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Text and pictures: Palacios family and Salvadores mezcal for Mezcalistas

I first met Sal Palacios and his wife Flor at his family’s distillery in Tlacolula where they make Salvadores. First impressions of Sal Palacios are of a man with a big smile and even bigger heart, which he wears on his sleeve. His genuine enthusiasm for mezcal and Oaxaca shine so much, it is impossible not to warm to him. I was drawn into his story, rich family history and passion for reviving their traditions.

Sal’s family, led by his great-grandfather Tomas Hernandez was one of the first families to start making mezcal in Tlacolula around 1900. He then passed down this work to Sal’s grandparents Ramon and Lucia Hernandez. They had a small palenque on Martires de Tacubaya in Tlacolula called “La Superior.” Mezcal was one half of their business. Ramon would drive to the Istmo coast, making many stops as he went to sell mezcal. When he arrived he would buy fresh fruit to bring back to Tlacolula and sell at the family’s fruteria, the other half of their business.

During one of his regular trips, Ramon was injured in a car accident that put him out of work for several years. Lucille took it upon herself to continue producing mezcal while also looking after nine children. Sal’s mother, Juanita Hernandez Castillo (known locally as Juana Palacios), remembers how they would have “play-days” at the palenque, which included activities such as pushing the horse while crushing agave in the tahona and taking the stones out of the oven for the next cook. Unfortunately, even with the children’s help, it was too much for Lucia to manage. Hospital bills piled up to the point that the family had to sell their home, fruteria and palenque and move to Oaxaca City.

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