Chicle (pron.: //) is a natural gum traditionally used in making chewing gum and other products. It is collected from several species of Mesoamerican trees in the Manilkara genus, including M. zapota, M. chicle, M. staminodella, and M. bidentata.
The tapping of the gum is similar to the tapping of latex from the rubber tree: zig-zag gashes are made in the tree trunk and the dripping gum is collected in small bags. It is then boiled until it reaches the correct thickness. Locals who collect chicle are called chicleros.
The word chicle comes from the Nahuatl word for the gum, tziktli ['t͡sikt͡ɬi], which can be translated as "sticky stuff". Alternatively, "chichle" may have come from the Mayan word tsicte. Chicle was well known to the Nahuatl-Aztecs and to the Maya, and early European settlers prized it for its subtle flavor and high sugar content. The ancient word is still used in the Americas, chicle being a common term for chewing gum in Spanish and chiclete being the Brazilian Portuguese term.
Historically, the Wrigley Company was a prominent user of this ingredient in the production of chewing gum.
In response to a land reform law passed in Guatemala in 1952, which ended feudal work relations and expropriated unused lands and sold them to the indigenous and peasants, the Wrigley Gum Company discontinued buying Guatemalan chicle. Since it was the sole buyer of Guatemalan chicle, the government was forced to create a massive aid program for growers.
Today only a few companies still make chewing gum from natural chicle. This is because, by the 1960s, chicle was replaced by butadiene-based synthetic rubber which was cheaper to manufacture. The only U.S. gum company still using chicle is Glee Gum.
- Mathews, Jennifer P. (2009). Chicle: The Chewing Gum of the Americas, From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. pp. 19–21. ISBN 0816528217.
- Chicle, Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- Mexicolore article on chicle
- LaFeber, Walter (1993). Inevitable revolutions: the United States in Central America. New York: W.W. Norton. p. 119. ISBN 0-393-30964-9.
- Burks, Raychelle (6 August 2007). "Chewing Gum: Popular confection began as a not-so-sweet treat from trees". Chemical and Engineering News 85 (32): 36.