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Mexico for Culture Vultures

Mexico is a vast and diverse country, with a rich historic heritage. Its population of over 113 million people is formed from a federation of 31 sovereign states that have come together to create a major engine for economic activity and cultural impact in North America.

Anyone visiting Mexico should make sure to look beyond the big cities of Cancun and Mexico City to truly appreciate the wealth of fascinating experiences this country has to offer.

Archaeological riches

Pre-Columbian Mexico was home to many of the world’s most interesting civilizations including the Olmec, Toltec, Mayan and Aztec peoples, dating back to 1500 BC. These civilizations boasted some of the largest cities in the world at the time, and advanced societies that predated Western thinking by millennia and flourished 4000 years before the first contact with Europeans. Indigenous people still form 10% of Mexico’s population, and the influence of these cultures permeates to the modern day.

If archaeology in Mexico grabs your attention, then alongside the popular site of Chichen Itza, Tulum, is worth a visit. The ruins of this city sit amongst thick tropical jungle, backed by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. This ancient Mayan fortress city combines history, and breathtaking natural beauty for an unforgettable experience.

Ancient Skull Wall

Architectural feasts for the eye

Much pre-conquest Mexican architecture was lost when the Spanish came to power in 1512. In particular, the site of Mexico City used to house ancient city of Tenochtitlan, but it was razed to the ground during the conquest. The New Spanish Baroque style came to dominate Mexican architecture during the Spanish occupation; this school of thought found influences from Indian and Arabic decoration and led to some of the grandest buildings in the north of Mexico. In particular the city of Puebla houses the Puebla Cathedral which is renowned as the highest expression within this architectural movement.

Puebla Cathedral

Performances to remember

Western art and culture took root during this time as well. Opera and theatre are still well represented within Mexico. Mexico has dozens of opera companies and Tijuana showcases an “Opera in the Streets” festival. This art form continues to grow in popularity, with attendance in excess of 10,000 fans for the annual event.

Theatre is another thriving cultural pursuit in Mexico. The city of Guanajuato has long been viewed as a centre of cultural influence in no small part due to the “Festival Internacional Cervantino.” This small city in central Mexico hosts this hugely popular festival annually. In 2011 over 3000 artists performed generating almost 500,000 ticket sales and delivering an economic and cultural boom for the region.

Mexico City Opera House

Fun for every taste

If your tastes aren’t exactly highbrow, then no worries—pop culture is thriving in Mexico. Whether it’s Lucha Libre wrestling or pop music, Mexico dances to the beat of its own drum.

For the young at heart, electronic music plays a large part in popular Mexican culture, and the BPM festival held annually in Playa Del Carmen is one of the largest in the world. This event takes place every January, and hosts many of the world most popular electronic artists for ten days of dancing and revelry – Mexican style.

Mexico has long been a favourite of adventurous travellers who want to taste the romance and landscape of this ancient nation. But these days, there’s more to love than ever. What’s your favourite part of visiting Mexico—the music, the cuisine, the beaches? We’d love to hear about it.

Images via Creative Commons: Ancient skull wall, Puebla Cathedral interior, Mexico City opera house