One part of Mexico that is different from the other republic is the Yucatan peninsula. Besides being isolated from the rest of the country, the Caribbean tip is inhabited by another culture, with another language and other customs. In fact, due to films and misinterpretations, many of us do not know how to distinguish between the Mayan culture and that of the Aztecs. Today we will discover the Mayan world and the gastronomy of Yucatan.
Who is who?
First, we are going to look at some of the most important differences between Mayans and Aztecs. The first and probably the most striking are the age in which each culture reigned and the location of its development. While in Yucatán, Campeche, Tabasco, Quintana Roo and the eastern part of Chiapas the Mayans reigned, the Aztecs occupied the area that extends from the Gulf to the center of the country. And if that data is not enough to make the separation, the Mayan civilization was in full swing between 750 BC and 850 AD that covers part of its Pre-Classic period, reaching until the Classic, while the Aztecs reigned between 1325 and 1521 AD. , becoming important with the arrival of the Spanish and their conquest by this European civilization.
Of course, after the Classic period of the Mayan empire, there were still towns that were occupied by people of this culture but without the power they previously possessed. In fact, the last Mayan city was conquered by the Spanish in 1697, about a hundred years after the conquest of the Aztecs by the Iberian Empire.
To date, the indigenous Mayan people continue to preserve their language to a large extent. According to data from the 12th general census of INEGI, Mayan languages are spoken by 800,291 people in Mexican territory. This figure places the Mayan language as the second most widely spoken indigenous language, after Nahuatl.
This data is very important if you think that we are talking about a civilization of about 3000 years. A long history that the Mayan people have preserved in their daily lives. One of the most important parts of the day-to-day life of the Mayans as of any other culture is food and drink, but what this Mesoamerican culture inherited is truly impressive!
Not for nothing are the Mayans known as the "men of corn." This grain has been and currently is their food base. With it, tortillas, tamales and atoles are prepared as in other regions of Mexico, although many times, in a different way. However, the arrival of the Spanish and the consequent miscegenation of food, has given Yucatán some curious and delicious mixtures. The introduction of pork and sugar added another flavor to food, sweets and drinks. In the peninsula, there was a transformation in gastronomy and it is worth getting to know it through its history and stages.
Some of the pre-Hispanic foods that are still used are:
•bu'uli wah, a tamale made of tender beans (xpelon-uah) mixed with the tamale dough.
•chuli bu'ul, dry or tender broth beans that can be made thicker by adding a corn husk (tam) served in a bowl (lac) with roasted seed powder (zicil), accompanied with new atole of young corn (iz-ul) and taken with chacbi-nal or boiled corn.
•Pok chuc bak ' which is charcoal-grilled meat.
•Pol can or snake head.
•salbut ' which means "freshly stuffed" and it is made by tortending two tortillas in banana leaves (tortillas were torte in other leaves since the Mayans did not know the banana), one of the tortillas is put a mince or a brain paste of bovino (beef, mostly in our times) with a dressing of epazote leaves and covered with the other tortilla.
Afterwards, the edges of the mace of the two tortillas are punctured so that they join and it is put in a pan with boiling fat to fry it. Once fried, the lid is broken and a chiltomate sauce , break a piece of "chicharra" or pork rinds and fold the salbut ' around him. It is accompanied with a glass of frozen horchata.
A good example of the miscegenation that merged the two gastronomies can be seen in one of the best known dishes in Yucatan, which is the famous cochinita pibil . His name prevents the term gdp which in the Mayan language means "baked in" and the technique involves baking in an earth oven. As the Mayans prepared venison, pheasant and wild boar meat in this way, in this case we see the adaptation of a new meat to an indigenous way of cooking or vice versa.
The oven is a hole dug in the ground where the meat is put. A wood base is made on top of which a plate of stones is placed that is heated and then the meat is spread on the stones to cook.
Afterwards, it is covered with leaves so that the heat does not escape and the liquids do not evaporate. Finally, the hole is covered and uncovered a few hours later, when it is ready. The dish is accompanied by red onion in sour orange and habanero pepper, of course.
The miscegenation of Yucatecan gastronomy is also noted in the replacement of honey that was used as a sweetener in pre-Hispanic times, with the sugar that the Spanish brought, since cane was unknown. Today, we are so used to the implementation of sugar to sweeten our sweets that it is difficult for us to think of a world where it does not exist. But that's how the pre-Hispanic Mayan world was.
The introduction of sugar in the gastronomy of the region leads us to another culinary mix and development of this millennial culture. The confection of sweets became an art that expanded the varieties in which these sweets can be found.
On the peninsula today, you can find jams in many shapes, colors, and flavors. And it is that after the exclamation of the nuns of the convent of Nuestra Señora de la Consolación in 1867, the impulse they gave to baking and confectionery within their closed society, became public since these former nuns, having to win life, they became what they always were: bakeries. This event managed to make a huge contribution to the confectionery and bakery of the Colony in Yucatan.
At the end of the 19th century, Frenchified sweets appeared with a wide variety of chocolates, cat tongues, brioches and almond fingers to name a few. Among the syrup sweets you can find those of citron with orange and lemon peel, pumpkin, currant, nancen, etc.
Also, there are the melado candies, made from "guarapo" or "molasses", cane juice that remains after the sugar crystallizes. Probably the most popular of these types of sweets is squash.
We must not forget the infinite variety of cakes or "cakes" that can be chosen to accompany almost any type of party and also the fruit ice creams that are eaten with such gratification due to the climate of the peninsula.
And how to close this article without mentioning the drinks that can be found in Yucatán? Let's make a parenthesis first to clarify a great difference between the way of eating and drinking of our times and that of the Mayans of pre-Hispanic times.
While we eat and drink only because we are hungry and thirsty, older cultures gave these acts a sacred importance, outside of organic reasons. All food and drink that was consumed in the various ceremonies had a symbolic meaning.
To date as in the past, the I balked it was consumed in all Mayan ceremonies. The wine from the bark of the tree of the same name is prepared in the following way: First, the bark is boiled to remove its bitterness and is left to dry. Afterwards, it is boiled again with pure water such as that of a cenote or a river. This is how it is possible to extract the aroma and color that characterizes it. It is left for about two-three days until it ferments and you can add honey or sugar, until it is brandy.
The I balked It was drunk only in ceremonies and to this day it is the best known drink for it. It was used to purify and prepare him to attend the ceremony and also for its ability to alter consciousness and enter a trance.
During the different phases of the milpa the saka ', a drink made from a half-cooked nixtamal base to offer to the gods of the mountain. Sak It means corn which is the material from which man was made and consequently they are one and the same thing. The man takes care of the corn and he, in his turn, gives the man food.
Most of the Mayan peoples celebrate a ceremony at Chá Chaak, the god of rain because of the relationship he has with the planting of corn. It is repeated in the various stages of its growth, from sowing it when it is asked to take care of it so that it grows, to its harvest when thanks are given.
Another drink that shares its history with other Mesoamerican cultures is chocolate. The cacao tree was called ka'kaw and the Chocolate, chocolhaa or water (haa) bitter (chocol). A drink that was generally taken by the nobility and offered to the gods, stimulating and calming at the same time, it came to have many uses. Its butter was used as an ointment to heal wounds. There is no doubt that chocolate has a long presence in the Mayan culture that seems to date from 1900 BC It was so highly valued that it came to be used as currency among the peoples!
The Xtabentún It is a liquor that comes from honey from bees fed on the aromatic flower that is known by the same name. According the legend , the Xtabentún grew up around the grave of Xkeban, the woman who was known as a prostitute for giving her love to many men but who at the same time, took care of invalids and animals. Her scent was so captivating, as she was to the men who knew her.
Anise is added to the liquor that is served as an aperitif, which seems to have been added due to the displeasure that the flavor of I balked, from which apparently, it prevents. The alcohol that is added is cane rum and it is served alone and cold or on ice. Also, it is a perfect complement to coffee.
The legacy of the Mayans is long and rich. Its gastronomy as its language is still alive to this day. I am very aware of how much this article is missing and I invite you to add food, drinks, sweets and any piece of Yucatecan culinary information that you have in your knowledge, thus contributing to the formation of culture around the Mayan world and the Yucatan gastronomy. What is your favorite dish? What else would you like to know about the culinary delights of Yucatán? Give us your comments, opinions and ideas in the comments space below. It will be appreciated!