Salsa Facts
Ty Bianucci

Ty Bianucci

Sports, journalism, and full time passenger of the salsa train.

The Origin of Salsa: We Pay Homage to Salsa History

The history of salsa dates all the way back to the 12th century, where in modern-day Peru, the Incas were hard at work on a tasty new concoction. That’s where the origin of salsa began by combining a divine mixture of chilies, tomatoes, and other spices. It truly changed the world forever.

Of course, the Incas were not the only peoples experimenting in the dark arts of the culinary world. At some point, over the next couple hundred years, the Aztecs, began mixing chilies, tomatoes, plus new things like squash seeds and beans to their salsas. They used it as a condiment to complement seafood, turkey, and venison.

Interestingly enough, the Aztecs weren’t just mixing up what we consider salsa. They made large contributions to the origin of salsa as a genre by creating what we would know as guacamole. They called it something like “avocado sauce,” or “sour sauce.”

Salsa and Colonization

In 1571, along came a Spanish priest by the name of Alonso de Molina, who to this day, lives on in salsa history. He understood the Aztec language and customs, eventually serving as an interpreter. One day he was going to town on a turkey leg, but to his chagrin, he had overcooked it. The meat was more dry than the Aztecs’ sense of humor.

Luckily, he had seen what his friends did to address this glaring – and frequent – issue, before ovens solved it. He spooned some tomato and spice mixture on the turkey and took a bite dripping with that delicious juicy condiment. He looked around and deemed it “salsa.”

The Spanish word salsa simply means sauce, but boy does it sound NICE rolling of the tongue of us Anglos. We have Alonso to thank for for his influential place in the origin of salsa.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and salsa is only growing in popularity. In 1807, bottles of salsa are being distributed across Massachusetts. By 1868, an entrepreneur by the name of Edmund McIlhenny came on the scene. He began packaging a rudimentary form of what came to be known as Tobasco pepper sauce in used cologne bottles. The sauce was immediately popular and commanded a huge demand.

Salsa tomatoes

Paving the Road for Us

In the 20th century, mass manufacturing and distribution was the name of the game in salsa history. Household names such as La Victoria, Pace, and Chi-Chi’s gained prominence. It seemed the popularity of salsa would never stop growing.

According to Acapulcos, Between 1985 and 1990, Mexican salsa sales grew by almost 80 percent! Plus, from ’88 to’92, the percent of homes where salsa was being bought and consumed grew from 16 to 36 percent.

I doubt the Aztecs and Incas knew at the time that the origin of salsa would date back to their experimentation with the crops available to them. At Don Aramburu, we are grateful they took a chance, so we can follow in their footsteps.

We try to honor the tradition of all the salsa makers who came before us. Don Aramburu can’t take credit for the great salsa heritage that precedes us, we can only hope to contribute the best possible product. By crafting the most fresh, vibrant, and conveniently-purchased salsa, we hope to reserve our spot in salsa history.

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