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47 fun facts about Mexico – How many do you know?

The official name of Mexico is Estados Únidos Mexicanos

Don’t be surprised if you get funny looks when you tell people in Mexico that you are from The United States. Mexico also is known as The United States (Estados Únidos Mexicanos). Also, you might get funny looks if you tell a Mexican you are ‘American’, because, in fact, Mexicans are also Americans, people living in the American continent. People from the United States of America are known as ‘estadounidense’ in Mexico because being from the ‘United States’ or an ‘American’ isn’t enough to communicate where you are from.

The Mexican zacahuil tamale is three feet long

If you travel to the La Huasteca region in Mexico, you definitely have to try the ‘tamale el zacahuil’. This is not an ordinary tamal, on the contrary, the zacahuil tamale is a surprising three feet long culinary delight.

It is a traditional food of the people of the area of ​​San Luis Potosi. The zacahuil sells only on Sundays, so get up at 7:00 AM to get there early to get yours.

The tamale is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a clay oven with firewood. This step is what gives it its characteristic flavor. Served on grilled banana leaves in a bowl with pickled jalapenos, it is a delicacy to the palate!

Mexico introduced chocolate, corn, and chilies to the world

Mexico introduced chocolate, chilies and corn to the world – Chocolate was discovered in Mexico and was made by the Meso-American people into a sweet beverage using natural sweeteners.

The Mexica believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, and the seeds once had so much value that they were used as a form of currency. Originally prepared only as a drink, chocolate was served as a bitter liquid, mixed with spices or corn puree. It was believed to be an aphrodisiac and to give the drinker strength.

Mexico is home to a very rare rabbit called the volcano rabbit

It is the world’s second-smallest rabbit, second only to the pygmy rabbit. It has small rounded ears, short legs, and short, thick fur and weighs approximately 390–600 g (0.86–1.3 lb). It has a life span of 7 to 9 years. The volcano rabbit lives in groups of 2 to 5 animals in burrows (underground nests) and runways among grass tussocks. The burrows can be as long as 5 m and as deep as 40 cm. There are usually 2 to 3 young per litter, born in the burrows.

Unlike many species of rabbits (and similar to pikas), the volcano rabbit emits very high-pitched sounds instead of thumping its feet on the ground to warn other rabbits of danger. It is crepuscular and is highly active during twilight, dawn, and all times in between. Populations have been estimated to have approximately 150–200 colonies with a total population of 1,200 individuals over their entire range.

The largest wildcat in North America is the jaguar, found in Mexico’s southern jungles

The jaguar’s present range extends from Southwestern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Apart from a known and possibly breeding population in Arizona (southeast of Tucson), the cat has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century.

The jaguar is a near-threatened species and its numbers are declining. Threats include loss and fragmentation of habitat. While international trade in jaguars or their parts is prohibited, the cat is still frequently killed by humans, particularly in conflicts with ranchers and farmers in South America. Although reduced, its range remains large. Given its historical distribution, the jaguar has featured prominently in the mythology of numerous indigenous American cultures, including those of the Maya and Aztec.

The first printing press in North America was used in Mexico City in 1539

The printer Juan Pablos oversaw the printing of at least 35 books at this print shop between 1539, the date of the first book printed in the Americas, and his death in 1560.

The house was originally constructed by Gerónimo de Aguilar in 1524 and is located on the outer edge of what was the sacred precinct of the Templo Mayor prior to the Conquest.

After receiving permission from Spanish king Carlos V and the archbishop of Mexico City, Juan de Zumarraga had a printing press brought from Europe in 1539. The press was set up in this house, then called the “Casa de las Campanas” (House of the Bells) by the Seville-based publisher Juan Cromberger with Italian printer Juan Pablos who worked for living expenses for ten years. They began printing viceregal- and Church-related documents. One of these documents was a catechism entitled “The Brief and Most Concise Christian Doctrine in the Mexican Language” written by the archbishop himself.

After its stint as a print shop, the house changed hands numerous times and used for a number of purposes. In the 17th century, it belonged to the Monastery of Santa Teresa de la Orden de las Carmelas Reformadas and later, in the 18th century it belonged to the Royal Military Order of Nuestra Señora de la Merced Redención de Cautivos de la Ciudad de México. In 1847, U.S. troops occupied the house, destroying the archives that were within. The house was then owned by a number of civilians, including one who used the building to store furniture. In the 20th century, the building was mostly used for offices, including being the home to a paper and printing services operation called the “Imprenta y Papelería Militar “Marte”” The house continued to change hands until 1989, when the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) bought the house with the intention of restoring it.

UAM worked with the Historic Center Restoration Program, working with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología. About 82 cm below the surface of the ground floor the stone head of a serpent from Aztec times was discovered. It is possible that this head was visible to the occupants of the building in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Today, the house serves as the Continuing Education Center for UAM with various exhibition rooms, a bookstore and facilities for conferences and courses. In 2008, the Book Museum opened here, with some of the oldest books in Mexico on display.

Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico is the oldest University in North America

The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico was founded on September 21, 1551 by Royal Decree signed by Charles I of Spain, in Valladolid, Spain. It is generally considered the first university founded in North America and second in the Americas (preceded by the National University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru, chartered on May 12 of the same year).

After the Mexican War of Independence, it was renamed the University of Mexico. It was closed during the years 1833, 1857, 1861, and 1865; the main reason being that it was not well regarded by the liberals, who called it an example of cultural lag.

During the Second Mexican Empire, the University was reopened by Maximilian I of Mexico and, after the victory by the liberals in 1867, closed for good. Scattered institutions, mainly civil colleges founded by the liberals and religious establishments outside Mexico City, continued without interruption.

Traditionally, the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Pontifical University of Mexico are considered institutional heirs.

Millions of monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico every year from the U.S. and Canada

The annual Monarch butterfly migration is one of nature’s great spectacles and a top attraction for visitors to Mexico’s central highlands. Each year, as many as 60 million to one billion Monarch butterflies make the journey from eastern Canada to the forests of western central Mexico, a journey that spans more than 2,500 miles. The Monarch butterflies spend their winter hibernation clustered in small areas of the Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve), a national protected area and nature preserve that covers more than 200-square-miles.

The poinsettia flower originated in Mexico

The bright red leaf plant is one of the most popular during the Christmas holidays. The Poinsettia is also known as the Christmas Star and Mexican Flame Leaf. In Mexico, it’s called nochebuena, or night good.

The Poinsettia was used in the pre-Hispanic era as medicine. The red leaves were also used to make red dye. The Poinsettia got its name from the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett. He found the plant in Mexico and introduced it to the United States in 1825.

The border between Mexico and the United States is the second-largest border in the world

©Arturo M. Enriquez

The total length of the continental border is 3,145 kilometers (1,954 mi). From the Gulf of Mexico, it follows the course of the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte) to the border crossing at Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and El Paso, Texas. Westward from El Paso–Juárez, it crosses vast tracts of the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts to the Colorado River Delta and San Diego–Tijuana, before reaching the Pacific Ocean.

The largest land border in the world is to the north, the border between the U.S. and Canada.

Mexico is second only to Brazil in the number of Catholic citizens.

Catholics are 82.7% of the total population in Mexico, down from 96% in 1970. The number of Mexican Catholics has fallen by 5% in the first decade of the 21st century and in the south-east Catholics make up less than two-thirds of the population. In absolute terms, Mexico has 84,217,138 Catholics, which is the world’s second-largest number of Catholics, surpassed only by Brazil.

Mexicans are at least nominally Catholic, some combine or syncretize Catholic practices with native traditions. In the Yucatán Peninsula, some Mayan people still practice the traditional beliefs of their ancestors, without being syncretized with Christianity. The same happens with the Wixarika people of Jalisco and Nayarit.

There are major festivities in Mexico celebrating the Christian holidays of Epiphany (6 January) (Día de los Reyes Magos), All Saints’ day (1 November), All Souls’ day or Day of the Dead (2 November)(Día de los fieles difuntos), and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (12 December).

What do Mexico and Luxembourg have in common?

Mexico and Luxembourg are the only two countries in the world that are spelled with the letter X in the name.

Mexican children do not traditionally receive presents on Christmas Day

January 6th is Three Kings Day in Mexico, known as the Día de Reyes. This is Epiphany on the church calendar, the 12th day after Christmas when the Magi arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus. In Mexico, children receive gifts on this day, brought by the three kings, Los Reyes Magos, Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar. Some children receive gifts from both Santa Claus and the Kings, but Santa is seen as an imported custom, and the traditional day for Mexican children to receive gifts is January 6.

Mexico is located in one of earth’s most violent earthquake and volcano zones

Mexico is located in the ‘Ring of Fire’, an area where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. It has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. It is sometimes called the circum-Pacific belt or the circum-Pacific seismic belt.

Mexico City is built over the ruins of a great Aztec city, Tenochtitlán

The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán (at modern Mexico City) was founded in 1325 on a muddy island in the lake that at that time filled the Basin of Mexico.

Between 1519 and 1521, Tenochtitlan was besieged several times by the Spaniards under Hernán Cortés.

To create space for their cavalry to maneuver, the invaders pulled down most of the city’s buildings, later constructing colonial Mexico City on the same spot.

Because of these activities and the expansion of the modern city, few Aztec buildings can be seen today. The site of the Templo Mayor (Great Temple) was found in 1978, however, and excavation has revealed more remains than expected.

The meaning behind Mexico’s flag

The flag of Mexico (Bandera de México) is a vertical tricolor of green, white, and red with the national coat of arms charged in the center of the white stripe. The coat of arms has an eagle, holding a serpent in its beak and talon, is perched on top of a prickly pear cactus growing out of rocks in the middle of a lake. A wreath of oak and laurel tied with a ribbon in the national green-white-red colors is below the eagle.

Green: signifies hope and prosperity
White: represents peace and harmony
Red: symbolizes the blood of Mexican heroes

An eagle holding a snake in its beak perched on a cactus plant was the symbol, based on legend, that the Aztecs looked for when finding the location to build their “sacred” city. They apparently found this site one day and built Tenochtitlan. This city was conquered and eventually destroyed by Hernan Cortez, a Spanish explorer/conqueror. The city was rebuilt and is now called Mexico City.

The Chihuahua is the world’s smallest dog and is named for a Mexican state.

The Chihuahua, the smallest recognized dog breed, is named for the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where it was first noted in the mid-19th century. The Chihuahua is thought to have been derived from the Techichi, a small, mute dog kept by the Toltec people of Mexico as long ago as the 9th century AD. Typically a saucy-looking, alert dog that is sturdier than its small build would suggest, the Chihuahua stands about 5 inches (13 cm) and weighs 1 to 6 pounds (0.5 to 3 kg). It has a rounded head, large, erect ears, prominent eyes, and a compact body.

Mexico’s size is 756,066 square miles

Mexico is almost three times larger than the State of Texas, at 756,066 square miles. The United States is 401% larger than Mexico by landmass. The population of Mexico is 128.9 million people (204.0 million more people live in the United States).

Only nine countries in the world have a larger population than Mexico

Mexico makes up 1.65% of the world’s total population and ranks #10 in the world for population in 2021

Mexico City is the oldest city in North America

This popular city with its spicy chili, sassy women, and crazy lifestyle, is North America’s oldest city, dating back to 1325. Established initially as the twin cities of Tenochtitlan and Tlaltelolco by the Mexica people on an island in Lake Texcoco, the city grew in size, strength, and popularity, leading to it naturally becoming another object of desire for the Spanish conquerors.

Almost being destroyed during a siege in 1521, the city was rebuilt and christened by the man of the hour, Hernan Cortes, as Mexico City. Today, Mexico City is one of the world’s most inarguably popular cities, and one of the largest cities in the world.

Mexico is the 14th largest country in the world by total area.

Mexico ranks #14 in size worldwide, but is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country by area, after Argentina.

Mexico’s population is very diverse

Modern Mexicans are a unique blend of many ancient civilizations, including the Olmec, Zapotec, Toltec, Maya, Aztec, Inca, African, French, and Spanish.

The first great civilization in Mexico was the Olmecs

Between 1400-300 B.C., the Olmecs established many cities along the eastern coast of Mexico, sculpted the famous Colossal Heads, and worshipped a mysterious, unnamed god that was part human and part jaguar.

The Zapotec civilization developed the first writing system in the Americas.

The Zapotecs, known as the ‘Cloud People’, dwelt in the southern highlands of central Mesoamerica, specifically, in the Valley of Oaxaca, which they inhabited from the late Preclassic period to the end of the Classic period (500 BCE – 900 CE). Their capital was at Monte Albán, they dominated the southern highlands, spoke a variation of the Oto-Zapotecan language, and profited from trade and cultural links with the Olmec, Teotihuacan, and Maya civilizations.

The Zapotecs grew from the agricultural communities which grew up in the valleys in and around Oaxaca. In the Preclassic period, they established fruitful trade links with the Olmec civilization on the Gulf Coast which allowed for the construction of an impressive capital site at Monte Albán and for the Zapotec to dominate the region during the Classic period. The city, strategically placed overlooking the three main valleys, evolved over centuries, beginning around 500 BCE and remaining the cultural center until the demise of the civilization around 900 CE.

The Mayans threw hornet nests at their enemies during battle, known as Hornet Bombs

By 300 AD, the Mayan Classic period was in full bloom. This was the age of kings. Great rulers such as Smoke-Jaguar (or Smoke-Imix), Pacal, Eighteen Rabbits, and Blue-Quetzal Macaw, rose to prominence and ruled brilliantly over their lands. Mayan society was divided into city-states, each with its own king and cultural center. During the Classic period, the political influence of various cities rose and fell: Chichen Itza, Palenque, Copan, and Tikal, to name a few. It was also during the Classic period that the Mayan military grew in organization and in strength. The Mayan soldier carried knives and spears, clubs, bows and arrows, javelins, and even perfected the art of throwing hornets nests (called hornet bombs) into enemy troops to create confusion and panic. For defense, they used small shields made of jaguar skins. And Mayan generals called upon their priests to divine the gods and determine the best place and time to attack the enemy. It was through warfare that the Mayans collected slaves to sacrifice to their gods. Thus, temples (in the stair-step design) were constructed with sacrificial altars. On these altars were laid human offerings. Stone knives were produced and the bodies were cut to let the blood flow. Then, with speed and determination, the chests were cut open and hearts ripped out. It was these ritual offerings that allowed Mayan kings and priests to hold absolute control over their subjects.

The image on the Mexican flag comes from an Aztec vision

In the fourteenth century, a group of Chichmecas (warrior nomads) called the Aztecs (or Mexicas) settled in Mexico when they saw an eagle (representing the sun) standing on a cactus (a symbol of the heart) clutching a snake (a symbol of the earth or Quetzalcoatl)—an image which is now depicted on the Mexican flag.

27. Snakes appear repeatedly in Mexican mythology, from the serpent god Kukulcan which can be found on the side of the Chichen Itza pyramid to the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl.

28. The Aztecs adopted human sacrifice from earlier cultures (such as the Olmecs) because they believed the universe would come to an end and the sun would cease to move without human blood. There are many ancient statues of gods sticking out their tongues, such as Huitzilopochtli, which may be a sacred gesture that suggests their thirst for blood.

29. When Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortés arrived in 1519, the Aztecs believed he was their returning god, Quetzalcoatl, and offered him the drink of the gods: hot chocolate.

30. The descendants of the Aztecs speak a form of the Aztec language called Nahuatl. Many of its words, particularly for types of food, passed into English…such as tomatoes (tomatl), chocolate (chocolatl), and avocados (ahuacatl).

31. Hernan Cortés had a native mistress and able translator Marina (La Malinche). She gave birth to his first son, who is considered the first mestizo (Indian-Spanish).

32. About 60% of the modern Mexican population is mestizo (Indian-Spanish), 30% is Indian or predominately Indian, 9% is Caucasian, and 1% is other.

33. Creoles are descendants of the Spanish people who first arrived in Mexico. Now they are the name of Mexico’s small population: Caucasian Europeans, Americans, and Canadians.

34. Mexico remained under Spanish control for nearly 300 years until the Mexican people, led by a priest named Father Hidalgo, rose up against the Spanish on September 16, 1810. Hidalgo is widely considered the father of modern Mexico, and Mexican Independence is celebrated on September 15-16.

35. Spanish conquerors brought bullfighting to Mexico, which is now the national sport of Mexico. Bullfighting takes place from November to April, and the Plaza Mexico is the largest bullring in the world.

36. While bullfighting is Mexico’s national sport, fútbol (soccer in the U.S.) is currently more popular.

37. Even though over 50 native tongues are still spoken in rural locations, Spanish is the national language of Mexico. In fact, Mexico is the most populated Spanish-speaking country in the world.

38. Texas was a Mexican province which declared its independence from Mexico in 1836, resulting in war with the United States (1836-1838).

39. In 1910, under the guidance of Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, Mexican peasants revolted against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz to gain equality and land. The civil war lasted 10 years and took the lives over 1 million people.

40. Before 1958, women could not vote in presidential elections. Women, however, did play an important role in the 1910 revolution, serving as spies, arms smugglers, and soldaderas or soldiers.

41. In 1994, a group of Mexican peasants and farmers called the Zapatistas (named after Emiliano Zapata) started another revolt to highlight the differences between the rich and poor.

42. Actor Anthony Quinn was the first Mexican to win an Academy Award for his role in the 1952 movies Viva Zapata.

43. The Chichen Itza Pyramid in Mexico was named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

The piñata is actually believed to have originated in China

Wisdom teeth fail to appear in nearly 100% of indigenous Mexicans.

Mexico has 31 states and one district (Mexico City)

Mexico is second worldwide when it comes to preserved ecosystems

With thirty-four unaltered ecosystems, a number of parks and monuments, it has preserved nature. In addition, there are also seventeen sanctuaries and protected areas for flora and fauna.