Afro-Colombian moonshine gets official seal of approval as heritage drink

Lucía Solís, an Afro-Colombian artisan distiller from Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific coast, has spent much of her life making and selling viche, a pungent liquor believed to cure snakebites. Now, with a new law on the horizon, she’ll be able to sell the ancestral home-brew across the country –and perhaps beyond.

The Afro-Colombian moonshine, traditionally distilled from raw sugar cane and mixed with local herbs and fruits, was this week recognised by Colombia’s senate as part of the country’s “cultural and ancestral heritage”, a move that now awaits President Iván Duque’s approval.

The new law will allow for the liquor, until now mostly sold on roadsides and beachfronts across the Colombian Pacific, to be produced and commercialized at a larger scale by Afro-Colombians, while restricting production to ancestral communities.

“This is just the beginning,” said Solís, whose family have distilled the drink for six generations. She has been calling on politicians to recognise the cultural significance of viche for four years, and in April she registered her viche’s trademark. “We’ve been here for 300 years making viche and now we can get distribution on a large scale.”

Afro-Colombians have populated the regions along the country’s Pacific coasts since the 16th century, when their ancestors were brought from Africa as slaves to work on sugar cane plantations, goldmines and the large estates of landowning Spanish colonizers.

Viche, which usually has an ABV of about 35%, has traditionally been prepared by women, while the men worked the fields.

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