Manifesto from the Volcanoes of Colima in defense of the traditional mezcales of Mexico

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Manifesto from the Volcanoes of Colima in opposition to the proposed NOM-199 SCFI-2015 and in defense of the traditional mezcales of Mexico.


Agave distillates produced in Mexico, better known by the generic name of mezcal, are one of the key features of national and indigenous culture, and can be regionally identified with different names such as tequila, raicilla, bacanora, zihuaquio, tuxca, comiteco, tonaya, among countless others. Under the current paradigm, the historical origin of mezcal is traced to the early adaptation of distillation techniques brought by Europeans, as reflected in various historical records from the Novohispano Period.


However, some archaeological hypotheses suggest the possibility of Pre-Hispanic knowledge about distillation, which allowed the ancient Mesoamerican people to make a drink with high concentrations of alcohol, equivalent to what is now known as mezcal. All considered, both hypotheses try to highlight the historical and cultural significance that agave distillates represent in our country.


It is therefore surprising that the initiatives of the federal government of Mexico and the regulatory agencies continue to seek the imposition of rules and regulations that de-characterize the product and exclude traditional producers. Proposed laws (normas) such as the previously proposed NOM 186 and now NOM 199 would marginalize the already vulnerable traditional producers of ancestral mezcal. Legislation like NOM 199 threatens the transmission of cultural and ancestral practices involved in the production of these distinctly Mexican beverages. The problems generated by NOM 199 reinforces the need for distinct and inclusive protection of traditional mezcales and agave distilled spirits as the heritage of all peoples of Mexico.


Environmentally, the agave family has more than 200 species with Mexico as the center of their origin and diversification. While species are more abundant in states like Oaxaca and Jalisco, agaves are distributed in most of the country and has other states with biologically important species in unique ecosystems. The physical and geographic region with the highest abundance of species is the Eje Volcanico Transversal that crosses the country from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. This wide geographic distribution encompasses traditional mezcales in 26 states of Mexico, using more than 50 species of agave, of which 37 have wild origins and require little or no agricultural management. The volume of extraction of these wild agaves must not exceed its natural capacity to regenerate. Following solely economic incentives and market demand poses great risks for the biodiversity of traditional agave spirits.


Traditional mezcales are characterized by a wide range of aromas and flavors that distinguish them from any other spirit or agricultural product because they generate enormous natural and cultural wealth. Mezcales have unique organoleptic properties derived from the particular qualities of species, subspecies and varieties of agave, as well as production techniques. This geographic diversity of mezcal is maintained by the persistence of traditional producers who are now seriously threatened by the imposition of the name “KOMIL” in this legislation.


The traditional cooking, maceration, fermentation and distillation processes as well as the agricultural management techniques for agave fully reflect the biocultural diversity that necessitates regulation designed for conservation and not profit.


Now we face the new proposal of Norma Oficial Mexicana 199 (NOM 199) that intends to regulate, among other drinks, all agave distillates outside of the established Denominations of Origins granted to Tequila and Mezcal. This regulation forces the name “KOMIL” onto agave distillates not protected by the DO of Tequila and Mezcal. KOMIL is a term completely unknown and culturally irrelevant.


There is no connection anthropologically, biologically, historically, and above all socially, between the word “KOMIL” and agave distillates. This Nahuatl word meaning “intoxicating drink” or “alcoholic drink” could etymologically refer to eggnog or tequila.

This is more ambiguous than the previously drafted NOM 186, which was trying to label them “Spirits of Agavacea” to exclude traditional producers from using the word agave.


Forcing the use of KOMIL for agave distillates will cause the following problems:


  • Major confusion to all consumers, domestic and international, as no one is familiar with the term “KOMIL” and it would prevent them from identifying on the label that the product is a beverage derived from agave. This would be total misinformation and be seen as deception by the consumer.
  • It would prohibit the producers from labeling their products as being made from agave and prohibit them from naming their products under the terms they have used for hundreds (possibly thousands) of years, like “mezcal,” “tuxca,” “raicilla,” etc., stripping them of the central cultural element and threatening the reproduction of their customs and traditions, especially in the context of their delicacies.
  • It will cause greater disadvantage to domestically owned and small producers (especially traditional producers) by excluding them from a market of products produced with the same raw material.
  • It will ultimately place ownership of the word “agave” in the hands of multinational corporations and directly attack the integrity of Mexican cuisine that has become recognized worldwide and is inseparable from the cultural heritage of Mexico.


We demand consistent, detailed, inclusive and democratically arranged regulations grounded not only in economic terms, but in the academic, social and cultural. All agave distillates are distilled from agave. The term KOMIL is a farce and a distraction. We agree that agave distilled beverages need regulation, but the applicable regulations should hold in esteem the unique cultural heritage that belongs to all the people and communities who have derived them over time for cultural and spiritual reasons.


Firmado en la  Loma de Guadalupe


Zapotitlán de Vadillo, 9 de enero de 2015.



Miguel Ruelas Zepeda
Manuel Lugo Márquez
Alina Preciat Gutiérrez
María José Villalobos Suárez
Orlenda Martínez Pérez
Daniel Castro García
Nicolás Ramos Espinoza
Víctor Hugo Luna Gutiérrez
Perla de Jesús Anaya Solórzano
José Jeovany Solís Salazar
Claudia Montserrat Navarro Zúñiga
Alberto Calzada Cuevas
Juan José Sosa Hernández
Laura Georgina Navarro Núñez
Oscar René Robles Méndez
Carlos Franco Beyles
América Minerva Delgado Lemus
Paloma Rivera Uribe
Sandra Niñoderivera Torres
Carlos F. Lucio López
Carlos A. Barriga Chávez
Elsa Keinrad Ibargüengoitia
Jesús Juan Rosales Adame
Luciana Helguera Fregoso
Oscar Robles Méndez
Edgar Goitia Rodarte
Wenceslao Cervantes Hernández
Susana Hernández Aris
Valeria Jocelyn Hernández Hernández
Nalleli Gabriel Gómez Gutiérrez
Miriam Montserrat Hernández Torres
Pedro Jiménez Gurría
Rodrigo Chantaca González
Juan Ángel Vargas Ramos
Miguel Ángel Partida Rivera
Engracia Partida Rivera
Macario Partida Ramos
Margarita Rivera Murguía
Alfonso Arias Velasco
Jorge Antonio Dueñas Peña
Celina Guadalupe Murguía Tapia
Hugo Pérez Damián
Víctor Hugo Urbano Ortega
Alfredo Espinosa Valerio
Alejandra Mejía Gómez
Rosa Elia Vizcaino García
Orlando Estrada Serrato
Israel Zuñiga Espinoza
Ismael Farfán Estrada
Agustín Benitez Ochoa
Cecilia Caloca Michel
Oscar Manuel Valencia Pelayo
José Partida Rivera
Eduardo Vallejo García
Miguel Ángel León Govea
Adriana Jazmín Espíritu Villalpando
Jose Luis López Villalobos
Ana Lilia Guzmán
Martha Sánchez Vilchis
Itzel Sosa
Jorge Herrejón Villicaña


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