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21 Historical Facts About Mexico That Will Make You Sound Like A Genius

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Mexico is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented countries in the world. From the stereotype of the lazy panzón taking a siesta under a nopal to big misconceptions about our traditional food (repeat after me: we-do-not-really-eat-burritos) to racist representations in popular media (see Speedy Gonzalez above!), Mexico just doesn’t get a fair shake.

In order to set the record straight and to help you look super smart at fiestas, here’s 21 cool historical facts about the land South of the Rio Bravo.

1. The ancient Mayans were among the only three ancient cultures that had a notion of zero.

Credit: download.jpg. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons.

This might seem not like a big deal, but it actually is. Alongside the Mesopotamians and Indians, the Mayans reached such a level of mathematical abstraction that they could conceptualize non-existence. Smart cookies, the Mayans! They represented the zero as a shell that sort of looks like a football.

2. The war for independence was started by a priest!

Credit:miguel-hidalgo-costilla1. Digital image. Tejano Nation.

Talk about feisty men of the Church. Miguel Hidalgo, known as the father of the Independence, was a criollo priest who rebelled against the rule of the Spanish Crown. Now, even though the independence was a turning point in the formation of modern Mexico, it didn’t really translate into a better situation for the disadvantaged, among them the indigenous population that had been colonized.

3. 5 de Mayo is not a big deal in Mexico

Credit: Giphy. @dazzlejunction

Seriously: all those fiesta inspired outfits and festive drinks are fun, but the big Mexican day in the US is sort of whatever in Mexico. The date commemorates the Battle of Puebla during the Mexican-French war. The actual Independence Day is September 15. Cinco de Mayo seems to be just a pretext for some to get wasted and insultingly dress up as Mexicans (cue the poncho, sombrero and maracas).

READ: 13 Things You Should Know About Cholo Culture

4. Mexico used to own most of what is currently the Southern United States

Credit: 9718328_orig. Digital image. Latina Lista.

That’s right: Trump would have had to build his wall much farther up if General Santa Anna hadn’t sold a big portion of the Mexican territory back in 1848. Just look at this map… history would be so different if things had remained like that, eh? Texas and California, two states with vast natural resources, would have been the drivers of the Mexican economy in a parallel universe.

5. A Mexican engineer invented color TV (thank him for your sessions of Netflix and chill…)

Credit: Giphy. Anonymous.

That’s right, a Mexican engineer is responsible for one of the greatest inventions of all time: color TV! Guillermo González Camarena invented the “Chromoscopic a for television equipment” when he was only 23! Talk about an over achiever. Bien, compa!

6. A Mayan carving seems to show an ancient astronaut!

Credit: flat,750×1000,075,t.u1 (1). Digital image. Redbubble.

This archeological artifact has puzzled researchers and conspiracy theorists for years. It was found in Palenque and seems to depict king Pakal. It does look like he is driving some sort of rocket, right? We don’t know for sure, but it is really puzzling! It does look like Pakal is holding some sort of steering wheel and the bottom of the image sure looks like rocket engines ready to fire up.

7. Chocolate comes from Mexico: you are welcome.

Credit: Matilda. TriStar Pictures.

Various indigenous civilizations from today’s Mexico ate chocolate (the word comes from the Aztec chokolatl) and considered it to be a source of vigor, sexual and otherwise. Chili and corn also come from Mexico.

8. What does the Mexican flag mean?

Credit: Giphy. @kionda

Aztec legend has it that in 1323 they saw a vision of an eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake. This meant that if they found this they were to make their home at that spot. Recent research points out that the animals are symbolic: the snake is a comet, the eagle is the Sun and the cactus is a mountain.

READ: 21 Latin American Flags And The Stories Behind Them

9. Talking about the Aztecs: they buried their dead under their houses.

Credit: Tenochtitlan. Digital image. History Revealed.

Death has a different meaning in Mexican culture. The departed have a strong presence in everyday life, as evidenced by Day of the Death celebrations even today. The Aztecs used to keep their loved ones close by, literally under the house. Pictures is the great Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztex empire.

10. During colonial times society was divided by a chaste system

Credit: datos-curiosos-colonia-castas-768×398. Digital image. MXCITY.

It was as horrible as it sounds. Society in colonial New Spain was divided racially, with pure Spaniards at the top and mixed races at the bottom. Horrible.

11. Kites were prohibited in New Spain in 1774

Credit: Giphy. Anonymous.

This simple and amazing toy caused too many accidents, so the viceroy decided to ban them to avoid kids falling from roofs.

12. Pancho Villa hated alcohol

Credit: Pancho Villa. Digital image. Cultura Colectiva.

The Mexican revolutionary leader really despised booze. He thought that it was the source of all evil and destroyed many cantinas in his lifetime.

13. Women had a crucial role in the battlefield during the Mexican Revolution

Credit: Soldaderas. Digital image. Sopitas.com

Known as soldaderas, female revolutionary fighters not only cured and fed the men, but also fought and worked as spies, often arranging arms trafficking with the United States.

14. Mexico’s official name is not actually Mexico

Credit:1200px-Seal_of_the_Government_of_Mexico.svg. Digital image. Wikipedia

According to the 1917 Constitution, the country’s official name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Go figure!

15. Mexico’s National University is the oldest in America

Credit: UNAM.

It was founded in 1551, which makes it the oldest higher education institution in the continent and one of the oldest in the world.

16. Mexico has 37,266 registered archeological sites!

Credit: Panoramic_view_of_Teotihuacan. Digital image. Wikipedia.

What is now Mexico was populated with numerous indigenous civilizations that left behind amazing ruins that little by little reveal the richness of their culture.

17. Smallpox defeated the Aztecs

Credit:1200px-Aztec_smallpox_victims. Digital image. Wikipedia.

Sure, the Spanish conquistadores had superior weaponry but the Aztec Empire put up a good fight. However, the Aztecs were not prepared for their toughest enemy: smallpox. This virus killed hundreds of thousands as the Aztecs did not have the antibodies to fight it.

18. During the US-Mexico war in the 19th century an Irish-American battalion switched sides and joined the Mexicans!

Credit: 753063. Digital Image. Mas MX

Known as Saint Patrick’s Battalion, a group of Irishmen soldiers realized that they identified with the Mexicans and joined the fight against the US. Something similar happened in Haiti, where Polish soldiers rebelled against the French Army and fought oppression alongside the Haitians.

19. The first printing press in North America was brought to Mexico

Credit:printingpress. Digital image. CHW2 World History

That’s right, printed world culture in North America wasn’t born in the United States, but in 1539 New Spain. The printing press became a key component for evangelization in the new continent.

20. Hollywood actor Anthony Quinn was Mexican!

Credit: Viva Zapata! Twentieth Century Fox.

Even though most think that the epitome of Hollywood rough masculinity was American, he was in fact born in Chihuahua and his full name was Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca.

21. And so is absolute bombshell Lupita Nyong’o

Credit: Twitter. @Lupita_Nyongo

The amazing Oscar winner has dual Kenyan-Mexican nationality. She was born in Mexico City during her father’s tenure at a Mexican university. She proudly wears her double nationality wherever she goes. Lupita, hermana, eres mexicana!

You Are Guaranteed To Hear These 18 Songs At Every Mexican Fiesta

Culture

You Are Guaranteed To Hear These 18 Songs At Every Mexican Fiesta

Anna Summa / PhotoShelter

Quinceañera, wedding, baptism, school dance hall – Mexicans sure know how to turn any and every occasion into a good time. 

And no fiesta is ever complete without a bopping playlist that can carry the dancing late into the night. 

Today, we’ve thrown together 17 classic songs that you’re likely to hear at any Mexican party. They should have ya (or at least dear tía Nora) throwing your hands in the air. 

Caballo Dorado – Payaso de Rodeo

We’re kicking off the list with this classic wedding / quinceañera number. 

‘Payaso de Rodeo’ to some, ‘No romper mi corazón’, to others. Whichever camp you’re in, there’s no not recognizing it once the DJ has his way. It’s a CALL TO ARMS – one that guarantees a stampede to the dancefloor and a whole lotta clapping, hopping and sliding. 

This country band may have been formed way back in 1986 but this masterpiece is destined to outlive us all. Just, watch your feet – if you get ran over, it’s your fault.

2. Luis Miguel – Cuando Calienta El Sol  

A forever classic from the sol de Mexico himself, perfect for parties under the hot sun, and for invoking nostalgic vibes of youth’s eternal-summer… yeah, and who’s ever forgetting that music vid? 

3. Selena Quintanilla – Amor Prohibido

Straight from the queen herself, this song is a bop and a half. It was famously inspired by the love letters of her abuela, a maid who worked for a wealthy family and ended up falling in love with (and marrying) their son. 

Seems like we’re all suckers for a good forbidden romance – it topped the US States Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart nine weeks in a row in 1994. 

4. Jeans – Pepe

The four teens of the original Pepe video may have grown up, but Jeans will always hold a special place in our hearts. It’s a throwback to the days of innocence, bad hair, and those tummy butterflies from crushing on a classmate. 

5. Café Tacvba –  Ingrata

An anthem for every teen in the 90s who figured they were a rebel. This Mexican band straight out of Satellite were a bunch of teens at the time but boy did they just get us. 

6. Banda Blanca – Sopa de Caracol 

So no we may never truly know what they are saying, but this song was always guaranteed to get you up and grooving at any fiesta. 

7. Los Del Río – La Macarena

This Spanish one-hit wonder of the 90s needs no intro. Put it on any speakers, and the dance moves that follow are basically reflex. 

La Macarena made the rounds again in recent years when the internet realised what the lyrics were actually saying. Turns out, the song is all about a girl (Macarena) cheating on her boyfriend with two friends, whilst he’s off in military service. Can I get a #childhoodruined. 

8. Garibaldi – Banana

With refrains like ‘Mexicana like it (banana)’ and ‘Yo tengo una bolita que me sube y me baja’ (I have a little ball that goes up and goes down), Garibaldi’s Banana is, admittedly, no poetic masterpiece. 

What is IS though, is a Latin beat that’s catchy as hell and sure to get you dancing. Plus, what’s life without a little cheap innuendo.

9. Vicente Fernández – El Rey 

There comes a time in every respectable Mexican party when it’s time to break out the ranchera.

We were torn between this song and Chente’s Volver, Volver, but, well, it’s one of the best drinking songs of all time. Scoop up two amigos around the shoulders and bellow along: “PeRo SiGo SiEnDo eL rEy”

10. Los Angeles Azules – 17 Años 

Guaranteed to have even the oldest guests getting jiggy, the infectious rhythm in this song is not to be underestimated. 

No surprise really – Los Angeles Azules are the wizards of cumbia sonidera – a subgenre that fuses the 1950-1970s with synthy electronic 90s music.

11. Maná – Oye Mi Amor 

Here’s one from the Guadalajaran pop rock band Maná – the most successful Latin American band of all time. Like, 40 million albums sold worldwide, kind of successful. 

And this song? You might love it, you might hate it, but you most definitely, probably know the lyrics. 

12. Pedro Infante – Cucurrucucú Paloma

Maybe not a mainstay of your average houseparty, but we couldn’t resist. Tomas Mandaz wrote this Mexican classic in 1954, and it’s since been covered by the likes of Pedro Infante and Luis Miguel.

And boy is it a crooner. The cucurucucú mimics the sound of a dove, and is meant to signal lovesickness. 

13. Magneto – Vuela, Vuela

Whilst Vuela, Vuela is actually a cover of a 80’s French pop song, it’s also the song that helped skyrocket Magneto into the limelight. 

Dubbed by some as the Mexican Backstreet Boys, Magneto’s song hit the charts in the early 90s and flew as high as its namesake.

14. Los Tigres Del Norte – El Jefe De Jefes

This Mexican norteño band is famous for their ‘narcocorrido’ – music that glorifies drug trafficking. It’s a genre that’s actually illegal to play at live events in some Mexican states, which has landed the band a hefty fine in the past. Regardless, at parties the song’s a hoot.

15. Molotov – Voto Latino

An anthem for proud crowds of Latinx to roar along to, this Molotov song is a classic in its own right.

16. La Chona – Los Tucanes de Tijuana

An energetic and fast-paced norteño song from a band that’s been around since 1987. They started out playing in nightclubs, so there’s no surprise that it’s virtually impossible to not dance to this. 

17. Elvis Crespo – Suavemente

Sultry and sexy, this song is pure Latin rhythm heaven. Not only is it perfect for making eyes and swinging hips across a dancefloor, it also helped popularize merengue music. 

18. Ramón Ayala – Tragos Amargos

Contested by some as the ultimate drinking song, would any list of Mexican party songs be complete without some Ramón Ayala to top it off? 

READ: 13 Songs That Made Us Do Silly Dances We Couldn’t Help But Love

Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Pulque, Mexico’s Elixir Of The Gods That People Love To Hate

Culture

Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Pulque, Mexico’s Elixir Of The Gods That People Love To Hate

Oscarlemuss / Instagram

Along with tequila and mezcal, pulque is the one of the most iconic Mexican alcoholic beverages. Its origins ago deep in history and speak of the indigenous past and present of the country.  This is what you need to know about this mythical drink that is making a comeback as a mainstream road to indulgence. 

So what exactly is pulque anyway?

 Pulque is beautiful in its simplicity. The drink is the fermented sap of the maguey or agave plant. It has a thick, gooey consistency that takes some time getting used to. It has a milky color in its pure state, but many pulquerias add fruit juices and honey to make it a curado or flavored pulque. This is how journalist Emily Sargent described pulque in The Times: “sweet, thick, syrupy agave juice served inexplicably in pint-jug portions”.

It was known as octli by the Aztecs and is surrounded by fascinating myths.

Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos

Pulque has been drunk for at least 1,000 years. The Aztecs believed that the liquid collected at the center of the succulent known as maguey was actually the blood of Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey. It was also believed that if you got drunk on octli a rabbit would possess you. There were 400 rabbits known as Centzon Totochtin, and they were the children of Mayahuel.  Up to this day, some pulque drinkers spill some of their drink to the floor as an offering to Mother Earth. The word pulque is Mexican Spanish, dating in print to 1877. 

Pulque is a key element of Mexican popular culture.

Credit: Instagram. @celsotours

In particular, pulque is a constant in visual memories of the Mexican Revolution. Salud

There are even B-movies that honor pulque culture!

Credit: La Pulqueria / Videocine

In the 1970s and 1980s, low-quality films known as sexy-comedias-mexicanas showcased pulque culture in various films. The most famous is La Pulqueria, directed by Victor Manuel Castro and featuring la creme de la creme of Mexican comedians and the most famous boxer in Mexico’s history, Ruben Olivares. 

Pulque is now being consumed by Mexicans of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos

For decades, pulque was associated with the lower classes, which speaks of the sad but inherent racism that permeates Mexican mestizo culture. For example, it was common to see homeless men drunk on pulque featured in Mexican cinema. The drink has made a huge comeback in the past 15 years, and pulquerias, traditional dens where people meet to drink pulque, are popular amongst city dwellers of all socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Pulque production is mostly artisanal and “organic.”

Credit: Instagram. @estampas_de_mexico1

Rather than being distilled as with tequila and mezcal, the elixir that emanates from the maguey is left to be fermented. First, the sap is extracted from the center of the maguey and then placed in 50-liter barrels called tinas. After than, mature pulque, known as seed pulque, is added to jump start the fermentation, which takes from one to two weeks. The pulque maker needs to consider factors such as the weather and the quality of the sap to determine the exact fermentation period that stops the pulque from turning sour and undrinkable. It is more art than science. 

Pulque is the product of a long, natural process.

Credit: Instagram. @cocinafacil

Pulque is a labor of love. Each maguey plants needs to mature for at least 12 years before the sap can be extracted. After that, it produces sap for only one year at the most. That is a long wait, but the benefits are worth it. 

And hey, it brings some health benefits too!

Credit: Instagram. @bandita_chilanga

Of course you need to drink it in moderation, but pulque does bring important nutritional benefits. An academic paper states that for some Mexicans “pulque was the third most important source of iron (non-heme form), ascorbic acid, riboflavin, and other B-vitamins”.  Carnales, it’s science! 

Pulquerias usually have creative names.

Credit: Instagram. @semahernandez

Great names include “My Office”, “Memories of the Future”, “Drink and Go”, “I’m Waiting for You Here at the Corner”, and  “The Recreation Center of Those Across the Street”. A true testament of Mexican everyday creativity and knack for humor.

The state of Hidalgo is pulque heaven.

Credit: Instagram. @mexico_desdeadentro

Even though pulque is produced across the country, particularly the areas surrounding Mexico City, the state of Hidalgo takes the crown as the most prolific. There are about 250 pulque haciendas in the state. 

In Tlaxcala, the state government has organized a tour called “la ruta del pulque.”

Credit: Instagram. @enriquenoriega

You can visit different production sites… and perhaps be possessed by a rabbit if you drink a bit too much!

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to pulque-drinking receptacles!

Credit: Instagram. @nilsbernstein

You know how people get snobbish when you drink white wine with a red wine glass? Well, that is not the case with pulque, which you can enjoy in basically anything that holds the nectar from the gods. Each pulqueria has its own style when it comes to serving methods. 

You can even drink it directly from the plant when it has been naturally fermented.

Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos

Yes, even a used Coke bottle will do! Just look at this pulque master!

Or you can also drink it straight from a maguey leaf.

Credit: Instagram. @oscarlemuss

Can you think of a more Instagrammable way of doing this? We can’t!

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