Culture and History of Mexico

Traditions of Mexico

Mexico is a North American country bordering Guatemala, Belize (to the southeast), and the United States (to the north). A large part of the population (about 80%) lives in cities. The national character of Mexicans in brief, is characterized by hard work, pride, kindness, which can easily turn into hostility. However, Mexicans are friendly to foreign tourists.

Historical and Cultural Traditions of Mexico

During the pre-Columbian period of Mexican history, the country was part of the Olmec and Mayan states. In the 12th century, Central Mexico was conquered by the Aztecs, making it the center of a vast empire. Now only folk legends and majestic pyramids of ancient cities are left of these civilizations.

After the arrival of the Spaniards in the Americas, Mexican culture was greatly influenced by the Catholic Church. Together with the Native American priests, bloody rituals with human sacrifices and the cults of bloodthirsty gods left the national rituals. The Spaniards brought European writing to the country with their new beliefs. Numeracy and writing were taught in Catholic schools in the church, which had an impact on all aspects of life.

Three centuries of Spanish colonial rule (from 1521 to 1821) brought Mexicans more than just indentured labor on plantations. Today 93% of Mexicans speak only Spanish and the literacy rate has reached 91%. Literature, science, and the fine arts have emerged in the country.

The Indian fresco art was raised to new heights, modernized, and made a national tradition by the artist Alfaro Siqueiros.

Of a population of 133 million people, most are Mexicans (mixed descendants of native Indians with Spaniards). Of the old customs of the people, Mexicans have preserved the celebration of the “Day of the Dead” and the national costume.

Mexican Costume Traditions

In its original form, the traditional costume was worn only by rural Mexicans. Despite its exotic appearance, its main elements are functional:

  • The wide-brimmed straw sombrero hat, which came from Spain, protects well from the hot sun;
  • the lightweight “pati” cape is used in the field;
  • a wool “poncho” cape with a cutout for the head is quickly worn when it gets cold in the midlands;
  • a woman’s long skirt protects Mexican women from the sun and the cold;
  • Guarachi leather sandals have changed little since Indian times; they are comfortable, firmly fastened to the foot with straps, and wear out slowly.

In everyday life, urban residents of modern Mexico wear traditional outfits only at carnivals and for family photos. Foreign tourists also enjoy being photographed in ponchos and sombreros.

Mexican customs in everyday life

In everyday life, Mexicans are friendly and good-natured, loving fun. When meeting men shake hands and women kissed on the cheek. They address their friends and acquaintances by their names. When communicating with strangers, the polite address “senor”, “senora”, “senorita” is obligatory. A sign of respect is to add to the address the title of the interlocutor: “director”, “president”, “doctor”, “professor”.

Among everyday habits, which are unusual for Europeans, we can single out:

  • Regular tardiness is the norm for Mexicans; no one pays attention to it;
  • not taking their shoes off when visiting (even if it’s muddy outside);
  • long conversations about extraneous things before getting down to business;
  • Mexicans are constantly distracted (even during business conversations) by phone calls;
  • The custom of standing very close to the person they are talking to.

Mexican families like and welcome guests. Friends and acquaintances may come to visit without much invitation or permission. Mexicans do not hide their emotions when speaking, they gesticulate a lot and may speak loudly. It is customary to give women flowers. But it must be a large bouquet. Mexicans never give one flower.

Family traditions in Mexico

Mexican men are responsible for the family. Up to 85% of the Mexican population lives in their own homes or apartments (in large cities). Mexican men do not begin to choose a bride until they have saved up money for a house. That is why Mexican men marry most often after the age of 30.

Mexican weddings begin with a church wedding according to the Catholic rite. At the wedding ceremony, the bride wears a white dress, the groom may be in an old Mexican “haciendados” embroidered with gilt and embroidery. At a Mexican wedding with many guests, there are a number of traditional customs:

  • The bride and groom arrive at the church separately;
  • The civil registration of marriage takes place after the church wedding;
  • the bride does not adorn herself with pearls, she changes three bouquets of flowers;
  • on leaving the church the newlyweds are sprinkled with rice or flower petals;
  • a sumptuous feast begins with a waltz of the bride and groom;
  • to hand over money, married couples dance with the bride and groom, sticking bills on the newlyweds’ clothes (this custom is called the “ticket dance”);
  • the groom performs a love song for the bride.
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For folk-style weddings, Mexicans most often invite professional ensembles of mariachos musicians, consisting of several guitarists, violinists, and trumpeters. They play dance music and sing folk and modern songs.

There are no ancient rituals surrounding the birth of a child. Most Mexicans are religious, with people over 30 going to church at least once a week. The rite of Catholic baptism for infants is considered compulsory.

It is common for a Mexican family to have 2-3 children for whom the parents spare nothing. When the children get married and go to their own home, the parents continue to take care of them. In turn, the adult children help the elderly parents. The family also maintains close relations with all relatives, of which there are often several dozen.

Many Mexican women do not work, devoting their entire lives to household chores and children. After marriage, the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law become friends, helping each other in everything. The man consults with his wife and parents on all important matters. The husband in the family is busy earning money, even for minor household repairs Mexicans call a handyman. But to bathe, feed and clothe a child is not a disgrace for a Mexican man. Mexicans spend their leisure time at home, going for walks and to the movies.

National cuisine

The basis of Mexican food are maize (corn) in the form of flour and grains, meat (beef, poultry). In spite of this, the cuisine is varied, with such original dishes standing out:

  • Tortillas (tortillas made of corn flour become the basis for dishes with stuffing – gorditas, tacos, quesadillas, synchonzada):
  • salole (thick soup made of meat and corn kernels);
  • tinga (chicken pieces stewed with salsa and onions);
  • Frijoles (black bean puree).

Mexicans add chili peppers, spices, and herbs to all their dishes. The spiciness of Mexican food takes some getting used to.

The desire for the American way of life among Mexicans manifests itself in the excessive consumption of Coca-Cola. The sweet drink is drunk in large quantities from morning till night and everywhere – on the street, at feasts, at work and at home. Mexicans drink their national hard liquors, tequila and mescal (cactus vodka) in moderation. In hot weather, men prefer to drink pulque (similar to a thick beer made from the juice of the blue agave) or regular beer.

Mexican Holidays

There are more than two dozen official holidays with days off in the Mexican calendar. However, salaried workers only get paid days off on New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, and Days:

  • Constitution (Feb. 5);
  • Labor Day (May 1);
  • Independence Day (September 16);
  • Revolution (November 20).

Once every six years, December 1, the day on which the president is sworn in after the elections, becomes a holiday.

IT’S INTERESTING! A unique official holiday in Mexico is the birthday of Benito Juarez (March 21), who is called the “father of the Mexican nation.”

Independence Day

Independence Day became the main official holiday in the country. On this day (September 16, 1810), the peasant movement for the independence of Mexico from Spain began. On the holiday, all schools and stores are closed. A military parade is held in Mexico City and carnivals are held in the streets of all Mexican cities. On improvised stages in the villages, plays about the war for independence are performed.

Christmas

Celebrating Christmas in Mexico begins well before December 24. In every town, carnival processions pass through the main streets, carrying figures of the Virgin Mary and Joseph ahead of them. The procession symbolically seeks a night’s rest for the biblical couple.

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On Christmas Day, locals participate in theatrical performances depicting a meeting with the Magi or other scenes from the Bible. Mexicans spend Christmas evening as a family around the table. The Christmas dishes are tamales (dough with meat wrapped in corn leaves) and buñuelos (sweet, crispy tortillas). It is mandatory to drink the hot drink “atole,” which is associated with prosperity. This sweet non-alcoholic concoction made from cornmeal was invented by the Aztecs.

After dinner, parents give their children Christmas presents. Most often, little Mexicans receive a “piñata.” The little one must break the brightly colored papier-mâché toy with a stick to get candy, gingerbread, and chocolate hidden inside.

New Year

On New Year’s Eve, many Mexicans perform rituals such as:

  • They sweep the trash out of the house over the threshold (with it goes the troubles);
  • They put a coin in their shoes to call for money;
  • Pour water outside through an open door or window so that tears can leave the house;
  • eat 12 grapes, making a wish for each month.

In addition to national holidays, every Mexican town or village celebrates its patron saint’s day in a big way.

Before Lent, the entire country participates in Carnival Week. For foreign tourists, this is the best time to travel in Mexico – in every town they will see fireworks, dancing, carnival processions, and hear street musicians perform.

Unusual Feasts and Ceremonies in Mexico

Of the Mexican spectacles that shock Russian tourists are bloody bullfighting, cockfighting. Other Mexican customs are strange to Russians, but do not arouse dislike:

  • Mexican Funeral. After a Catholic burial in a church, the funeral procession walks to the cemetery to merry music, with songs and jokes. This reflects Mexicans’ relaxed attitude toward death.
  • Attitudes toward children. Mexican children (under the age of 15) are allowed anything. They can scream, run around in public places, all the way to theaters and museums. Parents and adults don’t yell at their child, they watch them with a smile.
  • Mother’s Day. It is celebrated on May 10. This holiday is similar to the Russian March 8, but congratulations and gifts are given only to women who have given birth to children.
  • In the cattle-breeding states of Mexico, the newlyweds at their wedding are tied together with a lasso. Nowadays, a braided rope is no longer used to catch cattle, and symbolic colored ribbons are used instead.
  • Celebration of the “Day of the Dead.” For Latin American countries, this custom, left over from Native American traditions, is not unique; it is celebrated in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. On the second day of November, Mexicans show up at the cemetery dressed in frightening costumes. The procession passes through town with music, songs, and national flags. The holiday is reminiscent of Irish Halloween, but it pleases Mexicans rather than frightens them. According to popular beliefs, on this day the soul of the deceased returns to our world, so it should be received with fun. Mexicans bake coffee bread and cookies in the shape of skulls. This treat is left for the deceased at the tombstone.

Another interesting Mexican tradition is the ceremony of celebrating the fifteenth birthday (majority) of girls. During the celebration, the quinceañera (birthday girl) is dressed in a ball gown that she chooses herself. The feast day begins with a mass in the church. After the thanksgiving prayer, a banquet is held to which all relatives, friends and acquaintances are invited.

At the banquet, the birthday girl participates in traditional rituals:

  • Dances a chambelanes (chamberlain) dance, similar to a waltz, with the boys accompanying her;
  • receives the last doll (La última muñeca) and the first bouquet of flowers as an adult woman;
  • breaks 15 small piñatas symbolizing the years of her life.

The culmination of the festive ceremony is the cutting of the tiered cake, at which time all guests sing the song Las Mañanitas.

Despite the significant influence of the United States, Mexico remains a distinctive country, with its own national traditions and customs.

History of Mexico

History of Mexico

History of Mexico

The history of Mexico is an endless series of coups, revolts, and violent bloodshed. People have always sought to create a better future. Let us see what attempts were made in this regard by the peoples of Mexico. How did the formation of the Mexican states take place? What tumultuous events have played out in the country over the past centuries? Let’s travel back in time and find out what led the state to the state in which it stands before us today.

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History of Mexico

According to artifacts found on the territory of modern Mexico, we can determine that people inhabited the area thousands of years BC. However, historians are at a loss to say what kind of civilization flourished at that time. Structures and products of incredible complexity indicate a very high level of development of the inhabitants of that era.

Much more information has been obtained about the later Maya, Aztec, Zapotec, Toltec, etc. civilizations. These peoples waged endless wars among themselves, seeking to subjugate peoples and territories. But in this article we will discuss the history of Mexico during the colonial period as well as the revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries in more detail.

Conquest by Europeans

Hernan Cortez

Hernan Cortez

According to popular history the first European explorers arrived in what is now the Mexican States in 1511. It was not a purposeful voyage: a shipwreck occurred off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula which was en route from Panama to Haiti. Most of the sea crew and passengers perished. The name of one of the survivors went down in history. Geronimo de Aguilar was not only able to get along with the local Mayan tribes, but he also learned their culture, mastered their language and was a great help to Hernan Cortes in his communication with the Indians.

From 1517 to 1519 three maritime expeditions were organized for the exploration of Mexico on the orders of the Cuban governor, Diego Velázquez. He appointed Hernán Cortés, a prominent figure in Cuba, a wealthy landowner and judge, to lead the last one. Cortes had already won favor with Velázquez because of his talents as a diplomat and his fearless exploits during the conquest of the island. The Spaniard, who later became famous, made thorough preparations for the expedition: he outfitted six ships and engaged some 300 daring men. People were captivated by the tales of previous expeditions about the countless treasures of the Mexican lands, and they trusted their leader completely.

But when preparations for the voyage were in full swing, Velázquez decided to replace Cortés with another commander-in-chief. What was the reason for this sudden decision? The fact was that the governor of Cuba did not like Cortes’ approach to extensive preparations and such a large number of participants in the expedition. He had planned to send a small flotilla to the coast of Mexico, and then wanted himself to lead the conquest of the open land. Velázquez saw in Cortés a serious and ambitious rival. That is why he decided to remove Cortés from the expedition.

Perhaps the name of Hernán Cortés would not have made it into the Mexican history books if he had not had the audacity to do so. Secretly, under cover of night, he led his ill-equipped flotilla on the run from the angry governor. Then, having received the necessary help from allies and increased the number of ships to 11 with more than 800 men on board, he set out to conquer the Yucatan Peninsula. This took place in February 1519.

First the Spanish conquistadors captured the city of Tabasco. Then, in August 1519, Cortés led a campaign to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. He was joined by detachments of Spanish soldiers under the command of Narvaez, whom Velázquez sent to arrest the unruly Cortés. How did he manage to get them on his side? By bribing them with gold treasures, which the Indians presented as gifts to the Spaniards. As a result, it is believed that 2,000 Spanish conquerors participated in the conquest of Mexico.

Tenochtitlan was not immediately captured by the Spaniards. European units approached the city, then fled. Cortes tried to negotiate with the Aztec ruler Montezuma, using his diplomatic and scheming skills. He managed to get the Tlaxcals, the Indians who were at odds with the Aztecs, on his side. They gave considerable support to Cortes’ troops in the conquest of the Aztec state. As a result of a seventy-day siege in August 1521, Tenochtitlan was conquered by the conquistadors and placed under the authority of the Spanish crown. Reconstructed after destruction, Tenochtitlan was renamed Mexico City and eventually became the capital of Mexico.

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In 1522 Cortes’ conquests were officially recognized by the Spanish monarch, Charles, who appointed him governor of Mexico. The new ruler sought to consolidate the influence of the Spanish invaders in the territories under his control. For example, Cortés distributed land to his soldiers, told them to settle in Mexico, build cities, start families, and farm. Hernan Cortes’ expeditions also discovered and explored the California Peninsula.

Until 1821, the Mexican territories were under the rule of the Spanish kingdom. Colonial rule brutally oppressed the local population. Land was taken from the native Mexicans, they were forced to hard labor in the mines and plantations, and they were forcibly converted to the Catholic faith. In addition, thousands of Indians lost their lives to unprecedented European diseases. Before the arrival of the conquistadors on the American mainland there were over 24 million Indians in Mexico, and by 1600 there were about 1 million.

History of revolutions in Mexico

From 1600 to 1800, the colonial Mexican state experienced numerous revolts of Indian tribes. The largest occurred in 1624 and in 1692 in the capital city of Mexico City, in 1660 in Oaxaca, and in 1761 in the Yucatan Peninsula. Such isolated pockets of resistance to Spanish domination were successfully suppressed by the colonizers. Still, great changes were brewing in Mexico.

In 1810, influenced by the revolution in France and the struggle for independence in the United States, a war of liberation from Spanish colonial rule broke out in Mexico. A revolt led by the Catholic clergyman Miguel Hidalgo broke out in the working-class village of Dolores. It took place on September 16. Outraged by the unjust policies of the oppressors, the indigenous rebels intended to take over Mexico City. But their desperate attempts were soon put to an end. The rebellion was put down and Miguel Hidalgo was executed. Still, the date of September 16 went down in Mexican history: every year, Mexicans celebrate the Independence Day on this day.

Hidalgo’s rebellious ideas were adopted by another clergyman, José María Morelos. In 1813 he succeeded in calling a congress, which adopted a declaration of independence. But already in 1815 Morelos was killed, and the liberation struggle became a guerrilla war led by V. Guerrero, N. Bravo and G. Victoria.

The resistance movement was gaining strength. A new figure appeared on the political scene, Augustin de Iturbide, who joined forces with Guerrero’s rebels. In the city of Iguala they approved the so-called “Iguala Plan” to establish independence in Mexico and reform the country. In September 1821 rebel forces entered the capital and declared the independence of the Mexican States on September 28.

It would seem that the end of the monarchy in Mexico should be in sight. But lusting for power, Iturbide declared himself emperor. His dreams of a Mexican empire did not come true, because after two years the republicans, who were gaining strength, were able to remove him from power and expel him from Mexico. A. Iturbide could not accept this situation and tried to restore his influence in the political system. However, immediately after his arrival in Mexico in 1824 he was captured by the military and sentenced to be shot.

The struggle for power in Mexico lasted a long time. Thus in 1824 its first legally recognized president, M. G. Victoria, was elected. Then there were several coups d’état, rulers succeeded one another with periods ranging from 1 year to several decades. The situation in the country was very unstable. Not without reason, one of the symbolic colors on the flag of Mexico is red. It is interpreted as a symbol of the blood spilled in the struggle for independence.

Historians call the reign of Benito Juárez, who belonged to the liberals, the second revolution. During his presidency from 1858 to 1872 he carried out substantial reforms in the country. A new constitution was adopted. The reaction of the masses and political structures to the constitution was mixed. It led to more bloodshed, military clashes, and difficult economic conditions in the country.

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Impoverished Mexico was unable to pay its foreign debt. A decision was made to temporarily cease such payments. In 1862 Spain, Great Britain and France invaded the Mexican states, seeking to recover their lost funds. British and Spanish troops soon left the country. The French, despite being defeated near the city of Puebla in 1862, still managed to capture Mexico City and put their monarch in charge. The reign of Maximilian of Hapsburg was not long at all, for four years later he was executed.

And again rebellions and coups until in 1877 the military dictator Porfirio Diaz asserted his power. He carried out reforms in the country that led to some economic progress. Material prosperity was achieved by the ruling circles and rich landowners, while the common people found themselves below the poverty line. Dissatisfaction with the situation grew until 1911, when the power of the brutal dictator was put to an end.

Mexico in the Twentieth Century

Porfirio Diaz

Porfirio Diaz

At the time Porfirio Diaz seized the reins of government in the country, the majority of Mexican residents were simple laborers, pastoralists, and farmers. They were Indians or mestizos. They had been living on their lands for many years without legal title deeds.

Diaz ordered that the so-called “wastelands,” that is, tracts with no title deeds, be distributed among the landlords, the military, and the church. The ruling elite literally plundered the peasants, depriving them of their land, and thus of their livelihood.

In addition, foreign debts to foreign countries reached enormous proportions: more than 820 million Mexican pesos. More than 80% of Mexicans were illiterate. Child mortality was very high and the adult population barely lived to be 40 years old.

On the other hand, the development of industry, metallurgy, silver mining and oil production was gaining momentum in the country. This development was hampered by the semi-feudal structure of the state headed by a brutal dictator. Many longed for change.

In 1910, practical sham presidential elections were held, in which Diaz once again “won.” Oppositionist Francisco Madero, who had recently emigrated to the United States, accused Diaz of holding an illegal election in his published address to the nation. Madero called for an uprising against the dictatorial regime.

Although a wave of violent repression swept through the country, it was no longer possible to stop the emerging revolution. There were too many dissatisfied with the status quo. Since the spring of 1911, the whole country was already involved in a civil war.

At the end of May 1911, Diaz resigned his presidency and emigrated to France, saving his life. The dictator’s regime came to an end, but the Mexican revolution was only gaining momentum. Although Madero became president, he remained in power for less than a year and a half. He was assassinated by conspirators seeking to seize power in the country. This led to the installation of a military dictatorship in Mexico and a decades-long civil war that fizzled out and then flared up again.

The adoption of the constitution of 1917 is considered a memorable event of the Mexican Revolution. Some historians refer to this date as the end of the revolution in Mexico. But in fact it continued for a long time.

Throughout the 20th century, the political situation in Mexico was extremely unstable. In the struggle for power, the country’s leaders were endlessly replaced. Rebellions and revolts broke out and claimed the lives of thousands of civilians.

The shootings of a student demonstration in Mexico City in 1968 and the 1994 Indian uprising in the state of Chiapas can be singled out as the most notorious events. Recently in Mexico, more and more attention is paid to the fight against drug trafficking, which in this country has reached an unprecedented scale. The murders and kidnappings of hundreds of people in connection with the drug trade have caused massive protests from the local population.

A brief look at Mexico’s history begs the question: Will the Mexican state ever achieve stability and prosperity? People’s desperate attempts do not seem to be having the desired effect. Still, there is reason to look to Mexico’s future with hope.

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