El Mercurio, January 25, 2019.
Two years ago in this column I wrote the article entitled “Ojo al Charqui: Pisco was born in Chile”. I just finished reading the excellent book by Pablo Lacoste (Argentine historian), “Pisco was born in Chile”, and those same days, I met on the Paseo Ahumada, a large, red and toreador sign that read “#PISCO IS PERUVIAN “. This triggered that column.
In January, when a lot of news are focused on the summer resorts and counts of 2018, a media bomb exploded affecting many grape and PISCO producers, therefore, a whole region of Chile. That should also shake every Chilean with a minimum sense of patriotism. Indeed, “on December 20, the judicial order of the Intellectual Property Appeals Council of the Republic of India was received, which recognizes the exclusive rights of Peru over pisco as a geographical indication in that country”.
However, our union and political authorities seem not to care much about it. This apparent indolence or “lowering of profile” to a serious issue, reminded me the little importance many gave in Chile to “a few meters or so” after the failure of Laguna del Desierto (1994-1995). Now, going into foodstuff, the manager of a French cheese company told me that “the group was pushing its sales force towards India”. With a frankness that I am still ashamed of, I asked him why India, if cows are sacred animal, they can not be touched or milked, and the population under the limit of subsistence is brutal? He answered with simplicity and the implacable force of mathematics: “Chile’s market for our products is about two hundred thousand people, while India has a potential of one hundred million people … despite the sacred cows and poverty “.
Moreover, how are cows, “La Laguna del Desierto”, Pisco, India and Peru related in all this history. Sadly, the relationship is huge. Chile leaves the summer holidays lowering the profile to everything that could trouble our lives. In the restaurants, they still offer us “a Peruvian pisquito, sir”. Meanwhile, our authorities comment with total ease that the decision adopted in India is not so serious, despite being a sentence of a trial of years and that will affect Chile and the national pisco industry…
Without forgetting this sensible issue repeats what happened recently in Thailand, Colombia, Australia, California, Argentina and Central America, adding new territories in which Peru, stealthily and with a planning at the highest level, has given battles that we Chileans have barely defended.
Our historical and legal titles are unbeatable, the number of Chilean families living from a very small and centennial production, which is grouped into cooperatives to produce the best PISCO, has a great relevance and a source of undeniable wealth and progress. The PISCO is national heritage! Despite this, some authorities (almost all) and several national (non-cooperative) entrepreneurs refuses to face this reality and continue to consider that “it is not so serious” or that “it doesn’t matter”, at last “nobody drinks Pisco out of Chile and Peru “. Others, even, have argued in private that what matters is to sell liters, from here or from the North (neighboring country).
Mexico filled the world with an agave or cactus liqueur, so one can “take a Margarita” in any country of the world, no matter how it is pronounced. Brazil achieved the same with its cane liqueur transformed into Caipirinha. With our PISCO, the Chileans have not been able to join forces, not only to face the country of the North that has not spared in arts and crafts of all kinds to appropriate what does not belong to it or, at least, should necessarily, for historical and legal reasons, share with Chile. Neither have we been able to understand that “chilenidad” is not just Torres del Paine, Easter Island and San Pedro de Atacama, but also the Chilean PISCO, which we can drink in Chile and that should be drunk in any bar or restaurant in the world where offers the Caipirinha or the Margarita.
“Losing India” is not the same. Thus, we will continue to lose battles, not because of lack of arguments, but of lack of national conviction, which mixed with the national snobbism at the moment of an aperitif, and national indolence when defending our rights – yes, rights and not simply interests! – will leave us without any cake to eat nor Pisco for drink. Once again, it’s time to wake up.