There’s so much more to the world’s most populous Spanish-speaking country than the tasty food, historic ruins, and endless stretches of golden beaches. The rich culture and long history make Mexico a country full of wonder.
If you’ve ever visited Mexico or plan on going there, here are 43 Mexico fun facts you need to know. You’ll be surprised by number 37!
43 Fun facts about Mexico to Share With Your Friends
This post is part of a series of fun facts posts I'm doing for every country I have articles about here on the blog. Given their nature, these posts are research-based, and even though a lot of time has gone into them, it's still possible a mistake has snuck in. If you see something that looks incorrect, please let me know at wanderer [at] wonderfulwanderings.com and I'll look into it. Thanks!
Impress your friends at your next dinner party with these fascinating and interesting facts about Mexico.
1. Mexico City (CDMX), previously known as The Federal District, is one of the America's biggest metropolises. The metropolitan area of the capital city is home to 22 million people. Mexico City is also one of the world’s wealthiest cities.
2. Mexico has 32 states, each with its own laws, regulations, and police. Did you know that Mexico is officially called the Estados Unidos Mexicanos or the United Mexican States?
The 32 states are: Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur , Campeche, Coahuila, Colima, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, Mexico City, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán, and Zacatecas.
3. Mexico City is the America’s oldest city, with an elevation of 2,240 meters. But the city is sinking! Modern-day Mexico City was built over the ruins of the great Aztec city Tenochitlàn, which was on a lake. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they drained the lake to build the new city, but the clay beneath remained.
Over time this clay is drying out, which causes the city to sink; it’s currently sinking at a rate of around 4cm per year.
4. Mexico is home to North America’s oldest university. The National Autonomous University of Mexico was founded in 1551 by a Royal Decree signed by Charles I of Spain (Charles V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) in Valladolid in Spain. The National University is consistently ranked as one of the best in Latin America and has one of the largest student enrollment numbers.
5. Another cool fact about Mexico is that the jungles of the country are home to around 4,800 jaguars – North America’s largest big cat. Due to conservation efforts, the number of wild jaguars has grown over the last decade.
6. On the subject of animals…did you know that the world’s smallest dog breed is the Chihuahua which comes from the Mexican state with the same name?
7. Mexico is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, with over 108,000 species of plants and animals. Approximately 10% of the world’s biodiversity is in Mexico.
8. Unfortunately, Mexico suffers from one of the highest rates of deforestation, with a third of its land severely degraded. However, there are several initiatives in place to reduce this decline in forests as focus turns towards restoration projects.
9. Spanish may be the language you associate with Mexico, but the Mexican government recognizes 68 national languages. 63 of those languages are indigenous, and there are over 350 different dialects of each one. Sadly, many indigenous languages are becoming extinct and may disappear in the following decades.
In the 1917 Mexican constitution, Spanish isn’t even defined as an official language. The country is defined as multicultural and recognizes the rights of indigenous people to protect their languages.
10. Mexico is home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including dozens of archeological ruins, historical towns, ancient Mayan cities, and natural wonders such as the Archipiélago de Revillagigedo, Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
11. There are over 200 ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico, the most famous being Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Penisula. Chichen Itza is one of the New 7 Wonders of The World. In Maya Chichen Itza means “at the brim of the well where the wise men of the water live.”
12. Mexico’s Great Pyramid of Cholula is the world’s largest pyramid. Located in Cholula, Puebla, it’s thought the pyramid was built as a dedication to the god Quetzalcoatl. It’s much shorter than the Pyramid of Giza but much wider, 300 meters wide, in fact.
13. Mexican Spanish has evolved to become quite different from Castillian (Spanish spoken in Spain). The accent is different, as are about 10% of words; Mexican Spanish also sounds much softer than the version spoken in the European country.
14. Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City) has the largest number of museums in the world. It boasts more than 180 museums. The capital city was also coined the city of palaces by German explorer Alexander Von Humboldt due to the city’s vast number of palaces and mansions.
15. While Mexican immigrants arriving in the US for work is a well-told news story, US citizens make up the largest group of foreign immigrants in Mexico. More than 750,000 US citizens live in Mexico, and US citizens make up Mexico’s largest foreign born population.
16. The ancient civilizations of Mexico lasted for around 2,500 years. Then in the 16th century, Hernan Cortes and a group of Spanish Conquistadores arrived in Veracruz. The Spanish attacked the Aztecs, and after a lot of fighting, New Spain was born in 1521. The Conquistadores called it the Viceroyalty of New Spain and ruled over Mexico for 300 years.
17. The colors of the Mexican flag were adopted after independence from Spain during the Mexican War of Independance (1810-1821). One of the lesser-known facts about the Mexico flag is that the eagle in the middle comes from the ancient Aztec symbol for the center of the Aztec Empire – Tenochitlàn.
18. Here’s one of the fun cultural facts about Mexico: in celebration of Mexican independence day, a dish of Mexican flag colors is often served. It’s called Chile en Nogada and is stuffed green chiles in a creamy white walnut sauce, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.
19. The word burrito means “little donkey” in Spanish and possibly comes from the way a burrito can hold a lot inside, just like a donkey can carry a heavy load. While Mexican food (including burritos) is considered one of the most famous things about Mexico outside the country, burritos are only eaten in the northern states.
20. Agave is the plant used to make tequila and mescal, and it has a flower stalk that can reach up to 12 meters in the air. Tequila comes from blue agave, and mescal from white agave.
21. Mexico is home to dozens of tropical plant species, including hundreds of cactus varieties. There are approximately 563 different types of cacti growing in Mexico.
22. The most important national holiday in Mexico is Dia de la Independence or Anniversario de la Independence celebrated on September 16.
23. While Mexico is a predominantly Catholic country and celebrates Christmas, Mexican children don’t receive their presents until the 6th of January, the day of the three kings. Families get together for a feast and eat the Rosca de Reyes (Kings’ Cake) which has a small baby Jesus figure hidden inside! Whoever gets the piece of cake with Jesus must host the next fiesta.
24. Mexico is known for its world class food, and the national dish is mole which is a thick sauce made from chillis, tomatoes, and spices. There are many variations of this traditional Mexican cuisine which originated in the Oaxaca and Puebla regions of the country.
25. More than 60 types of chili are produced in Mexico; no wonder authentic Mexican food is on the spicy side!
26. Over 7,000 km of coastline on the Pacific side, makes Mexico’s west coast a paradise for surfers. It boasts some of the most consistent and uncrowded waves in the world.
27. It’s the world’s 7th most visited country, with 45 million foreign tourists visiting Mexico annually. Tourism counts for approximately 8.7% of Mexico’s economy.
28. Mexico sends about 80% of its exports to the US, which includes petroleum products, steel, electrical, and transport equipment. It’s also the world’s largest beer exporter, producing 28% of the world’s beer!
29. Mexican farmers produce 3% of global corn, primarily white corn, for human consumption. The country imports 16 million tonnes of yellow corn from the US each which is used for feeding livestock and for industrial purposes.
30. At 3,531 meters high, Raíces is Mexico’s highest town, with a population of 500. It’s also one of the highest towns in the world that you can reach by car.
31. As part of Mexican culture, heartfelt greetings are important, whether it’s a warm hug or kiss on the cheek, Mexican people are incredibly friendly.
32. Huiplies or hipiles are the traditional dresses worn by Mexican women. They are usually white with colorfully embroidered flowers and greenery. The garments come from a traditional Mayan dress called the Kub.
33. Ever wondered what the difference is between the Aztec and Mayan civilizations? The Aztecs lived in central Mexico between the 14th and 16th centuries, and today’s Mexico City was the Aztec capital and center of their Empire. The Mayans were present across the north of central America and the south of Mexico from 2600 BC and had a much more advanced linguistic system than the Aztecs.
34. The history of chocolate and its creation from the cacao bean can be traced back to the Mayan civilizations of southern Mexico.
35. A Mexico City fun fact: at the heart of the historic center you’ll find the El Zocalo or Plaza de la Constitución, which is one of the America’s largest squares. It’s even one of the largest squares in the world.
36. Cinco de Mayo is only celebrated in the Puebla region as it marks the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, a military victory in 1862 over the French forces of Napoleon III who invaded Mexico.
37. Urique in Mexico’s Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua is one of the most remote places on earth. It’s a former mining village that requires a descent of 15 kilometers down a road in the steep canyon. If you don’t feel so adventurous, another picturesque Mexican city worth a visit is Xilitla, an isolated hillside community known for its beautiful Las Pozas gardens.
38. Poet Octavio Paz from Mexico City won the Nobel prize in literature in 1990. He is considered one of the most important Latin American poets of the 20th century. He’s famous for his poems about love and the fate of man, as well as his essay El Laberinto de la Soledad (The Labyrinth of Solitude), which is about the Mexican psyche.
39. Not only does Mexico have an expansive coastline and thousands of beaches, but it’s home to 47,539 mountains. The highest is Pico de Orizaba which is 5,636m tall and the third-highest peak on the continent.
40. The famous Dia de Los Muertos is actually a celebration of life, not death. Celebrated on the 1st or 2nd of November and comes from the ancient belief that new life comes from death. The day is a chance to remember and celebrate the lives of departed loved ones.
41. Here’s some more Mexico trivia! With a 9,330-kilometer coastline, the country inevitably has some islands, over 100 in fact. The most famous Mexican island tourist destinations are Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, and Isla Holbox where you can swim with whale sharks. Guadalupe Island on Mexico’s Pacific Coast is one of the most remote islands off Mexico and is home to schools of great white sharks.
42. Mexico lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire which is a region around the rim of the Pacific Ocean with a tendency for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. There are over 40 active volcanos in Mexico.
43. Let's end with one of the most fun facts about Mexico City! It has the largest park in Latin America, the Chapultepec Forest which is twice as big as Central Park in New York. In the park, you’ll find walking, running, and bike trails, as well as some of Mexico City’s most prestigious museums such as the Modern Art Museum. The park is also home to the Chapultepec zoo.
Are you planning a trip to Mexico?
Are you planning to visit Mexico? If you're looking for a great place to stay in Mexcio, check out some of the best hotels in Mexico here. Iberostar has 11 hotels and resorts in Mexico which make the perfect base for exploring this incredible country.
Which of these interesting facts about Mexico did you enjoy most? Are any other important facts about Mexico that should be on the list, what do you think makes Mexico so special? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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