Mexican inventions: Chewing gum

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The origin of chewing gum is ancient. It has been found in places like Kierikki in Finland and dates from the Neolithic period or Ancient Greece where it was extracted from the mastic tree. Presumably they chewed resin from plants and trees for their medicinal properties. Although, the modern chewing gum was originated in the Southeast of Mexico.

In the Southeast jungle of Mexico and north of Central America has always grown a tree called chicozapote. The indigenous people of the area used to get the sap of the tree by cutting it out in zig zag and collecting it in jars. Afterwards they let the sap dry and with this gum they used to clean their teeth or inhibit hunger.

They called it ‘sicte’ which means blood or vital fluid and its use expanded to others regions until it reached the Aztecs where it was named ‘tzictli’ (to stick). It was with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors that was called chicle.

It is said that centuries later the former president of Mexico Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna told Thomas Adams about the characteristics of this chewing gum. During his exile Santa Anna met Adams in New York and had a conversation about producing a cheap, elastic and resisting material. The former president told him about the gum that indigenous people chewed and how it could be mixed with plastic.

The original idea was such an epic fail that Adams decided to give up and sell it to pharmacists around the East Cost of the United States. He wouldn’t imagine the success of the product especially when flavor was added to the mix in 1869.

Holding the flavor has always been the problem due to the nature of the gum which does not absorb flavors but sugar. This is an issue some brands still want to improve. But here you go, one of the most common things we take for granted everyday was actually originated in Mexico.

Were you aware of this Mexican invention?

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