Sunrise over La Rodriguera Palenque, Ocotlán de Morelos, Oaxaca, Mexico
35 km south of the center of the city of Oaxaca lies Ocotlán de Morelos, a small town set at 4,900 ft. in elevation. The arid landscape makes the region a perfect location for Pedro Rodriguez's palenque that specializes in sustainable, ancestral mezcal production. Although a tradition that has been passed down since time immemorial, Pedro's way of life is at risk of dying out in favor of industrial production that yields higher volumes of mezcal at lower prices. We as consumers play a significant role in the future of mezcal and its sustainability. In the last 10 years, official production has increased from 1 million liters in 2011 to almost 8 million liters. Several smaller palenque owners, like those photographed here, are running out of business due to foreign investment producing the spirit at much higher volumes. This is not only keeping local producers at lower social and economic levels, but also causing a strain on limited natural resources and on preserving cultural identity.