By Ranjan Hulugalle, San Diego USA
I met a couple who lives in Mexico City with whom I exchanged greetings on many occasions but never had a conversation. By chance, getting out of the elevator in the building where we both have second homes in Coronado, San Diego, they inquired where I was from. When I replied Las Vegas they were not satisfied and I knew that they were curious about my origins. I told them my parents were from Sri Lanka and I noticed the husband displaying considerable interest. He then told me that he had been to Sri Lanka more than 30 times since 1976.
Over the past 50 years living in the US, I have never met anyone who has been to Sri Lanka so many times. I was anxious to arrange to meet him to talk more about what took him there so often. He mentioned a few people he knew in SL including Mohan Panditage, Chairman Hayleys and Merrill J Fernando. In our subsequent conversations he told me about his family’s association with the import of cinnamon from Sri Lanka for four generations.
We discussed further the story of his family and the relationship between Mexico and Sri Lanka, tethered by the consumption and production of cinnamon.Javier Lonzano continues the business started by his maternal ancestors.
Cinnamon and Mexican culinary culture
I quote verbatim a note he sent me after our chance encounter, which is an interesting read:
“Cinnamon in Mexico is a spice deeply rooted in our history and culture.
We do not know when it arrived in our country, most say that it was the Spanish who brought it when they conquered Mexico (1519), but there are others who believe that it arrived before the Spanish conquest of Mexico. It is believed that the Chinese arrived in Mexico long before the Spanish.
There is talk of the “NAO DE CHINA”, arriving from the Pacific through the state of Oaxaca. It is also believed that they brought it to Mexico for the first time.
This spice is so ingrained in our culture that the common Mexican thinks that it is of Mexican origin and that all the cinnamon that is consumed in Mexico is Mexican. The reality is that 100% of the cinnamon that is consumed in Mexico is imported from Sri Lanka.
There are many figures that are released. They show the importance of cinnamon consumption in Mexico. Sri Lanka produces approximately 12,500/14,000 mt per year and Mexico purchases approximately 50% of the total Sri Lankan cinnamon production.
Cinnamon is so popular in our country that there are countless songs with the name or lyrics of the song that talk about cinnamon. Consumption in Mexico is in different ways and for different reasons:
It is consumed a lot as an “infusion”:
To warm up from the cold
Medicine, for headaches / teeth / childbirth / stomach / endless ailments.
Christmas drink (Punch)
Seasoning in the kitchen in a large number of Mexican dishes.
My grandfather (my mother’s father) Jose Magaña Sirera – company name was MAGAÑA SIRERA- from Murcia Spain, came to Mexico during the civil war in Spain in the 1930s. He met my grandmother and they married in Mexico.
He set up a Company representing foreign Companies in Mexico. Then my father Luis Lozano Migoya – founded the Company with the name LOZANO MIGOYA. I succeeded my father, as I am Francisco Javier Lozano Magaña, My company is LOZANO MAGAÑA. Now my son Javier Lozano Aguirre runs LOZANO MAGAÑA (he is the fourth generation doing business in Sri Lanka).
Our Sri Lankan friends
My grandfather started selling Spanish products and from there he widened the range of products until he found out about CINNAMON from Sri Lanka and began to represent various companies in Mexico, which among others are the following:
SHERMAN DE SILVA
H D DE SILVA
RATHNA (My family helped to build this company from the beginning with Mr Ruhunage)
I started doing business with Sri Lanka from 1975 and up now I have visited it 37 times. In all these trips, I was fortunate to get to know so many good people like Mr Mohan Panditage in the early 1980’s when he was working in a Shipping Company. Mr Merrill J Fernando; and so many others. Recently, I was so lucky to meet in San Diego California, Dr Chitharanjan.
In general, I have excellent memories of Sri Lanka, from 1975 to today.”