Edward Palmer - Tuba Receiving Gourd “Balcita”
Tuba Receiving Gourd “Balcita”
Provenance: Colima, Mexico
Accession Number: 24600
Date Acquired: 1891
Narrative: A Sweet Nectar Drips from Coconut Flowers
This gourd (Lagenaria sp.) vessel was used collect a sweet sap that dripped from unopened coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) inflorescences (a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a main stem). The gourd was hung on the side of a palm tree until full of sap. Palm sap is the main ingredient in a palm wine produced in the Mexican state of Colima. The wine, called tuba or vino de cocos is still sold in markets today. Palmer researched tuba production in Colima and acquired the tools and other accoutrements for collecting raw ingredients, making tuba, and for selling it in the market.
Early Exchange between Mexico and the Philippines
The process for distilling palm sap originated in the Philippines. Possibly introduced into Mexico through the Spanish Galleon Trade (1500 to 1810), the process was adopted by native Mexicans. This intellectual and botanical exchange is thought to have established the early coconut culture in western Mexico.
A Political Start to an Enduring Industry
In 1610, the Spanish crown issued a prohibition against palm wine in Mexico. Unlike the imported Castilian wine, the monarchy did not control the palm wine market and could not collect tax on the homemade beverage. Any person caught selling the wine during prohibition faced punishment including steep fines, lashes (at least fifty), public humiliation, and exile. In 1627--seventeen years later-- the Spanish crown changed its policy and granted sales licenses to non-native Coliman inhabitants only, to stimulate a flagging economy. Remarkably, "through much of the colonial period it was the vino de cocos industry that kept the region above a bare subsistence level, and on numerous occasions it staved off actual economic collapse" (Bruman, 1945).
Botanical Exchanges Impact Local Languages
The cultural exchanges that occurred between Filipinos and native Mexicans continue to influence culture in Mexico and the Philippines. The word tuba is Tagalog (Filipino being a variant of Tagalog) and approximately 250 Nahuatl words (the language spoken by the Aztecs) are spoken in the Philippines (Mercene, 2007). In addition, over 150 Filipino plant names were incorporated into Mexican Spanish. "Based on figures accumulated by INEGI from the national census conducted in 2000, Nahuatl is spoken by an estimated 1.45 million people" in Mexico (INEGI 2005:35).