Of the ‘spirits’ industry, 40 percent of all spirits consumed in Mexico is Tequila. And where I was this past week in the Jalisco state of Mexico, I’m pretty sure it was closer to 110 percent.
Global Brand Ambassador Rueben Aceves summed up the entire culture surrounding Tequila and the region; “We’ve been drinking Tequila since the 13th century. Even before the Spanish people came down to Mexico we were already producing wine out of agave which later became Tequila.”
By the middle of the second day I see first-hand how passionate the people of Mexico are about their Tequila. I mean, their entire lives are dedicated to the agave plant. Their total livelihood depends on producing a quality product – yet, the same place where their homes and occupation intertwine still seems to be overshadowed by one thing – soccer.
“I can honestly say that the experience that we’ve had over the past few hours, and the love and emotion and passion that goes into this company is wonderful. It’s been a wonderful day. Something we’ll all remember,” stated U.S. soccer legend Alexi Lalas following their Cinco De Jimi Cup win over the Mexican team.
The ‘friendly’ Cinco De Jimi Cup was won by the U.S. 6-5, but the most satisfying images came from the people that made the entire event possible – people that might not come to mind at first thought.
Cobi Jones holds the 'Cinco De Jimi Cup' as fellow soccer legends from the U.S. and Mexico pose with some of the other contestant winners.
Fellow soccer great Tony Meola expressed the same sentiments at the end of the day. “I look at this and…you can see that there is a sense of community here. These aren’t people that came off the street and came to work here. There is a sense of tradition…that’s been here for many years… I am completely floored by the entire experience.”
While the 'El Jimador' plays keeper, Mexico soccer legends Jorge Campos and Luis Hernandez pretend to take Tequila from the donkey during the 'Cindo De Jimi Cup' as local workers from the hacienda watch and laugh.
The soccer legends from both countries were moved with emotion. The locals that attended the event were beyond overjoyed, and the fans that won the contest – who were lucky enough to play with their childhood idols – were nothing but smiles. It was easy to see that no one was taking the day for granted. Not only were fans and athletes coming together, but two different cultures were as well.
“It was great to be out there with them. I know these people are die-hards. They love the game…for them to actually come out and participate with us…there are a lot of happy people,” said U.S. hall-of-famer Cobi Jones in reference to playing with the contest winners.
For Sheridan Hurd, a winning contestant out of Portland, Oregon, it was an experience he’ll never forget. “People that you looked at as kids, watched on TV, kind of dreamt about…to actually have this opportunity…it was a pretty incredible experience.
Jesus Ostos, aka ‘Chewey,’ is the brand manager for the North American region for El Jimador. ‘Cinco De Jimi Cup’ was his brainchild and after seeing the results was all smiles as well. “I’m very happy to see this come into reality…We wanted to offer this event as a once in a lifetime experience for the consumer…seeing all of this is very happy to me.”
Two of the contestant winners taking a breather during the 'Cinco De Jimi Cup.'
But while the goal may have been about the consumer, it was obvious that the local families that dedicate their lives to ‘El Jimador’ were on the minds of everyone.
“I’m gonna take an extra thought the next time I take a sip of tequila. It’s [been] a really great experience,” said Jake Szopinski, a winning contestant from Buffalo, NY. – and whom you may remember was the same kid from day one with the hysterical Twitter picture for Lemmy from Motorhead.
By the time we were all loaded up on the bus and started driving back towards the hotel, the feeling of great accomplishment yet humbleness was settling over. Not to be melodramatic, but it’s true. It had been a great two days in which all of us had seen and learned so much. However, what I was taking home with me wasn’t what I had gone in expecting.
I flew into Mexico anticipating to simply interview some soccer legends and watch a fun, ‘friendly’ soccer match between two teams. What I left with wasn’t only a great appreciation for the culture and the people of central Mexico, but I was also reminded of the work that goes into some of the ‘small joys’ we may take for granted every day at home in the states.
For one beautiful summer afternoon, I got to witness fans and soccer stars coming together; but even more importantly, two cultures as well.
Sure, what a ‘long, strange trip’ it had been. I met a donkey, got creeped out by a kid from Buffalo and his Twitter picture, met a few guys that played World Cup soccer for the U.S., and even got to learn a little Spanish along the way; but I was taking home so much more — besides those mini shampoo bottles they have at the hotel. Just kidding — kind of.
As for the Tequila – let’s just say I was ready for some fresh 'agua.' While on the bus ride back to Guadalajara, all I could think about was drinking some good ol' fashioned water. You know, the stuff with zero calories, tastes like, well, water… and doesn't leave a film around your teeth after drinking it. Well, I should have known that such a thought is impermissible in central Mexico – it wasn't seconds later a song came on that had me snap back into reality: ‘Tequila Sunrise’ by the Eagles.