When we visited Mexico, we are amazed by the number and diversity of civilizations and cultures that have settled in its territory throughout many centuries. Even with recent archaeological efforts and advances, there are still many mysteries to be solved about these peoples of the past. This great diversity of cultures and traditions is also reflected in Mexican cuisine, where very varied and different recipes can be found across the different states that make up the country. Here are 10 of the most interesting facts about this country (given the many natural and cultural wonders of the country, it has been really difficult to choose only 10!):
- The coat of arms of the Mexican flag is based on the legend of the foundation of Tenochtitlan (on top of which Mexico City was built). According to it, a prophecy made by Huitzilopochtli (one of the main Mexica gods) told the Aztecs that they should find an eagle standing on a nopal cactus (prickly pear) with a grabbing a snake with its claws. Therefore, they traveled until they found it on the island of Tenochtitlan in lake Texcoco, and this is the scene depicted in the Mexican coat of arms.
- In addition to Spanish, there is 68 other official languages in Mexico. Among them, the two most widely spoken are Nahuatl (the Aztec language, and whose name means “clear sound”) and Yucatec Maya (spoken in the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Campeche, located in the Yucatán Peninsula in the south of the country). Many of these languages are completely unrelated to each other.
- Mexico City is sinking. This is due to the compression of the clay sediments of lake Texcoco on top of which Tenochtitlan (and, later, Mexico City) was built. It has been estimated that the city is sinking at rates of up to 50 cm per year in some of its districts.
- Mexico City has the largest number of registered taxis in the world. There is over 140 000 registered taxicabs that operate in the city. It is also one of the cities with the most traffic congestion.
- The meteor that caused the extinction of dinosaurs crashed into the Yucátan Peninsula. It is thought that the impact of said meteor happened 66 million years ago at the North coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, creating what is currently known as Chicxulub crater (with a diameter of approximately 180 km).
- The largest pyramid by volume that still exists nowadays is in Mexico. It is the Great Pyramid of Cholula, in the state of Puebla, with a volume larger than even that of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. It is believed that its construction started around the 3rd century BC, and it finished around the 9th century AD (therefore taking over 1000 years to be built).
- The most visited archaeological site in Mexico are the ruins of Teotihuacan. They are located in the state of Mexico, and are the ruins of what once was one of the largest cities in Mesoamerica (and probably of the entire world) at its peak, when it is estimated to have had over 100,000 inhabitants (between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD). The ruins include a large number of impressive temples and pyramids, among which the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon are probably the most well-known. However, it is still unknown who exactly where the founders of the city (the name Teotihuacan was given many centuries after its foundation by the Mexica people, and it means “place where men become gods” in Nahuatl).
- It is estimated that the Aztecs sacrificed up to 1% of their population each year. This would result in around 250 000 human sacrifices per year, although other estimates give a figure 10 times lower. Such sacrifices were carried out mainly as offerings to the gods, and the exact ritual varied between deities. However, this is not necessarily applicable to all civilizations that existed in Mexico. The Aztecas were indeed known for being a particularly combative people.
- Otro de los misterios arqueológicos de México aún sin resolver es el abandono de Chichen Itzá por parte de los mayas. Chichén Itzá, situada en el estado de Yucatán, es otro de los sitios arqueológicos de mayor importancia de todo México. De hecho, es el segundo por número de visitantes, y su pirámide de Kukulcán es considerada una de las 7 maravillas del mundo moderno. Fue una ciudad o centro de ceremonias de gran importancia para la cultura maya, fundada alrededor del 500 d.C. (aunque los edificios que quedan actualmente fueron construidos varios siglos después). Hacia 1250 d.C., la ciudad fue abandonada por sus últimos pobladores mayas, por razones aún desconocidas.
- Another of Mexico’s still unresolved archaeological mysteries is the abandonment of Chichén Itzá by the Mayans. Chichén Itzá, located in the state of Yucatán, is another of the most important archaeological sites in all of Mexico. In fact, it is the second most visited archaeological site in the country, and its Pyramid of Kukulkan is considered one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. It was either a city or center of ceremonies of great importance for the Mayan culture, founded around 500 AD (although the buildings that remain today were built several centuries later). Around 1250 AD, the city was abandoned by its last Mayan inhabitants, for reasons that are still unknown.
- Mexican cuisine is considered a Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It was declared as such by UNESCO in 2010, under the category of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is a very diverse cuisine that constitutes an important element of the Mexican identity. In it we find a combination of traditions from a multitude of native peoples with Spanish influences, where ancient methods for growing and preparing ingredients are still in use even nowadays.
We hope you enjoyed this small selection of interesting facts about Mexico. Stay tuned to check our itineraries through this amazing country!
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