“Mexico is a mosaic of different realities and beauties.”
Enrique Peña Nieto (Past Mexican President)
Fun Facts About Mexico for Travelers
- Are little-known
- Add a new or exciting perspective to a discussion about a place or issue.
- Make me laugh, cry, or smile.
I don’t include facts about unknown places or travel experiences.
I frequently feature fun facts on my Facebook group: Long Term Traveling and Living Abroad Over 50.
In addition, I have added several fun facts I discovered while putting together this page.
I hope you enjoy these fun facts about Mexico for travelers as much as I enjoyed putting them together.
Let me know if you have any fun facts to add to this page.
Fun Facts About Mexico for Travelers
6 Facts About Mexico’s Economy
- The median household income ranges from $400 a month in Chiapas and $1500 a month in Mexico City. (Most occupations pay between 20% and 25% of their US equivalent).
- Mexico has more taxicabs than any other country.
- Mexico developed the tube, which made color TV possible in 1941.
- Cochineal is a solid red dye from insects feeding on Oaxaca cactuses. While most of Mexico’s wealth during the Spanish colonial period came from gold, silver, and other minerals, cochineal also contributed to Mexico’s early economic success. I went to visit a cochineal farm, and it was fascinating.
- The Mexico-US border is the most visited in the world.
- Mexico is the world’s 11th largest economy in purchasing power parity (PPP) and the tenth-largest population worldwide. The per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by PPP is a bit above the worldwide average PPP per capita.
17 Facts About Mexican Culture
- There are 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mexico.
- The Great Pyramid of Cholula in Puebla is the largest in the world.
- The Chichen Itza Pyramid in Mexico is one of the world’s new Seven Wonders.
- Chihuahuas, the world’s smallest dog, come from the state with the same name (Chihuahua) in Mexico.
- Mexico City has the second-largest collection of museums globally, including a Museum of Tolerance and Memory and another dedicated to Economics. The Zocalo, or main square, in Mexico City is the world’s third-largest plaza.
- The term Gringo or Gringa is often a generic term for foreigners of European origin. However, some Mexicans only use Gringo to refer to people from the US. Similarly, most people of Asian descent are called Chinos (Chinese), and those of Middle Eastern descent are called Turcos (Turks). Either way, it is not meant as an insult.
- Recent DNA results show a surprising genetic diversity among Mexicans, including more East Asian and African ties than expected.
- Mexico is the second-largest Catholic country in the world.
- Most Mexican states allow same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption.
- Mexico is the 7th most visited country in the world.
- Mexico has 613,000 Arab Mexicans. These Arab-Mexicans significantly influenced Mexican culture, including food. (Kibbeh, for example, is often found on Yucatecan restaurant menus). Two of Mexico’s wealthiest people, Carlos Slim and Alfredo Harp Helu, are Middle Eastern. The actress, Selma Hayek, is also Arab-Mexican.
- Mexico’s Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM) is one of the ten largest universities worldwide, and tuition is less than $1000 a year for Mexican citizens (and only $1000-$2500 a year for foreigners. It ranks as one of the top 100 Universities in the world.
- The Virgin of Guadalupe is one of the most important Mexican symbols. The Basilica of Guadalupe (also known as La Villa) is the most visited Catholic shrine globally. Every December 12th, millions of Mexican pilgrims visit the famed cloak of Guadalupe. (The Virgin of Guadalupe is an important symbol throughout the rest of the Americas as well).
- Mexico’s national sport is the charreada. Like a rodeo, In the Charreada, cowboys demonstrate their lassoing skills and make their horses dance to music.
- Anthony Quinn was born in Mexico to an Irish father and a Mexican mother. His parents immigrated to the US soon after his birth. His father even allegedly rode with Pancho Villa.
- Mexico has around 100,000 Mennonites. Until recently, nearly all these Mennonites lived in Chihuahua and Durango. Many have recently moved to escape from the drug-related violence in Northern Mexico. Some have established new communities throughout the State of Campeche. The Mennonites are famous for their Queso Chihuahua.
- Chihuahua also has several Mormon communities. Mitt Romney‘s father, George Romney, was born in one of these communities. The Mormons started these communities to practice polygamy in 1885; Many Mormons (including George Romney’s family) returned to the US during the Mexican revolution. A small non-official offshoot of the Mormon church still practices polygamy in a couple of communities in Mexico. (Polygamy is not, however, permitted by the Church today).
6 Facts About Mexico’s Languages
- Mexican Spanish has more Arabic words than the Spanish spoken in Spain.
- Mexico has 69 different indigenous languages.
- While there is little supporting evidence, scholars are often surprised by how much indigenous North American languages resemble Chinese or Japanese. Mayan has surprising similarities to Chinese.
- Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.
- The Spanish borrowed numerous Nahuatl words (from the Aztecs) that later became part of the English language, including chile or chili and avocado (from aguacatl, the Nahuatl name for testicles), chocolate, coyote, peyote, guacamole, ocelot, and mescal.
- Mexican Spanish often uses expressions with ¨mother¨ and ¨father¨ –madre and padre– colloquially to mean things like ¨cool¨ (padre) or ¨hell no¨ (¨ni madre¨).
14 Facts about Mexico’s Food and Drink
- Mexico is the world’s largest beer exporter.
- Tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, vanilla, chocolate, corn, and chilies are all foods from Mexico. (Mexico has 59 endemic corn varieties).
- People in the State of Oaxaca often eat chapulines (grasshoppers).
- Mole, Mexico’s national sauce, was rumored to be developed by nuns at the Convent of Santa Clara in Puebla when they needed to prepare a special dish for the arrival of the Archbishop. The nuns put together all the leftover spices and food and made a sauce over a turkey that pleased the Archbishop immensely.
- Huitlacoche is a delicious but somewhat expensive condiment. Huitlacoche refers to a fungus that grows on corn (in English, the fungus is called ¨corn smut¨).
- Mexico has the world’s largest per capita consumption of Coca-Cola. (Mexico has the world’s most obese people and the highest per-capita diabetes rate in the world). In 2013, the Mexican government implemented a special tax on soft drinks to pay for some medical services needed to deal with Mexico’s love affair with Coca-Cola.
- Mexico is by far the world’s largest consumer of bottled water. (The use of bottled water is a significant reason tourists to Mexico seldom get Montezuma’s revenge (traveler’s diarrhea) anymore).
- Mezcal refers to any agave-based alcoholic drink and can come from anywhere in Mexico.
- Tequila can only be produced in five Mexican states- Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Jalisco- and must be made from blue agave. (Most Tequila, however, comes just from Jalisco).
- Tequila may be suitable for lowering cholesterol and easing digestion and sleep.
- Pulque, an agave-based spirit like Tequila and mezcal, was consumed in Teotihuacan in 150 BC.
- Tequila has five different classifications depending on how long it is aged before bottling. The most expensive is Extra Añejo which ages for three years before production.
- I recommend visiting one of Yucatan’s traditional honey producers. The Yucatan’s Mellipona honey is among the world’s best and has numerous health benefits. The production methods are similar to those of the Mayans a thousand years ago.
- Mexico’s cuisine is one of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritages.
6 Facts About Mexico’s Natural History
- Mexico is the fourth country in the world in terms of biodiversity. Check out the boojum trees and whales in Baja California, if you have a chance.
- The Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan formed from a meteorite that hit the earth and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs more than 66 million years ago.
- Around 20 million Monarch butterflies travel from Canada to Central Mexico annually, usually in January or February. (I highly recommend visiting the butterfly sanctuaries in the Estado de Mexico or Michoacan).
- The world’s most used border is between Mexico and the United States. (The longest border separates the US and Canada).
- The Spanish drained Lake Texcoco and built Mexico City on top. As a result, Mexico City sinks every year.
- Sac-Actun in the Yucatàn is the world’s most comprehensive underground cave system- 216 miles long.
22 Facts About Mexican History and Government
- The Olmecs (1400-300 BC) were the first Mesoamerican civilization in Mexico. (I recommend seeing artworks from the Olmecs at museums in Jalapa and Villahermosa and the famous Olmec Head at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City).
- Teotihuacan (about 60 kilometers North of Mexico City).was one of the world’s largest cultural centers around 200-300 AD..(population: 125,000).
- Many people mistakenly believe that the Mayan and Aztec civilizations no longer exist. However, many aspects of traditional Mayan life- particularly their artistic, culinary, and linguistic tradition- remain (though with changes), particularly in rural Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras. (I know people in the Yucatan who speak Mayan as their maternal language).
- 1.7 million Mexicans speak Nahuatl, the Aztecan language. In addition, traces of Aztec civilization remain in the daily Mexican language (particularly in place and food names), cultural traditions, and food.
- The Aztecs believed that Hernan Cortez, the Spanish conqueror, was their god, Quetzalcoatl. (Interestingly, the Incans had a similar belief about Pizarro, their Spanish conqueror).
- The Mayans abandoned the most important centers of Mayan culture (except Tulum) in the 10th-14th century (200-600 years before the Spanish arrival in 1521). Current scholars attribute the decline of these cities mainly to deforestation and drought.
- The Spanish enlisted tribes from the periphery of the Aztec Empire to assist them in overthrowing Aztecan Emperor Moctezuma.
- Friar Diego de Landa burned many Mayan books and idols in Mani, Yucatan.
- The name “Yucatán” came from a misunderstanding between the Spanish and the locals. (Note: Yucatán refers to the Yucatán peninsula and one of three states – Yucatan, Campeche, or Quintana Roo- on the peninsula). When Hernández de Córdova landed on the Yucatecan coast in 1517, his crew asked the inhabitants what they called the land. Their reply was either:
- “Tetec dtan. Ma t natic a dtan.” which equals “You speak very rapidly; we don’t understand your language” or “
- Yucatán” which translates to “Land of the Yuca.”
- The Spanish developed such an elaborate caste system in Mexico that they made murals to explain their 16 different castes to the local population. The Spanish separated castes according to how much European, indigenous, and African blood a person had.
- Mexico’s first independent head of state was Emperor Iturbide. Iturbide’s reign lasted for less than a year. Iturbide developed the Mexican flag.
- In 1821, Mexico’s territory incorporated modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras, and much of the Southwestern USA.
- The USA acquired most of the former Mexican territory in the Mexican-American War (known in Mexico as the US intervention in Mexico) between 1846 and 1848.
- The San Patricio (Saint Patrick’s) Batallion (made up of Irish immigrant Catholics) deserted the US army and joined the US forces during the Mexican-American War.
- In 1853, William Walker, an American physician, lawyer, journalist, and mercenary, captured La Paz, the capital of Baja California (which he renamed the “Republic of Lower California”), to establish a slave-holding overseas American colony. A federal grand jury subsequently indicted Walker for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794. However, Walker’s invasion garnered a lot of support in the Southern and Western U.S. William Walker then successfully invaded and ruled Nicaragua in 1857 for one year until a coalition of Central American armies defeated him.
- While there is not much evidence that Benito Juarez and Abraham Lincoln had any contact, many people see clear parallels in their lives. Both came from similar humble backgrounds, had similar liberal beliefs, were Presidents of their countries during the same time, and practiced and studied law (Benito Juarez was the first indigenous president. You can visit his humble childhood home in Guelatao, Oaxaca),
- The Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla; however, the Mexican lost the war, and Emperor Maximilian ruled Mexico for five years. Many Americans believe Cinco de Mayo is an important holiday in the US, but it is not.
- The Mexican revolution shared many ideological similarities with the Russian revolution. The PRI (the Institutional Revolutionary Party) remained in power for 75 years using a mixture of leftist rhetoric, coopting leftist ideologues and institutions, and import substitution economic policies. Until the Mexican financial crisis in 1982, the US and Mexico in public were not very friendly, but behind the scenes, the relationship was closer than it seemed. PRI’s deft maneuvering of political power (while appearing democratic) earned PRI the nickname of the Perfect Dictatorship by Peruvian Noble Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa.
- Since the 1990s, the Mexican government has made significant changes. It is now part of a trade alliance with Canada. The US (previously called NAFTA (North American Free Trade Alliance. NAFTA is now called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, USMCA).and has a fledgling democratic government. (in the past 21 years, the three political parties governed Mexico). Mexico is the US’s third-largest trade partner.
- Mexico’s official name is the United States of Mexico, Estados Unidos de Mexico.
- Mexico’s president and deputies can only serve one six-year term at a time.
- Pope John Paul visited Izamal in Yucatán in 1993 and condemned the conditions that forced the indigenous population in North and South America to live in poverty, including colonialism. The town of Izamal painted all its buildings yellow and ochre in celebration of the pope’s visit. The pope spoke at Izamal’s monastery, which has the second-largest open-air atrium in the world.