RAICILLA...the myth...the facts
An article from the local newspaper called "Hola Amigos"
Raicilla, pronounced "rye-see-ya", is the local moon shine. It is distilled in crude, primitive stills from a fermented mash made from the roots ( raicilla means "little root" ) of the maguey plant. It is a strong violent liquor of greatly varying quality, and usually more than 100 proof. Since it is produced without government license, and sold without government tax, it is illegal in the same sense that moonshine is illegal in the United States. Its production is one of the traditional local arts, and it is found only in this area.
Since it is higher in alcoholic content than most commercially available liquors even a small amount can produce a sudden, strong, and unpredictable drunkeness. There are many reports of violent gastric reactions, and temporary motor paralysis. It has a strong, and persistent reputation for producing an aphrodisiac effect in women, but causing temporary impotency in men. This can lead to a social situation of confused, and conflicting desires. It gives a rough hangover.
The myth that it produces a psychedelic effect is a product of a raicilla-inflamed imagination. The myth is based (insofar as it is based on anything at all ) on the mistaken belief that it contains mescaline from the local San Pedro cactus. Although the San Pedro cactus does contain some mescaline and has, at times, been used as part of the fermented mash, the chemical mescaline is not volatile ( it crystallizes rather than vaporizes ) and so cannot go through the distillation process, but remains a residue in the mash.
Raicilla can be tested for alcohol content by pouring a bit in a saucer and lighting a match to the rising vapor. If it burns it is of high proof, and probably has not been watered down.
Since raicilla is cheap, strong, and readily available, it is most widely and frequently used drinks among the local borrachos (drunks). The raicilla-borracho can still sit and talk ( lucidly, he thinks ) long after he has lost the ability to walk. He does not know this until after he stands up.
For those who drink alcohol at all, a taste of raicilla is an almost essential part of the full local experience. When you drink it for the first time, you should be in secure surroundings among people you know and trust and use cautious moderation.
Note** There is a legal producer of Raicilla, and you can view the information here