top of page
botella lado  copy.jpg
botella rosa lado copy.jpg




In the Mayan culture the word Balam, translated as Jaguar, indicated something mysterious and hidden. It was considered as an ambivalent animal that symbolized darkness and light.


The feline brings together three concepts of Mayan thought:


  • Fertility

  • Ambivalence (Dark and Light)

  • Power




Because the jaguar lives in places with abundant biodiversity, it is referred to life and the renewing power of nature.


The jaguar is an allegory of life that is generated within the earth's crust and germinates on the feline. It is for the latter that in many myths the Mayan man is a descendant of the jaguar since he is designated as the progenitor of the human race.


Ambivalence: Light and Darkness


During the absence of the sun on the Earth, the celestial vault is charged with dark and "wild" energy, since at night it is possible to appreciate the powers and subterranean energies of which the Sun Jaguar (night solar god) is absolute dominant. and its mottled natural pattern was believed to represent the stars shining at night.


This animal is characterized by:

  • Great vision in the dark.

  • Incredible strength and agility when moving.


As evening fell, it is said that the sun god turned into the Sun Jaguar in order to travel through the Xibalba at night and fight the gods of the underworld. The sign of victory was to see the Sun rise again on the horizon the next day.




Mayans were faithful believers that the animal was the carrier of various sacred energies and turns out to be a symbol of power that reigns in the heart of the Earth and in the dark part of the universe.


In the Mayan social hierarchy, the vehement desire of the ruler to resemble the feline through his clothing, gave him a symbolism of authority, strength and dominion over the people.





Word Zihua


Derived from the Náhuatl word "Cihua", a language used by the Aztec empire, whose meaning is women and its singular "Cihuatl" is woman.


It is valid to use the Purépecha word “Zihua” and attribute the meaning of the Náhuatl to it, we will use the word Zihuatanejo as an example:


"Cihuatl" which means woman, "tzintli" which is attributed to a diminutive and "co" which refers to a place. All this together is expressed as "Place of beautiful women."


Zihua relationship with the jaguar


Based on the anthropological evidence of the meaning of the jaguar for the Mayans, there is a close relationship between the importance of women in today's society and the feline in ancient times.


Like the jaguar in Mayan myths, the woman is the progenitor of the human species thanks to the fertility that springs from her womb.


We can make an analogy, between the woman and the animal, when the Jaguar Sun lies in the darkness of the underworld defeating the gods of Xibalba, reborn at dawn thanks to its wild strength, motor agility and night vision.

Also, when women are in adverse situations, they have an instinct for self-improvement and they persevere until they achieve their goals despite obstacles. No matter how dark the panorama, the internal light of a woman shines just like the stars that represent the skin of the jaguar in the Mayan culture. The white color of the Zihua letters on the black bottle refers to this analogy.


Female empowerment in society is vital to breaking down the walls of intolerance. There will be no social progress if it is not based on equality and the equitable participation of women.


This is why the authority and hierarchy that the figure of the jaguar gave to the Mayan rulers must currently be homologated in the female sector of the population to achieve gender equality in all situations. Likewise, the present dominant sectors in society must understand this concept in order to evolve towards an egalitarian world.


Just as in ancient times the Mayan rulers believed that resembling the jaguar through its clothing gave them authority, strength and dominance, today it will not be necessary to carry real skins or parts of the animal, but the power of the jaguar will be represented by each bottle of Zihua.


The history of society as well as the way of drinking mezcal is about to change and we will write it together.



María del Carmen Valverde Valdés. Doctora en estudios mesoamericanos por la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. U.N.A.M. Investigadora y coordinadora del Centro de Estudios Mayas del Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas de la U.N.A.M.


Valverde Valdés, María del Carmen, “El jaguar entre los mayas. Entidad oscura y ambivalente”, Arqueología Mexicana núm. 72, pp. 47 - 51. 

bottom of page