Known for its varied customs and traditions, Mexico has a long history that can be traced back to the pre-Hispanic era. Mexico lies to the south of USA. It is the 14th largest country in the world and 4th largest in North America. Details about the Mexican customs and traditions can be found below.
Known for its varied customs and traditions, Mexico has a long history that can be traced back to the pre-Hispanic era. Mexico lies to the south of the USA. It is the 14th largest country in the world and the 4th largest in North America.
The Mexican culture is a mixture of cultures of Mayas, Aztecs and Iberian communities. Spain colonized Mexico for 300 years and therefore, it has great influence on the culture, customs and traditions of this country.
The United States, which is the neighboring country of Mexico also has a great influence on its culture. All these influences get reflected in the customs and traditions of Mexico. So, let us find more about the culture and traditions followed by people in Mexico.
Traditional Music and Dance
The traditional music of Mexico is quite diverse in form. The different regions of this country are known for different kinds of folk music.
Mariachi is one of the well-known forms of music to have evolved in Mexico. It originated in the state of Jalisco. Mariachi is characterized by a group of 10-20 musicians. Such a group is generally headed by a lead singer.
Ranchera is another form of music of Mexico which evolved during the time of Mexican Revolution. Ranchera music revolves around themes related to national pride.
Banda Music can be described as a mixture of traditional Mexican music and Polka music. Polka music was introduced to native Mexicans by the Germans. Banda music gained popularity in the 1890s decade. The different kinds of songs grouped under Banda include rancheras, boleros, baladas, etc.
Norteño music originated in rural Mexico. It became popular not only in Mexico, but also in the United States. Instruments like bajo sexto, accordion, drums and double brass are used to play this kind of music.
The state of Zacatecas is where the Tamborazo Zacatecano music originated. Tamborazo Zacatecano is played with the help of instruments like saxophones, trumpets and bass drums.
The Jarabe Tapatío is one of the most popular dance forms with origin in Mexico. It is also known as the Mexican hat dance. This dance is performed by a couple and is characterized by foot-tapping.
Danza de los Viejitos is a folk dance from Mexico in which the dancers wear masks of old men. Therefore, it is also known as ‘Dance of the Old Men’.
The Yaqui Deer Dance
The Yaqui Deer Dance is one of the folk dances of Mexico. Accompanied by the Yaqui music, this dance form involves enacting a deer hunt.
Mexican Wedding Traditions:
In Mexico, godparents play an important role in wedding ceremonies. They sponsor the wedding and are considered as benefactors of the newly wed couple. Godparents gifts the couple with a Bible and rosary.
The Gold Coin Tradition
One of the important customs followed in wedding ceremonies in Mexico is the priest offering 13 gold coins to the groom; the groom in turn offers these coins to the bride. It is said that 13 coins represent Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. This Mexican wedding tradition symbolizes the groom’s willingness and capability to take good care of the bride during their married life.
In a Mexican wedding, the bride wears a mantilla veil with a bolero jacket. The groom wears an outfit which resembles that of a matador. Instead, he might wear a typical wedding shirt along with drawstring pants for the wedding ceremony.
In Mexican weddings, a lazo is draped around shoulders of the bride and groom. Draping the lazo symbolizes their commitment to marriage. After the wedding ceremony is over, the bride is handed over the lazo.
In olden days, the groom used to travel to the bride’s house on a horseback. After the wedding ceremony, he would take the bride in a cart to his home.
Festivals and Celebrations
Every year on December 12, Mexicans gather for the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe (La Virgen de Guadalupe). On this day, Mexicans visit the Basílica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The feast is preceded by a novena (prayers offered for 9 successive days) which begins on 3rd November.
Three Kings Day
In Mexico, there is a tradition of presenting gifts to children on the ‘Three Kings’ Day’ (Dia de los Reyes) i.e. on 6th January. Nativity scenes are an important part of Christmas celebrations in Mexico. The set up used for nativity scenes in Mexico is almost the same as in other parts of the world; use of Spanish moss for preparing the base of these nativity scenes is one of the special features of Mexican celebrations.
Carnivals are an integral part of Mexico’s culture. The Veracruz Carnival, Merida Carnival and Mazatlan Carnival are the important ones. Some of the other festivals celebrated in this country are Campeche Carnival and Ensenada Carnival.
The Carnaval de Puebla is one of the biggest carnivals held in Huejotzingo, Puebla. Thousands of people gather for this festival. This festival is characterized by enactment of mock battles to remind people of the ‘Battle of Puebla’.
The Mazatlan Carnival
The Mazatlan Carnival is one of the oldest in Mexico. It started in 1898 and is known as ‘Carnavales de confeti y serpentina’. The introduction of motorized cars in the 1940s made this carnival even more interesting for the audience.
Celebrated on 1st and 2nd November, the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is also known as ‘All Soul’s Day’. On this day, people come together to pray for the deceased family members and friends. The Day of the Dead has its origin in an Aztec festival associated with goddess Mictecacihuatl.
The day should not be mistaken for a ‘Mexican Halloween’. This is because it is celebrated in Mexico since 1800 B.C.
Christmas in Mexico
A procession called ‘La Posada’ is the highlight of different Mexican Christmas traditions. During this procession, a play called ‘the search for shelter by Mary’ is enacted. The ‘Flame leaf’ or Poinsettia holds great importance in the Christmas celebrations of Mexico. ‘La Misa Del Gallo’ is the term used in reference with the midnight mass which takes place during Christmas. People sing lullabies for the ‘newborn Jesus’ at the midnight mass.
The traditional cuisine of Mexico finds place in UNESCO’s list of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’. Beans, chili peppers and native corns are the staple foods used in the Mexican cuisine. Mexicans prefer corn over rice and wheat in their food. In Mexico, the tortilla made from corn is widely used with different dishes.
Other items found in Mexican food are the squashes, tomatoes, avocados, mangoes, pineapples, etc. These ingredients are used in the preparation of a variety of dishes which have their origin in Mesoamerica and Spain.
You will find edible flowers and similar ingredients in Mexican dishes. Such type of ingredients are not commonly used in other cuisines of the world.
The Spanish and other Europeans introduced pork, beef, cheese and chicken into the diet of native Americans.
The specialty of cooking processes used in Mexico is that they are long and complex in comparison to cooking methods of other countries. Food acts as a binding force for families in Mexico.
One should keep in mind that the Mexican food served at restaurants is different from that prepared at homes in Mexico. For example, in olden days, the dough meant for making tortillas was prepared by boiling the dried corn for long hours following by grinding it. Today, such tedious and time-consuming practices are used mostly at home.
This is one of the popular traditions of Mexico, which is inherited from Spain. Although an illegal sport in a few countries (banned in Catalonia, Spain in 2010), bullfighting is extremely popular in Mexico and draws huge crowds to the arena.
Cockfighting is another tradition similar to bullfighting. Cockfighting and bullfighting are excluded from animal protection laws of Mexico, which makes them legal sporting activities.
Charreada is the national sport of Mexico. It includes events like reining, bull riding, team roping, etc. The sport is similar to rodeo which is played in Spain, USA, Australia and Canada.
The different sports grouped under charreada require the use of horses, bulls and in some cases both the creatures. Charreada originated in Spain and was later introduced to Mexico. Charros are horsemen who participate in this sport. The participants wear traditional clothing and a Sombrero hat. The traditional attire for this sport is characterized by chaps and a suit which fits closely to the body. One of the differences between charreada and other equestrian sports is that in the former, grace and skills of the horsemen are given importance over timing or conventional scoring rules.
Cala de Caballo
Reining or Cala de Caballo is one of the important events of charreada. This event involves guiding the horse along circles, spins and such intricate patterns. Reining tests the rider more than any other event of charreada. Jineteo de Toro or bull riding is an event in which the participant has to ride a bull till the time it stops bucking. Generally, a small buck is chosen for the event.
In Mexico, men greet each others with a handshake. However, only those who know each other well give a traditional hug. Generally, women don’t shake hands. Instead, they kiss each other on the right cheek. In Mexico, people take flowers with them on being invited by a family to their house.
People in the US are accustomed to communicating in a direct or straightforward manner. However, Mexicans are subtle in the way they communicate. They are polite and find it hard to speak their mind, especially if the speech can hurt someone. Speaking loudly is also considered as rude by Mexicans.
The use of words like ‘thank you’ (gracias) and ‘please’ (por favor) should be of great help when you communicate with Mexicans. The natives would be eager to help if you speak with politeness and elegance.
You’ll have to be patient while carrying out business-related negotiations because Mexicans don’t like to proceed with business in a hurry. A delay of 15-20 minutes is considered as normal.
The Mexican customs and traditions listed above are a product of different cultures which influenced this country. There are many interesting Mexican traditions that have been forgotten in the course of time. Siesta is one such tradition which lost its relevance in today’s fast-paced urban life of Mexico.
Several different cultures have altered the social fabric of Mexico. However, the Mexican culture has retained its special flavor through the traditions and customs mentioned above.