Cultural Traditions in Mexico
Every day in America we are exposed to more cultures and ways of life than we even know how to process. Of these various cultures, Mexican American people make up 11.2% of the US population and have influenced the America melting pot indefinitely. We love the food, music, and history of the Mexican people and even celebrate a few traditional holidays here in the states. However, do we really have an understanding of what those traditions mean?
Here are a few of the aspects of Mexican culture that we might understand a little more.
Holidays in Mexico
Some of the Mexican holidays that we have come to recognize in America are very different from the actual observance of these holidays in Mexico. For example, contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (which is actually on September 16th) but it is the celebration of a victorious battle in Puebla against the French in 1862. While this act of independence is significant, the truth is, people in America celebrate this holiday more heartily than those in Mexico do.
One very popular holiday in Mexican culture is Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. El Dia de los Muertos is a holiday which dates back hundreds of years to Mayan and Aztec cultures who believed that the dead could come back and visit their families on those days. It’s a concept that has become even more familiar with Disney’s new movie Coco which features this holiday celebration in a small Mexican town. However, while most families do celebrate their deceased on this day, not many still prescribe to the idea that they are being visited from the other side. In any case, it is still an opportunity to surround yourself with family and memories and celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us.
Similar to our own observed holidays in America, other holidays in Mexico celebrate political events such as Dia de la Raza (Day of Races) which is similar to our Columbus Day, or Revolution Day which marks the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. However, these types of holidays are not nearly as widely celebrated as holidays such as the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe which celebrates the day when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to the Mexican people. To this day, thousands of people travel to the place she is said to have appeared to offer gifts, sing songs to her, and pray for her healing. These are the types of holidays that bring people together to celebrate culture and history.
According to the CIA, 82% of Mexicans identify as Catholic, whether they adopt all of the practices of Catholicism or not. Many native traditions and beliefs were adapted when Catholicism was first introduced in the 1500s, including the legend of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Day of the Dead. These holidays were combined with traditional European customs, such as All Souls Day, to not only represent the culture of the newcomers but also their religious ideals.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is a particularly stirring tradition in Mexican religious practices and culture. The legend insists that the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant named Juan Diego and told him to build a church in her honor. This first encounter was followed by several others in which the blessed Virgin gave him information about his friend’s illness and presented him with Castilian roses (which were not native to Mexico.) These roses were collected in his cloak, where it was later revealed that an image of the virgin herself was miraculously drawn. While some argue against the authenticity of this event, the fact is, many Mexican people still celebrate and worship it to this day.
Food and Celebrations
Arguably, the most important part of any celebration is the food, and Mexican culture is no different. Many of the foods we think of as traditionally Mexican are actually heavily influenced by European conquerors who brought new spices and meats that were not originally found in Mexico. But thanks to these combinations, we are blessed to be able to enjoy some of the richest and most delicious meals in the known world.
Some of the most popular traditional Mexican dishes are chilaquiles (traditionally a breakfast dish with fried corn tortillas, sometimes topped with eggs, pulled chicken, and/or salsa), pozole (a stew made from hominy corn served with lettuce, radish, onion, lime, and chili), and mole (a rich sauce which is made many different ways, featuring sweet and spicy flavors such as chili peppers and chocolate). Some of these dishes are American staples such as tostadas, enchiladas, and tamales (which were first developed by the Aztecs as food that can be easily taken on the go) and others are only now becoming more popular, such as elote and mole.
In any case, Mexican food and culture is a welcome addition to the melting pot that we have in America and we are so lucky to have such a rich and diverse nation to learn from.