Mexico has an incredibly rich culture, as diverse to each region as its tropical rainforests and as vibrant as the lively music of the mariachis. Just as the ancient Maya built their new temples on and around the remnants of old ones pre-Columbian language, cuisine, beliefs and culture still exist in Mexico. Different groups of indigenous people, all with their own traditions, customs and dialects, share connections back to ancient ancestors. History in Mexico is not dead and gone but ongoing and can be experienced. Past and present do not just overlap but have blended together; creating another layer of richness to the culture.
The Yucatan peninsula, along with the states of Quintana Roo and Chiapas, retains its pre-Colombian influence; a Mexican cruise to this region will reveal a distinctly Maya culture with its foundation on corn ad the Maya cosmovision. There are several areas that still speak their native Mayan language; it is estimated that there are approximately 1 million Maya speakers.
Visitors to Oaxaca will find a beautiful culture that is much more Aztec; Oaxaca has the largest indigenous population in the country, and over 1.5 million people speak the Aztec language Nhuatl. Oaxaca is distinctive for its crafts. Alebrijes are intricate and delicate wooden carvings of animals that are painted fantastically, from frogs to jaguars to mythical creatures. Barro negro, or the crafting of black clay, is an ancient tradition here. Oaxaquenans are also famous for their weavings, which use natural dyes and depict Aztec images. The people of Oaxaca are known for their friendliness and hospitality.
The city of Guanajuato, north of Mexico City, is a World Heritage Site. It is a maze of cobblestone streets and colonial buildings set into a hillside. It is a beautiful example of the colonial cities that dot the Mexican countryside.
Those who travel to Mexico can expect to step back through the mists of time at Chichen Itza, La Venta, Tenochtitlan and Palenque where artefacts and ruins serve as reminders of the powerful civilizations which rose and fell across Mexico in the pre-Hispanic eras. Although these ancient ruins are world famous the societies that built them have not disappeared.
Mexican culture is heavily influenced by the vaquero (cowboy) tradition. Cattle ranching was a huge industry in colonial times, and the vaquero image is a treasured piece of Mexican culture. The typical Mexican ranchera music originates from the vaquero. A cruise to Mexico may also present the opportunity to watch a performance of the salsa or merengue, or to dance yourself. It may also present the opportunity to attend a football game, which is the most popular sport in the country.
Many Amerindian peoples have integrated with the mestizo majority but some are culturally distinct and speak an indigenous language and dialect as opposed to Spanish. In some places Christian ceremonies practised in Mexico have Mayan and Aztec overtones. Art, religion and cultural traditions hark back to the pre-Hispanic as you move away from cities and towards villages.
Mexico has no official religion, but most of her inhabitants are Catholic, and Catholicism plays a huge role in Mexican culture. Parades and celebrations are frequent, and cathedrals and churches are scattered liberally across the country. Famous architectural gems like the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Oaxaca and the Mexico City Cathedral were built as part of the mission to establish Christianity in New Spain. Colonial influence is evident in many aspects of architecture such as town layouts, religious edifices, cobblestone streets and other buildings. Mexico City has numerous examples of this style and more UNESCO World Heritage listings than any other country in the Americas.
A long history of civil rebellions and revolution has produced artworks of an intensity which endures through the centuries and resonates around the world. For example the painter and muralist Diego Rivera saw representation of the revolution and its legacy as central to creating uniquely Mexican works. From the independently developed writing systems of Mesoamerica to the celebrated novelist Carlos Fuentes there is a strong identity to artistic Mexican tradition.