The community of Zapotitlán Salinas is located in the southeast of the state of Puebla, in the Tehuacán–Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, one of the regions with the highest diversity of flora in the world. Zapotitlán is recognized all over Mexico for its prized fossil salt, formed around 50 million years ago when this area, now semi-desertic, was submerged by the sea. An age-old extraction technique is used, which archeological findings have dated back to at least 2,000 years ago. Long before the arrival of the Spanish, the local inhabitants drew saltwater from natural wells and cooked it slowly at low temperatures in terracotta pots, obtaining crystallized saline deposits. The production method changed in the 16th century; cooking was replaced by solar evaporation, reducing costs and boosting yields.
The salt is now made twice a year. The first period is from March to May, a hot season before the arrival of the rains, during which production is faster and higher-yielding. The second is from October to February, after the rains, when the heat is less intense and evaporation slower.
The production process takes around a month. The producer, known as a salinero, pumps water from the wells into small ponds that are 2 meters square and 10 centimeters deep. The sun’s heat evaporates the water and, working from experience, the producer knows when to remove certain sediments by moving the water from one pond to another. After around 15 days, when the solution changes color from green to white, the first salt crystals begin to form. Known as sal de arroba and rich in sodium sulfate and potassium, this salt is used to feed the many goats farmed in the region. During the following days, the salinero will stir the remaining sediment with a wooden stick to help remove any excess moisture, then collect the “tender salt” (sal tierna) at just the right time, when it is just shiny and salty enough.
Zapotitlán Salinas, Puebla state
In collaboration with
Comida Lenta A.C (Slow Food Mexico)