The exhibition explores and celebrates the landscape, culture, and traditions that gave birth to tequila, Mexico’s mestizo national drink. This series of photographs by Joel Salcido includes the original distilleries that literally founded the industry, as well as several artisanal tequileras committed to the ancestral ways of tequila-making, from harvest to bottle.
Agave dates back to the Aztec civilization as an important crop in Mexico. Since the 1600s, the people of western Mexico have cultivated blue agave from the red volcanic soil that blankets the region, to make what we know as tequila. Photographer Joel Salcido traveled across the state of Jalisco capturing images of distilleries and artisanal tequileras, including blue agave fields at sunset, the agave’s pineapple-like centers (piñas), elegantly shadowed barrel rooms (añejos), and, of course, the agave farmers themselves. Salcido’s photographs, taken with a medium format camera—some in full-color, some in duotone— reveal not only the tequila making process but also the region’s traditions of culture and religion. Haunting and beautiful, a church spire is juxtaposed with a firework celebration in honor of the Virgen de Guadalupe. A Mexican charro rides through the streets of Arandas. Near Atotonilco, a horse pulls a traditional plow through the fields to irrigate. Exploring the rooms and techniques hidden in the distilleries of legendary tequilas Herradura, Sauza, Jose Cuervo, Don Julio, and others, Aliento a Tequila (The Spirit of Tequila) celebrates a craft that is rooted deep in the culture of Mexico.
The exhibition was curated by Roy L. Flukinger, Independent Curator Emeritus and Past Senior Curator of Photography of the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. The tour isorganized by ExhibitsUSA, part of Mid-America Arts Alliance.