The tacuazin has come up often in conversation during my first few months in Guatemala, both in San Antonio and here in site.
“They found a huge Tacuazin and a whole bunch of baby Tacuazines under my mom’s house today!”
“You better make sure that before you buy those chickens you put up a good fence so the Tacuazines don’t get them.”
“I love eating Tacuazin – it’s delicious.”
I had never heard of a tacuazin, it wasn’t in my dictionary and the descriptions I was given did little to clear up my confusion.
“Is it like a wolf or something?”
“No, it’s a tacuazin!”
“How big is it?”
“Bigger than a cat.”
“Is it a cat type animal?”
“It’s furry and has a tail, but it’s not a cat. It’s a tacuazin!”
“But I don’t understand what it looks like.”
“It’s a tacuazin! They’re delicious!”
Clearly, I was getting nowhere. Apparently it was some type of sneaky furball, but I didn’t have much more than that to go on. Finally, I turned to the internet and after some poking around (tacuazin is clearly not it’s scientific name or anything) I figured out that tacuazin = didelphis marsupialis or, more commonly, opossum! Tacuazines are indigenous to Central and South America (roughly Mexico to Bolivia), they can climb trees and they like fruit in addition to your chickens. Mystery solved.
Fast forward to the evening of my host grandma’s birthday. I was (unsuccessfully) making tortillas and someone asked “You want to see an animal?” I said yeah, more focused on my weird pac-man shaped tortilla, expecting a rabbit or something in a cage to be brought it. What was presented instead was this:
That, my friends is a dead and skinned tacuazin. And, yeah, we were going to eat it for grandma’s birthday. I watched with fascination as my host mom gave it a salt bath and then put it on the stove to roast. After all I had heard about the tacuazin, I knew I was going to have to try this fabled deliciousness. Though I wasn’t particularly dreading the experience, as it smelled awesome.
Eventually they brought out the plate of meat and I grabbed a piece. Everyone watched me expectantly (“The gringa is going to eat tacuazin!”) and I took a bite. And they weren’t lying. Tacuazin (though a little tough) is delicious.