Seeking some new facts about Mexico? Mexico is an extraordinary country in North America that offers extensive coastlines, unique culture, and world class food.
Many people visit Mexico for its warm weather and beautiful beaches. There are so many unique things to know about Mexico from its currency, to long history, and even information about its holidays!
Let’s dig in to some interesting Mexico facts!
Best Facts About Mexico
1. Mexico officially became a country in 1821
Our first fact about Mexico is about its independence. Formerly part of New Spain, Mexico gained independence after a long, bloody war against its colonial overlords to become the First Mexican Empire. It then became the First Mexican Republic in 1824, but today, it’s the United Mexican States.
2. Mexico is where you’ll find the oldest university in North America
It’s called the National University of Mexico, and it was founded in 1551 by Charles V of Spain. It was called Real y Pontificia Universidad de México and operated until 1865. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – established in 1910 – traces its origins to the university, but there’s no real evidence of continuity.
3. Mexican children don’t get presents on Christmas Day
Don’t worry, though; they do get gifts… eventually. Instead of on December 25, they get them on January 6 because, according to tradition, this is when the Three Wise Men rocked up to give baby Jesus his gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Makes sense to us.
4. The first conquest of Mexico was in 1519
But little did the conquistadors of Spain know that their fighting ability wasn’t what won the war. They unwittingly brought with them a smallpox epidemic (that they were immune to) which killed roughly three million native Mexicans. That number is actually thought to be a lot more.
5. The Aztecs thought smallpox was a punishment from god
Having never been exposed to an epidemic like it, the people of the Aztec Empire assumed that it was a punishment from god. They thought the Christian god was more mighty and ultimately led to them accepting Catholicism.
6. Mexico is home to one of the six cradles of civilization
Human civilization in Mexico is thought to date back to at least 8,000 BC. This is where you will find the Olmec, Toltec, Teohuacan, Zapotec, Mayan, and Aztec empires. This puts Mexico up there with the other so-called cradles – Ancient India, Egypt, China, Peru, and Mesopotamia.
7. Mexico City is built on the city of Tenochtitlan
Once an ancient city with a population of around 150,000 people set on an island in the middle of a lake, Tenochtitlan seemed like a suitable place for the Mexican capital. Colonial folks set about filling in the lake, reclaiming land, and building what became Ciudad de Mexico.
8. No one knows what “Mexico” means
No, really – no one agrees on the etymology. Some people say it means “Place Where the God of War Lives” (the war god’s name is Mexi); others say it means “At the Navel of the Moon.” But honestly, nobody knows the truth.
9. It’s a real melting pot
Mexico was a colony of Spain for over 300 years. Over that lengthy period, not only Spanish, but other Europeans – as well as African slaves – joined the population of already differing native ethnic groups.
10. Mexico is the 4th largest nation in the Americas
It turns out that Mexico is pretty big. It covers an area of 2,000,000 square kilometers, which we think is pretty impressive.
11. The US-Mexico border is the second-longest border in the world
Between two countries, that is. It’s second only to the vast line that splits Canada from the United States. To be exact, the US-Mexico border is 3,145 kilometers long.
12. Mexican silver pesos were the first global currency
Using silver mined in Mexico, the colonial government minted a zillion of these silver coins. They were used in Spain, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. In fact, these silver coins – also known as Spanish dollars – are the famous “Pieces of Eight” you hear in pirate stories. They were called pieces of eight because they were worth eight reals – the currency of Mexico.
13. The Mexican flag is very symbolic
Look closely in the middle of the Mexican flag, and you’ll see an eagle with a snake in its mouth perching on the branch of a prickly pear. Legend has it that the Aztecs were told (by the sun god, Huitzilopochtli) to look for a place where this scene was playing out; they found it in the lake that would become Tenochtitlan – nowadays, Mexico City.
14. There’s a rare species of rabbit in Mexico called the Volcano Rabbit
Before you start picturing a Pokemon-esque rabbit-lava hybrid, it’s nothing like that. The Volcano Rabbit (aka teporingo or zacatuche) is a super cute bunny that’s found around Mexico’s volcanic mountains. It’s indigenous to Mexico, it’s endangered, and it’s the second-smallest rabbit in the world after the pygmy rabbit. Did we mention that it’s cute?
15. Mexico is one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries
This country is home to at least a tenth of the world’s biodiversity. That’s around (or more than) 200,000 different species roaming around all the diverse ecosystems that Mexico has to offer. This makes Mexico the fourth most biodiverse country in the world.
16. All beaches in Mexico are public
That includes all the beaches in Cancun, Acapulco, Tulum, Los Cabo – everywhere. They’re all under federal ownership and can be used by anybody. How’s that for democracy?
17. The Aztecs were pretty badass
From 1300 to 1521, the Aztec Empire wasn’t about supreme authority – they just wanted tributes in the form of human sacrifice (and a lot of it). But weirdly, on the battlefield, they tried not to kill their enemies. In this strange way, their empire spanned most of central Mexico.
18. The Aztecs played the oldest known ballgame using a rubber ball
It’s called tlachtli. With variants played throughout Mesoamerica, it was all about using your hips, forearms, or a stick to send a solid rubber ball – some four kilos in weight – flying through a stone hoop at either end of a sunken court. In big matches, losers were sacrificed. The game is still played today – minus the human sacrifice – in the form of ulama in the state of Sinaloa.
19. The developing world’s first climate change bill was passed in Mexico
This is a big deal. Passed in 2012, the climate change bill aims to cut emissions by 50% by 2050, as well as generate 35% of energy via renewable sources. With all that in mind, Mexico is poised to become a leader of the developing world in terms of climate change.
20. But Mexico is heavy on the deforestation
Sadly, this is true. The second-fastest rate of deforestation in the world is going on in Mexico. It’s second only to Brazil’s deforestation. 98% of all deforestation is down to expanding agriculture, not least down to plantations of Mexico’s “green gold” – the sought-after avocado.
21. Mexican food is all about its native delights
Foodstuffs like avocado, tomato, cacao, chili peppers, bell peppers, beans, zucchini, and guava can all be found growing freely throughout the country. No wonder Mexican food is just so damn tasty.
22. The first public park in the Americas was established in Mexico
Seems like the colonial Spanish were into beautifying the fledgling urban centers of New Spain a lot more than the establishment of New England. In 1592, Viceroy Luis de Velasco II decided that the residents of Mexico City needed a public green space to chill out in, so he commissioned the Alameda Central – named after alamos or poplar trees planted here. Boston Common, the United States’ first park, was built in 1640.
23. Chihuahuas are named after the Mexican state of the same name
The smallest dog breed in the world, the chihuahua (of course) is named after Chihuahua in Mexico. Both archeological and folkloric evidence point to tiny pooches existing way back when; the centuries-old Techichi is thought to be an ancestor.
24. But the national dog is the Xoloitzcuintli
A whatchamacallit? Yep, a Xoloitzcuintli – aka the Mexican Hairless Dog. Its real name is a mash-up of the Xolotl – the Aztec god of lightning and death (naturally) – and itzcuīntli, the Aztec word for dog. To be fair, it looks pretty fearsome, so we think it deserves the name.
25. A lot of United States was once Mexico
After the Mexico America War (1946-49), there was what’s called the Mexican Cession. This essentially means that a whole bunch of Mexico became US territory. We’re talking Nevada, Utah, almost all of Arizona, roughly a quarter of Colorado, half of New Mexico, and even a little bit of Wyoming.
26. Even Texas was part of Mexico
This just gives you an inkling as to how big Mexico really was. Formerly the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas, Texas declared its independence after a revolution in 1836, and was granted US statehood in 1845.
27. The most bullrings in the world are to be found in Mexico
Mexico has around 225 bullrings, and it’s all thanks to those centuries of Spanish colonial rule. November to April is bullfighting season, in case you were wondering. The largest bullring in the world is also in The Plaza de Toros México (seating a cool 41,262 people). Boxing takes place here too, so it’s not just one blood sport.
28. There was once a war fought in Mexico called the Pastry War
Also known under the official, much more sensible title “the Franco-Mexican War.” Fought for three months from 1838 to 1839, it was all about French imports and exports. French goods had higher taxes, and the Mexicans weren’t going to take it sitting down. Hence the pastry bit.
29. Mexico is the world’s largest Spanish-speaking country
To be precise (or sort of, anyway) that’s around 130,222,815 speakers of Spanish. Spain, where Spanish literally came from, has less than half this number – 47,003,901. Spanish speakers are officially known as Hispanophones.
30. There’s a whole lot more to Mexico than Spanish
There are 68 linguistic groups and 364 varieties of indigenous languages. We’re talking from Yucatec Maya all the way to Nahuatl (which is as close to Aztec as you can get). Not only indigenous languages either; low German, a north German dialect resembling Dutch, is also spoken, as well as variants of the Venetian language.
31. Frida Kahlo is Mexico’s most famous artist
She was also the partner of another famous Mexican artist, Diego Rivera, but Kahlo was in a league of her own, with a unique style and many colorful, sensuous self-portraits. You can visit her former home in a cool suburb of Mexico City. It’s called La Casa Azul and is now a museum dedicated to the incredible artist and her equally incredible life.
32. The Americas’ first printing press was established in Mexico City
In 1539, King Charles V of Spain (yes, the same guy who established Mexico’s first university) granted permission for Juan Zumárraga, Archbishop of Mexico City at the time, to import a printing press from Europe. You can still see it at the Casa de la Primer Imprenta de América, or the House of the First Printing Press of America, where it first arrived and where it’s been for all these years.
33. Mexico City is sinking
Yeah, building a city on land reclaimed 500 years ago in the middle of a lake is probably not a good idea. As the demand for water grows, authorities are pumping more water out of the lake, further destabilizing the land. The result? The Mexican capital is sinking at a yearly rate of around 6-8 inches, which is pretty insane.
34. Chichen Itza is one of the Seven Wonders of the World
It dates back to somewhere between the 8th and 10th centuries AD and is visited by over 2.6 million tourists annually. It’s beautiful. And, according to some lists, it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Weirdly, the land beneath this ancient marvel was privately owned until 2010, when the Yucatan government finally purchased it for good.
35. Mexico City has a lot of taxis
With over 100,000 taxis, Mexico City easily has the largest fleet of taxis out of any city in the world. This armada of taxis serves the population of 9,000,000. Though you associate somewhere like New York City with taxis because they’re iconic, the Big Apple only has 14,000 taxis chugging around the streets.
Plan and Pack for Mexico
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Mexico so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps here is perfectly safe to drink. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well.
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
A cover-up is one of those beach vacation clothes you should always travel within your luggage. When packing for a day at the beach, make sure you don’t forget one. Not only do they look cute, but they will also protect you from the suns harsh rays.
Many establishments don’t allow beachgoers to wear just a swimsuit, so this is where the cover-up is essential. Most of my cover-ups come from Pitusa.
This all depends on where you’re heading to the beach, but a portable Bluetooth speaker is great to have when you’re in a group. We travel with a small BOOM speaker and take it with us when it feels appropriate. We say this because it’s often best to leave it at home on small secluded beaches so not to annoy anyone else with your music — no one’s that good of a DJ.
If you’re wondering what travel necessities to bring to Mexico then good walking shoes should be your top concern.
No matter what you will need a beach bag when heading to the beach. This is to throw in anything like towels, a book, a speaker, sunglasses, snacks, and sunscreen. As full-time travelers, we often use our daypacks for trips to the beach since a tote is unnecessary.
However, a classic tote that everyone has in their closet is a great option for those on short trips or live close to the beach. They also travel well as they can fold flat and lie in your luggage. For family beach goers I recommend a large yet durable beach tote like this one.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Mexico. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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