October 31st, 1883. On a remote agave farm near Jalisco Mexico, during Dia De Los Muertos, a child was born. They called him El Guapo – the Handsome One - They said the secret of the blue agave was in his blood, and he grew to become Mexico’s youngest master distiller. The people said he could taste each individual ingredient in a batch, and, find the exact combinations to make the perfect tequila.
But his fame threatened the powerful and they chased him from the farm that was his home. El Guapo became an outlaw, riding the countryside looking for a new place to settle and create the tequila only he could. He settled in Santo Pico, a small village near Madera, 500 miles northwest of Jalisco, Mexico. There, in 1916, he founded a new, secret distillery hidden inside a pinata factory where he could make his tequila in peace. Soon word of the unique taste and unparalleled quality of his tequila spread across the country.
Tequila barons from all across Mexico came to Santo Pico, begging El Guapo to work for them, offering him wealth and power. To each he offered a deal –– if any Tequila baron could handle the strongest of El Guapo’s tequila’s, he would happily go work for them. But none of them were equal to the task. Eventually, the barons tired of asking and sent men to take him away by force.
After a gunfight almost left him for dead, El Guapo decided he needed to leave to keep his village safe. So, he became an outlaw once more. In 1922, he saddled up and rode North. He explored the beaches from La Hoya to Leo Corillo and up to Pismo. But even here, his fame had spread, so he turned east, looking for a new place where he could settle in peace.
In 1926, El Guapo came to Iowa. He was the first known mexican trailblazer to ride horseback on the Great White Way and the River-to-River Road (US 32 & US 6), now known as Interstate 80. On October 31st, 1926 –– on his 43rd birthday –– El Guapo arrived in Des Moines and decided that it was the place he was looking for. He started a farm west side of town and devoted himself to creating a tequila so delicious and potent that only the hardiest of farmers and the hardest of outlaws could handle the side effects.
For years, El Guapo labored to make this ultimate tequila. His friends and customers loved every batch he made, but he was not satisfied and kept experimenting. On the day of his 60th birthday, the workers arrived at the distillery to find a bottle next to a note, which read “eso es todo” (this is it.) But El Guapo was nowhere to be seen. And he was never seen again.
In the years since, there have been rumored sightings of El Guapo all across Iowa, but none have ever been proven. His descendants have guarded his memory––and his secret recipe––ever since.
Legend has it that one day he will return. So, every year, the people of West Des Moines honor El Guapo by dressing in traditional Dia de los Muertos costumes and drinking his tequila. Perhaps one day he will come back and join us!