Day of the Dead, Football, indigenous community in Mexico, mariachi, Mexican football, Mexican People & Culture, Mexican rodeo, Mexican social life, Posadas, Religion in Mexico, Spanish Conquest, Travel, Virgin of Guadalupe
Hey guys, happy Tuesday 🙂
Hope you enjoyed reading my previous post on Mexico because today I have something more to share with you about Mexico. And once again, it’s from my e-book: Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World
Happy Reading 🙂
People and Culture
Mexico’s varied population reflects its rich history. Mexican people are genetically distinctive among the world’s populations. They belong to diverse ancestral genetic groups. Those of European blood are mostly descendants of the first Spanish settlers but there are others of French, Italian, Portuguese, Basque, German, Irish, Polish, Romanian, Russian, and British descent from more recent migration. The majority of Mexicans are mixed-race mestizos who make up the core of the country’s cultural identity.
After the Spanish Conquest, the intermingling of races and cultures led to the emergence of a multiracial society comprising a mix of native Indians or indios, Europeans and Africans. The number of mestizos grew rapidly, as many Spanish men took native Indian wives and had large families. Before the 19th century, the indigenous people accounted for nearly two-thirds of the population of the country. But later, the racial composition began to change from the distinct Spanish and indigenous population, to one made up largely of mestizos. Shortly after the Conquest and over the course of the colonial period, an estimated 200,000 African slaves were brought into central Mexico (though there is strong evidence proving the existence of Africans in Mexico over thousands of year prior to the arrival of the Spanish). Racial mixing and intermarriage produced a sizable population of mulattoes (of Spanish and African descent), as well as zambos, who were people of African and native Indian descent. By the end of the 19th century, the mestizos formed the largest ethnic group in Mexico.
Post-independence, Mexico had to gradually create a national identity. Being an ethnically diverse country, the only common element amongst the newly independent inhabitants was Catholicism. In 1925, José Vasconcelos in his publication La Raza Cósmica (The Cosmic Race), defined Mexico as the melting pot of all races, extending the definition of the mestizo not only biologically but culturally as well. He rejected Charles Darwin’s views on the problems of race mixture and instead proclaimed mestizos to be the highest form of human evolution. This new nationalist ideology, called Indigenismo (een-dee-heh-nees-moh), brought about the revalorization of Mexico’s native heritage, including its indigenous cuisine based on corn. This exalting of mestizaje (mehs-tee-sah-heh) was a revolutionary idea that sharply contrasted with the idea of a superior pure race prevalent in Europe at the time.
Today, about 60% of the population is mestizo while about 30% is of pure indigenous ancestry and 9% of direct Spanish ancestry. The remaining one percent comprises Africans intermarried with indigenous people and mestizos, living in the coastal areas of Veracruz, Tabasco and Guerrero.
Although the official language of Mexico is Spanish, there are about 63 legally recognized languages. More than ten million people speak an indigenous language of which more than 1.6 million people (of Aztec descent) speak Nahuatl, the largest spoken indigenous language of the country. This is apart from the numerous languages spoken by immigrant groups who settled in Mexico centuries ago. Today, the country is home to the largest number of US citizens abroad, representing almost 1% of the Mexican population, and 25% of all the US citizens abroad. There are many Central and South American immigrants too with the Argentine community forming the second largest foreign community in the country.
How does one identify an ‘indigenous’ Mexican? A variety of factors are used – customs, language, dress, food, and residence, for example… The native Indians are often dressed in their traditional attire which distinguishes them from mestizos who generally wear American-style clothes.
The indigenous community is mostly concentrated in the central, southern, and south-eastern states, regions with indigenous civilizations at the time of the Conquest.
Mexicans like to socialize and place a high value on family and traditional values.
Male chauvinism is commonly reflected in their culture. They have a great feeling of patriotism which is strongly visible in their Independence Day celebrations with main squares, commercial centres, etc. dressed in patriotic decorations of reds, whites and greens – Mexico’s official colours. Excluding Mexico City and the large cities in the northern states, the rest of the country is deeply religious and conservative.
One of Mexico’s most important religious holidays, is the Dia de los Muertos (diah deh lohs mwehr-tohs) or Day of the Dead, celebrated on the 2nd of November, to honour the deceased. The roots of this tradition go back to ancient times. Although the day is passionately celebrated throughout the country, the traditional fervour is high in small towns.
In the month of December, from the 16th to the 24th, Mexicans celebrate the traditional Posadas (‘Inns’). On each of these nights, processions go from door to door to re-enact Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn in Bethlehem. The Christmas party scene continues right till the Dia de los Santos Reyes (diah deh lohs trehs reh-yehs) or Three Kings’ Day or Epiphany which is celebrated on the 6th of January.
In Mexico, one can often hear music in the streets and plazas of towns and cities. Mariachi bands, made up of guitars, violins and trumpets, are the best-known kind of Mexican musical groups.
The mariachi musicians dressed in silver-studded charro (Mexican horsemen) outfits – usually black – and matching wide-brimmed hats play melodies and sing traditional folk songs. They can be seen playing in plazas, at parties, restaurants and weddings. They are often hired to serenade women, to sing Las Mañanitas (lahs mah-nyah-nee-tahs) or the Mexican birthday song, and during occasions like a quinceañera (kin-seh-ah-nyeh-rah) – a girl’s fifteenth birthday celebration which follows the colonial tradition of a coming-out party for girls.
In the South-East and along the Gulf Coast, traditional music played on the marimba is very popular.
Mexico’s blend of indigenous and Spanish influences has also enriched much of its handicrafts. Ancient indigenous arts such as ceramics, sculpture, and weaving with intricate designs and bright native colours were blended with Spanish art techniques to create a unique Mexican style.
Many of Mexico’s most popular modern crafts such as textiles, pottery, silver jewellery and furniture borrow designs and techniques from the indigenous culture.
Since pre-colonial times, Mexican painters, writers, and musicians have produced a rich cultural heritage. The best-known modern Mexican artists are the muralists, whose important work dates from the first half of the 20th century.
Diego Rivera is the most well-known figure of Mexican Muralism. Many of his works, as well as those of José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, can be seen in buildings throughout Mexico. The famous painters among others include Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo. Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes are two Mexican writers who have attained international recognition. Ballet Folklórico de Mexico, a folkloric ballet ensemble, is internationally acclaimed for its dance and music.
The most popular sport in Mexico is association football or soccer. It is commonly believed that soccer was introduced to Mexico at the end of the 19th century by miners from Cornwall working in the silver mines of Pachuca and Real (reh-ahl) de Monte. The Estadio Azteca (Aztec Stadium) is the official home stadium of the Mexican national soccer team. Besides the XIX Olympic Games in 1968, the country has also hosted the FIFA World Cup twice, in 1970 and 1986.
Other popular sports include the charreria, the central component of which is the charreada or Mexican rodeo, where men and women dressed in traditional charro (cowboy) clothing present their skills and styles in a series of events involving bulls and horses in a circular arena approximately 40 meters in diameter; lucha libre or professional wrestling which is the Mexican version of World Wrestling Entertainment; and los toros or bullfighting which runs from November to March.
Almost all large cities have bullfighting rings. The 55,000-seated Plaza México in Mexico City is the largest bullfighting ring in the world. Baseball is very popular too, especially in the Gulf coast, Yucatán Peninsula and the Northern States.
Catholicism has been the dominant religion of Mexico since its introduction during the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. During the colonial era, many native Indians and mestizos were forced to adopt the Spanish language and convert to Roman Catholicism, the religion of their conquistadores (con-kis-tah-doh-rehs) or conquerors, but the rural and indigenous people were never fully converted to Christianity, retaining some of their indigenous beliefs; local priests and bishops accepted the combination of some indigenous practices with Catholicism.
The patron saint of Mexico, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, recognized as a symbol of all Catholic Mexicans, is said to represent both the Virgin Mary and the indigenous goddess Tonantzin (some claim she is Coatlicue, the Aztec mother goddess). This syncretism may have provided a way for the 16th century Spaniards to gain converts among the indigenous population of the New World as well as a method for 16th century indigenous Mexicans to covertly practice their native religion.
The enormous Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe built on the Tepeyac hill near Mexico City, at the spot where the Virgin Guadalupe is said to have appeared to an indigenous boy, Juan Diego in 1531, is one of the most revered religious places in the country. Its location, on the hill of Tepeyac, was a place of great sanctity long before the arrival of Christianity in the New World or colonial Mexico. In pre-Hispanic times, the hill was crowned with a temple dedicated to the Goddess of Earth and Fertility as well as the Mother of the Gods, Tonantzin, who, like the Christian Guadalupe, was a virgin goddess, also associated with the moon. Following the Spanish Conquest in 1521, the shrine was demolished, and the native people were forbidden to make pilgrimages to the sacred hill.
Ten years later, after the appearance of the image of the Virgin (a young woman, her head lowered demurely wearing an open crown and flowing gown, standing upon a half moon) on Juan Diego’s shawl, the bishop gave the orders for construction of the church. News of the miraculous apparition of the Virgin’s image on a peasant’s shawl, spread rapidly throughout the country. On learning that the mother of the Christian god had appeared to one of their people and spoken to him in his native language, thousands of indigenous people came from hundreds of miles away to see the image. The latter was to have a powerful influence on the advancement of the Church’s mission in colonial Mexico. In only seven years, from 1532 to 1538, more than eight million Indians were converted to Christianity. The shrine, rebuilt several times over the centuries, is today an enormous basilica with space for 10,000 pilgrims inside.
Every year, an estimated ten million pilgrims come to venerate the mysterious image on Juan Diego’s shawl preserved behind bullet-proof glass, hanging twenty-five feet above the main altar. On the 12th of December, the day of the apparition of the image, millions of devout pilgrims from all over Mexico visit the shrine, many crawling to the Basilica on their knees. The Virgin of Guadalupe has symbolized the Mexican nation since Mexico’s War of Independence when rebel armies waged war with flags bearing the image of the Virgin Guadalupe. Today, her image is found everywhere – in churches, houses, taxis, buses, hotels, restaurants, bullrings, etc.
Well guys, I hope you enjoyed reading this post. You can read all about Mexico and my adventures across this beautiful ancient land, right here on my blog. Check out my three e-books available for sale on this blog:
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