Introduction to Mexico

In Mexico, there is a fiesta almost every day – the Mexican calendar includes almost five thousand fiestas! So you might need to know this expression - ¿Dónde es la peda? - Where is the party?

Did you know that the main ingidients in Mexican cuisine are corn, beans and chili? Or that the name of the sombrero hat derives from the Spanish word "sombra" meaning shadow?

Read the sections below, so you can find out more interesting facts. We can also tell you where to go in Mexico. For example for some travellers, Palenque is the main purpose of their trip to Mexico.

Country local name: Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Government type: federal republic
Capital: Mexico City
Time difference: Mexico has three time zones
Independence: 16 September 1810 (declared); 27 September 1821 (recognized by Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 16 September
Population: 120,286,655 (July 2014)
Ethnic groups: mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%
Languages: Spanish only 92.7%, Spanish and indigenous languages 5.7%, indigenous only 0.8%, unspecified 0.8%
Religions: Roman Catholic 82.7%, Pentecostal 1.6%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.4%, other Evangelical Churches 5%, other 1.9%, none 4.7%, unspecified 2.7%
Terrain: high, rugged mountains; low coastal plains; high plateaus; desert
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Laguna Salada -10 m
Highest point: Volcano Pico de Orizaba 5,700 m
Natural resources: petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas, timber
Agriculture – products: corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes; beef, poultry, dairy products; wood products
Industries: food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron and steel, petroleum, mining, textiles, clothing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, tourism
Exports: manufactured goods, oil and oil products, silver, fruits, vegetables, coffee, cotton
Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 10:00-20:00 in big towns and cities; shops in smaller towns may close at midday for lunch, usually from 14:00 to 16:00.
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate;
Food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
Vectorborne disease: dengue fever (2013)
Climate: varies from tropical to desert
Natural hazards: tsunamis along the Pacific coast, volcanoes and destructive earthquakes in the center and south, and hurricanes on the Pacific coast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean coasts

References:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

BEST TIME TO GO
The temperature in Mexico is heavily influenced by altitude.  At higher elevations the temperature is cooler (Mexico City, Puebla, San Cristóbal de las Casas) whereas at lower elevations the weather is warmer (Guadalajara, Cuernavaca, Oaxaca).

Mexico is worth a visit throughout the year, although it’s important to take into account natural hazards that occur, the late summer months bring heavy rains and the occasional hurricane.

In Mexico, there is a fiesta almost every day – the Mexican calendar includes almost five thousand fiestas! In addition to national holidays, every city, town, village and settlement (barrio) is has its own celebrations, so visitors have a very good chance of taking part in the festivities.

FOOD AND DRINK
The main ingidients in Mexican cuisine are corn, beans and chili. A basket of hot tortillas is served at almost every meal. Folded or rolled hot tortillas which are filled with pork, beef, chicken or fish are called tacos.

Other common corn-based snacks (antojitos) include tamales (banana leaf or corn-husk parcels of cornmeal laced with various spicy sauces), quesadillas (fried tortillas filled with cheese and/or vegetables) and flautas (chicken-filled tortillas which are rolled like cigars and deep fried).

Exotic fruits: zapote (sapodilla) and tuna (cactus fruit).

Local spirits: Tequila, mezcal and rum.
Tequila is a double or triple-distilled spirit made from the blue variety of agave, which is not a cactus, but a plant related to the lily. It is generally used in cocktails.
Mezcal is similar to tequila, but is distilled only once and can be made from different varieties of agave. Often consumed in shots

The most popular beers: Corona and Sol.
Kahlúa is world-famous Mexico’s coffe liquer.

SOME LINGUISTIC FACTS

  • The name of the sombrero hat derives from the Spanish word sombra meaning shadow.
  • Mariachi is a word for both the group of musicians (guitar, mandolin and trumpet players), as well as a single musician and probably it comes from the French mariage (wedding) because historically mariachis performed at weddings.
  • Burrito is the name of the most popular Mexican dish and translated literally in Spanish means "donkey".


SAYINGS AND SLANG PHRASES:
¡Quién sabe! - Who knows?
¡Aguas! - Be careful!
¿Dónde es la peda? - Where is the party?
¿Tienes feria? -  Do you have money?
¡Qué rollo con el hoyo! - What’s going on?
¿Qué pedo? - What’s up?

CULTURAL ETIQUETTE

  • The key to getting to know a person in Mexico is to understand that family is very important in Mexico. So before you do businness with Mexicans you should meet their families.
  • The old Mexican saying "North Americans live to work, but Mexicans work to live!" highlights that Mexicans embrace a rather laid back mañana attitude rather than a time-is-money mentality.
  • Mexican men are warm and friendly, and make a lot of physical contact. They often touch shoulders or hold another’s arm and talk to one another at a close physical distance. Avoiding this touch or stepping back may be regarded as insulting. But on the other hand Mexicans may not make eye contact so do not feel offended as this is a sign of respect.
  • Avoid standing with your hands on your hips as it can be perceived as aggressive and keeping your hands in your pockets is impolite.
  • You should plan your bussiness meetings either between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., or during the late afternoon.
  • Mexicans in some ways are very formal. You should address people using Señor (Mr.), Señora (Mrs.) or Señorita (Miss) and his or her surname.
  • Mexican’s use a "psst-psst" sound to catch another’s attention in public. This is not considered rude.
  • As most of Mexicans are religious, you should avoid open disrespect for religion.
  • Women may encounter a few difficulties arising from traditional Latin machismo. Although at most this will be limited to comments (piropos, supposedly compliments) in the street, ignore any provocation and avoid eye contact. Watch out especially when using public transport as this is one of the worst places for harassment.

WHERE TO GO
Chichén-Itzá, located on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula is one of the most beautiful and mysterious places in Mexico. This Mayan city looks almost magical during the spring and autumn equinox when shadows look like a snake crawling up the stairs.

Uxmal is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of Maya culture, along with Chichén-Itzá. The Pyramid of the Magician is a must-see!
 
Mayan ruins in Palenque emerge from the dense jungle, and the sight of them evokes admiration and fear at the same time. For some travellers, Palenque is the main purpose of their trip to Mexico.

San Cristóbal de las Casas remains an area of traditional Maya culture in the Chiapas highlands however the city’s center maintains its Spanish colonial layout and much of the colonial architecture.
San Cristóbal is surrounded by fascinating native villages like San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán, so it is a great place for local and regional exploration.

Tulum is the site of a Mayan walled city now in ruins, it’s situated on a beach which creates a stunning backdrop. It’s a must see and best to see it early at sunrise!

The laid-back island of Isla Mujeres is popular with international backpackers who come to soak up the sun. And it is located just a short ferry ride from Cancun.

Akumal means "place of the turtles" in the Mayan language. Not far from Cancun, this is an ideal base for those who want to soak up the sun, snorkel, or splash around in the Akumal Bay or Yal Kul Lagoon.

Cozumel island, known for ist crystal-clear water and coral reefs, offers plenty of water sports - snorkeling there is a must! Although it is not far from Cancun, it is very different and the atmosphere is much more laid back.

Cenotes are natural wells, pits or sinkholes formed from the collapse of limestone cliffs and bedrock that uncover the groundwater beneath. The most popular wells, accessible to tourists are: Cenote Ik Kil, Cenote de Dzitnup and situated near Chichén-Itzá.

Mexico City is a little dangerous and a crowded capital, but it is very fascinating and it's worth a visit even to see the murals of Diego Rivera, the museum of Frida Kahlo and great anthropological museums. The gigantic main square is overlooked by the impressive Catedral Metropolitana.

Teotihuacán located 50km northeast of Mexico City and is known as the City of the Gods. Teotihuacan is home to some of the largest ancient pyramids in the world, with the heighest Pyramid of the Sun (63 m). According to legend, it was here that the gods gathered to plan the creation of man.

Puerto Vallarta, or the Pearl of the Pacific is situated among the Sierra Madre Mountains and has more than 40 miles of coastline. It has become one of Mexico's most popular winter destinations due to its great diversity and almost perfect climate. Downtown Puerto Vallarta has kept its colonial charm and boasts a vibrant street scene all day and night.

Oaxaca, located in southeastern Mexico, is a beautiful colonial city. Oaxaca is known for its production of chocolate, which is used not only for making beverages, but is also used as an ingredient in many local dishes, the most famous of which is a dense, dark meat sauce called mole negro oaxaceno. The city provides an extraordinary mix of colonial and native life, superb markets and fascinating archeological sites.

Baluarte Bridge is only for the brave as the main span of the Baluarte Bridge is 520 meters in length and is 402 meters above the river, making it not only the tallest cable-stayed bridge in the world, but also the cable-stayed bridge with the longest span in the Americas. Baluarte inauguration took place on 5th January 2012.

Puebla, nestled in the middle of Mexico in the foothills of the Sierra Madre, under the impressive view of the Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes, is known as Puebla de los Angeles (City of Angels). Puebla has preserved its great religious structures such as the 16th–17th-century cathedral and fine buildings like the old archbishop's palace, as well as a host of houses with walls covered in tiles (azulejos).

Guadalajara is the cultural center of Mexico, it’s always crowded with the artists, and the ambience is much better here than in the crowded capital. Also most worldwide known mariachi music derives from the area of Guadalajara.