Few countries can rival Mexican culture for its eclecticism. From atmospheric festivals – including the vibrant Day of the Dead – to rural arts and crafts scenes inspired by centuries of rich cultural heritage, there’s plenty to soak up during your visit.
Evidence of many cultural influences is easy to spot in Mexico’s varied architecture too, from the colorful colonial-era buildings in Mexico City’s historic heart to the majestic ruins of Mayan temples along the southern borders and eastern coastlines.
Mexican culture is intrinsically linked to its history and the past civilizations that have called it home. While Spanish is widely spoken, there are still many locals who identify strongly with their ancient indigenous heritage through both language and cultural traditions.
Family is highly valued in Mexico, with meals, celebrations and day-to-day activities centering around the home. Color is also a huge part of Mexican culture, whether that’s through its buildings, its art, its festivities or its mouth-watering cuisine.
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Religion in Mexico
Mexico’s primary religion is Roman Catholicism and over 80% of the population is a member of the church. The country’s strong Catholic roots are a reflection of its Spanish heritage, with this religion being first introduced during the 16th century by colonialists.
You’ll spot beautiful churches and monasteries in every city and town in Mexico, including the baroque Templo de Santo Domingo in Oaxaca and important pilgrimage sites like the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Church is an important part of public life, with many regularly attending services and observing traditional Catholic rites of passage like baptism, first communion and confirmation.
Mexico is also very tolerant of other religions and has many different strains of Christianity as well as small Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu and Jewish populations, especially in the capital.
Festivals and Celebrations
Mexico is famed for its colorful two-day Day of the Dead festivities that take place around All Saints Day on November 1, every year. Most of its cities celebrate the commemorative holiday in their own unique way, from street parties and processions to decorating shrines and cemeteries to honor lost loved ones.
There are also many other festivals to witness while on vacation in Mexico, including arts and literature events, music and dance festivals and traditional celebrations like the Carnival that’s usually celebrated in February or March.
Cinema and Literature in Mexico
Mexico’s literary heritage is one of the most important in the Spanish-speaking world. This too has been massively influenced by the country’s history, from its indigenous beginnings and colonial conquering to its more modern revolutionary times. Some of the best known Spanish-language authors hail from Mexico, including Carlos Fuentes and Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz.
Mexican cinema is also well regarded, with the industry’s Golden Age between 1933 and 1964 gaining the country international recognition with films largely inspired by the country’s key historical events. Today, Guadalajara’s International Film Festival is one of the most prestigious in Latin America and many contemporary Mexican films have also won major awards, including Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.
Music and Art
Mexico is famed for its lively Mariachi music that originated in its western regions during the 18th century. Bands typically wear bright charro outfits and play string instruments accompanied by singing. You’ll find performances throughout Mexico, but particularly renowned ones take place in Guadalajara’s historic Plaza de los Mariachis and at Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City.
The country’s folk arts and crafts are known collectively as artesanía and their origins go back centuries. From handmade clay pottery decorated in bright colors to woven baskets and intricate hanging art, there’s plenty to pick up as a memento of your trip to Mexico.
Oaxaca State is home to the richest folk arts scene in Mexico, with local village workshops selling rugs, black pottery and wooden carvings. You’ll also find shops in towns and cities across the Riviera Maya offering unique handicrafts.
Art influenced by more contemporary Mexican culture includes Frida Kahlo’s vivid portraiture which can be viewed in the bright blue Museo Frida Kahlo, the artist’s former home in Mexico City. You’ll also spot Diego Rivera’s vibrant works at the futuristic Museo Soumaya and in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, plus several of his famous murals adorn the walls of Mexico City’s National Palace.
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