Why you shouldn’t eat Rosca de Reyes with acitrón

The burra biznaga, a plant with which acitrón is made, is in danger of extinction (Photo: EFE / Sáshenka Gutiérrez)
The burra biznaga, a plant with which acitrón is made, is in danger of extinction (Photo: EFE / Sáshenka Gutiérrez)

This January 6 ends the Guadalupe-Reyes marathon, a season of Christmas celebrations in Mexico, and to close this period with a flourish, it is customary share a rosca de Reyes, which is made with ingredients such as bitumen, nuts and traditional sweets.

However, beyond the ate and caramelized figs, There is an element that threatens the survival of an endemic cactus in the country, it is the acitrón.

According to the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), this sweet is made with the donkey biznaga (Echinoactus platyacantus), a plant in danger of extinction.

This species takes 14 to 40 years to grow only 40 centimeters. However, giants over a meter high take more than 200 years.

The biznaga takes 14 to 40 years to grow only 40 centimeters (Photo: Twitter @ fciencias)
The biznaga takes 14 to 40 years to grow only 40 centimeters (Photo: Twitter @ fciencias)

On the other hand, the biznaga fulfills necessary functions in the desert ecosystems in Mexico. According to the maximum house of studies, its roots retain rainwater, are sources of nectar for pollinators and stop the process of soil erosion.

In this sense, the fact that this plant is at risk of extinction also compromises other species.

The Echinoactus grow in arid areas, distributed mainly in the states of Puebla, Oaxaca, Chihuahua, Hidalgo and San Luis Potosí.

It should be noted that this plant is under the category of “Special Protection” of the NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 standard. It is also monitored by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa). Therefore, its extraction is considered illegal.

To avoid its extinction, it is recommended to replace the acitrón of the rosca de Reyes with other ingredients that do not pose a danger to the environment. Some recommend using different crystallized fruits like watermelon and papaya.

With this action, the cactus will have time to grow and develop at its natural rate, and its population will be able to reestablish itself.

Three Kings Day is a tradition brought from Spain (Photo: EFE / Mario Guzmán)
Three Kings Day is a tradition brought from Spain (Photo: EFE / Mario Guzmán)

This Wednesday, gathered around a table, entire families in Mexico will enjoy this delicious delicacy. It is a Catholic tradition inherited from Spain, which consists of breaking a donut-shaped bread that has tiny plastic figures inside.

The person who when taking his slice finds said figure, will be in charge of providing the tamales to celebrate the feast of the candelaria on February 2.

According to historical sources, the celebration originated from the ancient Roman Empire, who made round loaves made with honey, nuts, dates and figs, to celebrate the winter solstice.

Inside the saucer they hid a bean, which gave the fortune of being named king for a day to whoever found it on his piece of bread.

This year's Christmas holidays were experienced differently due to the confinement due to coronavirus (Photo: Mario Jasso / Cuartoscuro)
This year’s Christmas holidays were experienced differently due to the confinement due to coronavirus (Photo: Mario Jasso / Cuartoscuro)

Years later, the tradition reached Spain, where candied fruits were added and a figurine was hidden inside to symbolize when Joseph and Mary hid the baby Jesus from Herod.

It is said that the oval shape of the thread represents the infinite circle of love for God, the crystallized dried fruits represent the jewels of the crowns of the Magi and, as we already mentioned, the hidden doll represents the Child Jesus.

The story goes that Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar They traveled from the East to Jerusalem guided by a star, to worship a newborn prophet, bringing as offerings: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The day these characters finally meet the child Jesus is called Epiphany, a meeting that symbolizes the Rosca de Reyes.

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