Mexican culture is an ornate tapestry woven together by history, architecture, food, song, and dance. As colorful as can be, it is well known throughout the world, having captivated many an outsider with its elements of tradition and romance. Of course, the best way to get in touch with Mexican culture is by visiting the country itself. If you can’t manage such a trip anytime soon, however, you can still get a good idea of what it’s all about. Heading to your local Mexican restaurant, listening to Mexican music, delving into Mexican literature, and watching Mexican movies are just some of the options. Since this is a culture that is so well known around the globe, it is easy to get in touch with even from afar.
Mexican Traditions Image: Hipnos (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0
Mexico is a land of traditions. Take the country’s folk art, for example. It is largely derived from indigenous and Spanish crafts and is known for such things as its colorful embroideries and angular, linear patterns. Tying into Mexican folk art is the country’s pre-Columbian architecture, which is comprised of various public, urban, and ceremonial structures. Among the best places to see pre-Columbian architecture in Mexico is at such ruined cities as Palenque, Chichen Itza, and Teotihuacan. Also evident in Mexican architecture is the Spanish Colonial style, which is well exhibited by the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. As is true of Mexican folk art and architecture, many of the country’s other most popular traditions have been influenced by either pre-Hispanic or European culture or both.
Mexican Celebrations Image: Tristan-Higbee (flickr)
Celebrations are among the main ways that cultures come together. This is certainly true in Mexico. One of the country’s main celebrations revolves around its independence from Spain, which was achieved at the end of the Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821). Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations take place every year on September 15 and 16 and are marked by fiestas in cities and villages both large and small. The largest of these fiestas is held in Mexico City’s Zocalo district. Other major Mexican celebrations include Cinco de Mayo and the Day of the Dead. Cinco de Mayo commemorates an 1862 battle between Mexican and French forces that took place in Puebla. The French army was much larger and better trained, so the resulting Mexican victory became a major source of national pride. Cinco de Mayo translates to May 5, and this is the day for Cinco de Mayo celebrations. In Mexico, Puebla is understandably where the best celebrations are held. These celebrations include parades and a mock battle. Outside of Mexico, the United States does a good job of observing Cinco de Mayo, treating it as an opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture in the U.S. As for the Day of the Dead, this Mexican celebration is all about honoring those friends and family members who have departed. It can be traced back to pre-Columbian times and is celebrated on November 1 and 2. These dates coincide with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
Mexican Sports Image: katiebordner (flickr)
The traditional national sport of Mexico is known either as "Charreria" or "Charreada." These contests are similar to rodeos and consist of a series of equestrian events. Traditional Mexican cowboy clothing is worn during Charreria events, and participants typically use the national horse of Mexico, the Azteca. Thanks to the Spanish colonization of Mexico, which lasted approximately 300 years, bullfighting is also a Mexican sporting tradition. The largest bullfighting ring in the world can be found in Mexico City. Known as Plaza Mexico, it seats more than 40,000 people. Another sporting tradition in Mexico is boxing, and as far as team sports are concerned, none are more popular than soccer, or football, as it is more commonly known. Most of the Mexican states have their own representative football teams, and Mexico was the first country to host the FIFA World Cup twice, having done so in 1970 and 1986.
Mexican Food Image: CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK (flickr)
As is true of so many other things in Mexico, the country’s cuisine is largely a blend of indigenous and Spanish influences. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, native Mexicans cooked with such staples as corn, beans, tomatoes, chiles, squash, and wild game. Turkey was especially prevalent in relation to wild game. Other native pre-Columbian food in Mexico included guava, avocado, chocolate, vanilla, pineapple, peanuts, and sweet potato. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they introduced beef, pork, rice, cheese, garlic, onions, various spices, and sugar cane (from the Caribbean). These new foods were integrated into the Mexico cuisine, adding subsequent depth to the culinary spectrum. It could be argued that Mexican cooking remains simple at its core, revolving around such staples as tortillas, enchiladas, tacos, frijoles, tamales, and chiles. That being said, Mexican cuisine can also be quite complex. Take mole, for example. This rather complicated sauce can contain 100 different ingredients and take up to three days to prepare. As a side note, Mexican cuisine has its regional differences. Also, Mexican food isn’t as spicy as you might expect, at least when it first arrives at the table. Diners typically increase the heat themselves by adding chiles and salsas.