Mural of the Drinkers

Drinking was a large part of the Mesoamerican culture. Not only used as an enjoyable pastime, the Maya would drink to get closer to their gods and to communicate with them. The Mural of the Drinkers, known as “Los Bebedores” in Spanish, is one key piece of art that depicts the relationship between the consumption of alcohol and religion.

The Mural of the Drinkers was discovered in 1969, but it was kept away from the public’s attention for quite some time. The Mural is located in the city of Cholula, near Puebla. “The 1,800-year-old mural provides the first evidence of the ritualistic consumption of Pulque, an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the agave plant.” (Ancient Mexican Mural Depicting Drunken Revelry Revealed for the First Time). The process of making Pulque was strenuous, and the outcome was a mildly alcoholic beverage. The drink was consumed every day, in fact being drunk in moderation was an everyday occurrence. During important religious celebrations the drink was consumed in more copious amounts, and the potency of the drink was increased with the addition of certain roots and herbs. Pulque was not just used as a daily and celebratory drink, it was also used as an agent to induce hallucinogens, as can be seen on the Mural of the Drinkers.

The Mural, which is one of the longest pre-Columbian murals found in Mexico, is fifty-seven meters in length. The mural depicts 164 people drinking Pulque out of varying sized vessels and doing other things such as making offerings to Gods and even vomiting and defecating. The Mural shows a depiction of revelry, or maybe even a ceremony in which something has to be drunk. The Maya in the Mural would use the drink to connect to their gods. There is a close relationship between the production of Pulque and the moon, as the moon governs how much sap would come from the agave plant, this spirit that helped make the Pulque would house help the Maya who drank the drink turn into their own spirit animals (Mark Cartwright). This is evident on the Mural of the Drinkers, as people are shown transforming into various animals. In the Mural we do not know what God the participants are drinking to or are trying to honor, but many in the field do believe that they are partaking in honor of Mayahuel, the Pulque Goddess. This connects to the Mural of the Drinkers not just because she was the deity of Pulque, but during the many festivities that celebrated they were permitted to be completely intoxicated. The drink was given to priests to increase his enthusiasm during the ritual and to sacrificial victims to ease the pain and suffering they would face.

The Mural of the Drinkers is an artistic masterpiece that shows the clear connection to alcohol and religion. Pulque was consumed every day in this region, but it was made more potent during times of religious ceremonies. To become their spirit animal, to transverse to the heavens to communicate with their gods, as shown on the Mural, the Maya would drink Pulque.