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The culture of Mexico has changed rapidly during the 19th and 20th centuries. In many ways, contemporary life in its cities has become similar to that in neighboring United States and Europe. Most Mexican villagers follow the older way of life more than the city people do.
More than 45 percent of the people in Mexico live in cities of over 50,000 inhabitants. Large metropolitan areas include Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Puebla-Tlaxcala, while rural areas include small areas throughout Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Sonora, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Yucatán, Aguascalientes, Michoacán, and many more.
The Spanish arrival and colonization brought Roman Catholicism to the country, which became the main religion of Mexico, however, Mexico has "no official" religion, and the Constitution of 1917 and the anti-clerical laws imposed limitations on the church and sometimes codified state intrusion into church matters. The government does not provide any financial contributions to the church, and the church does not participate in public education.
The last census reported, by self-ascription, that 76.5% of the population is Christian. Roman Catholics are 89% of the total population, 47% percent of whom attend church services weekly. In absolute terms, Mexico has the world's second largest number of Catholics after Brazil. According to the Government's 2000 census, approximately 87 percent of respondents identified themselves as at least nominally Roman Catholic. Other religious groups for which the 2000 census provided estimates included evangelicals, with 1.71 percent of the population; other Protestant evangelical groups, 2.79 percent; members of Jehovah's Witnesses, 1.25 percent; "historical" Protestants, 0.71 percent; Seventh-day Adventists, 0.58 percent; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 0.25 percent; Jews, 0.05 percent; and other religions, 0.31 percent. Approximately 3.52 percent of respondents indicated "no religion", and 0.86 percent did not specify a religion.
Mexico is known for its folk art traditions, mostly derived from the indigenous and Spanish crafts. Pre-Columbian art thrived over a wide timescale, from 1800 BC to AD 1500. Certain artistic characteristics were repeated throughout the region, namely a preference for angular, linear patterns, and three-dimensional ceramics. Notable handicrafts include clay pottery from the valley of Oaxaca and the village of Tonala. Colorfully embroidered cotton garments, cotton or wool shawls and outer garments, and colorful baskets and rugs are seen everywhere. Mexico is also known for its pre-Columbian architecture, especially for public, ceremonial and urban monumental buildings and structures.
Between the Spanish colonial era and the early 20th century, Mexican fine arts were largely influenced by European traditions. After the Mexican Revolution, a new generation of Mexican artists led a vibrant national movement that incorporated political, historic, and folk themes in their work. The painters Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros became world famous for their grand murals, often displaying clear social messages. Rufino Tamayo and Frida Kahlo produced more personal works with abstract elements. Mexican art photography largely fostered by the work of Manuel Álvarez Bravo.
Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. The overwhelming majority of Mexicans today speak Spanish, however, the government recognizes 62 indigenous Amerindian languages as national languages. Some Spanish vocabulary in Mexico has roots in the country's indigenous languages, which are spoken by approximately 6% of the population. Some indigenous Mexican words have even become common in other languages, such as the English language. For instance, the words tomato, chocolate, coyote, and avocado are Nahuatl in origin.
With thirty-one sites, Mexico has more sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list than any other country in the Americas, most of which pertain to the country's architectural history. Mesoamerican architecture in Mexico is best known for its public, ceremonial and urban monumental buildings and structures, several of which are the largest monuments in the world. Mesoamerican architecture is divided into three eras, Pre-Classic, Classic, and Post-Classic.
The Spanish Colonial Style dominated in early colonial Mexico. During the late 17th century to 1750, one of Mexico's most popular architectural styles was Mexican Churrigueresque, which combined Amerindian and Moorish decorative influences.
From 1864 to 1867, during the Second Mexican Empire, Maximilian I installed emperor of Mexico. This intervention, financed largely by France, was brief, but it began a period of French influence in architecture and culture which lasted well into the 20th century.
After the Mexican Revolution in 1917, idealization of the indigenous and the traditional symbolized attempts to reach into the past and retrieve what had been lost in the race toward modernization.
Functionalism, expressionism, and other schools left their imprint on a large number of works in which Mexican stylistic elements have been combined with European and North American techniques, most notably the work of Pritzker Prize winner Luis Barragán.
Enrique Norten, the founder of TEN Arquitectors, has been awarded several honors for his work in modern architecture. His work express a modernity that reinforces the government's desire to present a new image of Mexico as an industrialized country with a global presence.
Other notable and emerging contemporary architects include Mario Schjetnan, Michel Rojkind, Tatiana Bilbao, Isaac Broid Zajman and Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta, Luis Vicente Flores, Alberto Kalach, Daniel Alvarez, and José Antonio Aldrete-Haas.
The literature of Mexico has its antecedents in the literatures of the indigenous settlements of Mesoamerica. The most well known prehispanic poet is Netzahualcoyotl. Modern Mexican literature was influenced by the concepts of the Spanish colonialization of Mesoamerica. Outstanding colonial writers and poets include Juan Ruiz de Alarcón and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Other writers include Alfonso Reyes, José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi, Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, Maruxa Vilalta, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz (Nobel Laureate), Renato Leduc, Jaime Labastida, Mariano Azuela ("Los de abajo") and Juan Rulfo ("Pedro Páramo"). Bruno Traven, from German origin, assimilated into the Mexican culture and wrote "Canasta de cuentos mexicanos", "El tesoro de la Sierra Madre."
The history of Mexican cinema dates to the beginning of the 20th century, when several enthusiasts of the new medium documented historical events – most particularly the Mexican Revolution. The Golden Age of Mexican cinema is the name given to the period between 1935 and 1959 where the quality and economic success of the cinema of Mexico reached its peak. Some of the present-day film makers include, Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores perros, Babel), Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), Carlos Reygadas (Stellet Licht), screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and owners Guillermo Navarro and Emmanuel Lubezki.
Mexicans celebrate their independence from Spain on September 16, and other holidays with festivals known as "Fiestas". Many Mexican cities, towns and villages hold a yearly festival to commemorate their local patron saints. During these festivities, the people pray and burn candles to honor their saints in churches decorated with flowers and colorful utensils. They also hold large parades, fireworks, dance competitions, beauty pageant contest, party and buy refreshments in the market places and public squares. In the smaller towns and villages, soccer, and boxing are also celebrated during the festivities.
Other festivities include Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe ("Guadalupe Day"), Las Posadas ("The Shelters", celebrated on December 16 to December 24), Noche Buena ("Holy Night", celebrated on December 24), Navidad ("Christmas", celebrated on December 25) and Año Nuevo ("New Years Day", celebrated on December 31 to January 1). "Guadalupe Day" is regarded by many Mexicans as the most important religious holiday of their country. It honours the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, which is celebrated on December 12. In the last decade, all the celebrations happening from mid December to the beginning of January have been linked together in what has been called the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon.
A pinata is made from papier-mache. It is created to look like popular people, animals, or fictional characters. Once made it is painted with bright colors and filled with candy or small toys. It is then hung from the ceiling. The children are blindfolded and take turns hitting the piñata until it breaks open and the candy and small toys fall out. The children then gather the candy and small toys.
Mexican cuisine is known for its blending of Indigenous and European cultures. Popular dishes include tacos, enchiladas, mole sauce, atole, tamales, and pozole. Traditionally the main Mexican ingredients consisted of maize, beans, meat, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, chili peppers, habenero peppers, onions, nuts, avocados and guavas. Popular beverages include water flavored with a variety of fruit juices, and cinnamon-flavored hot chocolate prepared with milk or water and blended until it becomes frothed using a traditional wooden tool called a molinillo. Alcoholic beverages native to Mexico include mescal, pulque, and tequila. Mexican beer is also popular in Mexico and are exported. There are international award-winning Mexican wineries that produce and export wine.
The most important and frequently used spices in Mexican cuisine are chili powder, cumin, oregano, cilantro, epazote, cinnamon, and cocoa. Chipotle, a smoked-dried jalapeño pepper, is also common in Mexican cuisine. Many Mexican dishes also contain onions and garlic, which are also some of Mexico's staple foods.
Next to corn, rice is the most common grain in Mexican cuisine. According to food writer Karen Hursh Graber, the initial introduction of rice to Spain from North Africa in the 14th century led to the Spanish introduction of rice to Mexico at the port of Veracruz in the 1520s. This, Graber says, created one of the earliest instances of the world's greatest Fusion cuisine's.
On the other hand, in Southeastern Mexico, especially in the Yucátan, is known for their spicy vegetable and meat dishes. The cuisine of Southeastern Mexico has quite a bit of Caribbean influence, given its geographical location. Seafood is commonly prepared in the states that border the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, the latter having a famous reputation for its fish dishes, à la veracruzana.
In modern times, other cuisines of the world have become very popular in Mexico, thus adopting a Mexican fusion. For example, sushi in Mexico is often made by using a variety of sauces based on mango and tamarind, and very often served with serrano-chili blended soy sauce, or complemented with vinegar, habenero peppers and chipotle peppers.
The foundation of Mexican music comes from its indigenous sounds and heritage. The original inhabitants of the land, used drums, flutes, maracas, sea shells and voices to make music and dances. This ancient music is still played in some parts of Mexico. However, much of the traditional contemporary music of Mexico was written during and after the Spanish colonial period, using many European instruments. Some instruments whose predecessors were brought from Europe, such as the vihuela used in Mariachi music, are now very Mexican. Mexican society enjoys a vast array of music genres, showing the diversity of Mexican culture. Traditional music includes Mariachi, Banda, Norteño, Ranchera and Corridos. Mexicans also listen to contemporary music such as pop and Mexican rock. Mexico has the largest media industry in Latin America, producing Mexican artists who are famous in Central and South America and parts of Europe. Folk songs called corridos have been popular in the country since the 16th century. It may tell the story about the Mexican Revolution, pride, Mestizo, romance, poverty, politics or crime.
Today, musical groups known as Mariachis perform along streets, festivals and restaurants. A Mariachi group includes singers, guitar, trumpets, violin and marimba players. The most prominent Mariachi group is Vargas de Tecalitlán, which was originally formed in 1897.
Other styles of traditional regional music in México: Son Jarocho (Veracruz, with guitars and harp), Huapango or Son Huasteco (Huasteca, northeastern regions, violin and two guitars known as quinta huapanguera and jarana), Tambora (Sinaloa, mainly brass instruments) Duranguense, Jarana (most of the Yucatán peninsula) and Norteña (North style, redoba and accordion).
Folk dances are a feature of Mexican culture. Significant in dance tradition is the "Jarabe Tapatío", known as "Mexican hat dance". Traditional dancers perform a sequence of hopping steps, heel and toe tapping movements.
Among the most known "classical" composers: Manuel M. Ponce ("Estrellita"), Revueltas, Jordá (Elodia), Ricardo Castro, Juventino Rosas ("Sobre las olas"), Carrillo (Sonido 13), Ibarra, Pablo Moncayo (Huapango) and Carlos Chávez.
Popular composers includes: Agustín Lara, Consuelo Velázquez ("Bésame mucho"), "Guty" Cárdenas, José Alfredo Jiménez, Armando Manzanero, Luis Arcaraz, Álvaro Carrillo, Joaquín Pardavé and Alfonso Ortiz Tirado.
Traditional Mexican music has influenced the evolution of the Mexican pop and Mexican rock genre. Some well-known Mexican pop singers are Luis Miguel and Alejandro Fernández. Latin rock musicians such as Carlos Santana, Café Tacuba and Caifanes have incorporated Mexican folk tunes into their music. Traditional Mexican music is still alive in the voices of artists such as Eugenia León and Lila Downs.
The traditional national sport of Mexico is Charreria, which consists of a series of equestrian events. The national horse of Mexico, used in Charreria, is the Azteca. Bullfighting, a tradition brought from Spain, is also popular. Mexico has the largest venue for bullfighting in the world - The Plaza de toros in Mexico City which seats 48,000 people.
Football team sport in Mexico. Most states have their own representative football teams. Among the country's significant teams include Chivas de Guadalajara, Club América, Cruz Azul, and Pumas de la UNAM. Notable players include Hugo Sánchez, Claudio Suárez, Luis Hernández, Francisco Palencia, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Memo Ochoa, Jared Borgetti, Rafael Márquez, Pável Pardo,