Mexico is often considered to be either a beach resort destination or a wonderland for drug lords. However, the majority of people don’t know the truth about Mexico, its culture and people. Their opinion is based on stereotypes and therefore they’re scared to go to Mexico. Below I present the answers to 11 misconceptions about Mexico – a country that I definitely recommend to both: visit and live in.
1 – Mexico’s real name is: United Mexican States
Mexico is divided into 31 states, plus the Federal District. Each state has its own law regulations and police, similar to how it works in the United States of America. When staying in a different state your phone is practically in roaming.
2 – Problems with the name of the capital
Right, the majority of people think that the capital of Mexico is Mexico City. However, that’s only partially true. The actual capital is Distrito Federal (DF) – Federal District. Mexico City metropolitan area, on the other hand, lies withing the whole DF and parts of the State of Mexico. Therefore, only inhabitants of DF, not the whole Mexico City can say they live in the capital.
3 – Mexican food abroad is not actually Mexican
Everyone seems to love Mexican food, that recently has been classified an irreplaceable cultural heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Although… outside of Mexico people tend not to consume the real Mexican food, but Tex-Mex. In Mexico noone actually eats burritos aca Chipotle style (I know that in northern Mexico burritos are popular, however I meant burritos from the US fast food chains), moreover filled with rice. Moreover, most Mexican food is not spicy hot – it’s actually sour due to the amount of limes on everything (in Mexican simply called lemons). Spicy salsas and served on the side.
4 – Mexicans don’t always have darker skin
When my friends look through my photos taken during my stay in Mexico very often I heard ‘he/she doesn’t look Mexican’. Assuming that all Mexicans have dark skin and black hair is a huge mistake, because not ALL Mexicans are darker. There are plenty of Mexicans that are as white as Eastern Europeans. Moreover, especially in big cities such as Mexico City exists a huge Jewish community or there are others with European heritage and therefore those people have white skin tone too. [It's not racist, it's nothing bad! It's simply a statement reffering to a fact that plenty of times foreigners were surprised seeing my Mexican friends that looked like Europeans - they simply couldn't believe that anyone from Mexico can look like this]
5 – Mexican Spanish is way different
As mentioned in my previous note on Mexican slang, Mexican Spanish is way different. Opposite to the majority of Latin American places in Mexico torta doesn’t mean a cake, it’s a sandwich. Also, sope is not a soup, but so-called ‘Mexican pizza’ (by ‘pizza’ I mean that of course it’s not a pizza, but it reminds them of the concept of pizza – dough, salsa, topping).
6 – Mexico is actually safer than most people think it is
According to US travel advisory: ‘Mexico City (also known as the Federal District): No advisory is in effect. See also the discussion in the section on Estado de Mexico for areas within the greater Mexico City metropolitan area.’
I agree completely. The place is actually safer than some of the big cities in America or even Europe. Of course bad things happens, like anywhere else in the world, but in Mexico most of the homicides happen between the drug mafias, not regular citizens.
7 – Mexico is not a third world country
The term ‘third world’ was invented during the cold war as a geo-political division of countries aligned with the US (1st World), the Soviet Union (2nd World), or neither (3rd world / non-aligned). Given that the Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore, Cuba considered themselves “non-aligned,” and China was revealed to have split from the Soviets long ago, the term didn’t even make sense then, so why would it make sense now. Moreover Mexico offers plenty of modern buildings, or exclusive restaurants. On the other hand the gap between poor and rich is quite huge – a lot of houses have a maid and driver, while other have not much money to live on.
8 – Mexico isn’t always hot
Mexico is a big country, therefore the weather varies. Some zones are indeed always hot, but in some areas it’s even snowing sometimes. Central Mexico has a high altitude therefore temperatures vary during the year.
9 – Women are privileged
Despite plenty of stereotypes that Mexican women have to be housewives and are constantly abused, women are actually quite privileged. In Mexico City there are women-only pink buses or special section for women in the subway. Maybe for some people it doesn’t seem like a privilege, but let me give an example of Turkey where women in publish transport are constantly being abused and nobody is trying to protect them in any way – Turkish government didn’t even consider creating a special women-only section. Also, Mexicans are very caballerosos that means they always open the door for women, pick them up before the date/meeting or always pay for everything. Funnily enough according to the research conducted in Mexico City in 2013 it turned out that various women actually prefer to use a general section of the subway instead of women-one, because men would kindly give them a seat while other women wouldn’t.
10 – Cancun or Baja California don’t represent Mexico as a whole country
Tourists usually know about only two Mexican destinations: Cancun, or if they’re Americans Baja California. However, those places don’t represent the country at all if you visit them as a tourist in so-called ‘zona Hotelera‘. Both places are very ‘Americanized’ – everyone speaks English and things are expensive. However, outside of the big resorts there the place is a slump. Mexicans usually go to different beach spots, such as Acapulco, Playa del Carmen, Huatulco or many others.
11 – Mexicans don’t celebrate 5 de Mayo. Independence Day is 15 of September
Mexico declared independence on September 27th 1821, but the beginning of the independence war was Sept 16th 1810 – the day that’s celebrated now. 5 de Mayo only commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862 when Mexico won against the French army and it’s celebrated mostly in Puebla. Foreigners often mention 5 de Mayo to Mexican expats, while they never heard of the September celebration.
12 – (added after reading suggestions from comments) Mexico geographically lies in North America
One comment under the post reminded me that I often correct people when it comes to Mexican geographical location. People usually think since Mexico is a part of Latin America it belongs to South America or Central America. Mexico is a part of North America, along with the USA and Canada.
Check also fun facts about Mexico
* I wasn’t just a tourist in Mexico – I’ve lived in Mexico for 2 years (->you can find out what was I doing in About Me) and published a book on Mexican public policies that you can get here. My opinions might be subjective, because obviously I haven’t managed to visit or live every single place in Mexico. The post is meant to show foreigners that Mexico is worth visiting. *