Sharing Yerba Mate

How South America’s Most Popular Drink Defined a Region

Sharing Yerba Mate book cover

Drinking yerba mate is a daily, communal ritual that has brought together South Americans for some five centuries. In lively prose and with vivid illustrations, Rebekah E. Pite explores how this Indigenous infusion, made from the naturally caffeinated leaves of a local holly tree, became one of the most distinctive and widely consumed beverages in the region. Latin American food and commodity studies have focused on consumption in the global north, but Pite tells the story of yerba mate in South America, illuminating dynamic and exploitative circuits of production, promotion, and consumption. Ideas about who should harvest and serve yerba mate, along with visions of the archetypical mate drinker, persisted and were transformed alongside the shifting politics of class, race, and gender.

This global history takes us from the colonial Río de la Plata to the top yerba-consuming and producing nations of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, with excursions to Chile, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, where yerba mate is now sold as a “superfood.” For readers eager to understand South America and its unique drink, Sharing Yerba Mate is an essential text that delves into an everyday ritual to expose systems of power and the taste of belonging.

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Select praise

“Like an expert cebadora, Pite serves up a rich, complex, and deeply sensory brew-a story of yerba mate that spans centuries, empires, nations, environments, trade circuits, and preparations, yet fits satisfyingly in our hands.”

Paulina L. Alberto, Harvard University, author of Black Legend: The Many Lives of Raul Grigera and the Power of Racial Storytelling in Argentina

“Beautifully written and solidly grounded in multisite archival research. Pite displays a command of scholarly methodologies of the histories of Latin America, nationalism, and commodities, as well as visual culture and food studies.”

Jeffrey M. Pilcher, author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food

“Pite confidently crosses linguistic and political boundaries to shed light on how the infusion has shaped ideas about class, race, gender, and nation in southern South America.”

Bridget Chesterton, author of The Grandchildren of Solano Lopez: Frontier and Nation in Paraguay, 1904-1936

“A fascinating story that will captivate scholars and the general public alike.”

Sandra McGee Deutsch, professor emerita, University of Texas at El Paso

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