Mexico is a land of unbridled energy and bravado. Conquest, colonialism and revolutionary upheavals have all stamped their mark on national character, but above all, the Mexican psyche is tied to the land, in all its diversity. The deserts, mountains, jungles and miles of lavish coastline were all regarded as sacred by the builders of Mexico’s ancient pyramids.
Mexico is a dazzling celebration of ethnic diversity. Sierras conceal pockets of indigenous tradition where the gods of maize, earth and sky are still revered. Elsewhere, native and European bloodlines have fused in to a uniquely expressive mestizo culture with world-class literature, art, films and sizzling culinary creations among its output.
Throughout Mexico, the national obsession with death is tempered by an irrepressible love of life, family and a roaring good fiesta. Such occasions are invariably marked by raucous good humour, feisty music, blazing colours, passion and dance. Viva Mexico!
Forged in the flames of conquest, the deeply indigenous southern states of Mexico embody a vivid synthesis of European and Mesoamerican traditions: the merging of disparate worlds has spawned unique forms of art, cooking, song, dance, religion and philosophy.
A procession of vibrant colonial towns and cities echo the faded glory of imperial Spain, but beneath and behind them, at the foundations of lavish government palaces and grandiloquent baroque cathedrals, lie the hidden remnants of a much older and stranger reality. Millennia before Cortés and his conquistadors clambered ashore, southern Mexico was a crucible for competing civilizations: the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec and Maya chief among them. Today, their descendants breathe life into ancient traditions, for as much as the old gods are clothed in the respectable robes of Catholic saints, shamanism continues to thrive.
Perhaps no single indigenous symbol has become more firmly embedded in Mexican national identity than that of Lord Death. Encapsulating the ancient Mesoamerican concept of duality, death in Mexico is not a place of gloom or rest, but the source of spirited, irrepressible activity. Charged with colour, music, spectacle and celebration, Lord Death is an honoured guest at the feast, a garish skeleton festooned with flowers, drunk on mescal, delightfully raucous and dancing in the village square as church bells ring and fireworks explode. Death is a provocation to seize the moment for all it’s worth. Death is Life, and by extension, so is Mexico.