At ACR Spanish Translations, I am passionate about the Spanish language and I know that a language is only as alive as the cultures in which it is used and evolves. That’s why I will be profiling Spanish-speaking countries in this blog series: so you can get to know all of the amazing places this world has to offer where Hola means hello and everything Spanish will help you get by! This month, I am looking at the beautiful North American country of Mexico!
Country Name: Mexico Pronunciation: Me-hee-co
Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second most populous country in Latin America after Brazil. With a population topping 120 million people, Mexico has a robust economy, highly diverse ecological systems, and is home to a history that dates back thousands of years.
Originally named Mexihco in the indigenous Nahtaul language, Mexico is called as such for its valley and its people (originally the Mexica). Perhaps one of the most exciting things about Mexico is its status as one of the seven cradles of civilization as it was once home to amazing Mesoamerican civilizations which included the Maya, the Aztecs, the Teotihuacan and the Zapotec among many others. Some of the earliest human artifacts from the Americas have been found in Mexico including stone tools and cave drawings. One of the most incredible contributions that Mexican civilizations made to world history was the domestication of certain food popular crops such as corn, tomato, and beans which allowed for food surpluses and thus, settlement. Humans in the area moved into an agricultural lifestyle and away from the traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle, eventually giving rise to some of the most advanced civilizations the world has ever seen.
So why do Mexican speak Spanish today?
Mexicans have Indigenous lineages that were mixed with Spanish ones when Spanish colonizers came and conquered the land and peoples there. This synthesis of cultures happens in a process that has a real name: mestizaje! Today, all identities brought together by mestizaje are contained under one national Mexican identity. The primary Mexican identity today is Mestizo which is considered a cultural heritage now (rather than the racial category it was during the colonial period). It is from colonization that Spanish became the national language of Mexico and home to almost a third of all Spanish native speakers in the world, if you can believe that! Indigenous languages in Mexico have survived with around 5.4% of the population speaking the Nahuatl, Yukatek Maya, Mixtec and Zapotec languages. Overall, there are 68 linguistic groups and 364 particular varieties of indigenous languages in the territory of Mexico today and they have had official status within the country since the Law of Indigenous Linguistic Rights was passed in 2003.
The Spanish colonization of Mexico in the early 16th century was bloody. It resulted in mass disease, war and ultimately genocide. Within 90 years, the indigenous population went from approximately 12 million people to around 1.5 million or less due to illness and horrific violence. This period is easily the darkest and saddest in the history of Mexico. Originally renamed New Spain, the territory was centred around the administrative region of what would eventually become Mexico City. Spain ruled the colony of New Spain until 1810 when an uprising led to the Mexican War of Independence, resulting in the creation of the First Mexican Republic is 1821.
Over the next 100 years, there would be a second Empire, the Porfiriato and then the Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1920. After that, one party ruled Mexico for 71 years until 2000. Since that time, contemporary Mexican politics have included politicians and parties from all over the political spectrum.
Of course, beyond history, Mexico also has a rich cultural heritage that combines Indigenous traditions with European ones. The climate is the country is one of the most sought-after in the world with an average annual temperature of 25 degrees Celsius and little seasonal variation. Perhaps one of the least known facts about Mexico is its incredible, nearly unparalleled biodiversity. It is considered one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world (ranking fourth!) and is home to more than 200,000 species of flora and fauna!
Biggest city: Mexico City (20.8 million people)
Religion: Roman Catholic (83% of population)
Famous Mexicans: Frida Kahlo, Guillermo del Toro, Anthony Quinn, Salma Hayek
Currency: Mexican Peso