things that matter

How Mexico’s Most Popular Dishes Came To Be

Mexican food is as diverse as it is delicious. Full of flavors, spices, special sauces and other fresh ingredients, it simply cannot be matched anywhere in the world. In fact, Mexican food is a complex cuisine with roots that go back to the Aztec and pre-Aztec civilizations that practiced advanced agriculture techniques and cultivated a wide variety of specialty crops. Later, influences from Europe and other parts of the globe also found their way into the Mexican mix. The result? Sabor sin igual!  Now that Mexican food has conquered the entire globe, let’s take a look at the history of some of the most popular dishes and learn some fun facts about each one!

Tacos

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While tacos are now the most famous of Mexican foods, they are actually newcomers. Taquerias were born in the working class neighborhoods of Mexico city in the 19th century as quick and cheap restaurants. The many varieties of taco are a result of the different flavors of different parts of the country coming together for the first time.

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Fun Fact:

The taco itself was named after the folded paper explosives used in the silver mines of Mexico during that period. When you think about the spice punch that a good taco packs, that actually makes a lot of sense!

Enchiladas

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Historians believe that the art of making enchiladas dates back to Mayan times. By rolling a tortilla around a meat filling you can then add sauce to the top layer. Add cheese on top of that and you have created heaven on earth! Thanks Maya!

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Fun Fact: 

The word enchilada literary means to “add spice to” (enchilar). That’s because the original enchiladas were dipped entirely in chili sauce before being eaten! There are now more than a dozen specific kinds of enchiladas from across Mexico and the American Southwest.

Menudo

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The history of menudo goes back to the hacienda period of Spanish control of Mexico. When the rich landowners would throw a party, they would kill a cow, take the prime cuts of meat, and then throw out the organ meats. The peasants would often save these meats, especially the stomach (tripe) and have their own party!

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Fun Fact:

Menudo parties are still an integral part of modern Mexican culture. Births, Christmas and many other family gatherings are celebrated by cooking up a huge pot of menudo for all the guests! Yum!

Burritos

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The origin of the burrito is actually hotly contested. Some claim it was invented in the USA by Mexican immigrants (San Francisco’s Mission District to be exact) while others say it actually originated in northern Mexican as a traveling meal. In either case, it was definitely an immigrant staple and is actually one of the most recent of Mexican dishes (a 20th century invention).

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Fun Fact: 

 Burritos are much more popular in the USA than in Mexico. In fact, you really won’t find burritos at all in many parts of Mexico!

Guacamole

 

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Guacamole is one of those dishes that will never go out of style. In fact, the modern day recipe for guacamole is almost exactly the same as the one used by the Aztecs. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

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Fun Fact:

Guacamole was actually believed to be a potent aphrodisiac by the Aztecs. With lots of garlic, chile, and lime, it does have everything you need to rev that circulation up!

Quesadillas

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Quesadillas are a staple all over Mexico. But many don’t know that the stringy “Oaxacan” style cheese used in them was actually introduced by Dominican monks from Spain. Other ingredients, especially pork, were also introduced at later times.

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Fun Fact: 

Quesadillas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and also as an in between meals snack! While flour tortillas are more common in the USA, most parts of Mexico prefer corn tortillas.

Flan

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The history of Mexico’s most famous dessert actually goes all the way back to ancient Rome. A custard made from combining eggs and cream and cooking till thick, flan was actually popular all through the middle ages as well. Now a dessert staple in the New World, it’s safe to say that this simple but delicious dish is unstoppable!

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Fun Fact: 

While most flans are now cooked in ovens, originally flans were cooked with a flaming paddle just like French Crème Brulee.

Chilaquiles 

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Everyone’s favorite Mexican breakfast dish goes all the way back to Aztec times. Named after “green chiles” in Nahuatl, chilaquiles went through many different transformations along the way through. Ingredients like olives and queso blanco were added later as part of the Colombian exchange – the period of the 1500s and 1600s when foods crossed back and forth between Europe and the New World.

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Fun Fact: 

Many people consider chilaquiles to be an excellent cure for hangover. Try it out and let us know!

Tres Leches

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Made with condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, tres leches is the decadent delicious dessert that sweet dreams are made of. Even though it’s now popular all over Latin America, nobody is really sure of where it came from. The recipe for this hit were first printed on a Nestle evaporated milk can back in the 1960s which is why it spread far and wide so quickly.

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Fun Fact: Tres Leches cake is often topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, especially strawberries.

Pozole

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This hearty stew made with hominy corn also dates back to Aztec times. While it now comes in many different varieties, some sources claim that it was originally made out of the flesh of sacrificed victims! Don’t let that stop you from digging in though, pozole is a true Mexican flavor blast that takes “soup” to a whole other level!

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Fun Fact:

Pozole comes in three main types: red, green and white. Each type has a very specific flavor and combination of ingredients, but are all based on hominy and are very filling in and of themselves without a main dish!

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

things that matter

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

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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!