How Mexican Traditions Work

By: Dave Roos
Traditional Mariachi musicians from Mexico.
Tim Hawley/Getty Images

Mexico is home to some of the oldest continuous cultures in the Western hemisphere. Along with its ancient indigenous roots, Mexico has absorbed the cultural influences of centuries of foreign rule, occupation and "intervention." The invasion of Spanish conquistadors in 1519 marked the end of the Aztec empire and the beginning of the Mexican tradition. Many of Mexico's most popular traditions, holidays, music and even foods retain the imprint of both pre-Hispanic and European culture.

Think of the humble tamale. For millennia, native people in the Americas had been filling dried cornhusks with corn dough. The tamales were then steamed in a ceramic pot and eaten with a simple salsa of chilies and tomatoes or green tomatillos. When the Spanish arrived, they brought pigs, chickens, cows, rice and cheese with them. Creative cooks soon discovered that a little pork lard in the corn dough made it even more flavorful, as did some chicken or cheese in the stuffing. The blending of pre-Hispanic tradition with New World flavors (plus a side of rice and beans, of course) makes for one of the most satisfying meals in North America.


Keep reading as we explore some of Mexico's most unique and enduring traditions.