X'tabentun, liqueur of the Maya
Myths and legends are almost as old as mankind itself. They are born from the interaction of man’s imaginative creativity and reality. X’tabentun, the liquor that the ancient Mayas offered to their gods during ceremonies, is completely surrounded by a mystic halo.
As for X’tabentun, we find stories of fabulous supernatural beings from Mayan mythology, which in legend form have become fantastic literature that has nothing in common with other cultures.
This magical literature which is alive and well with today’s contemporary Mayas can be seen in their lifestyles, habits and traditions.
Among the local campesinos/Mayan farmers, there is hardly a person that doesn’t believe in the existence of XKeban, a feminine being or spirit, who puts out nasty traps for young people with the object of hurting or killing them. It is behind the image of XKeban that the spirit of Utz-Colel hides.
In the eyes of the neighbors, Utz-Colel was a good woman, a woman that should be pleased; however, her essence was one of egotism and she had a hard, cold heart. On the other hand, Xkeban was the town sinner, and she was capable of taking the most valued possessions of the wealthy to help out the poor.
Maybe, because of this, at the death of Xkeban, Mother Nature wanted to pay her honors. The next day, her tomb was covered in wonderful flowers that had never before been seen in the land of the Mayab. The entire village was breathing in the fine aroma of the incredible flowers. It is told that this flower, called X’tabentun, is the same one that grows wild among the agave plant leaves. This is the legend of this liquor, native to our state, made with rum, anis and the honey that comes from the X’tabentun flower.
Nowadays, males who know the story, when they taste X’tabentun, say that it is so sweet and intoxicating just as the love of Xkeban must have been.
Barmen tell us that it is common to serve X’tabentun either alone, with ice and honey, or simply cold. It is sipped from a small glass that may have a coffee bean in the bottom. There are also those that like to pour a bit into their coffee. To those who are in the know about Yucatecan gastronomy, they highly recommend a cold glass of the aromatic drink as the perfect ending to a Yucatecan meal of lime soup and some tacos of roasted suckling pig – cochinita pibil.
Text: Yurina Fernandez Noa