Long before Europeans arrived in South America, the indigenous people living in the heart of the continent understood the health benefits of yerba maté, and drank it for its gentle, but powerful stimulating effect. To this day, it is customary for South Americans in the yerba maté growing region to gather in circles around a fire and drink maté from a common vessel that is usually a hollowed out woody fruit, called a gourd. The stimulating, mood enhancing effects of yerba maté contribute to social interaction and conversation essential to sustainable living and human relationships.
European explorers first learned of Yerba Mate in 1592 from the native tribes. When the Spanish, followed by the Portuguese arrived in the maté region of South America, they quickly recognized its commercial value. The Jesuits in northern Argentina were the first to cultivate yerba maté for commercial purposes. Over the centuries, yerba maté became a cultural influence that served to colonize the Europeans into a new South American identity. Today, in a large part of South America, maté is more widely consumed than coffee.
Since the late nineteenth century, immigrant and expatriate migration has seen yerba maté spread to the Middle East, and become an integral part of some of the ancient local cultures in that region. Yerba maté has been in North America for over thirty years, though today, while rising in popularity it is still widely unknown.
The Tradition of Chimarrão
Dating back to the time of the indigenous Guaraní and Tupí peoples, the custom of drinking Yerba Mate in a gourd has come to symbolize much for the peoples of southern Brazil. A Chimarrão circle became the culmination of tradition, uniting people of every race, belief, skin color and social class around a fire, creating a common ground for all. This creates an environment of respect, uniting couples, bonding generations and solidifying the family nucleus. It brings people to a sense of community, enduring friendships, inspiring the sense of comfort as the gourd circles around. It maintains the feeling of affection and companionship and becomes a way of increasing communication, which is the essence of unity. Chimarrão is a spontaneous expression of the survival of healthy traditions, many of which are fading today.
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