The Super Bowl is Michoacan’s Avocado Fiesta par excellence

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In the Mexican state of Michoacán, celebrations around this time of year center on the guacamole bowl instead of the Super Bowl.

That’s because each year, the premier sporting event in the U.S. serves as the main source of income for hundreds of families south of the border who ensure that 138,000 tons of avocados are ripe in time for kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday.

Millions of fans plan to enjoy the Feb. 11 matchup pitting the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium with a side of guacamole. Much like Sunday’s opponents, the avocado trekked through its own challenging path to arrive at the party.

“The Super Bowl serves as the avocado fiesta because that’s when we all celebrate it,” said Héctor Avilés, general manager of Abokados, Mexico’s top avocado packing plant. “In Michoacán, [the avocado is] celebrated on that day because there was a lot of work involved in the weeks leading up to it, and in the U.S. because it’s on their table. I imagine cheese was once the top staple for families who watched the Super Bowl, but we know now that it’s avocados from Michoacán.”

About 80% of the avocados shipped to the U.S. from Mexico come from Michoacán. Kickoff for Super Bowl avocado season in the state — located in west-central Mexico about 1,600 miles from Las Vegas — took place six weeks before the actual game. Entire populations dedicated their days to several facets of production: planting, picking, packing and everything therein before the fruit embarked on its U.S. journey.

“There are entire families who pick, or others in which every member works at the packing plant,” Avilés said. “There are communities that benefit over a sustained period during these difficult times, made [even more difficult] in recent years because of the excessive influence of organized crime. I don’t know what would become of Michoacán if not for agribusiness. A lot of people would be on the wrong side of things. This gives them work and keeps them on the right side.”