It has nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic, but to the residents of Mexicali it's just as important.
April 7 is National Beer Day in America.
As such, it's as good a time as any to make a pledge that you won't drink Corona beer ever again...
Last February — back when the pandemic was just kicking off — Twitter had a field day with a survey revealing that 38% of American beer drinkers wouldn't buy Corona "under any circumstances." They had the right idea.
Many interpreted this as an indication that these people have mistakenly inferred a causal relationship between the beer and the coronavirus pandemic, but the survey actually indicated that fewer than half that number — around 16% — were confused about a possible connection between the two (still way too high), and the spike of Google searches for "Corona beer virus" tapered off after early February.
Someone should let 38% of Americans know that Corona Light has half the virus of regular Corona— Sarah Cooper (@Sarah Cooper) 1582904180.0
Only 4% of regular Corona drinkers in the survey actually indicated that they would stop — maybe they were confused, or maybe they just prefered not to be reminded of the growing threat of COVID-19 while trying to unwind with a bottle of cheap beer. But whether they realized it or not, they were helping a good cause by joining in the boycott of Constellation Brands.
The Constellation Brands Boycott
Constellation Brands is the company that makes Corona, Modelo, and Pacifico beers. It's a massive Fortune 500 company that earned over $7 billion in revenue in 2017 and over $18 billion in assets.
Despite branding that closely associates its beers with Mexico, it's actually an American company headquartered in New York. So, for the residents of Mexicali, it's particularly galling that their state government would make a secret deal with the company to sell off the rights to more than 5 billion gallons of the regions annual water supply — water that is designated for agriculture.
Mexicali is the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California, and the population hub of an agricultural region that already struggles with increasingly severe droughts and a river that is diverted and dammed for American use North of the border. According to Mexico's National Water Commission, Mexicali's underground water reserves are already the most exploited in the country, with large swaths of land that could be used to grow food being abandoned as a result.
In the words of one farmer — who no longer has enough access to water to rotate seasonal crops — "They're managing the water as if it were loot to be divvied up among them … The government's intention is to leave us with nothing, without land and without water."
The water that Constellation Brands has purchased the rights to constitutes around 20% of the area's natural water supply, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of farmers in the region. And it's all to produce beer that will then be shipped into California and sold to Americans who don't realize the impact they're having.
In recent years protesters working under the banner of "Mexicali Resiste" have done their best to stall construction of Constellation Brands' planned $1.5 billion brewery, but the local government — including several figures with close business ties to the company — have worked to suppress the resistance movement. Members have reported being threatened, beaten, and burglarized, and their protests and encampments have been met with swinging police batons.
In the words of activist Jesus Galaz Duarte, "Basically this government has based its business model around selling the public's water … In this model, anything can be bought. Everything has a price." In an interview with NPR, he went on to say, "It's a model of exploitation and capitalism where they basically come for the natural resources to exploit them and take them away to wherever the market is … They're going to leave this region without the resources to live a dignified life."
A dry riverbed during a 2015 drought in Baja California
The whole situation is reminiscent of the reckless plundering of California's precious water reserves by the so-called Wonderful Company — which sells the Wonderful brand of pistachios, Pom pomegranate juice, Halos mandarins, and Fiji bottled water. As in that case, a boycott campaign is among the most powerful tools to fight back.
Beer Brands to Avoid
So, regardless of the spurious connection to the coronavirus, please consider the farmers and residents of Mexicali before purchasing Corona or any of Constellation Brands' other beers: Modelo, Pacifico, Ballast Point, Funky Buddha, Tocayo, and Victoria.
What to Drink Instead
Instead (as long as you're of drinking age) you can support one these breweries as an alternative: New Belgium Brewing offers a wide variety of delicious beers including Fat Tire, Citradelic, Mural Agua Fresca Cerveza, and Voodoo Ranger; Left Hand Brewing Co has a wide range of offerings, and are known for their Milk Stout Nitro; Deschutes Brewery produces a number of tasty IPAs in their Fresh Squeezed line; and New Glarus Brewing Company is known for their Spotted Cow farmhouse ale, which is hard to get ahold of outside Wisconsin, but is considered among the best beers on Earth.
The employees/owners of New Belgium Brewing
All of these breweries are not only operating without the need to decimate any agricultural communities, but are also employee-owned and operated (or in the process of transitioning to that model) which helps to incentivize more ethical business practices in general. Their beers are also much tastier than Corona.
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