MamaJuana: The Dominican Drink Of Choice

MamaJuana: The Dominican Drink Of Choice

This Dominican staple is sure to be on your bucket list.

In the Caribbean, and most notably in the Dominican Republic, there is a well-known drink called Mamajuana. In simple terms, Mamajuana is a blend of exotic, wild grown herbs, tree stems, barks, leaves, roots and spices all native to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Rum, red wine and honey are fermented in the herbs and spices to give a unique, sweet flavor. Aside from being an all-around delicious alcoholic beverage, legend has it that this drink is viewed as an aphrodisiac and has many medicinal purposes. The drink is said to increase vitality, provoke “feistiness” and cure anything ranging from the flu to ovarian cancer, and it's a staple of the 10,656,777 people inhabiting it –– not including the tourists looking for a sample.

Looking at a bottle of Mamajuana, one will see a jar of sticks, leaves and liquid. The sticks and leaves are the bark and herbs to purify the drink and add the medicinal qualities to help the liquid ferment and cure the main ingredients. Half of the bottle is usually a combination of the specific Canilillea leaves and guyacan plants in the Dominican. The liquid, at first, is a solving agent to help pull nutrients out of the exotic, native grown plants. After pouring out the solving agent liquid, which is usually a sort of gin, the user combines a portion of honey with red wine and rum and lets it sit for anywhere from a few days to a week. The gin combats any bacteria on the plant, as it’s usually 40 percent proof or 20 percent alcohol. Although the main ingredients are the same, different areas in the Dominican add different substances to it to target different health issues they want combatted. Exactly what is in the drink depends on what area you are in and who is crafting it. For example, areas in the southern Dominican Republic choose to incorporate “miembro de carey,” which quite literally means “turtle penis” because of its apparent healing powers.

Typically, it’s said the first real batch of Mamajuana comes out on the bitter side, since the time needed to cure the bottle varies. However, with each additional batch of Mamajuana, the drink is supposed to be smoother. After drinking all of the honey-rum-wine concoction, the bottle can be refilled to be fermented, since the medicinal herbs are said to have a seven to 10 year lifespan. The rare “powers” the Dominicans swear by are formed from the different, native ingredients they choose to include. Many times, the additions they make are from their sea creatures of the island: conch, octopus, snails, and the aforementioned sea turtle. In addition, the sweetness one can taste on the island’s batches of Mamajuana is from their limes, lemons, molasses, raisins or even cinnamon. The drink is usually taken as a shot and stored at room temperature. However, just as there’s no wrong way to make the drink, there’s no wrong way to drink it. That being said, there were no climate or regulatory interruptions in the drink and the substitutes to the actual drink are limited since the ingredients to it are so loosely defined. The drink has a monopoly on the Dominican aphrodisiac market. The substitutes to the ingredients themselves are abundant.

Mamajuana is believed to date back to over 800 years and was first present as a form of herbal tea. The Taino Indians, who lived in the Caribbean and the region called Hispanola, known currently as Santo Domingo, used the drink as vitality and an answer to their well-being. Today’s version of the drink was branded by Mr. Jesus Rodriguez in the 1950’s as an herbal medicine. Rodriguez co-wrote the song “Mama Juana” which was performed by Tatico Henriquez. As popularity for the medicinal drink grew, the Dominican government, under President Rafael Trujillo, sought to arrest anybody that sold it without a medical license. As a result, Rodriguez fled to the United States in the 1970’s. He located himself in Manhattan, New York and passed away from pneumonia on May 26, 2013. To this day, the drink is referred to as the “Baby Maker” and “El Para Palo,” which translates to “Lift the stick,” and it's related to the slogan the Dominicans say: “Whatever tortures you –– Mamajuana takes care of it." Mamajuana is also said to be in your system forever once someone takes a drink of it, and it will resurface at difficult times.

The Taino Indians originated from Central and South America and established settlement on the Dominican island peacefully. Their society was built on cooperation and peace, seen through their herbal tea development where Mamajuana first became popular. They used the drink as the strength of life and love and believed it to be the aphrodisiac of their world. Since current day medicine wasn’t available to them, they believed the drink cured symptoms ranging from the common cold, the influenza, ovarian cancer, kidney and blood disease, and other diseases and tragedies. Their society was stable until the Conquistadores and Christopher Columbus landed there and manipulated them for the land’s riches. Columbus enslaved or slaughtered their culture until they were nearly extinct. However, the entire culture did not die, as the few remaining survivors passed on the medicinal traditions. Today, there are few families in the Dominican that identify with the ancestors and claim to have the roots of the long-lived Mamajuana tradition.

The current use of the drink is passed on to visitors and tourists of the Dominican Republic as a welcome present and a form of “liquid Viagra,” and can be seen as an entertainment attribute, rather than a staple. All-inclusive resorts harvest and ferment their own takes on Mamajuana with different sugars and spices added to it to develop a unique combination, though their medicinal leaves and bark are all the same. Since psychology has morphed over time, the initial curing aspect of the drink has changed into more of a stimulating aspect, in the hopes of romance. In addition, the resorts sell pre-bottled portions of the drink to travelers as a main souvenir, since the Dominican Republic is the only place the herbs and special ingredients are grown.

Recently, I traveled to Punta Cana with my family for a vacation. We were greeted with sugary beverages almost immediately but were given Mamajuana within minutes of walking onto the hotel grounds. The drink tastes spicy and sweet at the same time, likely from the combination of cinnamon and honey the hotel created. It smells almost identical to a sangria. My family and I noted that every time we were served Mamajuana, it was with a wink from the bartender, as the drink is not only native but also known for stimulation. I was gifted a bottle of the medicinal herbs and spices from the staff and decided to try my own spin on Mamajuana at home. I combined equal parts rum and wine and topped the remaining off with honey and let the mixture ferment for a week. The drink was strong, and only slightly tasted like the one I remember. What is interesting is that the first time my family and I visited the Dominican Republic, back in 2008, Mamajuana wasn’t as popular as it is today. We were never offered the beverage though we stayed at a similar, neighboring hotel chain.

The drink can be purchased online, though there is no guarantee the real concoction will ship to the buyer – the safest way is through the Dominican Republic itself. Bottles typically run about $5 for 150 ml of the drink, but any additional mixes after the initial use is on the buyer’s expense. Originally, the pricing was nonexistent, as the drink was made from the riches of the island. Currently, the drink can be bartered and haggled for tourists in many of the flea-market-like stands lining the beaches.


Cover Image Credit: Daydreams & Shoestrings

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

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Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.


I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.


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