Alec Jacobson

Photographer, Writer
    
Chasing Spirits in Old Mexico
Location: South Vancouver, Vancouver
Nationality: American
Biography: Alec Jacobson is a photographer and writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, who likes to dive deep into slow-moving stories.  Drawing on his studies in Anthropology, French and Arabic at Amherst College, he prefers to be the only... read on
Public Story
Chasing Spirits in Old Mexico
Credits: alec jacobson
Date of Work: 10/23/16 - 11/25/16
Updated: 03/22/19
Location: Oaxaca
Published with National Geographic, Roads & Kingdoms, Explore Parts Unknown, Slate.

“They say that people in America like mezcal a lot,” says Fortunato Angeles, leaning on a wooden tank of fermenting agave. “I like the work because it puts food on the table.” Four generations of his ancestors have distilled the smoky spirit from ripe maguey, or agave, toiling under the Oaxacan sun in southern Mexico to provide the fuel for festivals and family celebrations in the village of San Juan del Rio.

But there’s a growing interest in Angeles’ product. The global economy has suddenly started showing up at the doorstep of tiny San Juan del Rio. Mezcal has landed on hip cocktail lists and mezcal-focused bars across the United States, putting international price tags up to $70 or more per bottle on what was traditionally a village drink sold in recycled Coke bottles for about five bucks. The market is still small. Only 2.4 million liters of mezcal were produced in 2015 compared with tequila’s 228.5 million liters. But mezcal production has more than doubled since 2011, drawing the attention of big brands.

Thirst for the drink is pushing well-funded entrepreneurs to work with subsistence farmers, offering incredible opportunity for some of Mexico’s poorest regions but putting their traditions in the path of the global market machine. Right now, the industry has the potential to build a sustainable future that supports all of the links in the chain. But the process could easily be coopted by big brands dominating undercapitalized traditional producers.

I drove through Oaxaca in 2016 to document the impact of the new market on traditional producers, like Fortunato, and on the surrounding ecology.
941

By Alec Jacobson —

VISUAL STORY

Portraits of Protest

By Alec Jacobson / Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada — Thousands of Canadians have demonstrated in solidarity with US protests against the kind of police violence..
VISUAL STORY

Waiting for the Tsunami: COVID-19 in Vancouver

By Alec Jacobson / Vancouver — The uncanniness of spring weather and the growing flood of COVID-19 in Vancouver, BC.
VISUAL STORY

A Musical Offing for Early Music Vancouver

By Alec Jacobson / Vancouver, BC — When Vancouver started to shut down at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I watched a lot of work on my..
VISUAL STORY

The End of Frenzy: Overfishing in Lake Victoria

By Alec Jacobson / Kasensero, Uganda — This project is funded by two grants from the National Geographic Society.  Update coming soon!  ..
VISUAL STORY

Peleadores: Fighting for Redemption at Mexico's Boxing Mecca

By Alec Jacobson / Mexico City — Romanza Gym is a boxing Mecca in Mexico City where Hall of Fame trainer Ignacio “Nacho”..
VISUAL STORY

Farm to Foodbank for Colorado State University

By Alec Jacobson / grand junction — At the Colorado State University Extension research farm in Orchard Mesa, Colorado, the crops used to go..
VISUAL STORY

Culture Saves Lives: Behind the Scenes of Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week

By Alec Jacobson / Vancouver — Joleen Mitton grew up in Vancouver's Downtown East Side, surrounded by poverty, addiction and other..
VISUAL STORY

Ranchlands

By Alec Jacobson / Colorado — Duke Phillips III and his family are on a mission to preserve their ranching heritage and conserve western..
VISUAL STORY

The Mountains Are Melting

By Alec Jacobson / Kilembe, Uganda — “It used to be cold and it rained a little every day and the mosquitos could not sustain,”..
VISUAL STORY

Global Health

By Alec Jacobson — In 2012 and 2013, I produced a series of books for Danbury Hospital to document the places where they hoped..
VISUAL STORY

National Geographic: Fishermen fight to survive on the world's second largest lake

By Alec Jacobson / Kasensero, Uganda — Lake Victoria supports hundreds of thousands of people, but overuse caused fish populations to collapse...
VISUAL STORY

I Gathered With The Rainbows And They Gave Me Pancakes

By Alec Jacobson / Norwood, Colorado — If you want to be precise, the kitchen at the Rainbow Gathering was actually serving “shanty..
VISUAL STORY

Acorn to Cask for The Macallan

By Alec Jacobson / Jerez, Spain — I toured cask makers and sherry bodegas in Jerez, Spain, and The Macallan's home in Craigellachie,..
VISUAL STORY

National Geographic Travler: Peruvian Palate

By Alec Jacobson / Cusco, Peru — Written and shot for National Geographic Traveler Magazine April/May 2019 With support from the National..
VISUAL STORY

Playboy Magazine: In The Shadow of The Mountain

By Alec Jacobson / Telluride, CO — Though mountain resort towns, like Telluride where I live, are the spectacularly beautiful sites of..
Join us
for more access