The ancient chewing gum of Maya

Chewing gum is one of the most popular breath freshener of the modern days. Unlike the tooth paste, the chewing gum is easier to use, has a better taste and also fun to play with.
But did you ever think about how the chewing gum was invented?
You will be surprise to know that its history goes back in time to Mezoamerican period, when Mayans discovered that a resin secreted by sapodilla tree can keep their breath fresh and help them to combat the hunger and the thirst. They used to call that resin “tsicte” which means “sticky stuff,” although in the modern world is more known as chicle.

Photo from stanncreekvalley.weebly.com
Was the chicle sacred for Maya, we might never know but archeologist found pieces of copal (another resin used as incense) wrapped in chicle which could have also been used in the process of sacrifice.

How is it harvest

As there are no plantation of sapodillas trees today, the chicleros ( person who harvest the gum) needs to find a tree during the rainy season, climb it and cut slashes into it. The dripping resin will then be collected in small bags and boiled until it reaches the correct thickness.

Picture from https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/sapodilla

Santa Anna and the modern chewing gum

The person responsible of introducing the chewing gum to the modern world was the mexican General Santa Anna who himself discovered the benefits of the ancient resin during his arrest while trying to quiet his nerves.
Later on, he sold it to the american Thomas Adams as a substitute for rubber but proved to be useless as it was melting with the heat. Left with no money and a wearhouse full of chicle, Thomas Adams had the brilliant idea of transforming it into small chewing balls.
With the time, the natural chicle was substituted with synthetic gum bases and plastic resins making it cheaper and easier to commercialize.
Even though Adams had to overcome lot of sales resistance, the product being considered harmful for the health especially when swallowed, recent researches prove that the chewing gum helps improving domains related to working memory, episodic memory and speed of perception.

Where you can find the sapodilla tree

During my trip to Mexico I had the chance to see one of the antic sapodilla tree in Muyil, a natural reserve located in Riviera Maya, beside other trees considered sacred by the Maya. I have to admit that I had no idea where the chewing gum is coming from and most probably I would have passed next by this tree without even noticing it if I wouldnt have take the right tour for my trip.
Ecoculture experiences is a travel agency which goal is to promote the eco tourism and preserve the environment for the future generations. Let’s all get involved in their initiative and surround ourselves with a green and healthy environment.
For more informations about the tours you can message them on instagram at Ecoculturexperiences or through their website www.ecoculture.com.mx/

Do you like chewing gum? Would you like to try the natural chicle found in the depth of mayan jungle? Let your comments bellow.

2 comments

  1. I love it! It’s so amazing how they make the chewing gum. I take a tour when I was a little girl and it was awesome, and also the taste is so unique.
    I loved your post.

    Liked by 1 person

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