Aguascalientes: A Culinary Journey Through Time & Spice

Discover the rich history and diverse cuisine of Aguascalientes, Mexico. A small but important state known for its exceptional food, the cuisine of Aguascalientes is influenced by pre-Hispanic, Spanish, and Mexican cultures. Explore the roots and taste the magic of this region's food.

Aguascalientes: A Culinary Journey Through Time & Spice
Aguascalientes: A Small State in Mexico with the Magic of Its Cuisine. Photo by Rebecca Orlov | Epic Playdate / Unsplash

It is well known that Mexico occupies a very important place among the best cuisines in the world, and the state of Aguascalientes, one of the smallest states in the country, territorially speaking, contributes to this honor, with the magic of its cuisine. Every region of the world keeps its secrets and worships its food, and Aguascalientes would be no exception.

Aguascalientes is a region of great and deep-rooted roots, therefore Aguascalientes knows how to eat. In pre-Hispanic times, the territory now occupied by the state of Aguascalientes was inhabited by the Chichimeca peoples who based their livelihood on plant gathering and hunting.

The Spaniards arrived and the encounter was not exactly friendly. When the region was incorporated into Nueva Galicia ("New Galicia") and the so-called "Silver Route" was created, a protective fence had to be created to buffer the attacks they constantly received from the Chichimec groups.

It is said that when the maps were made to determine the dimensions of Nueva Galicia, a large blank space was left in the place that today is the state of Aguascalientes to write: "terra ignota e de indios feraces" (unknown land and fertile indigenous people).

However, the protective fence for the silver route was Aguascalientes, which was founded when in 1565 permission was obtained to inhabit the area. Ten years later, on October 22, 1575, Jerónimo de Orozco, governor of the kingdom of Nueva Galicia, issued the certificate establishing the Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de las Aguas Calientes.

Unfortunately, the installation of the villa increased the attacks of the Chichimecas, to the extent that in a few years, the Spanish population almost disappeared. The survivors decided to bring indigenous people from Tlaxcala to work the land and thus, in 1604 "El Pueblito" was born, today San Marcos neighborhood.

Fruit trees began to be planted, the same ones that today are considered native: pomegranates, quinces, figs, mulberries, peaches, olives, pears, pears, grapevines, and, in the area now occupied by the municipality of Calvillo, oranges, lemons, bananas, sugar cane and guava, which are fruits of warm climate. Later, corn, beans, and wheat are planted and the large populations of maguey and nopal trees of different varieties that already existed naturally in the region are cared for.

The plantations of vines, olive trees, and mulberry trees reached production and quality peaks that threatened the affordability of the great wine, olive oil, and silk producers of the capital. They pressured the king to have the vines, olive, and mulberry trees, whose leaves fed the silkworms, cut down in this area.

With the arrival of more Spaniards, architectural work began and with this, commerce became the most important activity of the town. The few remaining Chichimecas were gradually incorporated into the growing activities. Roads were opened to communicate with other places and on these roads, a great number of inns were built to serve travelers. In these places, bread and broth to eat and wine to quench thirst were offered, as well as tortillas and pulque or nacatamales and atole de masa.

There was no beef and consumption turned to poultry and pork, mutton, and rabbit, all the growth of 212 years was diluted when in 1787 the Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de las Aguas Calientes became part of Zacatecas; tributes had to be paid and the economy declined. Later, during the independence movement, the people helped with their economic resources until they were almost exhausted. There was hunger and it was necessary to find a way to mitigate it.

Years later, during the three years of Maximilian of Habsburg's empire, the economically upper class of Aguascalientes succumbed to the imperialist influence and began to adopt the culinary concept of fruit sauces, poached vegetables, and fine pastries, an influence that continues to this day, but now with the masterful touch of Mexican cuisine.

The revolutionary movement arrived and with it hunger again, but, as it is proven that "nobody dies of hunger", Mexican ingenuity arises and any pot is good to fry a pig and the famous carnitas appear, and as in any hole, maguey stalks are placed to cook a goat or a lamb, one of the most representative dishes of the state of Aguascalientes; the birria appears.

Around 1920 the custom of "going out to dinner" arose in Aguascalientes and the "cenadurías" was born, a concept is known for many years only in Aguascalientes, and as it is well known that "here was the land of the chile bravo" this was, and still is today, one of the main ingredients of the cuisine of Aguascalientes.

From what we have seen, the cuisine of Aguascalientes is born of nopal and maguey, sweet fruits and chili, and of chicken, pork and lamb, wheat, and also, like all Mexican cuisine, beans and corn, so the reader should not be surprised that a large percentage from the great variety of the cuisine of Aguascalientes is based mainly on these ingredients.

Traditional dishes of Aguascalientes cuisine

In Aguascalientes, you will find everything from corn soup, Aguascalientes style empanadas, guava salad, country style chiles, grape salad, succulent quail, red enchiladas "Garden of San Marcos" style or the exquisite enchiladas de natas (cream enchiladas).

For breakfast, you can enjoy a classic "Mole Aguascalientes" or a "Mole de Pobre" (poor man's mole), which is not poor at all. We cannot fail to mention the classic "birria Aguascalientes", the delicious "pan de nata" (a type of bread), or the reminiscence of the Chichimeca culture: the colonche.

Source: General Directorate of Popular Cultures, National Council for Culture and the Arts, El placer de la comida aguascalentense by María de Jesús González Cruz.