FoodReference.com Logo

FoodReference.com   (Since 1999)
 

Food Articles, News & Features Section

   Home       Food Articles       Food Trivia       Today in Food History       Recipes       Cooking Tips       Food Videos       Food Quotes       Who's Who       Food Trivia Quizzes       Crosswords       Food Poems       Cookbooks       Food Posters       Culinary Schools       Gourmet Tours       Food Festivals & Shows  

 You are here > Home > Food Articles >

Alvin Starkman Articles >  Origin of Chango Mezcalero

 

CULINARY SCHOOLS &
COOKING CLASSES

From Amateur & Basic Cooking Classes to Professional Chef Training
Over 1,000 schools & classes listed for U.S., Online & Worldwide

 

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

 

 

Origin of Chango Mezcalero in Oaxaca Uncovered

Mezcal Monkey Bottle Gives Juventino Nieto Place Alongside Barro Negro’s Rosa Real

Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D. (Alvin’s archive)

The 1952/53 chance invention by Do├▒a Rosa Real of barro negro, or black pottery, will likely remain unchallenged ad infinitum in the annals the history of Mexican folk art.  However, the Zapotec native who hailed from Oaxaca’s San Bartolo Coyotepec may now have to share the spotlight with husband Don Juventino Nieto.  Compelling evidence has come to light suggesting that Don Juventino was the first individual to make and sell chango mezcalero, the unique and fanciful clay receptacle used to store, display and market mezcal, Oaxaca’s renowned spirit derived from the agave plant.
 

History of Chango Mezcalero in Oaxaca; Of Monkeys and Mezcal

The monkey has long been associated with drunkenness. And so it didn’t take a leap of faith for someone to combine monkeys with relatively high alcohol content mezcal, and thus bring together primate and spirit.

The story, significance and different representations of chango mezcalero, and the competing claims to being the originator of the mezcal bottle, have been documented in a previous article.  To briefly recap the controversy, two families in San Bartolo Coyotepec, descendants of the late Marcelo Sim├│n Gal├ín and of the late Juventino Nieto, have each claimed that their respective ancestors first created chango mezcalero.  And of course it’s been suggested that other artisans, whether in the same village just outside of Oaxaca, or in other regions or states in Mexico, may have been the founders of the art form.
 

Chango mold

Hunt for First Chango Mezcalero Molds in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca

A few months before his death in May, 2010, Don Valente, Don Juventino’s sole surviving child, indicated that he indeed still retained his father’s original chango mezcalero molds. But Don Valente’s unexpected death preceded his ability to look for them.  A year later one of his sons and daughters-in-law each individually promised to do his/her best to rummage through all the old boxes of their father and grandparents with a view to finding the clay mezcal bottle molds.  Don Juventino died in 1973, and Do├▒a Rosa in 1980, so a lot of dust had accumulated on presumably a mounting number of boxed keepsakes – including the chango mezcalero molds.
 

Chango Mezcalero Molds More Generally

There are numerous chango mezcalero molds in existence throughout Oaxaca and perhaps even in other Mexican states.  The true age of the clay mezcal bottles produced with them is difficult to ascertain.  It’s trite to note that in the world of antiques and collectibles, there are industries build around making and marketing a vast variety of products intended to appear vintage and well worn.  Chango mezcalero may be no different, although there does not appear any deliberate attempt to misrepresent (except of course perhaps via internet sales).

Don Valente himself made decorative chango mezcalero clay figures using one or more different molds.  But at least some of those of Don Valente had an open bottom and were therefore not functional for holding mezcal.  They were apparently never painted like many of the older utilitarian chango mezcaleros.  Most of the latter were painted on their backs with the words Recuerdo de Oaxaca (Souvenir of Oaxaca), and some were personalized on the front, to be given as gifts.  At least one plastic version of chango mezcalero exists.
 

Chango mold, face half

Discovery of Chango Mezcalero Molds Provisionally Resolves Art Form Mystery

Two molds have been uncovered, tucked away amongst boxes of coveted possessions of Do├▒a Rosa and Don Juventino.  One is dated July 12, 1938.  It’s in excellent condition, both sides fully intact. Without any doubt is was used to produce functional clay chango mezcalero bottles for holding mezcal, since an opening for a cork appears at the top of each side, and the bottoms fit tightly together.  While this suggests that the mold was intended for utilitarian purposes, of course it would also have had decorative value.

The second, a somewhat larger mold, is only of the face side of the monkey, the back having been lost or destroyed.  Its age appears the same as the smaller dated mold. However this mold is damaged, a sizeable piece of one of the monkey’s legs having been chipped off. In addition there is no opening at the top suggesting it may not have been used to make bottles for holding mezcal.  On the other hand, the missing back side may have very well contained a full opening at the top, suitable for corking the chango’s alcoholic contents.
 

The Chango Challenge Continues Amongst Collectors of Vintage Mexico and Aficionados of Mezcal

These finds go a long way to resolving two pressing questions relating to the origins of the chango mezcalero used in the marketing and sale of mezcal in Oaxaca; the identity and place of residence of the originator of chango mezcalero, and when the art form first appeared on the shelves of workshops, cantinas and residences.

But further versions of the history of chango mezcalero will likely continue to emerge, even in the face of unearthing additional evidencein support of the current theory, or opposing it. But until then, let’s lay chango mezcalero on its back to rest, and leave his spirit intact.

Alvin Starkman is an aficionado of both mezcal and pulque, and a collector of vintage objects and antiques. He takes visitors to Oaxaca to visit small rural mezcal “factories” and into the fields to harvest aguamiel.  Alvin has written over 250 articles about Oaxacan life and cultural traditions.  He and his wife Arlene operate Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ).
 

TOP 

RELATED ARTICLES

Alvin Starkman Articles        Chapulines in Oaxaca: Recipe & Primer        Certified Organic Produce in Oaxaca, Mexico        Rabbit Hunting in Oaxaca, Mexico        Oaxacan Chicken Estofado de Miltomate        Best Traditional Mole Verde        Modern Mole Verde        Toronto Duck Recipe        Black Mole from Oaxaca        Oaxaca Documentary Episode 1        Episode 2 - Oaxaca, Mexico        Dining and Indulging in Oaxaca        Mayonnaise in Mexico        Barbequed Goat        Mole Verde Con Espinazo        Mico-logica: Mushrooms in Oaxaca        Regional Wild Mushroom Fair        Mexico's Magical Mushroom Tour        Pilar Cabrera in Toronto        El Tigre Restaurant        Guadua Restaurant        El Mirador Restaurant        La Catrina De Alcala Restaurant        Caldo de Piedra Restaurant        Is it Safe to Travel to Mexico?        Cutting Edge of Mexican Cuisine        Local Molino Cooking Classes        Kid's Cooking Classes in Oaxaca        Sunday, a One-day Gastronomic Delight        Oaxaca Culinary Tour, page 1        Oaxaca Tour Daily Events        Oaxaca, Sunday & Monday        Casa de los Sabores        Enrique Flores: Oaxacan Artist        Pairing Mexican Craft Beer with Mezcal        Mezcal Producers & Sociedad de Mezcaleros        Oaxaca Tradition Trumps Innovation        La Muerte Mezcal in South Africa        ProMexico Promotes Mezcal        National Mezcal Festival        Mezcal Festival: Historical Context        14th Annual Mezcal Festival        Chango Mezcalero        Origin of Chango Mezcalero        In the Fields: Pulque        Pulque Production in Matatl├ín        Rural Oaxaca Mezcal Production        Mezcal: 5 Generations Of Palenqueros        Mezcal in Oaxaca

 

Home        About Us & Contact Us        Food Articles        Gardening        Marketplace        Food Links

 

Please feel free to link to any pages of FoodReference.com from your website.

For permission to use any of this content please E-mail: james@foodreference.com
All contents are copyright © 1990 - 2013 James T. Ehler and www.FoodReference.com unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved.
You may copy and use portions of this website for non-commercial, personal use only.
Any other use of these materials without prior written authorization is not very nice and violates the copyright.

Please take the time to request permission.
 

 

 

 

Order Free Food & Kitchen Catalogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

POPULAR PAGES

Beverage Articles
Food Facts & Trivia
Recipe Contests
Local Food Festivals
Recipe Category Index

 

 

Click here to buy posters at Allposters!
Click here to buy posters at Allposters!

 

 

FREE Food & Beverage Publications
An extensive selection of free magazines and other publications for qualified Food, Beverage & Hospitality professionals

 

 

Chef with red wine glass