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Ted Genoways’ Notes to Self

A Bit of Drama in Every Sip

Sauza bottles from the 1920s and ’30s, including “vest pocket” bottles, which were meant to be small enough to sneak across the US–Mexico border during Prohibition.

Mexico’s undocumented migrants have a patron saint: Father Toribio Romo González, a parish priest who, in the late 1920s, delivered mass in a distillery outside the village of Tequila, at a time when religion had been banned outright by the Mexican government. After he was ratted out, Romo fled, but was eventually discovered by federales in his valley hideout, where they roused him from his sleep and shot him on the spot. His murder was never reported in the local papers, and church records on this particular case are hard to come by. But as Ted Genoways discovered while researching the history of Tequila and its eponymous drink, Romo’s murder remains a vivid, practically tactile legend.

“With a bit of asking around, you can find the physical spaces where these things happened—and very often find people who are connected to those places,” Genoways says. “I saw Romo’s hiding place, the bed where he was killed, with the daughter of the man who was hiding him. That seems like an impossible gap of time, but then you realize that something that happened ninety years ago didn’t happen all that long ago after all.”


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