Agave: The Cultural History of Food and Power in Mesoamerica Masterclass

An agave plant with a clay pitcher in the center
Class Dates
Meeting Days
5-7pm Wednesday, March 27th

UA Main Campus
Online Course


Course Instructor(s)

The agave is a ubiquitous plant across Mesoamerica. Known as metl in Nahuatl, the language of the so-called Aztecs, the plant was an indelible part of the everyday experiences and ritualized practices of ancient and colonial peoples. In the seventeenth century, Francisco Ximénez described its centrality. “Of no other plant,” he wrote in his Historia Natural of 1615, “is there such abundance in New Spain. If people would learn to live in moderation and balance, as is reasonable, this plant would be sufficient to supply all human needs...” According to the Dominican friar and early modern naturalist, the plant could function as the basis of nearly everything essential to daily life, from a food source and beverage to clothing and construction material to weaponry and defense. However, among colonial peoples, agaves were far more than food stuff and construction materials; they were important markers of indigenous traditions and ideological systems. For instance, pulque, the fermented beverage typical of Central Mexico, was an important component to ritual activities of purification and divination among sixteenth and seventeenth century ritual specialists. In this course, we will explore the cultural history of the agave plant in ancient and colonial Mesoamerica.

Course Format

Masterclasses are a newer feature of the SBS Community Classroom Program. Masterclasses are taught by an expert instructor as a one-time workshop-style class. The class will be interactive according to the subject matter and students will get the opportunity for Q&A with the instructor(s). The Masterclasses are part of existing undergraduate courses, allowing community members to learn alongside UArizona students.  

Attendance & Participation

Agave: The Cultural History of Food and Power in Mesoamerica Masterclass is one course from the three-part Agave Heritage Festival Series. You have the option to participate in any of the three separate courses (Savoring Story: Writing our Food Memories, Agave: The Cultural History of Food and Power in Mesoamerica, Global Movements for Food Sovereignty) or save on tuition by attending the whole series. This bundling option is available at the time of registration. This course is limited to 30 participants.


$30 per masterclass or $100 for the full series. By registering for the full series, participants will have VIP access to the Agave Heritage Festival opening reception on April 18th 2024 6pm-9pm located at the Hotel Congress Plaza. Additionally, SBS Community Classroom participants will have access to special discounted rates for Agave Heritage Festival events


Refunds are available. They must be requested at least 48 hours before the start of the class. Individuals who register for the Masterclass bundle and need to arrange for cancelation and/or refund, please contact Stephanie Noriega at A $10 administrative fee for each cancellation will apply.


Online registration for this course will open December 18, 2023 at 10 AM. After registration, participants will receive a receipt of registration. Subsequently, participants will receive class instructions 1 week before the start of the course.

Location: UA Main Campus