Mezcal de Jaguar

The village of San Luis del Río Oaxaca had been terrorized for months by the presence of a wild, man-eating beast. The men who worked the fields surrounding the small valley of San Luis del Río left their homes each morning in fear of being attacked while they tended their crops and cared for the agaves. Children were no longer allowed to wander the river’s edge or collect water on their own and their mothers hurried them along, always wearily watching their backs. This animal had long past abandoned its taste for livestock in favor of human flesh.

After the last attack -that cost one of the young men his life-, the victim’s brother valiantly offered to put an end to the jaguar’s killing spree. With the village’s blessing, he set out one early morning with an old rifle to hunt the beast. He walked for hours through the hillsides, until he arrived at the place where they had found his brother’s mangled body only a week before.

He stopped to rest and found a pile of rocks that could provide decent cover and scanned the horizon, with the wind at his back spreading his scent up towards the sierra. He had found his hunting spot, so he took his coat and pants off and hung them on top of a tall nopal… then, bare assed he snuck back and hid behind a mount of rocks… maybe 100 yards away from were his clothes were.

There, under the blazing sun he waited for an hour or so, tightly clenching his grandfather’s carbine rifle in his hands. Surely enough, as the sun began to set, the jaguar slowly approached the heavily scented pile of clothing.

The man paused, centering the jaguar in his sights. He took a deep breath and as he exhaled the sound of thunder crackled through the mountain range…

He returned to the village, now fully clothed and as he walked down the hill the fires began to be lit under the burnt clay pots. The scent of cooked agave and the sound of laughter quickly filled the air as the men set out to the sierra to fetch el jaguar.

The tale tells that when they returned with the big cat’s corpse a massive frenzy began and they quartered and cooked the jaguar as music played through the village. Part of the meat –they say- was put into one of the clay pots as it distilled mezcal and the entire town later drank from that batch, celebrating the death of the man-eating jaguar and the dawn of a new time of peace and good harvests, toasting (of course) with mezcal de jaguar.

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