Day two. The day of the big sha-bang: the Cinco De Jimi Cup.
The fun part was that we would have to be charter-bussed to the event to a little town called Amatitan, which is about an hour outside of Guadalajara. Not only would the soccer match be played at the hacienda there, but it would also be played in the middle of factory grounds – the same land where they make all the El Jimador in the world. Not to mention, the hacienda homes many, if not all the families that work on the land to this day.
After driving about an hour to middle-of-nowhere Mexico, we arrive within one of the richest and most historical pieces of architecture I have ever seen. With agave fields surrounding us for miles, the ‘Casa Herradura’ — which translates as Horseshoe house — has been making Tequila for more than a century.
We get to see the entire process — from start to finish — on how an agave plant is turned into Tequila.
First though, I must say, when you see the bottles, logos and pictures and say to yourself, “Those workers don’t really wear those clothes. They don’t really use the donkeys.” — as I did. Think again. The funny thing is, they actually do.
An 'el jimador' cuts up an agave plant.
Each el jimador must cut up at least 120 agave plants every morning, where they are then sent to the ovens to being the cooking process.
One of the nobly selected El Jimadors cut up an agave plant right in front of us. They gave us a sample of what an agave tastes like after being cooked for more than 24 hours – which tastes similar to a sweet potato. We toured the ovens, distillery, the old factory – which resembles a dungeon (very neat!), and the rest of the historical hacienda. But there was one part in particular that got the attention of everyone involved: being able to taste Tequila as fresh as it comes – straight from the donkey.
That’s right. From the donkey.
It wasn’t even 10:30 AM and our tour guide is insisting we take a sip of fresh ‘blanco’ Tequila from the barrels wrapped around our new donkey friend.
Our new friend Rueben gets ready to serve everyone, including the soccer stars, fresh Tequila blanco fresh from the el jimador and his donkey.
Our soccer legends and winners are about to play a ‘friendly,’ and for the second time in a matter of 12 hours they’re taking shots of Tequila. Hilarious.
Although not a huge fan of Tequila myself, it was a neat opportunity in which to partake, so I obliged and took a sip from my new homemade gift – a clay cup the size of a shot glass with a hand written ‘Casa Herradura’ painted across the front. I walked up to the spout on the barrel wrapped around Mr. donkey and filled my tiny clay cup, and took a sip — as did the other media, organizers, contestants and soccer players. It was like a little blue collar communion.
Saying people in this region of Mexico like Tequila would be under-statement of the millennium. Rueben Aceves, global brand ambassador for El Jimador and our tour guide for the morning, summed it up best when he told me, “I’ve been drinking tequila my whole life. I’ve been drinking Tequila blanco before lunch for the past 38 years, every single day… Tequila is my life.”
Got it. Tequila, soccer and Christ. That seems to be the ‘trifecta’ in central Mexico. I can relate. I went to Alabama for college where the trifecta consists of beer, football and Christ.
After knocking back a few sips with Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones, Rueben described what I was already noticing. “As a Mexican, of course, we all like soccer… having these players coming into our house, being able to get close to them, having this friendly match…it is very exciting.”
We were getting ready for what was possibly the most exciting soccer match the locals had ever seen in-person. It almost had the feeling of one of your old-time favorite bands visiting your hometown for the summer fair. You could feel the light-heartedness, fun and excitement in the air. Droves of workers and their families were coming out in enthusiastic anticipation to watch; and that was probably the most rewarding site of the entire trip.
Some of the local workers watching the first Cindo De Jimi Cup.
Tony Meola, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones and Jorge Campos pose for a picture with some of the locals from the hacienda.
After finishing our tour of the hacienda, two teams were now on the field: United States vs. Mexico. Each team had three soccer legends. Alexi Lalas, Tony Meola and Cobi Jones for the U.S, and Zague Alves, Jorge Campos and Luis Hernandez for Mexico. There were 4-6 lucky contestant winners on each team as well – winners that were about to play soccer with their childhood legends.
Me, I’m just happy I didn’t have to drink more Tequila. Grape fruit soda y agua would suit me just fine.
Find out who won the match between the U.S. and Mexico by logging back in on Monday to read Day 3 – the final article of the series