Is Hennessy Making Up Mexican History to Boost Cognac Sales?

Got to the office late Wednesday, and greeting me was a bottle of Hennessy cognac. Curious, I saw a press release attached to the box that contained the bottle and immediately became bewildered--and not just because I started pouring that sweet nectar down my gullet.

Hennessy is commemorating Mexico's bicentennial by releasing a special bottle to coincide with September's coming celebrations. "It is Hennessy's privilege to be part of Mexico's rich heritage and cultural celebrations," Hennesy's director of Hispanic marketing is quoted as saying in the press release. "Hennessy was the spirit of choice 200 years ago as Mexican soldiers and civilians toasted to their victory in battle. We are proud to recognize this powerful legacy and honor the 200th anniversary with an exclusive, commemorative box set perfect for gifting."

¿QUE QUE?


I've heard most legends and history regarding the course of Mexican history, from the allegation that Dubya's granddaddy stole the head of Pancho Villa to the hidden treasure of the last Aztec emperor Cuauhtemoc, but Hennessy's claim is the first time I've ever heard of it. It's not even listed in Hennessy's flashy video on its website marking its history. It makes no sense: commoners in 19th-century Mexico would've preferred pulque, mezcal, or other drinks that the ancients brewed--or perhaps tequila. And the upper classes--while loving their brandy--probably wouldn't have chosen a Mexican brand.

The box containing the Hennessy bottle featured a sketch of people toasting with the recollections of someone stating that Mexicans celebrated independence from Spain with Hennessy. The problem with the recollection is that it dates back to 1938, and is attributed to not to a historian or politician, but a Vidaurreta. I asked Jennifer Reza, who's doing publicity for Hennessy's commemorative bottle, about her source for the company's claim. "The full name is Valentin Vidaurreta, a Mexican artisan (illustrator and designer)," Reza replied via email. "His sketch was discovered by someone at the House of Hennessy on a trip to Mexico, many years ago (we don't know when). Additionally,  a reproduction of the sketch hangs at Chateau Bagnolet in Cognac, France, the official House of Hennessy."

Hmmm...a sketch and a recollection "discovered" by a Hennessy employee "many years ago"? Sounds like the telling of Anaheim's founding goat to me.

Mexico has a habit of aggrandizing the slightest patriotic story (los niños heroes, la adelita, Siete Leguas, etc.), and this is one story I didn't grow up on or is repeated ad nauseum. Hennessy is good stuff, but their historical claims tying them to la independencia go down about as smooth as a bottle of Sauza. Primary, contemporary documentation, por favor!

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