What is pozole, one of the traditional dishes of Mexico made with human meat in its beginnings?

This traditional dish made of cacahuacintle corn, meat, lettuce, radish, onion, chili and oregano is one of the Mexican favorites and tourists visiting the country. Many people say that this soup “heals the sorrows” and it is perfect every September that celebrates the independence of Mexico. We refer to the pozole.

However, it was not always “basically corn, water and a piece of leg or thigh”, as Yolanda García González, a doctor in History and a specialist in food in the 16th and 17th centuries in Mexico, explained to the BBC. Did you know that pozole used to be called “tlacatlaolli”; that is, “man’s corn”? The origin is shocking, as this dish was made with human flesh.

Mexicans say that this soup “cures sorrows”. Photo: Architectural Digest

Pozole with human meat?

The answer, although it seems impossible, is a “yes”. For this background story, we go back to the Prehispanic Mexico.

Cooking this dish was part of the rituals they did in religious ceremonies. The pozole was a offering to the gods, among them, Xipe Tótec, lord of fertility and the regeneration of corn and war. What did this ritual consist of? Sacrifice a person

The pozole was part of the rituals of the time. Photo: BBC

“Then, the priests rushed to open his chest and offer his heart to God,” said historian Laura Ibarra, in a column in the Milenio newspaper, quoted by the BBC. This was part of a worldview for pre-Hispanic Mexicans.

“It was not a mere act of cruelty, indeed they were convinced that human blood and heart were necessary to keep alive all the phenomena necessary for human survival, such as the fertility of the earth, the journey of the sun through the skies, the growth of plants, the rain,” added Ibarra.

An exclusive dish for the high hierarchy

The “preferred meat” It was one of the warriors of enemy groups captured by the founders of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, on which Mexico City would later be founded. A fact of the old pozole was that only people of high rank, like the emperor, could taste it exclusively.

According to the Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, the meat was divided between the principals and the relatives of the deceased. It should be noted that the thigh was the most valued part.

“The idea on which it is based is that the life of the sacrificed, once dead, belongs to the divinity, to the source of all life and that, therefore, its ingestion is a form of revitalizationof appropriation of the original energy, of the source that keeps the universe alive”, explained the historian Ibarra.

Human meat was banned with the Spanish conquest. Photo: BBC

This story ended with the conquest of the Spanish, who eliminated the use of human meat in pozole, as confirmed by the British media BBC. Thus corn became the only religious, cultural symbol of the time. At the time, pork was added, which was mainly for Christians.

After the independence of Mexico, pozole became a traditional dish, as it is known today.