Mezcal and Fair Trade
Alvin Starkman began drinking mezcal in 1969 during his first visit to Oaxaca, and then continued the love affair the following summer. However it wasn’t until 1991 that he started to become an aficionado, interested in learning, sampling, expounding the spirit’s attributes to others, and promoting its producer palenqueros.
Alvin has an M.A. (Social Anthropology, York University) and a J.D. (Osgoode Hall Law School). Throughout his academic training he maintained a special interest in cross-cultural dispute resolution, with emphasis on Mexican models. He spent 18 years as a litigation lawyer in private practice in Toronto, before becoming a permanent resident of Oaxaca in 2004.
Alvin first became passionate about pulque when he began living in the city full-time. He eventually started taking tourists to Oaxaca into the fields accompanied by his Zapotec friends, to enable them to experience the fascinating harvest of aguamiel – the “honey water” which transforms into pulque as it naturally ferments.
Alvin has written over 260 articles about life and cultural traditions in Oaxaca, several of which center upon mezcal and pulque. He is a paid contributing writer for Mexico Today, a program for Marca País – Imagen de México. Alvin continues his pursuit of exposing all that is culturally rich about Oaxaca and its central valleys, by helping travelers to the city to plan their visits, including touring the central valley routes – with a special interest in helping them to learn as much as possible about mezcal and pulque.
Together with his wife Arlene, Alvin operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com), and with Chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo, Oaxaca Culinary Tours (http://www.oaxacaculinarytours.com). He is a director and Vice-President of CANFRO (Canadian Friends of Oaxaca Inc.), a Canadian charitable corporation.
Alvin’s predominate thirst remains promoting mezcal and pulque to tourists and spirits aficionados, including assisting those interested in pursuing the export of agave based alcoholic beverages from Mexico to their home countries and indeed further abroad.