Mexico is one of the top ten tourist destinations in the world. But there’s a lot that you probably don’t know about this popular country. For one, the country’s official name isn’t even Mexico! The official name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, or, the United Mexican States.
32 states make up the United Mexican States, including Mexico City, which serves double duty as a state and capital city. Let’s dive into some of the most interesting and unbelievable fun facts about Mexico and its food, culture, and history!
Fun Facts About Mexico
1. Mexico Is Home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Although a lot of visitors may never stray beyond Mexico’s beautiful beaches and resort towns, Mexico has a wealth of sites of cultural and historical significance. In fact, it has been honored with 35 UNESCO World Heritage Site designations!
These break down into 27 cultural site designations, which range from the Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen Itza, to the Historic Centre of Puebla, to the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila. It’s much more than just ancient ruins; these sites have so much to offer visitors today!
Mexico has six natural site designations, including the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino.
The Ancient Maya City and Protected Tropical Forests of Calakmul, Campeche is one of two mixed sites in Mexico. Mixed sites have both cultural and natural significance.
2. Real Tequila Only Comes From Mexico
Remember that agave and tequila facilities were on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list?
Just as the world’s most expensive champagne – and the only true champagne! – can only come from the Champagne region of France, real tequila can only come from Mexico. And there are even more specifics that need to be met in order to legally use the name of tequila.
The liquor has to be made from 100% Blue Weber agave. And it can only be produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco, with some approved locations in Michoacán, Nayarit, Guanajuato, and Tamaulipas.
Spirits that are made from agave but are not 100% Blue Weber agave are classified as mezcal. So, tequila is a very specific and special type of mezcal ¡Salud!
3. Mexicans Generally Don’t Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
In the United States, many people erroneously think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, akin to the 4th of July. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. May 5th commemorates an important Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Puebla, the site of that victorious battle, but is not generally celebrated throughout Mexico.
The real Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th. On this date in 1810, an uprising began that kicked off an 11-year war between Mexico and Spain. The war finally ended on August 24th, 1821, when Spain recognized Mexico as an independent nation.
4. A Movie Made Puerto Vallarta a Major Tourist Destination
Prior to the filming of The Night of the Iguana, Puerto Vallarta was a quiet fishing village. But that all changed when Puerto Vallarta was chosen as the filming site for this movie. Now, Puerto Vallarta is one of the most visited destinations in Mexico.
The real buzz stemmed from the off-screen love affairs of leading man Richard Burton. Although he was married to another woman, his famous love affair with Elizabeth Taylor continued here as she moved to Puerto Vallarta to be with him during filming.
Today, Puerto Vallarta is one of the top tourist destinations in Mexico and a major cruise port along the Mexican Riviera. Visitors love the vibrant colors of the city and the stunning natural attractions of Puerto Vallarta.
5. Mole Is Considered To Be an Official National Dish of Mexico
Mole (pronounced MOH-lay, not to be confused with the burrowing animal) is a complex sauce involving chocolate, several types of chiles, spices, and even dried fruits and nuts. The word comes from the Nahuatl word mōlli.
The Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca each claim to have created mole. While the best-known varieties of mole come from these states, there are many varieties of mole across Mexico.
The making of mole is a very laborious and time-intensive process, and some recipe versions can contain 30 or more ingredients.
Mole is associated with celebrations and is often served at happy events like weddings and baptisms.
6. The Largest Pyramid in the World Is Located in Mexico
Although Egypt is famous for its pyramids, the world’s largest pyramid is actually located in Mexico! Guinness World Records documents the Great Pyramid of Cholula as the world’s largest pyramid (by volume).
The pyramid is thought to have been a temple dedicated to Quetzalcóatl, the Aztec god of rain and wind. Most of this pyramid is now hidden under a hill, camouflaged by time and nature.
Not knowing that the hill was actually the site of an immense pyramid, the invading Spaniards built a Catholic church on the hilltop. And this is where the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios stands today.
Today, you can tour the Great Pyramid of Cholula and step back in time as you wander through the excavated tunnels of the pyramid.
There are many other pyramids in Mexico that you can visit, including the famous El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza. Even if you’re headed to the famous resorts of the Yucatán, there are plenty of nearby pyramids to visit. Note that Mexican pyramids typically have flat tops, not pointed peaks like the Egyptian pyramids.
Read More: 18 Best Places to Visit in Yucatán
7. Mexico Is the Largest Beer Exporter in the World
Belgium and Germany may be famous for their beers, but it is actually Mexico that exports the greatest amount of beer in the world.
Corona is the most popular brand of Mexican beer consumed abroad, along with the brands of Tecate, Dos Equis, and Sol.
Not surprisingly, the United States is the largest consumer of Mexican beer, with over 4 billion dollars of beer imported from Mexico annually. Australia and China come in a far distant second and third.
8. Jacques Cousteau Called the Sea of Cortez ‘the World’s Aquarium’
Also known as the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez is the body of water nestled in between mainland Mexico and the Baja California peninsula.
Famous marine explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau once called the Sea of Cortez ‘the World’s Aquarium’ due to its incredible diversity of marine life. The Sea of Cortez contains 39% of the marine species in the world, and nearly 900 species of fish.
For these reasons, it is one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage sites (Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California).
The Sea of Cortez is one of the top spots for whale watching, as sightings of blue whales, orcas, and humpback whales are common in these waters. Whale watching is one of the top activities when visiting destinations such as Cabo San Lucas.
9. Mexico Was Home to the First Printing Press in the Americas
You may know that Johannes Gutenberg is recognized as the inventor of the movable-type printing press. But did you know that the first printing press in the Americas was located in Mexico City?
The printing press was brought from Europe to Mexico in 1539, and was set up in Casa de la Primer Imprenta de América (the House of the First Printing Press of the Americas). This was actually a century before the first printing press was brought to the United States (which were British colonies, at the time).
10. Mexico Celebrates Carnaval in a Big Way
Hundreds of Mexican towns and cities celebrate Carnaval, the festival period leading up to Lent. Carnaval festivities typically start with the burning of a ‘mal humor’ (bad mood) effigy and feature parades, concerts, street entertainment, and the crowning of Carnaval royalty.
The Carnaval celebration in Veracruz is Mexico’s largest and longest festival, with multiple parades and concerts.
The oldest celebration of Carnaval in Mexico is held in Mazatlán, which celebrates its 125th Carnaval in 2023. One of Mazatlán’s highlights of Carnaval are its monigotes, giant paper-mâché sculptures decorated in vibrant colors.
Facts About Mexico
So, did you know any of these interesting fun facts about Mexico? While this list isn’t exhaustive, these are some of the most interesting details about Mexico to know before you visit. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to visit some of the destinations mentioned here!
Although she works full-time in the semiconductor industry, Lisa fits in as much travel as possible throughout the year. Her travel blog, Waves and Cobblestones, is chock-full of city guides and destination tips to help you make the most of your vacation time. Lace up your shoes and let’s go!