Spices in the air: Totonac Vanilla Inspiration

Spices in the air: Totonac Vanilla Inspiration
01/17/2016 Rachel
vanilla grown in mexico

Did you know that vanilla comes from pods hanging from an orchid species? And, that it originated in Mexico? I didn’t until I started digging around for something to write about for this post. The Huffington Post has a nice article with great images of the flower, location and vanilla recipes. Here is a look at the orchid flower:

Vanilla Orchid story on the Huffington Post.

Vanilla Orchid story on the Huffington Post.


The Totonac people were the first to cultivate it. They were eventually overpowered by the Aztecs and were faced to pay tribute in the form of vanilla. The Totonac culture lives on and is best known for flying performances off a huge pole. The symbolism of these acts are rooted in a long story about crop fertility, conversations with the wind, meetings with the elements of nature and gratitude.



The Totonac were an agricultural people and had other crops they tended. Mythology thrived in all activities: “The Totonac people, who inhabit the East Coast of Mexico in the present-day state of Veracruz, were the first to cultivate vanilla. According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew. (Wikipedia)


Vanilla is the second most expensive and treasured spice, following saffron. Colonization of Central America introduced Europeans to this exquisite flavor and aroma and from there, the orchid made its way to other parts of the world, all located at about the same longitude as its roots in Mexico. By the late 1800’s crops planted in Madagascar thrived and dominates the market today. The Totonac vanilla remains a strong favorite and thrives as an industry in Veracruz. Most of us will certainly have comforting memories of a holiday or favorite food jump in to our minds when vanilla floats in the air.



Vanilla Inspired Handmade Gallery


We have a special gallery of images here for you from our Artizan Made Shops, inspired by Vanilla. Overall, the feel is warm yet clean, welcoming and off white.  Click on the images to visit our member shops. They may be on Etsy or on their own self hosted sites.



[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”25″ gal_title=”Vanilla”]


For those of you who love the craft traditions that come out of Mexico and Central America, check out Hammock Boutique and MayaMam Weavers (both fair trade groups), and Steel Goat Studio, CulturalPatina Gallery, Hot Moon Collection, The Loaded Trunk and Sir Raffles Art History (specializing in ethical vintage).

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