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The Mate in America – El Mate en América

Javier & José Eguiguren & al.

Foreword: Dr. José Manuel Cruz Valdovinos
Eguiguren & Vega. 2004

Spanish & English editions printed by La Stampa, Buenos Aires
248 pp.

Both editions out of print

For some years now the brothers Javier and José Eguiguren Molina have been undertaking in the commendable work of researching and studying Argentine silver with reference to that of other South American countries. Their work has appeared in a wide variety of publications and numerous exhibitions and has always enjoyed notable success with both the general public and other specialist in the field. 

Their work has resulted in this significant book on the mate. For many years the Eguiguren brothers have been re-examining they had previously published about yerba mate and the various objects produced to facilitate its consumption. Above all, they examined many pieces in museums or private collections, some of them well-known, but many others that they have discovered. Indeed, this is an Argentine, subject par excellence, however they had restricted themselves to studying and cataloguing only Argentine pieces, they would have forsaken a comprehensive investigation of this field of study and their conclusions would have had only partial validity. Thus, they persevered and complied with their undertaking to include the entire Hispano-American territory in which Paraguayan “yerba” was consumed and where mates were made, ranging from Peru to Chile, Brazil to Uruguay and the Argentine Provinces, Bolivia and Paraguay. Only thus has it been possible to establish a rigorously comprehensive typological and chronological overview and to reach an all-encompassing appraisal of the subject.

If any study of silverware requires an historical and sociological context, it is even more necessary in the case of the mate. In this matter the linguistic, economic, agricultural and medicinal aspects assume a special significance; the Kichua “matí” influenced the Guaraní caiguá, the Paraguayan economic crisis of the 18th century, the cultivation of “yerba” in Jesuit missions and its therapeutic uses. There are many factors that affect the custom of drinking “yerba“, notably the design, appearance and quality of the various items necessary its consumption. Of course, the geographical characteristics that brought about the competition between tea and mate, albeit in different and sometimes opposing ways, varies according to the territory.

These include the different trade routes, the great historic events such as the expulsion of Jesuits and independence from the Spanish Crown, and the penetration of English and French influences. They have all had a decisive impact on the customs surrounding this drink, whether consumed privately or publicly, individually or collectively.

The work undertaken is fundamental. We are in no doubt that this book will be a reference work for any future study dealing directly or indirectly with the consumption of mate and its peculiar utensils. Undoubtedly, it will be the authors themselves who, during their future research, will be the ones to notice the minimal modifications that may be required to their typological, chronological or geographical conclusions. Nevertheless, the cataloguing effort has been such, and the overall effort has been so comprehensive, that there can be very examples left to discover that will add to what has now been written and discussed.

Dr. José Manuel Cruz Valdovinos (abstract)