16th Annual Agave Heritage Festival Brings Global Focus to Region

The new year brings an explosion of ideas and creativity leading up the 16th Annual Agave Heritage Festival in April. 

Started in 2008 as an introduction to agave spirits, the festival has since evolved into a multi-layered adventure that offers an in-depth exploration of everything from agave education and sustainability, culinary and spirit culture, to its ever-growing effect on the economy and agriculture as climate-smart commodities that enhance livelihoods, ecosystems and help in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Agave Heritage Festival celebrates the agave and acknowledges Tucson’s rich cultural history and the traditions that unite the people of the Southwest and the borderlands. This year’s event will take place on Apr. 18-21 at a variety of locations downtown and throughout the community. Reflecting the growth industry of the agave, a variety of additional performances, and educational experiences will be offered throughout the festival.

Programming and Partnership Director Francisco Terrazas is pleased with the tremendous growth of the festival. “The Agave Heritage Festival is very much a living, breathing event. Because of this, we get to see it evolve and grow every year, and 2024 is no exception. Through a lot of hard work on the part of the entire team, the festival continues to be a celebration of not just the agave plant, but the entire borderlands region. Since the agave plant is so important to so many stakeholders on both sides of the border, we hear from spirits producers to ecologists, artists, conservationists, and more. And because what we do here is so unique, it continues to draw attention and people from all corners of the world. A great example is our friends from Barking Dog cocktail bar in Copenhagen, Denmark, who are coming to share their wonderful cocktails and hospitality with the Tucson community; or the Som do Sisal Youth Orchestra who are coming from Brazil to play traditional music on instruments they actually make from agave plants, and the Mujer Agave women’s collective who work to connect and empower women in various sectors of the agave spirits industry. I really think we have a lot to be proud of with the remarkable sense of community the festival has been able to create around an equally remarkable plant.”

Two exceptional musical experiences, Flor de Toloache and the Som do Sisal Youth Brazilian Orchestra will be offered at the kickoff concert on Friday, April 19. Flor de Toloache is a Latin Grammy award-winning, all-female mariachi band, based in NYC, first began playing in the subway where they were noticed by numerous media outlets including The New York Times. In 2014, they released their first album and in 2017 won a Latin Grammy for “Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album” for their second studio album, Las Caras Lindas.

Since 2012, the Som do Sisal group has been using sisal fiber (part of the agave family) production waste to create musical instruments and promote music education for young people whose performances combine the rich musical traditions of Brazil with the imagery of agave cultivation.

The Agave Spirits Institute returns for the second year with an accredited educational series offering both the Introduction to Agave class on Saturday, Apr. 20 and for the first time in the U.S., the Level I Mezcal Specialist certification on Friday, Apr. 19 and Saturday, Apr. 20. Open to both consumers and industry professionals, the intro class fee is $210, and the Level 1 course is $660. https://www.agavespiritsinstitute.com/

An expanded Mujer Agave Women’s Collective Expo and Tradeshow will take place on Friday, Apr. 19. Mujer Agave is a collective of women in the agave spirits industry where unity, legacy and joy are taught through diverse conferences and experiences. Started by Sandra Ortiz Brena, who owns a mezcal bar called In Situ and a brand called Mezcasiarca; Silvia Philion, who owns a mezcal bar called Mezcaloteca and a brand of the same name; and Graciela Angeles Carreño, who owns and operates a very well-known brand of mezcal called Real Minero. They are all based in Oaxaca. 

The project is geared toward empowering and connecting female stakeholders in the agave industry across disciplines. Based on the popularity of the 2023 event, this year’s expo has been expanded to a daylong event with networking opportunities, and a tasting of women-produced or owned brands. https://www.mezcalistas.com/mujer-agave/

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