If there’s one thing you can say about Mexico, it’s that it's fun. From its fascinating ancient cultures to its colourful celebrations and delicious food, there’s always something new and interesting to find out about Mexico.
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The Olmecs emerged around 1200 B.C.E. as Mexico’s first complex society. They are famous for carving gigantic, helmet-clad heads out of stone. Many of these stone heads can be seen today at Mexico’s museums and cultural sites.
The Aztecs, another important ancient indigenous group, were a nomadic people until one day they were wandering around a lake and saw an eagle perched on a cactus holding a snake in its claws. The Aztecs interpreted this as a sign from their god Huitzilopochtli that this was where they should make their permanent home. The area where they settled is now Mexico City, and an image of the eagle on the cactus holding the snake is at the centre of the Mexican flag.
The Mayans were a great civilisation that flourished on the Yucatán Peninsula mostly between the years 250 and 900 C.E. The Mayans invented a complex writing system and were avid astronomers who learnt to predict solar eclipses and the movements of the sun.
Spanish explorers arrived in Mexico in the early 16th century and conquered these ancient civilisations. Most Mexicans today are “mestizos,” meaning that their ancestors were a mix of people from these ancient civilisations and people who came from Spain.
Most people have eaten a Mexican taco before, but how many have tried a taco de cabeza (cow’s head taco) or a taco de lengua (tongue taco)? In Mexico, these are just two of the many exotic taco flavours that you’ll find.
Speaking of unusual foods, in the southern state of Oaxaca, people like to snack on chapulines, or fried grasshoppers. In others areas, people make meals out of beetles or worms. Another unusual food item that people eat all over Mexico is nopal, or cactus paddle. Of course, the spines are cut off the paddle before it is eaten.
In Mexico, there is a Children’s Day, or Día del Niño, and it’s celebrated each year on April 30 with parties and fun events for kids. Another colourful celebration in Mexico is Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which is actually a two-day event on Nov. 1 and 2. It’s a time to honour one’s deceased ancestors by decorating their gravesites and building colourful shrines.
Mexico has an incredible diversity of animal life, but none has a more astounding tale to tell than the monarch butterfly. Each winter, millions of the tiny critters fly thousands of miles from their summering grounds the United States and Canada to nest in the mountains of the Mexican state of Michoacan.
Another interesting animal in Mexico is a prehistoric-looking, salamander-like creature called the axolotl, which some people call the "water monster." The Aztecs believed the creature was a transformed version of Xolotl, their god of death, lightning and monsters. It lives in a series of canals in southern Mexico City.
The ancient Aztecs played a ball game in which they tried to knock a ball through an elevated stone hoop using only their hips, head, knees and elbows. A version of the game, now known as ulama, is still played in some areas.
Another fun sporting tradition is lucha libre, or Mexican wrestling, in which some wrestlers wear colourful masks. To have one's mask torn off by an opponent in the ring is the ultimate humiliation for a masked wrestler. By far, however, the most popular sport in Mexico today is soccer, known as futbol.
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