Cola Wars in Mexico

Posted on March 3, 2008 

Cola Wars in Mexico

Thousands of candles flicker in the dim chamber. The air is thick with the smoke from copal incense. On the altar, men in black wool tunics and white knee-length pants play solemn music on drums and gourds. Below them, a score of Tzotzil Indians chant in small circles on the pine needle-covered floor. In the center of each circle are candles, eggs, copal and pox—fermented corn mash—in an old glass container, stopped with a corn cob. And next to the pox is a half-liter bottle of Coca-Cola or Pepsi.

In the 484-year-old Church of St. John the Baptist, in Chamula, a town of 60,000 in Chiapas, Mexico, those bottles indicate the intersection of religion, politics, water and consumer markets.

In the United States, Coke and Pepsi vie for monopoly contracts with schools and universities. In Chiapas, the stakes in the soft drink war are as high as the purity of one’s soul.

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