Festivals, art, sports, entertainment, holidays, weddings, and
foods shape a country's culture. Mexico is one of the most vivacious and
strongly nationalistic countries on the planet. The way each of Mexico's regions have
their own unique customs sheds light on Mexico's ability to embrace
individuality, while maintaining the importance of national
identity. This duality faces every nation in regard to cultural identity and
tolerance. The U.S. could learn from Mexico's example as the U.S. has
embraced sameness as a national ethos. If we are all the same then how can a
nation recognize individuals for who they are truly are: individuals with
uniquely defining differences? In Mexico, the balancing act between diversity
and shared national identity has been as successful as any nation could hope
Some of Mexico's major cities include Mexico's capital, aptly
named Mexico City. Mexico city has a growing population of 8.851 million
(according to the 2010 Census). The cities of Monterrey, Puebla-Tlaxcala, and Guadalajara
are the more notable of Mexico's more popular urban centers. Smaller towns in
Mexico demonstrate their own unique sense of culture. Many regions have their
own, specifically tailored way of life. Religion is another cultural issue of
interest and according to 2010 census reports, 83.9 percent of Mexican citizens
belong to the Catholic Church. Family values continue to be a central concern
for nearly every Mexican due to the Catholic Church's immense sway over Mexican
Four Boys Fountain Located in the Heart of Guadalajara:
15) Sports and
Soccer or more correctly futball, is the most popular sport in all of Mexico.
The Mexican National Team has traditionally been a serious World Cup contender.
For over a hundred years, Futball
and the players who have played over the years have fostered nothing but
overwhelming national pride. The club C.F. Pachuca was formed in 1900
and was the first official futball club in Mexican history.
Mexicans love their futball just as Americans love their own national sport,
which for some unknown reason, is also named football. The two games have
absolutely nothing in common except that they are both team sports. The
appropriate number of players and style of play are worlds apart. The Mexican
football season is separated into two separate and annually repeating seasons,
excitement for thousands of fans.
The second most popular sport is boxing. Since boxing is an extremely
regulated international sport with almost no cultural variation, there is little to touch on
here. The third most popular sport in Mexico is Charreada. Charreada
features ranch-style competitions closely resembling those at American rodeo
competitions, but with some uniquely Mexican twists. Charreada is more than just a sport and is
considered a very important cultural event. Charreada developed from the
practice of animal husbandry and celebrates Mexican customs and ideologies
derived during the Mexican Revolution.
One of these ideologies is gender equality.
During the Mexican Revolution revolutionary commanders could no longer afford
to discriminate who was doing the fighting. A shortage of men who could both
fight and ride expertly, meant that enlistment practices had to change. The changes
meant anyone could enlist and fight. Mexican woman, who were expert riders and were already accustomed to living off the land as many
people did in those years, would enjoy immense success on the battlefield and
gained a reputation as fierce warriors. Today's Charreada never discriminates against women
and often female competitors give male competitors a run for their money.
The Pass of Death - One of the Ten Events Featured in the Charreada:
Charros and charras are the horsemen and horsewomen who compete
in the Charreada. Competing in Charreada is very time consuming and expensive. The rules and regulations are similar to those
in U.S. rodeo events. The charreada is a nationally sanctioned sport in Mexico
September 14th in Mexico is known as the “Day of the Charro”. Some of the major events
held during charreada include reining (cala
de caballo), jineteo de toro (bull riding), jineteo de yegua (bareback riding),
and terna en el ruedo (team roping).
The Charreada is very significant to Mexican heritage and is reminiscent of
the years the Spanish were in power. equestrian mastery and horse breaking are
central parts of Spanish culture. During Spanish rule, large
ranches were formed that employed huge numbers of vaqueros (cowboys). Vaqueros
were and continue to be, notoriously competitive and have a reputation for never backing
down from a challenge - especially if the challenge comes from a fellow vaquero.
Mexican Charreada Federation in the Heart of
Before the Mexican Revolution, competitions on ranches were regularly held
between the neighboring haciendas. As time evolved so did the sport of Charreada.
After nationalistic fervor died down as many years after the Mexican Revolution,
Charreada's popularity started to diminish. In fear of losing this national
tradition all together, the Asociación Nacional de Charros was formed in 1921 to
maintain this invaluable part of Mexican culture.
Mexican artwork is considered to begin during the pre-Colombian period and
includes the modern contributions made by many Mexican contemporaries. Works by
the ancient Aztecs and Mayans are of particular interest for Mexican citizens.
The art world continues to be fascinated by the invaluable
contributions to artistic style made by each culture. These works are renowned as some of Mexico's most important
archaeological artifacts as well as some of the most significant contributions
to modern archaeology and anthropology ever uncovered.
Mexico was referred to as Mesoamerica around the time period of the
pre-Colombian era. The lack of a single and unifying ruling government allowed
many styles to emerge. The styles that emerged from Mexico's history are the
pre-classic, classic, and post-classical eras. Pre-Columbian artwork is mostly
composed of art made by Mexico's earliest citizens who utilized artistic mediums
including paint, carved stone and gem statues, and the stylishly carved designs
adorning ancient ruins are known as relief
Pre-Columbian art is often showcased in relief sculptures, on pottery, and
paper works of art. Amate paper was extensively implemented as an art medium by
the Aztecs, and remains to be a very popular Mexican art medium. The paper items
drew interest from academics outside pf Mexico during the mid-1900s, and were
eventually remade and sold in Mexico City and other locales.
Examples of Amate Paper Work at the Gallery Museum - Puebla,
via Wikimedia Commons
Once the Mexican government officials saw amate work as a potentially lucrative
opportunity, officials promoted amate paper among Nahua artists residing in the
state of Guerrero in an effort to meet the world's demand for this Mexican art
The Colonial Era in Mexico took place over a period of approximately 300
years. This time period refers to when the Spanish occupied and controlled most
of modern Mexico. The reign lasted until Mexico gained its independence with
Spain's reign formally ending with the Mexican Revolution. From 1521 to 1810 artwork styles reflected
Spanish styles and are notably seen in the architecture and paintings from this time
period. Religious statues depicting the Virgin Mary were prominently chosen.
Known as iconography, these works serve as physical evidence of Spain's efforts
to convert the entire population to Catholic.
Mural Depicting Exploitation of Mexico by the Spanish by
via Wikimedia Commons
Mexican folk art and crafts dominate Mexico's art scene known as artesanía. Artesania works were sought after because
their stylistic combination of European and indigenous designs was like nothing
else around. Combining one
art technique with another properly referred to as mestizo in Mexico.
The art and handcrafted gift items that are made by artists today, are focused
on generating income
from Mexico's growing tourist industry more than expressing cultural identity. Dolls and crafted items made of wood and
fiber, are the more popular items sought after by tourists. Artisans who craft
these products gain valuable experience by acquiring apprenticeships in the
artistic disciplines they are most interested in.
13) Mexican History
Mexico has a long and interesting history whose inception and first significant
event occurred in 200 BC. The absolute first entry into Mexican history is
earmarked by the ancient Olmec people who made their settlement near
what is now Veracruz. The early Olmec civilization serves as the starting point from which all early indigenous people in
early Mexican territory would later emerge. By 1100 as the Mayan civilization
had wiped itself out, and many experts believe that overpopulation and
depleted resources led to the
collapse of this intriguing civilization. However, another creative and intelligent civilization--the
Aztecs--rose to prominence in the country's central valley in 1427. At that
time, the Mayan and Toltec people also inhabited the same lands that were inhabited by the Aztecs.
In 1521, the power enjoyed by the Aztecs came under attack when
Hernando Cortes landed and promptly colonized the area in the name of Spain. The Spanish who
christened the region New Spain, began ruling the region during a rule that
would last several
centuries. Almost 24 million people in the Aztec civilization died from smallpox
because of infections contracted by occupying Europeans.
Smallpox Victims in Depicted in this 16th Century Aztec
Wanting to convert the people to Christianity, Catholic missionaries landed
in New Spain in 1523, given encouragement to do so by Spain's monarchy. During
the period, many churches were built in the country. The undertaking turned out
to be more than successful as the Spanish ruler, King Carlos III, removed a
number of Jesuits from the country in the later part of the 1700s. He was
worried about the power and strong influence of the Catholic church. The Church
remains powerful today as over 80% of the people in Mexico consider themselves
One of the major events in Mexican history was when Mexico won its
independence from Spain, all which took place in 1821. Led by Agustin de
Iturbide and Vincente Guerrero, revolutionaries freed the country from the
Spanish reign. While a constitution was established, Iturbide declared himself
the emperor a year later. The following year after that, Antonio Lopez de Santa
Anna had overthrown Iturbide. The new leader served as president of Mexico for
13 years until he lost his power during the Mexican-American War.
The Mexican-American War, which ended on February 1848, resulted in the
annexation of Texas to the U.S. In addition, Mexico gave the U.S. approximately
500,000 square miles of land, all which comprised the future states of Utah,
Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. In November of 1910, the Mexican
Revolution started - a rebellion where the working class and peasants begin an
uprising against the government of the then President, Porfirio Diaz. A 10-year
civil war ensued in which approximately two million Mexicans lost their lives.
The conflict ended when the rebels deposed Diaz, who was also noted as being the
longest-serving president that ever held the office in the country.
Pancho Villa, one of the revolutionaries in the Civil War, was assassinated
in 1923. The killers behind the assassination were never located or extradited
for the crime. Pancho Villa - a bandit and robber, who was known to give to the
peasants and steal from the rich, is considered to be a type of Robin Hood or
folk hero by the Mexican people. Other leaders of the revolution included
Francesco Madero, who eventually became president, Pascual Orozco, and Emiliano
Zapata. Madero was the 33rd president, serving from 1911 until he was
assassinated in 1913. All the primary leaders of the rebellion--Madero, Zapata,
Carranza, Villa, Obregon--eventually lost their lives as the result of
Current history was made when Vicente Fox Quesada became president of Mexico
in 2000. This noteworthy election marked the end of the Industrial Revolutionary
Party's rule, which had prevailed in Mexico for 71 years. However, in January
2013, the Industrial Revolutionary Party gained control again with the election
of President Enrique Pena Neto, who was formerly the governor of the state of
12) Mexican Holidays
Current holidays in Mexico that are legally recognized include New Year's
Day, Constitution Day, the birthday of Benito Juarez (the 26th President of
Mexico), Labor Day, Independence Day, Revolution Day, and Christmas.
Municipal President Delivering Greeting at Independence Day Festivities:
via Wikimedia Commons
holidays, that are only celebrated in certain locales include Maundy Thursday,
Good Friday, Cinco de Mayo, Day of the Dead, and the Day of Our Lady of
11) Mexican Cinema
While you may think of Hollywood may have a monopoly over modern film making,
Mexico also has its own film industry. Film makers started making productions as
far back as the late 1800s when the primary film media were documentaries. During the first part of the 20th century, the
Mexican Revolution was the primary subject of film. it is believed focusing on
stories related to the revolution was central to Mexico's most noteworthy period
of film making.
What historians refer to as the Golden Age of Mexican cinema concerns the years 1936 thru 1969,
where films focused on making films that were central to issues regarding the
Mexican Revolution dominated box offices. During these years film making in
Mexico made important achievements like color and studio quality sound. One of
the first major film successes from this era was the film, "Alla en
el Rancho Grande." The film was directed by Fernando de Fuentes and considered to be the
first "true" classic to emerge from what are really Mexican cinema's
Fernando de Fuentes was the Most Notable Director from the
10) Mexican Weddings
During Mexican weddings the bride wears a mantilla veil which, in Spanish
tradition is made of silk or lace, is worn over both the head and shoulders.
When worn outside of weddings, the veil can also be worn with a comb providing
serving as a reminder of what most women consider to be, the most important day
of their lives.
Bride Wearing Mantilla Style Veil:
The mantilla veil was first worn in the late 1500s and became increasingly
fashionable during the 1600s and 1700s as part of aristocratic dress. By the
1900s the the mantilla became strictly limited to very special occasions like bullfights or weddings.
In addition to the traditional mantilla veil, brides often wear a slim dress
with a bolero jacket. The groom typically wears either a Mexican wedding shirt
and loose pants, or matador-style apparel.
Foods at a Mexican wedding include traditional fare like rice, beans and
tortillas. Chicken and beef are the most popular proteins served during wedding
receptions, and cold sangria is often served. Sangria is an alcoholic
beverage made of white or red wine flavored with fruit, enhanced with small
amounts of soda water, sugar, and brandy. This refreshing beverage is
traditionally served chilled and gained increasing popularity in the U.S.
A special traditional practice at the wedding involves the giving of 13 gold
coins from the groom to the bride. The ritual is performed to demonstrate the
groom’s trust and confidence in his new wife. By giving her the coins then, he
is showing her that he completely entrusts here with his possessions. When she
accepts the gold coins she is assuring him of her mutual love,
and will take care of everything that he possesses.
Wedding expenses are paid by both families of the wedding party and both
sides will also be involved in the planning of the ceremony. Traditionally
other family members and friends also contributed to the wedding costs. A “money dance” is also performed at Mexican ceremonies. The male guests all
pay to have a dance with the bride. The money is used to finance a new home or
pay for the honeymoon and contributions are expected to be generous. One former wedding tradition involved holding the
marriage ceremony in the yard where the bride lived with her family. After the
ceremony, the bride and groom traveled to his parents’ house by horse, where
they set up their first residence.
9) Mexican Food
The food of Mexico is unique and the most popular dishes served are tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas.
Although every type of Mexican dish may be made out of the same several basic
ingredients, Mexican food is much more diverse than what people think. Chili peppers, corn, chicken, beef, avocados, tomatoes, beans, and
cheese comprise the primary foods traditionally included in Mexican cuisine.
Tacos Stuffed with Grilled Chicken:
While many people on the North American continent may perceive dining in
restaurants as something fashionable, the irony is that most Mexican almost
never dine out. Food and cooking is a central theme that brings family and loved
Cooking is still largely considered the main responsibility of the women in the
household as Mexican girls are in turn no longer considered a child the day they
are able to prepare an entire meal for the family on their own. Most of Mexican
life involves family, marriage, and having as well as raising children into
adults that will be expected to repeat the actions of their parents.
Vegetarian Mexican Meal:
The main meal in Mexico is known as “comida,” and is served in the evening as
in Mexico there are many things that need to be done in order to even have a
The item that is traditionally served first is either a pasta or a soup
formulated with chicken broth. The main course usually includes a sauce or
salsa, and makes a fantastic accompaniment to
beans or tortillas. Fruit juice is generally served at the meal as well. A common practice in Mexico
is to consume the leftovers from the main meal later on in the evening of the
same day. These leftovers are either served with a coffee beverage or something sweet like chocolate.
While Catholicism is the primary religion practiced in Mexico, the
country's constitution (drafted in 1917) prohibits sanctioning an official
religion. According to statistics from 2010, more than 82% of the population
consider themselves Catholics. The remaining percentages are made up of
Christian denominations, such as Christians or Methodists (10%), non-religious
(4.7%), or are classified as “other” (2.9%). Those people who are categorized
under the “other” classification include Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's
Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, La Luz del Mundo,
and individuals who consider themselves to be Orthodox in their beliefs.
In 1992, nearly all religious bans were lifted concerning the rights of
priests. Before that time, priests did not have the right to vote or run for a
public office. However, those types of prohibitions no longer exist and Mexico
is now a more democratic place. Although Mexico is still predominantly Catholic,
the 82% figure is still lower than what it was in during the 1970s where roughly 96% of
the population claimed to be Catholic.
7) New Year's Eve Customs
While New Year's Eve is a popular celebration in Mexico just like everywhere
else, Mexicans follow some unique traditions. One of these unique practices
involves displaying a rimmed tray in the home with a lit candle in the middle.
Family and friends place change in the tray, and later fill it with water for
good luck. Another tradition involves placing candles on a plate surrounded by
foodstuffs like beans, corn,
and rice. Then candles are left burning all the way down during the course of
the night leaving behind wax-covered foods. The last step is to take these
wax-covered items and bury them in the ground and again the purpose is to have
good luck in the common year.
Women who wish to find a mate suitable for marriage or those just looking to fall in love
just for fun, should wear green undergarments during Mexican New Year's Eve
celebrations. If a woman wishes to gain prosperity
and happiness, then her knickers should be yellow colored. Pink is the color
code if a woman's interests that night are only for establishing friendships,
and non-romantic friendships only. When black undergarments are worn on New Year's
considered extremely unlucky in Mexico and they never worn by women as
superstition is common in Mexico as well as other Latin American countries.
Ancient pyramids were built by the Mayans similar to the Pyramids of Ancient
Egypt, with the most important site being Chichen Itza. Some of the monuments
include El Castillo, the Pyramid of the Sun, and "El Castillo" which means the
castle. This landmark ruin is formall named the "Temple of Kukulcan," and the
ruins at Chichen Itza are some of the most impressive ruins of their kind. During
Mexico's Colonial Period, most Mexican structures were built showcasing
predominatly Spanish motifs. Many buildings in Mexico after this period exhibit a Neoclassical
5) Mexican Literature - Noted Authors
The literature of Mexico represents some of the most influential publications
ever written in the Spanish language. One of the noted authors is Literary Nobel
Peace Prize winner Octavio Paz. Paz's other literary awards include the Jerusalem prize. Other
notables in the writing world who have Mexican heritage include Jose Emilio Pacheco and Tomas Segovia.
Both of these celebrated authors won the Octavio Paz prize for their
contributions which is awarded to authors who best demonstrate literary as well
as personal traits, articulated by the life and works of Octavio Paz.
special meaning in the country of Mexico not for the typically American reasons.
In Mexico the primary focus of Christmas is religious in nature and miles away
from the materialistic focuses of many U.S. citizens. Since Christmas traditions
in Mexico are dictated by church practices and because the entire time of year
is considered a holy time of year by the Catholic Church, Mexican
Christmas traditions fall on many different days around December 25th. One of
these traditionally Catholic traditions is attending church on Christmas Eve
instead of Christmas day at a midnight Mass. After mass,
a family dinner is served at home and the family all rests together in
anticipation of Christmas day.
Catholic Nativity Scene - Painting by Piero della
The Christmas celebration in Mexico lasts much longer than it does in the
U.S. or other English-speaking countries. For example, New Year's Eve is
included in the Christmas celebration. On the eve of the New Year, Christians
celebrate the day by attending the Rooster's Mass at midnight. And on January 6,
Mexicans give each other gifts. January 6 is notable as its is the only day that
the children in the family receive their gifts. The date, known as the Day of
the Wise Men, commemorates the three Kings, each who presented the baby Jesus
with a gift.
Children's gifts are placed in their shoes, with the shoes set outside their
bedroom door. Children also enjoy a Mexican treat by the name of Roscade Reyes
on the Day of the Wise Men on January 6. The sweet bread is shaped in the form
of a crown and topped with candies and fruits.
During the Christmas holiday, the Christmas story is relayed to Mexican
children, with the birth of Christ told each year. With globalization, however,
many Mexican children are breaking away from the aforementioned custom - opting
instead to exchange gifts on Christmas Day that were brought by Santa.
3) Festivals – The Day of the Dead
The people in Mexico enjoy festive activities and therefore often celebrate
historic, religious, and culturally significant events. One of the most famous
festivals in the country is the Day of the Dead, which takes place on November 1
and 2 of each year. During this time, Mexican families celebrate the lives of
the departed by hanging extravagant decorations, lighting candles in cemeteries,
and holding huge feasts with close friends and family.
Catrina, Arguably the Most Popular Figures of the Day of
the Dead Mockups:
While several languages are spoken in Mexico, the far most popular language
is Spanish. Also, a native tongue is recognized in the country and is spoken by
a small percentage of the populace. In fact, the Mexican government recognizes
68 languages that are indigenous to the land, all which stem from seven
different language families.
Still, even though 14% of the people in the country are considered
indigenous, only about 6% (or around 6 million people) of this group can
fluently speak an indigenous language. Indigenous or native languages include
Nahuati, Nahual, Yucatec Maya, Mixtec, Zapotec, Tzotzil Maya and Otomi. While Spanish is not technically considered an official language by
law, it is still deemed to be the national language by the Mexican people.
Being diverse in nature, Mexican music is categorized under a number of
genres. These forms of music all fit in with distinctly Mexican themes.
Therefore, music is expressed in the form of folk renditions (such as grupera)
as well as pop, rock, and electronic sounds. La Bamba, a folk music that
originated in Veracruz, is a popular musical expression in Mexico as it is in
Western Europe and North America.
Movie Poster from the American Movie "La Bamba":
Mexico's history and wide range of traditions may be different than what is
followed in the U.S. and Western Europe. However, Mexican lifestyles promote
family values just like certain customs in the U.S. Both Mexico and the US can
learn a lot from each other in this respect.