Part 1 in special series for World Food Day 2018 in partnership with Land Rights Now mobilization. Find out more here.
They call it “chile mixe” in Oaxaca, because the indigenous of the Mixe Media Region, in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, cultivate it. In the rest of the country those who have the knowledge to distinguish it call it “chile pasilla oaxaqueño”.
This chili is very important for the Mixe culture, because it was the main product in the region for many years, but in the last decade this has changed. It is no longer the economic base, they produce coffee and other easier to grow products.
They consume chili daily, the day laborers take them tortillas, chili paste and beans to sustain their day.
Its importance is more cultural than economic. They use it in rituals, mostly in funerals. When a person just dies, the town organizes to cleanse the place to bury the person, and the people who are going to dig the hole. Then they set fire to the chili and they smoke them, to purify them and the burial site. Then, in the procession from the church to the burial site, they clean the road, smoking it. The level of spice is impressive.
Although it is no longer their main sustenance, people consider it part of their cultural identity. Producing coffee is now more profitable so there are fewer chili producers and so les chilis.