To speak of agaves or magueys is to speak of wonderful things

22/03/2021

"The tree of wonders is the maguey of which the new ones... usually write miracles that it gives water and wine, and oil and vinegar, and honey, and syrup and thread, and needle and a hundred other things". José de Acosta in Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias. The agaves or magueys belong to the botanical family of the Asparagaceae, although some authors place them in the Agavaceae family. The stem is very short and thick, not visible to the naked eye because the leaves cover it completely.

Its leaves grow in a triangular shape, very long, with a thorn at the tip and teeth on the edges; water and useful nutrients are stored in them during the dry season, and they contain a lot of fiber to prevent them from wilting and losing their rigidity when their water content decreases. Magueys, of which our country has 159 of its 210 species, most of them endemic, maintain complex biological and ecological relationships among themselves and with other plant and animal species, providing multiple environmental services, such as maintaining soil and populations of important pollinators such as bats.

This nature of agave has been the basis on which native human groups in Mexico have built a deep ancestral interrelationship with these plants, whether for their use as human food, fermented beverages, distilled beverages, fiber, and fodder. In addition, agaves can produce many other human satisfiers such as honey, fiber, fuels, fodder, construction materials, and medicinal products, of current and potential use.

Therefore, guaranteeing the survival of all the great diversity of magueys we have is also a way to preserve our culture and continue promoting the development of an important agro-industry in our country based on the maguey. The cultivation of maguey was so important for many peoples, especially in the center and north of the country, that perhaps only corn surpassed them in economic, social, and even spiritual relevance, which shows its indisputable value.

By Mexicanist