Get to know the spirit of Mexican Culture
1) Mexican culture is the fusion of European, African, and Indigenous cultures
Mexican culture as we know it today is a product of centuries of mixing between Indigenous, African, and Spanish populations during the Colonial period. This mixing, known commonly as mestizaje, produced a unique cultural identity that makes up the basis for modern-day Mexico, and can be seen in every aspect of Mexican life, including food, clothing, art, music, and even language.
2) Mexico is a diverse, and multicultural country
Many cultures inhabit Mexico. ****Indigenous peoples make up 10% of the population and are divided into dozens of different ethnicities, each with its own language, culture, system of governance, and customs. There are also substantial populations of European and African descent, and most of the population has mixed heritage. Migrants from countries such as China, Japan, Syria, and Lebanon arrived in the 20th Century, and there have been more recent waves of migration from South Korea and Central and South America.
3) Mexican Independence Day is NOT Cinco de Mayo
Contrary to what many Americans believe, Mexico’s independence day is not on May 5th, but rather on September 16th. Celebrations begin on the eve of the holiday with the Grito, a ceremony commemorating the Shout of Dolores in 1810, which gave way to the War of Independence. This is followed by fireworks, music and dancing. The next day, parades take place in most major cities. Popular foods include Pozole, a hearty corn soup, and Chiles en Nogada, stuffed chillis drenched in a nut-based sauce and topped with pomegranate.
4) Mexico has a successful and highly influential film industry
Since the dawn of the film industry, there have been Mexican filmmakers creating and innovating in the medium. Post-Revolutionary stability and the advent of sound in films ushered in a golden age for Mexican cinema, and by the 1940s, Mexico became the largest exporter of Spanish language films in the world. More recently, Mexican film continues to show success around the world, giving rise to award-winning talents such as Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro González Iñarritu.
5) Mexican cuisine is among the best in the world
Mexican cuisine is renowned worldwide for its rich flavors, wide variety, and fresh ingredients. It varies heavily from region to region, but common ingredients include avocado, maize, beans, tomato, squash, and chilli, all of which formed the basis of the Pre-Columbian diet. Maize is the staple food and is prepared in a myriad of ways, from soft corn tortillas to dumpling-like tamales, to sweet beverages like atole con champurrado. Vegetables and chilli are use to prepare a variety of rich, spicy sauces that flavor the food.
6) Mexico has its own unique holiday: The Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead is both a commemoration of death and a celebration of life, and happens on November 1st and 2nd. Colorful shrines honoring the deceased, known as ofrendas, are placed in homes, offices, churches, schools, and squares in the weeks prior to the holiday and graveyards light up with candles and music. Parades and street parties take place featuring dancers, puppets, and theater troupes in bright skull make-up.
7) Beautiful architecture can be seen across Mexico
Mexican architecture is stunning, diverse, and full of history. Walk around Mexican cities and you will see the ruins of ancient pyramids, baroque Churches, sleek skyscrapers, art deco homes, and gorgeous Modernist structures built by an array of talented and often world-renowned Mexican architects.
8) Humor is central in Mexican culture
Mexicans are an easy-going people who love laughter and find time to smile even in difficult times. It is no surprise then, that Mexicans have developed a unique sense of humor. This humor tends to be sharply satirical, and often dark, full of clever double entendres, known in Mexico as albures.
9) Music is a big part of Mexican identity
Mexico has become famous worldwide due to its music. Traditional styles of folk music vary heavily by region, but some of the most popular styles include Mariachi, Son, Norteño, and Ranchera. These styles have become emblematic, and their well known songs are beloved by millions who know the lyrics by heart. Aside from folk styles and traditional songs, Mexican artists have offered their own twist on various genres from around the world, including rock, ska, hip hop, reggaetón, cumbia, and salsa.
10) Mexico is famous for its Murals
One of the most iconic art movements in Mexico was the Mexican Muralist movement of the 1920s and 30s. As the country sought to forge a new national identity after the Revolution, there came a group of groundbreaking artists who would create large scale paintings proudly depicting Mexican history and culture. These artists, including Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiro, and Tamayo fused Pre-Columbian and modernist art styles to create the face of a new Mexico. Their work is displayed in the walls of public buildings across the country for everyone to enjoy.
11) The Christmas season lasts until January
Mexican Christmas isn’t just December 24th and 25th. It is a celebration that lasts for almost an entire month. From December 16th until the 24th, many Mexicans celebrate the Posadas, nightly celebrations symbolizing the journey to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus. These involve saying prayers, eating fruits and drinking punch, watching nativity plays, and, of course, breaking the Piñata. January 6th marks the end of the season with the celebration of Three Kings Day, a holiday where the Three Wise Men are said to bring gifts to children.
12) Mexico is home to one of the world’s largest cities
In the center of Mexico, ****nestled between mountains, lies the bustling metropolis that is the country’s capital: Mexico City. The city and its surrounding metropolitan area is home to over twenty million people, making Mexico City one of the most populated cities on the planet, even larger than Beijing.
13) The Mexican flag represents the founding of the Aztec empire
Where Mexico City is now located once stood a great lake. Legends tell that the Aztecs decided to found their capital on an island in its center after spotting an eagle devouring a snake while standing on a cactus as a prophecy had foretold. The city of Tenochtitlán became the center of a great empire, and the eagle remained its enduring symbol. After independence, that image became the Mexican Flag’s national emblem.
14) Over 300 languages are spoken in Mexico
While Spanish is certainly the most widespread language in the country it is not its official language. In fact, the Mexican constitution does not mention an official language, and the Mexican government recognizes over sixty different languages, including both Spanish and the many languages spoken by Mexico’s diverse Indigenous population. Indigenous languages are further divided into over 300 different languages, and there are many other languages that are spoken but not classified.
15) Many everyday things were invented by Mexicans
Birth control, color TV, anti-graffiti paint. These are all things that have become a part of everyday life. What they have in common is that they were all invented by Mexicans, and they are just three examples of the ways in which Mexican scientists and inventors have innovated to make life easier for everyone.
16) Three Mexicans have won the Nobel prize
Mexico’s contributions to humanity have been honored with the Nobel prize on three occasions. In 1982, diplomat Alfonso García Robles was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work toward nuclear non-proliferation in international law. In 1990, the Literature Prize went to famed writer Octavio Paz, and in 1995, scientist José Mario Molina was part of the team that earned the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their research on the thinning of the Ozone Layer.
17) Mexican literature has a rich and fascinating history
Undoubtedly, Mexico has produced some of the most important literary works in the Spanish language, spanning all sorts of styles, from poems to novels and short stories. Works such as the proto-Feminist poetry of Sor Juana, the magic realism of Juan Rulfo, and Octavio Paz’s philosophical meditations on Mexican identity are well known and read by people around the world.
18) Mexicans love sports
Since pre-Columbian times, when the “Ball Game” was played as a ritual to honor the Gods, sport has been an important part of life. Later, other sports, such as horse riding and bullfighting were brought over by Spanish conquerors and enjoyed great popularity. Today, the most popular sport in Mexico is Soccer, which has become the national pastime. Other popular sports include American Football, Basketball, and Baseball, a favorite of Mexico’s new president.
19) Mexico is home to the oldest university in North America
The first university in North America, and the second in the Americas, was the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico. The University was founded by the King of Spain in 1551 and was run by the Church until the early 20th Century. In 1910, the University came under control of the State, becoming a Secular institution, and remains State-run to this day. Later, in the 1920s, it became autonomous and adopted the name of National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Today, UNAM is considered one of the best universities in the world.
20) Mexican folk art is beautifully ornate
Mexico is also home to a wide range of folk art, with styles unique to different regions,. In Puebla, one can find ornate talavera covered in symmetric designs of white, blue and gold, while in Oaxaca, one can find a variety of crafts created with a unique black clay, and in Zacatecas and Nayarit, the Huichol people create sculptures and masks covered in colorful beads.
21) Mexico has 35 UNESCO World Heritage sites
Mexico is full of wonders, both natural and man-made, which is why UNESCO has named so many of Mexico’s landmarks as World Heritage sites, making it the country in Latin America with the most World Heritage sites. Some of them include the ancient Mayan pyramids in Chichen Itza, the Xochimilco canals, and the Copper Canyon, among many others.