Mexican culture reflects the complexity of the country’s history through the mixture of indigenous cultures and Spanish culture transmitted during the 300 years of Spanish colonisation of Mexico. Exogenous cultural elements were incorporated into Mexican culture over time.
The Porfirian era (el Porfiriato), in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century, was marked by economic progress and peace. After four decades of civil unrest and war, there was a development of philosophy and the arts in Mexico, promoted by President Díaz himself. Since then, cultural identity, as accentuated during the Mexican Revolution, has been based on mestizaje, the core of which is the indigenous (i.e. Amerindian) element. Considering the different ethnic groups that made up the Mexican people, José Vasconcelos, in his publication La Raza Cósmica (The Cosmic Race) (1925), defined Mexico as a melting pot of all races (thus expanding the definition of mestizaje) not only biologically but also culturally.
Mexican literature has its precursors in the literatures of the indigenous colonies of Mesoamerica. The most famous pre-Hispanic poet is Nezahualcoyotl. Modern Mexican literature was influenced by the concepts of Spanish colonisation of Mesoamerica. Among the most important colonial writers and poets are Juan Ruiz de Alarcón and Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Weitere Schriftsteller are Alfonso Reyes, José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi, Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz (Nobel Prize), Renato Leduc, Carlos Monsiváis, Elena Poniatowska, Mariano Azuela (“Los de abajo”) und Juan Rulfo (“Pedro Páramo”). Bruno Traven writes “Canasta de cuentos mexicanos” (Korb mit mexikanischen Erzählungen), “El tesoro de la Sierra Madre” (Der Schatz der Sierra Madre).
Post-revolutionary art in Mexico has found expression in the works of well-known artists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros, Federico Cantú Garza, Frida Kahlo, Juan O’Gorman, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo. Diego Rivera, the most famous figure of Mexican muralism, painted The Man at the Crossroads at Rockefeller Center in New York, a huge fresco that was destroyed the following year because it contained a portrait of the Russian Communist leader Lenin. Some of Rivera’s murals are on display at the Mexican National Palace and the Palace of Fine Arts.
Mesoamerican architecture is best known for its pyramids, which are the largest structures of their kind outside of ancient Egypt. Spanish colonial architecture is characterised by the contrast between the simple and solid construction that the new environment required and the baroque ornamentation exported from Spain. Mexico, as the centre of New Spain, built some of the most famous buildings in this style.
Mexican films from the golden age of the 1940s and 1950s are the greatest examples of Latin American cinema, with a huge industry comparable to Hollywood of those years. Mexican films were exported and shown throughout Latin America and Europe. Maria Candelaria(1943) by Emilio Fernández, was one of the first films to win a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946, the first time the event was held after World War II. Famous Spanish-born director Luis Buñuel shot some of his masterpieces in Mexico between 1947 and 1965, such as Los Olvidados (1949) and Viridiana (1961). Famous actors and actresses from this period are María Félix, Pedro Infante, Dolores del Río, Jorge Negrete and the actor Cantinflas.
More recently, films such as Como agua para chocolate (1992), Cronos (1993), Y tu mamá también (2001) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) have succeeded in creating universal stories around contemporary themes and have received international recognition, for example at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Mexican directors Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores perros, Babel, Birdman, The Revenant), Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gravity), Guillermo del Toro, Carlos Carrera (The Crime of Father Amaro), screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and photographer Emmanuel Lubezki are among the best-known filmmakers of our time.
Some Mexican actors have managed to make a name for themselves as Hollywood stars. These include Ramon Novarro, Dolores del Río, Lupe Vélez, Gilbert Roland, Anthony Quinn, Katy Jurado, Ricardo Montalbán and Salma Hayek.
There are two major television companies in Mexico that own the four primary networks that broadcast to 75% of the population. These are Televisa, which owns Canal de las Estrellas and Canal 5, and TV Azteca, which owns Azteca 7 and Azteca Trece. Televisa is also the largest producer of Spanish-language content in the world and also the largest Spanish-language media network in the world. Grupo Multimedios is another media conglomerate that broadcasts Spanish-language programming in Mexico, Spain and the United States. Telenovelas have a great tradition in Mexico and are translated into many languages and seen around the world with well-known names such as Verónica Castro, Lucía Méndez and Thalía.
Mexican society enjoys a wide range of musical genres, which shows the diversity of Mexican culture. Traditional music includes mariachi, banda, norteño, ranchera and corridos; in everyday life, most Mexicans listen to contemporary music such as pop, rock, etc. in English and Spanish. Mexico has the largest media industry in Latin America and produces Mexican artists who are well-known in Central and South America as well as in parts of Europe, especially Spain.
Famous Mexican singers include Thalía, Luis Miguel, Juan Gabriel, Alejandro Fernández, Julieta Venegas, Jose Jose and Paulina Rubio. The singers of Mexican traditional music are : Lila Downs, Susana Harp, Jaramar, GEO Meneses and Alejandra Robles. The most popular groups are Café Tacuba, Caifanes, Molotov and Maná, among others. Since the early 2000s (decade), Mexican rock has experienced great growth both nationally and internationally.
According to the Sistema Nacional de Fomento Musical, between 120 and 140 youth orchestras from all states are affiliated to this federal agency. Some states, through their state agencies in charge of culture and the arts – the Ministry or Secretary or Institute or Council of Culture, or in some cases the Secretary of Education or the State University – sponsor the activities of a professional symphony or philharmonic orchestra so that all citizens can have access to this artistic expression in the field of classical music. Mexico City is the most intense centre of this activity, hosting 12 professional orchestras sponsored by different entities such as the National Institute of Fine Arts, the Secretariat of the Federal District of Culture, the National University, the National Polytechnic Institute, a Delegación Política (Coyoacán) and private companies.
Mexican cuisine is known for its intense and diverse flavours, colourful decoration and variety of spices. Most of today’s Mexican dishes are based on pre-Columbian traditions, especially those of the Aztecs and Mayans, combined with the culinary trends introduced by the Spanish settlers.
The conquistadors eventually combined their imported diet of rice, beef, pork, chicken, wine, garlic and onions with pre-Columbian indigenous foods, including corn, tomatoes, vanilla, avocado, guava, papaya, pineapple, chilli, beans, pumpkin, sweet potato, peanut and turkey.
Mexican cuisine varies from region to region due to climate and local geography, ethnic differences between indigenous inhabitants and because these different populations were influenced to varying degrees by the Spanish. Northern Mexico is known for the production of beef, goat and ostrich meat, as well as meat dishes, especially the famous Arrachera Cup.
Central Mexican cuisine is largely made up of influences from the rest of the country, but it also has its authentic ingredients, such as barbacoa, pozole, menudo, tamales and carnitas.
Southeast Mexico, on the other hand, is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken dishes. The cuisine of southeastern Mexico also has a Caribbean influence due to its geographical location. Veal is common in the Yucatan. In the states bordering the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, seafood is often prepared, the latter being famous for its fish dishes, especially veracruzana.
In modern times, other world cuisines have become very popular in Mexico and have adopted a Mexican fusion. For example, sushi in Mexico is often prepared with various mango or tamarind-based sauces and very often served with soy sauce mixed with serrano chilli or supplemented with vinegar, habanero and chipotle peppers.
The best-known international dishes include chocolate, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tamales and mole. Regional dishes include mole poblano, chiles en nogada and chalupas from Puebla; cabrito and machaca from Monterrey, cochinita pibil from Yucatán, tlayudas from Oaxaca, as well as barbacoa, chilaquiles, milanesas and many others.
Mexico City hosted the XIX Olympic Games in 1968, the first city in Latin America to do so. The country also hosted the FIFA World Cup twice, in 1970 and 1986.
The most popular sport in Mexico is club football. It is generally believed that football was introduced to Mexico in the late 19th century by miners from Cornwall. In 1902, a five-team league was formed with a strong British influence. Mexico’s best clubs are America with 12 leagues, Guadalajara with 11 and Toluca with 10. Antonio Carbajal was the first player to play in five World Cups and Hugo Sánchez was named the best CONCACAF player of the 20th century by the IFFHS.
The professional Mexican baseball league is called Liga Mexicana de Beisbol. Although it is generally not as strong as the United States, the Caribbean countries and Japan, Mexico has nevertheless won several international baseball titles. Mexican teams have won the Caribbean Series nine times. Mexico has signed several players to Major League teams, the most famous being Dodger pitcher Fernando Valenzuela.
In 2013, Mexico’s basketball team won the Americas Basketball Championship and qualified for the 2014 World Basketball Championship, where they reached the playoffs. As a result of these results, the country won the rights to host the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship.
Bullfighting is a popular sport in the country and almost every major city has bullrings. Plaza México in Mexico City is the largest bullring in the world, with 55,000 seats. Professional wrestling (or lucha libre in Spanish) attracts many people, with national promotions such as AAA, LLL, CMLL and others.
Mexico is an international power in professional boxing (several Olympic boxing medals have also been won by Mexico at amateur level). Vicente Saldivar, Rubén Olivares, Salvador Sánchez, Julio César Chávez, Ricardo Lopez and Erik Morales are just some of the Mexican fighters who are counted among the best of all time.
Among the best-known Mexican athletes are golfer Lorena Ochoa, who was number one in the LPGA world rankings before her retirement, Ana Guevara, former 400-metre world champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist in Athens, four-time Olympic medallist Fernando Platas and taekwondo fighter María Espinoza, Mexico’s most decorated woman at the Olympic Games.