Mexico is a Hispanic country in North America. The festive culture celebrates a mix of "Indian" (precolonial) traditions, Spanish customs, and modern American influence. The Spanish language and the Catholic church play large roles in society. A sensuous blend of food, music, and color lend themselves to create a vivid community.
Location and Geography: Mexico occupies the southernmost landmass of North America, connecting with the Central American isthmus. The territorially diverse land ranges from the northern desert of the Baja peninsula and the mainland, through the center and surrounding mountain ranges, to the lush southern jungles. Mexico has coasts against the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Gulf of California.
Demography: Mexico has the second largest population in North America, 120,000,000, making it the country with the most Spanish speakers on the planet. The capital, Mexico City, ranks among the most populous cities in the world, at 21,000,000. The country, now mostly urban, has recently slowed down its growth rate to only 1.4%.
The People: Mexicans trace their ancestry back to the ancient "Mexica" people. Spanish "Conquistadors" came to the New World, bringing their religious and culinary and other traditions, which mixed with the existing cultures. With its close proximity to the United States, geographically and socially, Mexicans today incorporate American culture strongly. The people are proud of their mixed heritage, although significant differences appear from north to south.
Language: Spanish is by far the predominant language, spoken by well over ninety percent of the population. Mexican Spanish resembles other variants, with a few grammatical and semantic fluctuations. American-influenced English is spoken commonly in the large cities, and along the border. Additionally, several of the diverse native languages remain in use among local populations, totaling over a million speakers.
History: The first peoples to settle Mexico came from Asia around ten millennia ago. A tapestry of civilizations spread across the area now called Mexico, including notably the "Mexica" (Aztec) and the Maya. When the Spaniards came by sea, two vastly different civilizations encountered each other. Disease killed many of the American people, and the Europeans defeated the pre-Colombian populations militarily, establishing the colony of New Spain. Mexico rebelled in the early twentieth century, declaring independence and fighting victoriously. A series of wars yielded today's borders. Mexico and America now trade heavily, with many joint cities along the border.
Religion and Holidays: Mexico today is an extremely Catholic country, counting more than four fifths of the population. "Our Lady of Guadalupe" is the patron saint of Mexico, and appears ubiquitously. Her feast day is perhaps the most important religious holiday in the country. Mexicans have a packed holiday schedule, including the Fiestas Patrias (Patriotic Holidays) , which commemorate the birth of the nation. Mexicans celebrate the main Catholic holidays, with modifications due to traditional Indian religions. Mexico also celebrates some unique holidays, such as the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Etiquette: Linguistically, the formal and informal versions of "you" are used to address individuals according to age and social position. Mexicans use distinct hand gestures to communicate. While the culture does have an element of "machismo" (masculine behavior meant to impress), women and especially mothers hold a place of special value. However, in more traditional regions, such as remote towns, women and children still stay more secluded. Behavior in the bigger cities is more modern.
Economy: The Mexican economy has grown considerably, to play a large part in the global economy. Largely through its contact with the US, Mexico supplies a lot of manufacturing capability, as well as food and other resources. Oil has been important the Mexico's history, going back to the government's forceful creation of the Pemex monopoly, although currently there are plans to privatize the industry. The country overall is fairly wealthy by comparison with much of Latin America, although much less so than the United States.
Money and Costs: The Mexican currency is the peso. One peso is equivalent to a hundred centavos. Approximately sixteen pesos currently trade for one US dollar.
Mexican attitudes towards money tend to be more liberal, with expenditures on sometimes extravagant shopping expeditions, shared meals, and parties. Tipping is customary in most service industries, although not at informal eateries.
Social Attitudes and Norms: Mexico has different and sometimes contradictory social divisions. There is a large rural-urban divide, with country people living much more traditional and conservative lives than their urban counterparts. There is also a vast North-Central-South divide. Northern Mexicans, Norteños, have cowboy lifestyles in the desert. The center of the country hosts the major cities, and features the most historic cultural elements, from politics to education. The poorer south has a more sizeable native population, with lives more closely resembling those in Central America.
Mexicans retain many customs and attitudes from older times, such as chivalry and bravery. However, the country is increasingly modernizing, with the new and the old coexisting and occasionally clashing. For example, some cities have rows of traditional cathedrals alongside bustling gay neighborhoods. Metropolitan Mexicans adopt many behaviors from American images, resulting in the fresa (yuppie) for example, speaking with borrowed slang and affectations. Mexicans tend to be highly patriotic, revering their country's rich heritages of culture, history, and natural geography.
Food: Mexican food is famous globally for its distinctive flavors and emotions. While internationalized Mexican food mixes and adapts elements from across the entire country, authentic regional cuisine varies heavily, from the sparse preparations of beef and wheat in the north, to the lush moisture of fruits in the south. The most traditional cuisine comes from the state of Puebla, in the center of the country. Here, famous dishes such as mole poblano represent the nation.
Many ingredients from Mexico have risen to symbolic proportions. These include corn, chili peppers, tomato, beans, and chocolate. A huge number of important foods have their origins here. Mexicans eat lavishly, often spending an exorbitant amount on a feast. Eating takes time, and can be accompanied by music and dancing.
Cultural Beliefs: Mexican attitudes center around celebration. Whether celebrating their religion or sports or food, Mexicans traditionally live with colorful abandon. Big declarations, and bigger actions, make this heroic country exceptional.
Social Life: Social life differs from the city to the countryside. In towns and villages, large and close-knit families live together. Neighbors commonly come over, almost belonging to the extended family. Men work, frequently in construction or other mechanical activities, while women cook and clean and tend to the children. However, in cities, people adopt more flexible ways of community life. Young professional often live together in small groups. Here, the office and home and trendy public meeting spots set the background. In any type of social life in Mexico, people bond strongly, sharing more closely than in other cultures.
With the heavy association with the American economy, many Mexican men cross the border, legally or illegally, to work. Some stay for extended periods, sending back remittances. Others who live near the border will commute for work and then return home to Mexico, where they may even reside with their family. All of these migrant workers serve as an important vehicle for cultural and economic ties between the two countries.
Transport: Mexican roads are the worst maintained in North America. However, they are heavily trafficked, by cars and trucks and an armada of buses that crisscross the country. The passenger train system has essentially been deprecated, although industrial transportation continues to use rail. With its huge coastline, Mexico does engage in boating and shipping, although far less so than the neighboring USA.
Bicycles remain a common way to get around within the community. Also, in some rural areas, horses and donkeys and mules see some use.
Architecture: Mexico features a mix of indigenous huts and dwellings, with ornate colonial building, and modern skyscrapers in the cities. Northern Mexico features a lot of simple concrete structures. In more central areas, the stonework of the Spanish attracts international visitors. The most stunning architecture of Mexico comes in the precolonial villages that served a mix of economic, religious, and astronomical functions. Pyramids with ornate snake designs, multiple tiers, and responding to the evolving celestial objects, make these wonders as relevant as they are beautiful.
Mexico Fact: A Mexican invented the color television.
Last modified on 01/08/2016 - 00:43
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