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Tehuacán, Mexico

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Tehuacán, Mexico

Coordinates: 18 27 N 97 23 W

Population: 260,923 (2006 est.)

With another Thanksgiving mere days away, and evidence of parade preparations for Macy’s annual 2.5-mile extravaganza popping up all over Manhattan, talk around the office has taken a turkey-themed turn. As I listened to debates over the best way to prepare this symbolic bird, I started to wonder about its geographical origins. A little research led me to the discovery that this flavorful fowl followed a long road north before reaching dinner tables here in the United States. So while the precise site may never be known, turkey husbandry can be traced back to central Mexico, in the state of Puebla.

Archaeologists studying the origins of agriculture in the arid valley near the town of Tehuacán have dated the earliest evidence of domestication between 200 B.C.E. and 700 C.E. It seems that the nomadic groups that composed the culture we now know as the Aztecs weren’t the responsibly party, but had adopted the bird as a part of their cuisine by the time Europeans arrived here in the sixteenth century. Actually, the turkey may be in some way responsible for the Spanish Conquest. Would greedy Hernán Cortés have tried to capture Tenochtitlán if Montezuma hadn’t sent him a gift of six gold turkey statuettes?
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Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.

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