Aguas frescas are some of the most traditional beverages in Mexico. Made from ground fruits or seeds and cereals and mixed with water, they have been served as refreshing drinks in the markets since ancient times to beat the heat of this tropical land.
Since then, Mexico has contended worldwide with its faithful and proud repertoire of aguas frescas – tamarind, pineapple, melon, watermelon, guava, orange, passion fruit, and more. During the patriotic month of September, it is common for vendors to prepare them in the national tricolor using lime with chia, horchata, and hibiscus.
So, are they Mexican?
But if you stop to think about it, how could the Aztecs have prepared aguas frescas with ingredients that only arrived on the ships of the conquistadors? How could they make horchata water, a drink whose main ingredient is rice from China? Or the hibiscus flower, originally from Africa? And lime, which as much as it pains us to realize it, originates from the Indonesia archipelago? What about tamarind, that delicious legume used not only to make agua fresca but also so common in a number of typical Mexican sweets; is it true that it first saw the light of day in African lands?
A mix of cultures
Before falling into a spiral of identity crisis over what constitutes true Mexican tradition, we must remember that what constitutes “Mexican” nowadays is exactly so due to what happened systematically after those ships arrived. Mestizaje, or the mixing of cultures, is a big part of the history of Mexico. Yes, the Aztecs created the preparation of grinding fruits and seeds to make these refreshing flavored waters, but the rest of the world gave us an endless number of ingredients to add to our traditional aguas frescas.