5 Things You Didn’t Know about Mexico
Even though Mexico is one of our closest neighbors, many Americans don’t know a lot about the country and its culture. Of course, we enjoy Mexican food, especially when it’s made with fresh ingredients. Here we discuss a few of the surprising things that Mexico is known for.
Chocolate Originated with the Aztecs
Chocolate dates back as far as 1900 B.C. At that time the Aztecs believed that the cacao seeds were a gift from Quetzalcoati, the God of wisdom. They used the seeds to make fermented chocolate drinks. Unlike the chocolate you eat today, this beverage had a bitter taste, and it was usually mixed with spices or corn puree. Chocolate was important to the Aztecs, so much that they used it as currency for trade. Chocolate was believed to give the drinker strength, and it was also thought to have aphrodisiac powers.
You can still get “Chilate” in the South of Mexico. This hot chocolate drink is made by locals, but if you’re expecting something sweet, you’ll be disappointed. When the Europeans came, they added sugar to the chocolate drink, which increased its popularity immensely in other parts of the world. At first, it was only available for the ruling classes, but by the 20th century it became a staple. In fact, chocolate is even included in the rations of United States soldiers now.
The origins of the word chocolate come from the Spanish language, too. If you like chocolate, then you can thank the ancestors of your Mexican neighbors for making it popular.
Children Don’t Get Presents on December 25th
Christmas is celebrated differently in Mexico, as we explained in last month’s blog. Mexican children traditionally don’t get presents on December 25th, but it’s not because they were bad. Instead, most Mexicans celebrate ‘el Dia de los Reyes’, which is Epiphany, on January 6th. According to folklore, the Three Kings leave presents for the children, just as they brought presents for baby Jesus in the Old Testament.
Western influence is spreading, and that’s why some areas of Mexico follow the Santa Claus tradition. While most families attend a midnight mass on December 24th, sometimes children also get presents from Santa that day. Incidentally, December 24th is also celebrated in other cultures, including Spain and Germany. However, Spain also still celebrates the traditional holiday on Epiphany, much like Mexican cultures. But even children who celebrate Santa Claus on the 24th still get some candy on January 6th.
Mexico Is Home to Hundreds of Languages
When you think of Mexico’s language, you probably assume that everyone speaks Spanish. And you would be mostly right as 90% of the population speaks Spanish. However, there are a total of 285 living languages still spoken throughout the country. This includes indigenous languages, such as Mayan, Nahuit, and Zapoteco. Additionally, Mexico also has a lot of people who came from other countries and preserved their heritage and language, much like the United States.
It’s All in the Handshake
Mexicans are a friendly folk. They enjoy greeting each other on the street. But unlike Americans who are quick to follow up their ‘hellos’ with a ‘How’re you doing’, Mexicans are more physical. Men often greet each other with a handshake or a hug. On the other hand, women typically give each other a quick kiss on the cheek. This is also pretty common on many European countries. When in doubt, go for the handshake. One thing visitors should remember is that the pace of life in Mexico is slower. It’s rude to rush people, and you shouldn’t complain about slow service, either. Just take your time and enjoy the moment.
Mexican Food Is Part of the Culture
Mexican food is more than nourishment for your body. Prepping, cooking, and eating are part of the culture and must be enjoyed. Mexicans enjoy their food, which is not surprising because it’s delicious. The biggest meal in Mexico is lunch. At that time, you should be prepared to eat a lot. Lunch often includes an appetizer, soup, or salad, and the main course.
Lunch can be partaken as part of a meeting, but you shouldn’t expect to hurry through it. In fact, a waiter would never bring you the check until you ask for it, because doing so would be considered rude. The idea of savoring food and enjoying a siesta afterwards is also very common in Mediterranean countries. It could have to do with the weather, but daytime activities resume in the late afternoon.