Mrs. Evangelina sees the production of pulque as a prosperous business as long as the planting and care of the plants continues. In addition, the sales that began to grow since the year 2000, mean that the industry already has a promising future.

Meanwhile, in large cities like Mexico City, pulque continues to make its way among young people and that is why this drink is becoming more popular every day.

Now the pulquerías are beginning to multiply and new businesses are opening every day in exclusive commercial areas and since it is considered an artisanal product, pulque is also quoted, as the product curiously begins to generate status among the millennial generations.

Let’s say cheers in honor of pulque.