The Pioneers



The spanish captain, Cristóbal de Oñate, an officer of Nuno de Guzmán and one of the conquerors of the Mexican west, -then called New Galicia- founded the village of Tequila on the 12th of April of 1530. Oñate also founded the city of Guadalajara.

When did the Spanish and native ways mixed to give birth to tequila? How did the Spaniard, longing for distilled spirits in a land with no vineyards and the indian, who knew the proccess to ferment the mezcal, meet finally to trade secrets?

It is impossible to know, but there is a good chance that it happened between the years of 1550 and 1560, when the region achieved a certain peace. It is known that until then, the inhabitants of the mountains and valleys of Jalisco kept resisting the Spaniards, who came close to wiping them out.

There is a clear reference to mezcal wine in historical documents from the year 1616, but it doesn't mention Tequila. It is possible that the encounter between the indian and the Spaniard didn't occur precisely in Tequila village, but it had to be somewhere near there, either on the skirts of the volcano, on the valley of Amatitán, or on the high lands near Tepatitlán, where the blue agave grew. The historian Muriámentions in his studies that the harvesting of blue zapupe was quite spread in 1621.

The growth rate of the first distilleries must have been slow at first. The spaniards and creoles (Spaniards born in New Spain) drank mostly wine and its derivatives, imported from Spain with other spirits, and even local wine, made from grapevines brought to New Spain in the 17th century. Indians on the other hand drank pulque or fermented drinks made of corn, as was their ancestral custom.

By then, there were also many sugar-cane plantations in Mexico, and surely both the Europeans and their sons favoured rum and other cane liquors over Agave distilled derivatives.

Where was mezcal wine or tequila first distilled? Some say it was in Amatitán, some that it was in Arenal. Unfortunately there are no documented sources for either version. What is known for a fact is that a wealthy landowner from the region of Tequila, don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, marquis of Altamira, was the first to compile the different traditional techniques to plan an industry with a better production proccess. He was also the first to plant agave exclusively to make mezcal wine. There was enough water for such an industry in Tequila, but not in Amatitán.

The first distillery built in Tequila by Sánchez de Tagle was working in the first quarter of the 18th century. By 1750 a man named Nicolás Rojas had founded his own distillery in Tequila, the one called La Rojeña to this date.

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