Education For All People –  Education and Artisanal Mezcal Production in Oaxaca, Mexico
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Education For All People – Education and Artisanal Mezcal Production in Oaxaca, Mexico

Education For All People – Education and Artisanal Mezcal Production in Oaxaca, Mexico

A feature of the growth of the global wine industry for some decades is slowly creeping into the artisanal production of mezcal in the state of Oaxaca, southern Mexico. In other words, small-scale producers use their new disposable income to educate their children, in order to increase production in a sustainable way while improving sales by exploiting new markets.

Oaxaca is where most of Mexico's mezcal, alcohol-based high-alcohol agave, is distilled. In the early years of this decade, the state began to see a dramatic increase in mezcal sales, both in the domestic and export market to the United States and further afield to the United States. 39; abroad. Tourism Mezcal was born. The visitors began to go on pilgrimage to the state capital and the central valley producing regions, to learn about artisanal production, taste and buy for domestic consumption, to educate them and their staff in view to attract sales in bars and mezcalerías, and consider a business plan for export to the foreign and non-Oaxaca Mexican markets.

Lidia Hernández and Baneza García are representative of this new trend in the production of mezcal from Oaxaca, not because they are young (in their early twenties), but because of the fact that they are young. ;education. In both cases, their parents, who were fully involved in the home-made family distillation of previous generations, did not progress beyond primary school. Ms. Hernández recently completed her law degree at the public university and Ms. García is in third year of industrial engineering at a private college. Both, however, work in the mezcal trade and use their education to enhance the economic well-being of their respective families, and to preserve and improve the industry. And of course, as is typical in all the families that produce artisanal mezcal, both have started to learn to mind from a very young age, literally by taking their first steps.

The boom of the industry 's explosive growth occurred in the mid – 1990s with the introduction of the brilliant marketing "single mezcal village" of Mezcal de Maguey, followed by the following year. other brands (Pierde Almas, Alipus, Vago). ). Virtually all artisanal producers have begun to experience a dramatic increase in sales. Initially, the wealth found meant the opportunity to buy toys such as flat-screen TVs, new vans and the latest computer technologies. But a curious phenomenon began to appear in families, not only those who had easy access to the export market, but those in which domestic sales had begun to skyrocket. More and more families have begun to perceive the value of higher education, creating opportunities for both their children and their own advancement. Therefore, they must divert funds in this new direction.

To better understand the role that these two women have already begun to play in the mezcal trade, it is necessary to go back several years to the industrial changes that began to affect the Hernández and García families, and of course a great deal. other. But before doing so, we should note that lawyers not only learn the law, and industrial engineers not only learn how to design buildings and factories. Higher education affects our thinking more broadly, how we deal with information, our spatial perception of the world, and how to deal with change and change. l & # 39; adaptation. But the educational strategies that these women have learned are still rooted in their particular disciplines. And while the palenqueros with a lack of formal education do not need to understand the intricacies, the subtleties and the total impact of the above, at least today in Oaxaca they l & # 39; get; that is, the broad but not fully digestible positive implications for the family to support the higher education of their offspring.

If we accept that it takes on average eight years to mature an Agave Haw angustifolia (espadin, the most common type of agave used to make mezcal) to the point where it is best harvested for to be transformed into mezcal, and that it is only around 2012 that producers, farmers and brand owners have begun to seriously become aware of the "agave shortage" (most likely of the "agave"). dramatic increase in the price of succulent), so we are still a few years from being inundated with an abundance of subspecies of agaves ready to be harvested, cooked, fermented and distilled. The phenomenon was created by the two companies in the state of Jalisco by sending semi-trailers to Oaxaca to buy the espadín fields and the mezcal boom. The latter solved in many palenqueros of modest means suddenly undergoing a dramatic increase in sales and corresponding additional incomes for the family, although now having to pay much more for the raw material.

Communities struggle against above- and below-ground waterways that are chemically altered by distillation practices and sewage, with wild agave being forever struck by landscapes and many aspects of durability. At the same time, regulatory constraints abound; from the discussions with the palenqueros and other actors of the industry, it is clear that the Consejo Regulador del Mezcal accelerates the pressure by "encouraging" the palenqueros to become certified. who do not complain by making it harder for them to make a living selling the distillate. The move was led by those who believe that the spirit of non-certified agave should not be called "mezcal" nor sold and certainly not exported as such. It is, of course, trivial to suggest that there are tax implications.

Lidia Hernández's parents are in their early fifties. They have three children from Lidia, and all help in the family business; Valente, 30, lived in the United States for a few years and then returned home at the request of his mother. He is now a full-time palenquero. Bety, 27, is a nurse who helps Mezcal on her day off. , and Nayeli, 16, is in high school in an education system known as COBAO, a hybrid between public and private which many bright students in rural communities have access to. While Lidia writes her law thesis, she works full time at the Palenque family of Santiago Matatlán. After completing her dissertation, she intends to continue with mezcal until she believes her expertise is no longer needed on an ongoing basis. Even then, she will use her skills to advance the economic lot of the family.

Lidia attended public school. Initially, she was interested in history and anthropology, because Oaxaca did not offer this program at the university level, she opted for law. "I wanted to help people, to defend them because the regular Oaxacians are not really good problem solvers, at least when it comes to dealing with the law, the police, family problems, the plans of Business, etc. At the age of eight, she had learned and participated in all stages of mezcal production. From the beginning, she realized that she could help develop the family business, using her new skills to help navigate the rules and regulations in a changing mezcal industry. Beyond the past year, she was:

• Helping her parents and her brother to complete the formalities required to become a CRM certified palenque
• Responsible for finding an attractive brand for the company. 39; spirit family distilled for generations and works with a graphic designer on labeling and bottle style
• Evaluate market trends in ABV and desirable nuances in species and subspecies of 39 agaves
• Learn about taxation, transportation and export, and preconditions to bottling concessions
• Determine the best ways to invest family funds in order to grow the company while exploring government assistance programs.

Lidia summarizes the problem:

"Of course, once everything is in order and the family business is certified and operates more efficiently and productively, and profitability is where we are. think, I will work as a lawyer, sometimes for the government, but I will always be there for my family and I will constantly strive to produce high quality currencies at prices dictated by the market. "

The mother of Baneza García, 43 years old. His father died of alcohol-related illnesses three years ago at the age of 40. The family has six children aged 9 to 25 years old. The youngest two attend primary and secondary school. COBAO. The senior has completed junior high school and is now working in the area of ​​family logo design. Baneza and a younger brother attend a private university just outside the city, both studying industrial engineering. Baneza is in third year of a five year program. She and her brother rent an apartment near the school, but go home to San Pablo Güilá on weekends and for holidays. The extended family contributes to the mezcal business that was started in 1914 by Baneza's great-grandfather. The family includes his aunt and uncle who are gradually assuming more responsibilities, but who are still learning from Baneza's grandfather, Don Lencho.

The palenque of the García family was certified a few years ago, when the occasion came to sell mezcal which now reaches, from all places, China. More recently, Baneza and his family have worked with another brand owner to produce mezcal, which they are about to bottle and ship to the United States.

The Hernández and García families are in very different circumstances. There is however a common thread in the education of Lidia and Baneza; use the skills and opportunities to advance their respective family businesses.

Baneza is interested both in improving the efficiency of the mezcal production of his family and in reducing the negative environmental impact of traditional practices. Regarding the first, although her family still resists the idea, she is interested in the issue of replacing the power currently used to crush the mild cooked agave, with a motor on a track directly above the tahona, similar to that used in other types of Mexican production of agave distillates. The heavy limestone wheel and the shallow stone / cement pit would thus remain without altering the flavor profiles, which is often the case when for example metal blades are used in a suitable wood chipper or on a conveyor belt.

With regard to the impact on the environment, Baneza is working on ideas to otherwise transform waste such as discarded agave leaves and the spatial fiber produced at the end of the distillation , in conveniences of utility. Both materials have traditionally found secondary and tertiary uses (ie, bagazo, used as compost, as mulch, as the main ingredient in the manufacture of adobe bricks, to make paper and as a substrate for the commercial production of mushrooms); but the limits of ingenuity are endless, especially during a five-year program in industrial engineering. The family has already adopted Baneza's suggestion for water recirculation in the distillation process, rather than the more expensive and typical practice (at least when the water was not so scarce) to simply reject it.

The application of Baneza's courses in Industrial Psychology will have a long-term effect on how his family views his place in Oaxaca society:

"It's all about convince my family, through discussion illustration and opportunity for trial and error, that there are many ways to improve the production that will lead to an easier and more fulfilling life for me and my loved ones, who will better support our industry.

Lidia Hernández and Baneza García are not alone. They are a representative of a lot of leader trend. Young men and women who are children of palenqueros without higher education, illustrate the change in the mezcal Oaxaca cottage industry. I've spoken with students and graduates in business administration, tourism, linguistics, among other university programs, and their stories are similar: helping mezcal family craft businesses in Oaxaca. Then, on the road engage in an independent career while maintaining an integral connection with the spirit distillation of the family.

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