chapter  6
24 Pages

“To Avoid This Mixture”: Rethinking Pulque in Colonial Mexico City

WithMexico City Daniel Nemser

Food and drink occupy a central place in the colonial contact zone. Four decades ago, J. H. Elliott described the long and difficult process of “assimilation” by which Europeans incorporated the newly discovered Americas into their mental horizons. “[I]n many respects,” he wrote, this process “was still far from completed by the middle of the seventeenth century.”1 Elliott was most interested in the big picture, the history of ideas and macroeconomics, but recently food scholars and colonial historians have used his framework to trace the integration of New World foods into Old World diets (and

systems of knowledge), complicating earlier notions of acculturation or oneway cultural flow from colonizer to colonized.2 Transatlantic commerce, and the global foodways it fosters, have thus revealed not only economic activities but also intricate circuits of cultural change.3 Often overlooked, however, are the ways in which colonial space itself constitutes a global stage upon which local knowledges, practices, and materials-including the elements of everyday life not exported to the metropolis-are “assimilated.” Colonialism complicates easy distinctions between local and global, mapping them over or embedding them in each other; in the colonial context, global foodways may have less to do with the geopolitics of mercantilism and the circulation of commodities than with particular formations of colonial governance.4