Arí of Mexico - “…it is no more strange than bird's-nests soup…”

Ethnobotany 1
Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 11:15
, Robert - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
, Edelmira - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Gums played an important role in the indigenous societies during colonial Mexico.  Despite its recent decline in importance, remote Mexican communities continue using them as source of material (adhesives, sealants), medicine and food.  However, current changes in land use, harvesting practices and climate threatened local extinction.  As part of a participatory conservation program with the Rarámuri people in the Sierra Tarahumara, we analyze the ethnobotany of “arí”.  Even though the leguminous host tree (Coursetia glandulosa) grows in the dry tropical forest along the Mexican Pacific slope and extends into the lower Sonoran Desert, gum production [based upon the mutualism between scale insects (Tachardiella fulgens) and ants] is limited to the northern range.  “Goma de Sonora” was a major colonial poisoning remedy.  Today the Rarámuri continue to place high value on the gum as a specialty food and trade item.  “Arí” with its peculiar flavor has become incorporated into the regional gastronomy as salsas and aguachile.