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What is Copal or the “Food of the Gods”?
In Mexico, copal is used in the offerings dedicated to the Day of the Dead – Photo: Mauricio Marat/INAH

Copal, the “Food of the Gods”

01/11/2017
12:55
EFE
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In the Náhuatl language, "copal" referred to any resin-producing plant that spread its scent into the air when burned.

Copal was considered by the Aztecs as the “Food of the Gods” since it was used in offerings by Mesoamerican cultures. It is a plant with more than a hundred species that nowadays is threatened by wildfires and indiscriminate logging.

In the Náhuatl language, "copal" referred to any resin-producing plant that spread its scent into the air when burned.

Copal was used by pre-Hispanic cultures for festive and medicinal uses, as well as ceremonial as an offering for the deities. It "was offered to the gods considered a way of communication," explained researcher Aurora Montúfar López, a specialist at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Have you ever heard of Cempasúchil or the "flower of the Dead"?

There are pieces of copal in offerings rescued from the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itzá, ancient Mayan city in Yucatán, and in the Templo Mayor of the Aztecs in Mexico City representing small tortillas, tamales or grains of corn, "so it is thought that it was considered food for the gods," says Montúfar.

Around 100 species of copal are distributed exclusively in the Americas, from the southern United States to northern Peru and Brazil, including the Antilles and the Galapagos, according to data from Mexico's National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Conabio).

Have you ever tried Pan de Muerto, Bread of the Dead?

At least 80% of these species "naturally inhabit Mexico", mainly along the Pacific coast; the most common for its use are white Copal, Almárciga (Mastic), and Linaloe.

However, immoderate logging and wildfires are threatening several species of copal in Mexico, warns Manuel de Jesús Solís, former Coordinator of the Biodiversity Conservation Program. According to the expert, copal regulation is essential to ensure its future and persistence as Mesoamerican cultural heritage.

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