Our Southern Neighbor

Mexico is a place that is surrounded with stereotypes in America as it is our neighboring country. Regardless of politics, I want to look at Mexico as a culture. Mexico began with Mayan culture and has come to grow into one of the most unique places on the world, full of passionate people and exotic foods (I know, food is what really matters). I hope I can give you a new outlook on Mexico with my research and personal experience.

In 3114 BC, the Mayans were created in the area that is current day Mexico. They were a culture of rich history which was ahead of their time. They created their calendar off of cosmology (remember, the world was supposed to end in 2012, whoops), their own advanced language, and mathematical calculations (they had math?!). These skills allowed them to focus on making advanced cities, trade networks, temples, and irrigation systems. They traded with neighboring tribes for jade, obsidian, cacao, salt, and sea shell for gold on water and land routes.

El Castillo- A Mayan Temple located near present day Cancun

This extensive system has allowed them to have the materials to still be around today despite jungle encroachment. Their government followed the royal family, which were the bridge between the gods and interpreters of time and celestial events, dictated the social, political and religious functions. They would go to different temples to speak to the Gods. One of the most recognizable temples is El Castillo (The castle) which was located in the Mayan city of Chichen Itza. It was a temple for Kukulkan, the feathered serpent deity, but little is known about their religion and culture as a lot of information was destroyed with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. Regardless, Mexico has grown from its roots to create its own culture.

Cinco de Mayo celebration. Notice how I was not even able to talk about their unique wardrobe, so much culture!!!

Put an effort to put aside anything you have heard about Mexico before. Mexico is a country with strong culture that has grown in the past decade. One of their first attributes is that they all speak Spanish, with some who speak some of the more traditional languages (Mayan and Nahuatl). This allowed them to trade with much of South and Central America as this region of the world speaks predominately Spanish. Like much of South America, they hold family as a very important part of their culture and families tend to expand throughout the neighborhood. I have gone to Mexico and seen firsthand that shopping outlets is more like a bunch of friends who are hanging out rather than a typical store. The energy everyone gives off makes it a much more memorable experience. A great way to see this is in the open markets. In these open markets, prices will vary but going to each store usually ends up making a friend or hearing an interesting story. These stories liven the shopping experience (and usually gets you a lower price). However, the true magic of Mexico is during celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo, Day of the Dead, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. During this time, mariachi music (which was actually created for music that matches the rhythm of a traditional dance style known as zapateado) is played to bring the community together through dancing. Kids dance in the streets all day while traditional food is prepared such as enchiladas, tamales, frijoles negros, burritos, arroz con pollo and many others (you probably would have heard of some of these but these are the originals). Mexico is blaring with culture, just need to give it a chance.

I went to Mexico over Spring Break and I was told all the stereotypes of how dangerous it was and it painted a bad picture in my head. However, I went and similar to Peru or the United States, it’s not as prevalent as people say. They are a developing country but the people there are mostly hard workers who welcome anyone with an open heart. Similar to anyone else, they just want their family to be happy and they try to support their community. Rather than focusing on the bad, we should focus on the people and culture of Mexico. Only then can we truly see what this country has to offer.

One thought on “Our Southern Neighbor

  1. That is so cool that you have traveled to Mexico and really been immersed in the culture! I think it is funny that people have this negative stigma about Mexico, but gladly take their spring break trips there. In contrast, I can tell that you have a more positive outlook on Mexican culture. I have not been fortunate enough to visit Mexico, although I am really interested in the culture. In fact, contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, but rather a celebration of Mexico’s unlikely military victory over France in the Battle of Pueblo. I am looking forward to immersing myself in Spanish culture next spring as I will be studying in Spain for the semester. I hope to see unique aspects of the culture that I can bring back to my friends and family.

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