Hey guess which is the oldest university in Mexico?
The National Autonomous University of Mexico.
It was founded in 1551 by Charles the Fifth, a holy Roman Emperor.
Till today, the university stands out as the leading educational institute in the Spanish-speaking world
that produces the highest number of professionals in Mexico.
Christmas is in January?
Mexico is second, only to Brazil in the number of Catholic citizens
But interestingly Mexican children don’t get presents on Christmas Day
Instead, they get them on January 6th.
You know why?
Because this is the day on which Mexicans celebrate the arrival of the three wise men to Bethlehem
after seeing a star above the city.
The meaning behind the star was the birth of their saviour Jesus or Immanuel.
If you can recall, we talked about volcano rabbits yesterday
And how they’re usually found near Mexico’s 450 volcanoes
I actually thought these rabbits were huge
But no! In fact they’re the world’s second smallest rabbits after the Pygmy rabbits.
And just to give you a clearer picture
it has short, thick fur, short legs and small rounded ears
Remember the cartoon character Speedy Gonzales, a mouse that always wore a sombrero and spoke in an exaggerated Mexican accent.
That’s how I came to associate the highly decorated ornamental wide-brimmed hat as thee enduring symbol of the Mexican cultural heritage
But did you know that sombreros first appeared in the 15th century.
Some say they were introduced by mestizo workers who were of Latin and American Indian descent
While others thought it was brought over from Spain
In any case, you can still see sombreros worn most often by members of mariachi bands as a part of their traditional Mexican costumes, and by folk dancers.
Ring of Fire
Mexico is located in the “Ring of Fire,”
one of the earth’s most violent earthquake and volcano zones.
But interestingly, Mexico houses the world’s smallest volcano
standing at just 43 feet tall and has a staircase inside
And if you happen to see furry mammals hopping about
They’re probably the very rare volcano rabbits that live near the Mexican volcanoes.
Help! Mexico’s sinking…
Remember yesterday I mentioned that Mexico City is sinking
Well, that’s because it’s built over the ruins of a great Aztec city, Tenochtitlán.
I hope i got that right!
Because it is built on a lake, Mexico is sinking at a rate of 6 to 8 inches a year
as pumps draw water out for the city’s growing population.
A hodge podge of ancient civilisations
Modern Mexicans are a unique blend of many ancient civilizations,
namely the Olmec, Zapotec, Toltec, Maya, Aztec, Inca, African, French, and Spanish
And talking about the Mayans…
One very interesting but unusual Mayan weapon used in ages past was a “hornet bomb,”
which was an actual hornet’s nest thrown at enemies during battle.
Do you speak Aztec?
Hey let me ask you, what do these words have in common?
Avocado, tomato, guacamole, chilli, and chocolate?
Ok apart from the fact that they’re related to food
These English words actually originated from the Aztec language
Ah! So remember to thank thee Aztecs the next time you sink your teeth into an avocado, a tomato
Or down a spoonful of guacamole, chilli or hot chocolate
The Big Chihuahua
I’m sure you’re aware that the Chihuahua is the world’s smallest dog
But did you know that it’s named after the largest Mexican state, by area?
The Free and Sovereign State of Chihuahua, is one of the 31 states which,
with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico.
Now if your impression of Mexico is that of cactus growing everywhere. You’re wrong!
Cacti simply don’t grow everywhere in Mexico, and definitely not in the middle of the road in Mexico City.
To be honest it’s kind of hard to find them in big cities, unless you visit a northern part of the country or go to a desert.
But, finding a cactus (called nopal) to eat is pretty easy if you like tacos and it’s very tasty too.
Mouthwatering Mexican food
Mexican food is known for its range of flavours and spices.
And fajitas were actually brought to prominence by Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo, who named her restaurant after herself, Nimfa’s.
The dish was simply delish
And very soon, other Mexican restaurants went all out to steal her special recipe by sending spies to her restaurant
Obviously they succeeded in their mission cuz nearly all good Mexican restaurants serve yummy fajitas.
City on a Lake
Mexico is home to over 30 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is a popular tourist destination.
It’s the 14th largest country in the world by land area.
But did you know that Mexico City sinks 10 inches every year
I guess that’s what you get when you build city on a big lake.
Viva La Mexico
Mexico was under the Spanish rule for nearly 300 years until the Mexican people,
led by a priest named Father Hidalgo, rose up against the Spanish on September 16, 1810.
Father Hidalgo is widely considered the father of modern Mexico,
And that… in a nutshell is how the Mexican Independence is celebrated on September 16th.
And what do you say to your Mexican friends?
Viva La Mexico!
The Mexican Flag
Mexico’s flag has three vertical stripes.
The left green stripe stands for hope, while the middle white stripe represents purity, and the right red stripe represents the blood of the Mexican people.
And as for the picture of an eagle eating a snake
Well, legend has it that as a group of Aztec warrior nomads was settling in Mexico. They saw an eagle, which to them represented the sun standing on a cactus, which is a symbol of the heart clutching a snake, which is the symbol of the earth
So that’s how the image came to be depicted on the Mexican flag
Is it a blood sport or is it fine art?
Spanish conquerors brought bullfighting to Mexico,
which is now a national sport of Mexico.
Bullfighting season is usually from November to April,
and the Plaza Mexico is the largest bullring in the world.
Dress well while in Mexico
I didn’t know this before but apparently the Mexican dress code is very strict,
that’s why if you ever visit Mexico you can see men wearing suits even when they’re driving a bus.
People do care how you dress, so if you’re meeting with your Mexican friends tonight
no matter how good you are, how high your social status
Don’t be casual about it and
Do remember to dress nicely.
Did you know that Mexico has 60 indigenous languages which are considered official languages of the country;
Interestingly, only 6% know how to speak the indigenous languages;
Before that, the Spanish colonizers forced the Spanish language to be the official language of Mexico;
So now, Mexico houses the most Spanish speaking population in the world
If you enjoy a delicious cup of frothy hot chocolate, you’ve got the Mexicans to thank for it;
The use of cacao for beverages is historically traced to the Aztecs, where they used the drink for religious rituals or as medicinal treatments;
In fact, on the pacific coast of Chiapas, Mexico, an archaeological site provides evidence of cacao beverages dating back to as early as 1900 BC; and
So before you enjoy your next sip of your favourite hot chocolate, remember to holler “viva la Mexico”!
Day of Taxis
Mexico is probably the only country that celebrates the Day of the Taxis;
On that day, each cab is decorated and driven to the church to receive a blessing (together with the cabby and his family of course); and
While we may not have something similar here in Singapore, the next time you get off a cab, do remember to thank the taxi uncle for bringing you safely to your destination.
Hey it’s Lynette and all this week on Expat Radio 963 XFM, we’re celebrating Mexico’s cry of independence from the Spaniards on September 16th, 1810. So join me on Globe Trekker Monday to Friday 12 to 1 for a one hour special as we celebrate all things Mexican. Yummy food, vibrant dance, music and more. Experience Home Closer only on Expat Radio 96.3XFM