Mexico's many natural aphrodisiacs spice up your Valentine Menu

By Carol Wheeler for Go Mexico Way

Roses for your Valentine

Roses for your Valentine

February 14th is Valentine's Day. It's been celebrated as a day for romance since the 15th century and almost 150 million Valentines are sent each year. Candy, flowers and small gifts are exchanged by sweethearts.

Although it's not an official federal holiday,Valentine's Day is an important date South of the Border, where it is known as the Día del Amor y la Amistad — the Day of Love and Friendship. Thus, in addition to romantic partners, friends also receive cards, gifts and invitations on this holiday. It's not rooted in Mexican tradition. But this is a time to show appreciation to the people you care about.

Homemade Valentine chocolates by El Belgicano in Chapala

Homemade Valentine chocolates by El Belgicano in Chapala

Ardent young swains — and older romantics — may hire musicians to play a serenata of music beneath the beloved's window around midnight on the 13th. He may or may not sing along. And restaurants and clubs have special menus for the day. The Chapala Lakeside is no exception with a vast variety of options for dining. Reservations are usually a must!

Did you know that Mexico set the Guinness World Record in 2009 when 39,897 people gathered in Mexico City's main square, or Zocalo, for the largest recorded group kiss ever?

What's on the menu for Valentine's Day?

Ancient tradition considers a number of Mexican foods to be aphrodisiacs. Avocado,of course, is a favorite whether in salads, as a garnish or in guacamole.

The Aztec emperor Moctezuma is said to have drunk fifty golden goblets of chocolate a day to enhance his libido and assure the continuance of his line. Authentic Belgian chocolates are available at Lakeside to gift to the people you appreciate or to indulge your own sweet tooth. They're handmade in Chapala by El Belgicano.

Also native to Mexico, the tomato was an important part of pre-Hispanic Mexico's diet. Yet it promoted as an aphrodisiac not by Mexicans but by the French, who called it the "love apple."

Damiana, native to Mexico's Baja peninsula, is used to make a tea believed in Mexico to be an aphrodisiac. You'll find it in Damiana brand liqueur, which is sometimes sold in a bottle shaped like a pregnant woman. That sounds like truth in advertising.

Natural honey was the basis for an intoxicating drink used by the ancient Maya.

Natural honey was the basis for an intoxicating drink used by the ancient Maya.

Rich, fragrant vanilla originated in Mexico's Totonac region and people there tell how Xanat, the youngest daughter of a fertility goddess, fell in love with a Totonac youth. Since he was a human and she a goddess, they were unable to marry. So she transformed herself into the first vanilla plant, whose aroma would provide him with pleasure and remind him of her undying love.

Passion fruit, or maracuya is filled with seeds, which have often symbolized fertility. Similar is the strawberry, which represented sexuality in medieval art as its seeds, or reproductive parts, were not hidden discretely in the center but flaunted all over the skin. It’s not uncommon to find passion fruit in the gardens of Chapala and Ajijic.

In Yucatan, the Maya made balché, their ritual alcoholic beverage, from honey. A delicious anise-flavored honey-based liqueur known as Xtabentun is produced in the Yucatan. Is it an aphrodisiac? Why not try it and see?

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