Mexico has an extensive coastlines of more than 10,000km include the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Mexico has pleasant and warm weather, unique food, art and archeology, pyramids, museums, haciendas, superb architecture and 21st century cities, weather from snow mountains in the Sierras, to rainy jungles in the Southeast and desert in the Northwest, numerous golf courses, excellent fishing, and world-class destinations like Acapulco, Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos, and Mazatlan. Mexico is ranked as the 7th major destination for foreign visitors, according to the World Trade Organization.
A country rich in history, tradition and culture, Mexico is made up of 31 states and one federal district. It is the third largest country in Latin America and has the largest population—more than 100 million—making it the home of more Spanish speakers than any other nation in the world. Despite the political and social changes that have occurred over the centuries, evidence of past cultures and events are apparent everywhere in Mexico. Many of Mexico’s rural areas are still inhabited by indigenous people whose lifestyles are quite similar to those of their ancestors. In addition, many pre-Columbian ruins still exist throughout Mexico, including the ancient city of Teotihuacán and the Mayan pyramids at Chichén Itzá and Tulum. Reminders of the colonial past are evident in the architecture of towns like Taxco and Querétaro.
The Mexican culture is perhaps one of the most fascinating cultures worldwide. The mixture of strong native legends, artistic expressions and Spanish culture elements make the Mexican culture unique. Being proud of their native heritage, Mexican people have preserved many of their ancestors’ traditions. Many of them are present in Mexican music, which resembles the music produced by the ancient Aztec’s drums and ceremonies.
Among the most relevant and oldest cultural aspects is painting, as it was already present in pre-Hispanic Mexico in constructions and codexes and in convents during colonial times. It became famous worldwide in the 20th century with artists who expressed their social criticism through their works, such as the muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. At Rivera’s side, but independent artistically, was Frida Kahlo, whose works are full of feeling and pain, with herself being the central subject of her paintings. Other outstanding artists are José Luis Cuevas, RufinoTamayo and Francisco Toledo.
Architecture has also played an important role in the country’s history. Mesoamerican civilizations made great developments in style and urban evolution received a big push, with the cities of Teotihuacan and Mexico-Tenochtitlán as examples. New styles were introduced with the arrival of the Spanish, such as baroque and mannerism, in cathedrals and buildings. Neoclassicism was introduced later. One of the most representative buildings of modernisation is the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which combines Art Nouveau and Art Deco. In modern architecture, we can mention Juan O’Gorman and Luis Barragán, whose work combined religious mysticism and the rescuing of national roots, building nature into the works.
Many Mexican legends are quite famous too, like the legend of “Lallorona” (“the weeping woman”), a woman whose spirit still cries for her lost son, or the legends of the Sacred woods of Chapultepec, where Aztecs emperors had their effigies sculpted in order to achieve immortality.
Mexico is famed for its gastronomy. But beyond the tacos and guacamole of world renown, there are rich and various culinary traditions spanning the whole country. The tastes, smells and textures of traditional Mexican ingredients are an assault on the senses, especially the more exotic items such as maguey worms, ants and fried grasshoppers. But the subtle blend of flavors in dishes such as mole and traditional Mexican salsas are sure to delight the palates of even the most conservative diners.
On coming to Mexico, a taste of the regional cuisines of Yucatan and Oaxaca is a must. The gastronomy of Oaxaca is one of the most famous in Mexico, including its famous mole, tlayudas (long pizza-like tortillas with a variety of traditional toppings) and chapulines (grasshoppers) for the more adventurous. The Yucatecan cuisine offers fewer extremes, but can be relied upon for taste every time. Try the classic dish of cochinita pibil (‘pibil’ pork), a tasty sauce of pork, orange, red onion and a traditional annatto sauce, slow cooked in an oven just below the ground.
Contemporary chefs are continually developing Mexican culinary identity, incorporating ingredients and cooking styles from all over the world in a cosmopolitan fusion. In Mexico City, the range of foods on offer is not limited by the Mexican or Mexican fusion traditions: the historic center and the districts of Polanco, Roma, Condesa and Tlalpan are home to restaurants boasting a truly international gastronomy. Come and join the culinary carnival!
Mexican cuisine can be described better as a collection of various regional cuisines rather than a standard list of dishes for the whole country. Because of climate, geography and ethnic differences, we can classify Mexican cuisine broadly in 4 great categories according to the region:
• Northern – Mostly meat dishes done mainly from beef and goat. This includes Cabrito, Carne Asada (Barbecue) and Arrachera. Is influenced by international cuisine (mostly from the United States and Europe), but it retains the essential Mexican flavor.
• Central – This region is influenced by the rest of the country but has its own well-developed local flavor in dishes such as Pozole, Menudo and Carnitas. Dishes are mostly corn-based and with different spices.
• Southeastern – Is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes. Caribbean cuisine have influences here because of the location.
• Coast – Is composed heavily with seafood and fish, but corn-based recipes can be easily found as well.
Among the most representative regional and national festivals are those of a religious nature. Some of these conserve certain popular traditions which can even be considered pagan. One of the most important is 12 December, Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who according to beliefs appeared to a peasant, Juan Diego, in 1531, on a hill at Tepeyac. Her image is now venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe, in the north of Mexico City.
Another festival is the Day of the Dead, which takes place on 2 November, which has a pre-Hispanic origin and coincides with the Catholic celebrations of All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day. The Independence Day festival, held each 15 September in public squares in all the country’s regions, is given its festive nature by the dances, music, fireworks and multi-coloured lights, making it one off the most noteworthy.
Among others there are 6 January, Epiphany and 2 February, Candlemas Day, the tradition in which is that the person who finds the figurine of baby Jesus when the Rosca de Reyes (sweet bread) is broken on Epiphany becomes the Godfather of Baby Jesus and takes tamales (maize dough dumplings) to the rest. Christmas, with its parties, carols, nativity scenes, Christmas Eve flowers and piñatas, is also one of the most outstanding traditions among the Mexican population.
These are some of the country’s most highlighted festivals and traditions, which you will be able to enjoy in the company of the locals during your stay. When you share in and enjoy these fiestas and customs, you will understand why Mexico is a place of great cultural richness and human warmth.
THE MAYAN WORLD
The Yucatan Peninsula, where nature had fun creating whimsical nooks and crannies and lavish jungles, was also the home of one of the most sophisticated cultures in recorded history: the Maya. Great observers of the stars and their relationship with the cycles of the earth, detailed architects, rigorous mathematicians, exquisitely talented artists, the Maya impregnated with their mystical wisdom Mexico’s southeastern region, covering the states of Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Chiapas.
In ancient times, the Maya built tall temples, with façades on which they sculpted the faces of their gods. Under their tutelage, they built harmonious cities which had systems for the conservation of rainwater and even helped to prevent flooding. They deciphered the secrets of agriculture, as well as the exact sciences. They developed highly accurate calendars to govern their daily lives, the time to sow, and even their military encounters.
Yesterday’s Maya World still lives on in the remains of important cities such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal, in Yucatan; Tulum and Coba, in Quintana Roo; Calakmul and the Chenes Route, in Campeche; Palenque and Bonampak in Chiapas, and Comalcalco in Tabasco. When you visit them, you will notice the different lifestyles that were explored by the Maya, and above all, their great attachment to nature and their gods.
But the Maya World lives on beyond the stones. In these five states, you will also find the vitality of this great civilization. The Cocoa Route in Tabasco will tell you about the importance this seed had among the Maya people, and the communities in Quintana Roo will invite you to join them at their table and taste their traditional food. In Yucatan’s colonial cities, you will hear their residents speaking the Maya language, and in Chiapas, you will discover in their rituals the syncretism between the Maya and the Spanish conquistadors.
WORLD HERITAGE CITIES
Currently, Mexico is proud to show off 10 World Heritage cities with such a distinction in the category of cultural property, because of their historical, architectural and urban value; they provide a unique cultural testimony, represent an outstanding architectural example, or express a cultural or historical authenticity. Campeche, Guanajuato and Morelia are a few of the many beautiful colonial cities to discover in Mexico.
Beaches that intertwine with the desert or with the lush jungle, beaches with ancient remains or full of contemporary art, beaches that are an eternal party or whose immeasurable silence takes us closer to paradise… More than 450 beaches make up the Mexican coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of California and the deep-blue Caribbean Sea. The variety of climates and points of interest that surround them make each Mexican beach a memorable spot. From the cosmopolitan destination of Los Cabos, the ideal place to fish and scuba dive, to the mystic Mayan Riviera, with unmatched natural surroundings, Mexican beaches stand out due to people’s warmth.