By Cristóbal Segura Mijares
Turkey or guajolote in Spanish, was the second animal to be domesticated by the first settlers in North America, and it is the second most consumed bird worldwide.
Turkey is a strong, and versatile animal characterized by its exquisite flavour. Before the Europeans’ arrival, it was domesticated by Comanches, Apaches, Olmecs, Aztecs, Mayas, and a dozen more of Mesoamerican and North American cultures, which used it as the main element of many festivities and traditions.
In Mexico the bond between this species and the native tribes was so strong, that many civilizations considered its sacrifice comparable to human’s. Nonetheless, after the conquest, the importance of turkey within the Aztec and other Mesoamerican religious traditions was almost lost.
However, some of these ancient traditions survived in some towns and communities in Mexico, like in Tláhuac (a municipality of Mexico City), where in the town’s weddings, the groom’s parents offer a living turkey, along with baskets full of food and drinks, as a token of abundance for the new couple. Before the animal is executed, both families dance around it in a joyful celebration!
In the Native American and Canadian cultures, the relation with turkeys, and their traditions is related to the end of the harvesting season, where a day was chosen to celebrate, and say grace for the past and future harvest. Therefore, for most of Native American tribes’ turkey is seen as a totem of fertility and abundance, and some say that the original sense of Thanksgiving comes actually from these peoples’ beliefs.
Even after conquests, revolutions and time, turkey continues to be a main element in many of our people’s festivities, and it continues to gather everyone to share and give thanks for what we have enjoyed in our past and to pray for a better future.