Get the Backstory on Mexican Culture!
Interested in learning about Mexican culture? Here are People Are Culture’s bird’s-eye-view of highlights of Mexican culture, and a collection of stories and interviews about the vibrant traditions of three states: Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Quintana Roo. We also share insights from locals about San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, and feature commentary from Huichol artisans from the state of Jalisco.
Mexico is a federation of 31 states in a territory that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea in the east to the Pacific Ocean to the west—so Mexican culture is hugely diverse and multi-faceted. One of the world’s seven “cradles of civilization,” Mexico was home to many advanced Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Olmec, Toltec, Zapotec, Mayan, and Aztec; the country’s Pre-Colombian history dates to 8,000 B.C. Visits to historical sites are not the only way to appreciate the cultures of the indigenous people of Mexico; many communities have preserved their ancient traditions and way of life.
The indigenous people of Mexico were conquered by the Spanish in the early 16th century; their colonial reign lasted for 300 years, until the Mexican War of Independence in the early 19th century. A legacy of “New Spain” is the rich Spanish Colonial architecture; Mexico has 29 sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Explore Mexican Culture with Our Interviews and Profiles
We share with you some of the traditions of Mexico and how the country’s heritage practices are very much alive and well today, and accessible to travelers. In our interviews, stories, guides, and videos, we present how Mexican culture is brought to life by indigenous artisans, pioneering activists and innovators, dedicated preservationists, spiritual seekers, global visionaries, and a host of others, who each relate their inspiration, process, techniques, and heritage. You’ll also learn about their personal epiphanies, challenges, breakthroughs, and hopes for the future–for at the heart of all culture is our shared human condition.
We are willing to bet that when you read one of our stories about the people of Mexico, you will learn something new…and you will recognize yourself. Welcome, and enjoy! And check out our sister YouTube channel Flip the Lens, where people from all walks of life create and contribute videos about what it means to be a human!
Discover the Mexican Culture of Chiapas
Chiapas is another of Mexico’s 31 states, located in the country’s southwest, bordering Guatemala, and also home to Mayan ruins, as well as one of the largest populations of indigenous people of Mexico. Cristóbal de las Casas, a city in its Central Highlands region, was the capital of the state until 1892 and is still considered the cultural capital of Chiapas.
Just outside Cristóbal de las Casas is San Juan Chamula, where the Tzotzil people preserve a faith that mixes Mayan mythology with Catholic tradition.
Chiapa de Corzo is a small city situated in the Grijalva River valley of the Chiapas highlands, some 15 kilometers to the east of the state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez. One of the most enthralling aspects of Mexican culture is its colorful festivals. Chiapa de Corzo’s Fiesta Grande takes place from January 4 to 23 every year and its dance of the Parachicos is an exuberant highlight.
San Juan Chamula Community Shares But Protects Traditions
Visit the town of San Juan Chamula in Chiapas Highlands to experience the Tzotzil community’s spiritual blend of Catholicism and shamanism.
Uncovering Chiapas Culture with the Hero of Chiapas, Mexico
Learning about Chiapas culture in Mexico’s San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Patricia Ferrer worked with “big man” Sergio Castro.
Artisans of Oaxaca are Standard-Bearers of Mexican Culture
The colorful, vibrant state of Oaxaca is an epicenter of Mexican culture, and known for the cuisine and handicrafts of its indigenous people, of which the Zapotecs are the largest group. Located in Mexico’s southwest, Oaxaca is also the home to two important archaeological ruins, the extensive site of Monte Alban and the smaller but impressive Mitla.
The capital city, which also bears the name of Oaxaca, has a lovely historic center with a tree-lined Zolcala and several magnificent colonial churches that earned the site recognition from UNESCO as being of “outstanding universal value.” About 45 miles east of Oaxaca in the Sierra Madres is Hierve el Agua (Spanish for “the water boils”), where clifftop springs laden with calcium carbonate have created petrified waterfalls.
The handicraft traditions in Mexico are world-renowned for their artistry, ingenuity, craftsmanship, and symbolism. Oaxaca in particular has a robust artisanal scene, with many of the communities in the Central Valley area surrounding the capital city known for specific folk art. The village of Santa Ana del Valle is home to numerous workshops of skilled weavers who produce exquisite woolen textiles. San Bartolo Coyotepec’s “Barro negro” or black clay has been a source of distinctive pottery since Time Immemorial. San Martin Tilcajete is the epicenter of Alebrijes, whimsical wooden creatures that are ornately carved and imaginatively painted.
An Interview with Zapotec artisan Carlomagno Pedro Martinez
An interview with Carlomagno Pedro Martinez who is a Zapotec artisan and a founder of the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular de Oaxaca.
Zapotec People of Oaxaca, Weavers Since Pre-Hispanic Times
The Zapotec people are known for their traditional rug weaving. Meet father and son tradition-bearers and learn how they define their work.
Alebrijes Workshop Is At The Heart Of Oaxaca Valley Community
Mexican folk artists Jacobo and Maria Angeles of Oaxaca are renowned for their distinctive alebrijes wood carvings. Get the back story here.
San Miguel de Allende is the Vibrant Center of Mexican Culture
San Miguel de Allende is another major hub of Mexican culture. San Miguel is located in the east of the Mexican state of Guanajuato, which is about a four-hour drive northwest of Mexico City. The Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1542, setting off more than a century of conflict with the indigenous people. The colonists brought Catholicism with them and the settlement is named after Franciscan Monk named Juan de San Miguel.
San Miguel’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed. In the mid-16th century, it had become a trading center for silver discovered in the area. The textile industry flourished and the prosperity fueled the construction of stunning mansions and palaces. The 17th and 18-century Colonial buildings are preserved in a 106-acre section of San Miguel designated in 2008 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the city’s fortunes waned with the eruption of the Mexican War of Independence. The second half of the city’s name comes from Ignacio Allende, a locally-born national hero of Spanish descent. A leader in the Mexican Independence movement, Allende was eventually beheaded for treason by the Spanish. In the 1940s, San Miguel enjoyed a renaissance with the creation of Instituto Allende, an art school that has attracted a large population of retired ex-pats. Today, San Miguel is frequently voted as “one of the best cities in the world” by travelers, thanks to its colonial architecture and artsy vibe.
San Miguel de Allende | The Real Story Of Who Put It On The Map
San Miguel de Allende is where the iconic art school Instituto Allende is, which has propelled the town into a renowned cultural epicenter.
Mayan Masks Featured at Another Face of Mexico Mask Museum
Mayan masks are discussed with founder of San Miguel mask museum, Another Face of Mexico. Hear about Mexican indigenous customs.
Mayan Sites of Yucatan Peninsula Are Highlight of Mexican Culture
The Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico is home to three Mexican states: Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan. The isthmus separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea and is made almost entirely of limestone, a geological landscape that has created more than 6,000 cenotes. These mysterious azure pools had spiritual significance for the ancient Maya, and get their name from the Yucatec Maya word ts’onot, which refers to any location with accessible groundwater.
The indigenous people of Mexico left a stunning legacy of mysterious and impressive architecture. The compact Mayan ruin of Tulum can be found in Quintana Roo; its cliff-side location overlooking the Caribbean is picturesque but strategic as the city was a major trading hub for the Maya.
Chichen Itza in Riviera Maya, one of the largest Mayan cities, is located about two hours northwest of Tulum, in the interior of the state of Yucatan in Mexico. The site was populated for about a thousand years, from approximately 415 to 1440 A.D., and its architecture spans numerous styles of both the Mayan and Toltec, who took the city in the 10th century.
The Yucatan is a must for anyone interested in the Mayan heritage of Mexican culture.
Mayan Shaman, History and Cosmos Vision Are Revealed Through Culture
A Mayan shaman reveals his knowledge about Mayan culture, cosmos, Mayan healing practices and Mayan spiritual beliefs in this interview.
Another Dimension of Mexican Culture in Huichol Heartland
Home for most of the Huichol people is an area that is about 60 miles east of San Blas north of Guadalajara in central northwest Mexico. This territory is in remote mountains and plateaus in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas. This 4100 square kilometer area spans the ridges of the Western Sierra Madre, at an altitude ranging between 1000 - 3000 meters. The center of the Huichol heartland is the vicinity around the village of Santa Catarina.
The Huichol (which in their own language is Wixárika or “the healers”) live largely in scattered, extended family settlements. They are deeply spiritual, and the artwork the Huichol create is a way for them to share their beliefs.
We hope you enjoy this glimpse of the rich diversity of Mexican culture!