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Mixiote Poachers

The word mixiote comes from the Nahuatl mexiote, meaning “maguey skin” and as its name suggests, it is the thin, delicate cuticle protecting leaves from moisture loss. When the leaves are tender, as they are at the center of the maguey, their membrane can be peeled off to make mixiotes filled with mutton, rabbit, pork and other meats.

This dish is pre-Hispanic in origin and undoubtedly one of the most representative examples of Mexican cuisine, available at both street markets and gourmet restaurants. However, buying and eating mixiote encourages a black market that has contributed to the abandonment of pulque agave fields in Mexico for decades.

Buying mixiote encourages the unsustainable exploitation of the agave. Mixiotes are illegally removed by poachers who, in a single night, can undo eight or ten years of a farmer’s work, because without them, the maguey declines and suffers a premature death.

Producers Portraits

Pulque Agave

Magueyes or agave plants are succulents with a host of uses, including the production of pulque and spirits such as tequila and mescal.

There are over 300 agave species, which are extremely beneficial to the ecosystems where they grow since they provide crucial environmental services: They prevent erosion and enrich the soil, retain moisture and infiltrate water into the subsoil. They are a major source of food for livestock, pollinators, fungi and microorganisms, and provide shelter for many species.

In some regions, these plants, characteristic of Mexico’s arid and semiarid areas, are grown to delimit fields or agricultural terraces to prevent erosion and landslides.

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