If it’s not Modelo time now, it is in viral videos, late-night parties and internet memes. There is nothing like cracking open a cold one with friends and pushing any worries of today to tomorrow.
But in my case, saving my worries for another day is not an option, especially when cheap beer is the cause of my concerns back home.
When it comes to tracing my origins, I will always point southeast of the United States-Mexico border, on the Mexican side.
The place I call home is Mexicali, Baja California and it’s no surprise to me when people do not recognize that name. Rather than visiting Mexicali for the weekend to go clubbing and have street tacos, Tecate or Tijuana tend to be the most popular cities because of their close proximity to Orange County.
I will never judge those who prefer to drive a little over two hours to those two cities, rather than drive more than three hours to Mexicali. However, I do reserve my judgment for those who drink Constellation Brands’ beer, Modelo’s brand owner.
The third-largest brewery in the U.S. began its business ventures in Mexico after obtaining the rights to Grupo Modelo back in 2013, which includes popular drinks such as Corona, Victoria, Pacífico and Modelo. Less than a decade later, Constellation Brands came under fire after state Governor Francisco Vega approved a devious law that put Mexicali’s water supply in jeopardy.
Although the law was taken back, the damage had already been done. The company had unveiled its $1.5-billion project at the beginning of 2016 and began construction shortly after. The brewery was set to be completed within four to five years since then.
After a number of setbacks, the construction site, which spans 350 hectares, will not be completed before 2021.
I had no more than a small sigh of relief when construction was delayed. But, that does not stop my heart from racing when I see online pictures of activists fighting against oppressive authorities near my family’s ranch in hopes of solving the problem. It hurts to see the damage it brings to those who identify as cachanillas, an identity term held dearly by Mexicali residents.
Elected officials like Vega make it hard for Baja California residents to trust any other officials. Since the birth of the republic, Mexico has had numerous cases of government corruption that have taken advantage of its own people.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is no exception. Even when he has something to say on a matter such as this one, it is easier to roll eyes and ignore his remarks than nod along with false hopes.
According to a 2019 Reuters article, Obrador went over the environmental issues that surround the massive use of water by breweries. But, he forgot to mention one crucial detail — the brewery’s name.
Baja California is not the only state to fall victim under a U.S.-owned brewery. Along with the development of the Mexicali plant, Constellation Brands has begun expanding its two other separate sites: Obregon, Sonora and Nava, Coahuila.
Out of those three states, Coahuila has suffered the consequences of malpractice by the company.
In a 2016 letter to Coahuila state Governor Rubén Moreira, former Mayor Leoncio Martínez Sánchez of the municipality of Zaragoza wrote, “We have no water for human consumption.”
The ache I feel from that single sentence grows in addition to anticipating the worst to come once the brewery completes its Mexicali plant. There is not one community in that city I don’t worry about. Constellation Brands damaged Zaragoza, so who’s to say it won’t hurt my home as well?
I have yet to see people move away from beers like Modelo, mainly my peers at Cal State Fullerton.
It’s unlikely that in the student body — with 41.5% Latinx students — there aren’t other students who worry about not only those three states, but Mexico’s natural resources as a whole.
Rather than popping off the lid of a Modelo bottle and drinking up the stolen water from Mexican families, it’s best to go with award-winning, eco-friendly brands such as Full Sail Brewing Company, New Belgium Brewing Company and dozens more.
Even if beer produced by smaller companies is more expensive than a mass-produced 12-pack of Modelo, the price is worth it in the long run.
So next time there is a party going down, do Mexican states and everyone’s taste buds a favor and say goodbye to unethical brewing and hello to sustainable goodness.