What are your favorite drugs? Chances are they match up closely with The Aztecs'. Pulque (An alcohol beverage) and chocolate (caffeine and theobromine) were consumed throughout Pre-Hispanic Central America to connect with the divine.**
The fertility goddess Mayahuel (the Dionysus of Mexico) is still well-represented today with the addition of beer and mescal in the national palate.
But Mayahuel's matriarchal status is in danger. A new substance arrived with the Europeans. Like them, it has gone on to conquer.
Mexicans are now the world's most avid consumers of soft drinks. Diabetes kills more people every 2 years than the drug war has in the last decade. The government, detecting an epidemic, introduced a sin tax on such beverages in 2014. The effort is proving to be an effective counterbalance to a product that gives the brain a bigger dopamine kick than cocaine.
On the summit of a jagged cliff, a temple to the alcohol gods stands exalted high above the town of Tepoztlán. Beside it, a small refreshment stand dishes out drinks to thirsty hikers. Pulque is nowhere to be found and ice cold beer is off the menu; but rows of plastic cups are filled with brown and yellow soda, fizzing like a chorus of praise to the sticky-sweet usurper.
**All cultures in history have roughly two socially acceptable drugs. These two drugs often changed. Coffee was illegal during large stretches of time in the Ottoman Empire and Sweden. Alcohol was blacklisted in the U.S. for 13 years, but you could buy opium over the counter for most of the 19th century.