In Mexico’s episode of the famous things across the globe series, we have invited our fellow blogger Isabella Biava of “Boundless Roads” What is Mexico famous for? This is her amazing answer!
Mexico is famous for so many things. It is an incredible country with such a cultural and natural diversity that attracts thousands of people every day to visit its pristine Caribbean beaches, learn about its exciting culture and folklore, taste its delicious food, and jump into the mystical cenotes. There is so much to love about Mexico that many that came as tourists decided to make it their home, I included.
I have to say Mexico chose me twice when I came here to work. The last time I ended up living in Cancun for seven years until I decided to leave my job and travel around Latin America, but not before learning more about my own adopted country.
So I have backpacked around Mexico, exploring its diverse territory and culture, the different traditions, and falling in love every day more.
There are so many unique places to visit in Mexico, but most of all, there are many things Mexico is worldly famous for. Let’s explore them.
Things Mexico is famous for
I am sure all of us have tried a Mexican restaurant in our own country. Well, Mexican food is not even close to that. When you come to Mexico and try the local food, you will have an extra-sensory experience. The real Mexican food is out of this world, and if you are an omnivorous foodist, you will have the time of your life. Mexican cuisine is regional. Each state has its specialties, but let’s see the most popular foods in Mexico – the ones that have put Mexico on top of the best culinary destinations.
Tacos are the most common food among Mexicans. Every Mexican state makes tacos in its traditional way, but Mexico city is the most popular for this basic local dish. Tourists love them and can’t get enough, but being so cheap, tacos are also considered an essential element of Mexican cuisine because it’s accessible to low-income families. Tacos are made of tortillas and different ingredients for the filling, such as meat or fish. But the most important ingredient is the sauce, which must be habanero. It’s the king of hot sauces, so watch out!
Guacamole is also one of Mexicans’ favorites and one of the few dishes that doesn’t have meat. It’s made with avocado, tomatoes, onion, lemon, oil, salt, and optional fresh cilantro (coriander). It’s a delicious and refreshing appetizer or something to munch on. It’s eaten with crunchy tortilla chips, locally called “totopos.”
Tamales are one of the most well-known Mexican dishes, eaten for breakfast. They are mostly homemade, but it’s very usual to see street vendors selling them at street corners in the morning.
Tortas are big burgers or sandwiches made with a specific kind of bread and stuffed with all sorts of ingredients, especially strings of meat, onion, and lots of spicy sauce, generally eaten for lunch.
Chile en Nogada
The Chile en Nogada is an iconic Mexican dish originally from Puebla, and it can be made only at a particular time of the year when the fruits used are ripe and available. The Chile en Nogada is a sweet kind of chile stuffed with a special filling whose full recipe is a best-kept secret, but it includes dried fruits and nuts, a mix of sweet and salted flavors, that it’s not for everybody.
Another dish from the central states of Mexico, the Mole originates both from Puebla or Oaxaca. It’s a sweet chocolate sauce to be eaten with chicken or other kinds of meat. It contains chocolate and chili peppers.
Yes, you read it right. Fried crickets are also a very widely consumed snack in Oaxaca. They are called “Chapulines.” They are very famous, but I have never dared to taste them. Maybe one day.
Chocolate is famous in Mexico for the number of Cocoa plantations available in Yucatan and other parts of Mexico. Also, for chocolate, the Oaxaca region is the winner.
As you can see, it looks like Oaxaca is the Mexican state with the majority of fantastic food, but don’t be fooled. Every region in Mexico offers incredible culinary experiences, just not so famous.
Ah! who doesn’t associate Mexico with Tequila? But did you know that there is a town named Tequila? And that’s precisely where this prestigious and strong liquor is produced. Located near Guadalajara, capital of the Mexican State of Jalisco, the small town is surrounded by scenic agave fields from which Tequila is produced. It’s an exciting trip to make if you are in the area.
No Mexican travels without their own habanero sauce because, that hot, you won’t find it anywhere else in the world. And be aware, if you happen to be in a restaurant in Mexico and ask if something is spicy hot and they tell you a little bit (pica poco), just don’t believe it. Mexicans have their own idea of what is “hot.” The right question is whether there is chile in it? If so, then it will be dangerously hot.
Cenotes are deep natural wells or sinkholes scattered around the Yucatan Peninsula, apparently around 6000 in total. The Cenotes constitute one of the most important natural and touristic resources of the entire region, but they were also considered sacred places by the ancient Mayan civilizations. At that time, Cenotes were, in fact, the primary source of water and religious sites for the Mayans who called them “ts´onot,” which means ”hole in the earth.”
They originate in the limestone grounds that favor river formations underneath the entire territory, which become crystalline water lakes when they meet huge cavities. There are so many cenotes located around the most important tourist destinations that make a nice day trip from your hotel.
The barefoot runners
Runners and athletes, and I, have a special admiration for the Tarahumara population, the ancient inhabitants of the Copper Canyon’s harsh valleys in Chihuahua. Some of them still live in caves. They are renowned for being natural runners as they dash up and down the mountains from one village to another completely barefoot or in their humble sandals.
A few years ago, the 22ys old Maria Lorena Ramirez, from the Tarahumara indigenous community, won the 22miles ultramarathon of Puebla in Central Mexico, defeating over 500 other runners from 12 countries in the female category. She was wearing her sandals and a long skirt from their typical dress. Impressive.
The Pueblos Magicos
“Pueblos Magicos” is a designated name given to unique places with an authentic charm and interesting history. The Mexican tourist board created this marketing strategy to create buzz and attract visitors to explore less known parts of Mexico that deserve more attention. It worked well.
Thanks to this attractive name, I have seen such spectacular places that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. The most popular is San Miguel de Allende, which won the title as one of the most charming towns in the world and proclaimed a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008.
The day of the dead
The Day of the Dead is one of the most important days in Mexico, representing the syncretism between catholicism and ancient Mayan traditions. It’s usually a multi-day celebration, although officially is November 1st through the 2nd. In reality, the entire month of October is a preparation for those days. Cemeteries have the most amazing flower decorations, and families prepare their altars with offerings for their departed family members who in these days will be back among them. It may sound creepy, but it’s indeed a joyous celebration for the entire country. However, Patzcuaro (Morelia) and Oaxaca are the two most popular cities to celebrate the day of the dead with the most creative shows and ceremonies.
A fervent religious devotion
Less popular among the young generation, catholicism is fervently practiced by the 85% of the Mexican population, devoted to their saint protector, but most of all, to the Virgen of Guadalupe. When the Spanish arrived to conquer and devastate the indigenous lands, they subjugated the people through religion. Many priests from different orders, such as Franciscan and Dominican, were brought to initiate the locals to Catholicism.
At the same time, we need to give credit to many friars who played an essential role in their education and protection. Although 85% of the population is Catholic, we can still see some syncretism with the prehispanic culture ceremonies, such as celebrating the above mentioned day of the dead.
This is a shortlist of what I consider some of the most important things about the Mexican culture and natural resources that Mexico is known for, but the list doesn’t end here. If there is something that you believe we are missing, please let us know. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Mexico?
Chichen-Itza is the most popular and well-known Mayan archeological site, also proclaimed one of the 7th wonders of the world and Unesco World Heritage site. Located in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, you can visit either on your own by bus or taxi from Valladolid, or you can join an organized tour from either Cancun or anywhere the Riviera Maya or Merida.
If you haven’t been yet, you should see it at least once in your life, but keep in mind that it now gets very crowded after 10 am. Also, many other interesting archeological sites are worth visiting in Yucatan, even if not so famous.
The Mariachi bands
Who hasn’t heard about the Mariachi? It’s probably one of the biggest stereotypes about Mexican culture, but it’s for sure a real part of it. Although a very old tradition, mariachi singers are still hired for the most important celebrations, such as quinceañeras (15 ys birthday parties), serenades, goodbyes, even funerals, and other special occasions.
Mexico has been home to incredibly talented artists of all sorts, from painters to writers, film makers and whatnot. But Frida Kahlo is one of the most popular ones worldwide. Her iconic self-portrait has become the symbol of Mexico but also of strong, single-minded women. Her paintings represent herself and her tragic life but also the class, gender, and race issues of the post-revolution times in Mexico.
She’s been living most of her life in the Casa Azul in Coyoacan in Mexico City, which is now a beautiful museum open to visitors.
On the Pacific coast of Mexico, you will be able to experience one of the most amazing animals encounters ever – the grey whales. They are very friendly and fearless marine creatures. They would come close to the boat to interact with humans. And they are all free in the ocean. They reach the Mexican pacific coast from Alaska in winter to have their babies in the protected bays of Baja California, where they can find shelter from sea predators. I am sharing all I know about all the places I visited where you will join a whale watching tour in Baja California and all the practical information you need to book yours and have the best experience ever.
Diving in Cozumel
Mexico is also famous among divers for the second largest barrier reef right off the coast of Cozumel, the third biggest island in Mexico, with a rugged coastline on the Atlantic ocean side and beautiful beaches on Caribbean shores. It’s a great place to visit, and not only for divers.
Swimming with the whale sharks
From June through September get ready for the most exhilarating experience ever. These gentle giants of the sea pass through the Caribbean coast of Mexico between Holbox and Isla Mujeres during their migration, and we can swim close to them without creating any harm if we follow the rules. From Holbox, Cancun, or Isla Mujeres, you can join full-day tours organized by local companies.
The best surfing spots on the Pacific Coast
The dramatic Pacific Coast with green backdrops of the Sierra Madre mountains creates the perfect scenery to practice your surf abilities with pro surfers. Many famous locations on the Mexican west coast attract athletes worldwide to challenge the Pacific Ocean’s gigantic waves.
Among the most famous sites are Sayulita beaches, on the Riviera Nayarit, Todos Santos in Baja California, and last but not least, Puerto Escondido, in Oaxaca, famous for the yearly international Surf Pro Competition in Zicatela. Even if you are not a surfer, you will enjoy watching the performance.
The Caribbean white sand beaches
Like Tulum, the entire Mexican state of Quintana Roo is blessed with miles of golden sand and turquoise water. That’s the Caribbean Coast of Mexico, which attracts thousands of tourists every day, mostly from December through March, when they want to escape from their cold winter and enjoy the sun and the wondrous white sand beaches.
The Boho chic Tulum
From the small fishing village that it was 30 years ago, Tulum has become one of the favorite destinations among style-conscious travelers, jet setters, and Hollywood stars. Outrageously priced hotels on the beach, world-class restaurants, and fashion boutiques are what is now Tulum about. But let’s not forget the pristine white sand beach and the evergreen Mayan archeological site, the only pre-hispanic settlement built on the ocean. There is so much to see and do in Tulum besides living the glamorous life!
One of the unfortunate things Mexico is famous for is the Drug cartels, known for smuggling illegal drugs from Mexico and Central America up into the United States, but also for controlling many areas of Mexico creating danger and spreading fear. The security issues that the world media talk about are true but luckily confined to certain areas where tourists are not advised to circulate.
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