America's neighbor to the south: 25 facts about Mexican history and culture
We all know Mexico—our sunny neighbor to the south heralded for its beautiful beaches, world-renowned cuisine, colorful art, and potent tequilas. We know Mexico’s five-star resorts and vibrant cultural capitals like Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende. We know the sunsets in Los Cabos, and the beautiful ruins at Chichen Itza. But how well do we really know Mexico?
Did you know that Mexico is a country with more than 10,000 years of history? It also is one of the most topographically diverse nations in the world, home to, yes, those beautiful beaches, but also a vast mountain range, forests, lakes, jungle, canyons, rivers, and more. It also has thousands of miles of coastline and an indigenous population that collectively speaks over 100 languages. There is so much international influence in Mexico—more than you might imagine. Combine that with thousands of years of indigenous heritage and you’ve got a recipe for something truly unique.
To put it simply, Mexico is fascinating. Mexico is diverse. Mexico is one of the closest countries U.S. citizens can visit to experience some of the most diverse people and environments in the world.
So how much do you really know about Mexico? Stacker compiled a list of 25 facts about Mexican history and culture, each pulled from reports, studies, government documents, and news. These facts cover everything from interesting events in history, to demographic changes, to cultural traditions. Get ready to learn about some of your favorite foods, inventions we use every day, natural phenomena, and historical tidbits.
So if you thought Mexico was just about tacos, tequila, and soaking up the rays, get ready to think again. Read on to discover 25 surprising facts about Mexico.
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Without Mexico, there would be no Caesar salad
You can find it on nearly every hotel room service menu around the world, and it’s one of the most popular menu items in the United States. But believe it or not, the Caesar salad was actually invented in Mexico. Just across the border in Tijuana lives Caesar’s Restaurante-Bar, an institution that has been around since 1927. It was here that founder Caesar Cardini created the world’s most famous salad.
Mexico is a hotbed of seismic activity
The Earth's “Ring of Fire” is a zone of fault lines that circles the Pacific tectonic plate, known for being the most active area on the planet for seismic activity. Mexico sits on the Ring of Fire and its central and west coast are known to experience frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
[Pictured: A Civil Protection worker works at an earthquake monitoring centre in Acapulco, Guerrero State, Mexico.]
You can feed a village from one tamale
Mexico's Huasteca region, which includes the states of San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, and Veracruz, makes the largest tamales in Mexico. These Zacahuil, or giant smoked tamales, can max out at 10 feet long, and some can weigh 100 pounds.
[Pictured: Authentic standard size Mexican tamal in banana and corn leaf.]
Mexico invented the color TV
Mexico is heralded for its vibrant art and colorful culture, and it turns out a Mexican is actually credited with bringing color to TV. Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena from Guadalajara invented the chromoscopic adapter for television equipment back in the 1940s, which allowed moving pictures to be adapted from black and white to color.
[Pictured: GonCam Camera for Chromoscopicadapter for television equipment as seen at Radio and TV Museum, Palacio de la Cultura y la Comunicación, Zapopan, Jalisco.]
The world's largest geyser is in Mexico...
At 43 feet tall, the Cuexcomate geyser in Puebla is the world's largest. Mistakenly called the world's smallest volcano, it is actually an extinct geyser. However, it lives at the foot of Popocatepetl, which is very much an active volcano in Mexico.
[Pictured: Cuexcomate, an inactive geyser in Puebla city, mistakenly called "The Smallest Volcano of the World" in Puebla, Mexico.]
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...as is North America’s tallest volcano
Blessed with more than gigantic geysers, Mexico is also home to the tallest volcano in North America. Pico de Orizaba is now dormant but remains one of the most challenging peaks for climbers. It's the third-largest peak overall in North America, after Denali in Alaska and Mount Logan in the Yukon.
[Pictured: Pico de Orizaba volcano, or Citlaltepetl, is the highest mountain in Mexico.]
Pacifico beer has German roots
Pacifico beer, the famous libation known throughout Mexico, was created in Mazatlan at the beginning of the 20th century when three German brewers opened up a brewery. It is now one of Mexico’s most iconic beers and is enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.
[Pictured: Pacifico is a Mexican pilsner-style beer brewed in in the pacific ocean port city of Mazatlan.]
Mexico’s indigenous tribes include more than just Mayans and Aztecs
There are dozens of indigenous tribes native to Mexico, though most visitors are only familiar with the Mayan and Aztec communities. Many of these populations are still active in Mexico today, with roots that stretch all the way back to pre-Colombian times. Other indigenous tribes beside the Maya and Aztecs include Toltecs, Zapotecs, Huichol, Olmecs, and more.
[Pictured: An indigenous woman from Mexico speaks with Amadeo Martinez, president of the Indigenous Council of Central America, about a new map showing locations of indigenous peoples at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2016.]
Southern Mexico has the largest number of indigenous people
Most of Mexico's indigenous population lives in the southern part of the country, predominantly Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Veracruz. Eighty percent of indigenous language-speakers live in eight of Mexico's states. The others are Puebla, Yucatan, Guerrero, Hidalgo, and the state of Mexico.
[Pictured: Maria de Jesus Patricio, an indigenous healer from the Nahuatl ethnic group talks about the medicines she is preparing during an interview at her clinic in Tuxpan, Jalisco State.]
Cinco de Mayo is not a big deal in Mexico
While May 5 signals a time when Americans celebrate Mexican culture, food, and drinks (thanks to a push by beer companies in the 1980s and '90s to commodify the latter), Cinco de Mayo in Mexico comes and goes with little or no notice. The holiday commemorates Mexico's 1862 victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla—not Mexican Independence, which is observed Sept. 16. Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated in the towns affected by the conflict: Puebla and Veracruz.
[Pictured: A Cinco de Mayo with a reenactment of the 1862 battle between the French and the Zacapuaxtlas Indians in Puebla, Mexico as photographed on May 5, 2001.]
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