Issue 10, August 2009
|Art, Music, Culture|
Arts and culture are an integral part of society in Mexico, and their many artistic and cultural achievements bring a great sense of pride to Mexicans. Mexican arts and culture are multi-layered and many faceted, reflecting the influences of the ancient and the modern, of its colonial and revolutionary past, and of its many ethnic and indigenous identities.
The advances of ancient civilizations, including the Maya, Olmec, and Aztecs, are celebrated by tourists and citizens alike. Ruins are preserved, symbols and graphic designs often make their way into modern designs or decoration for everyday objects, and many people are rediscovering their heritage by performing songs, dances, and other rituals from the Aztecs and earlier civilizations. Mexico is famous for traditional celebrations, such as the Day of the Dead, in which people honor their ancestors who have died. The holiday has been celebrated for centuries, and is now celebrated on November 2nd, which is also the Catholic holiday of All Souls’ Day, reflecting the colonial influence on the holiday. Many other holidays and festivals share these combined influences, and are also influenced by regional traditions. Distinct indigenous groups imprint their traditions on the art and culture of Mexico’s various regions.
Mexico’s rich artistic heritage also owes a debt to its revolutionary past, which still holds a powerful place in the Mexican psyche. Following the Revolution, the new government encouraged artists to paint murals celebrating Mexican history and populist ideals encapsulated in the Revolution. Diego Rivera became one of the most well-known of these muralists, known for depicting indigenous villagers, designs from pre-colonial civilizations, and Communist imagery. His wife, Frida Kahlo, is also celebrated for combining political and folk themes in her work, but she is equally well-known for her vivid self-portraits. Her use of bright colors and symbols illustrates the historical and indigenous influence of her work, fused with contemporary and surrealist themes.
Music and literature are important elements of Mexico’s culture as well. As with other cultural characteristics, Mexico’s music combines traditional elements with colonial influences and continues to be shaped by modern influences. Corridos have been popular since colonial times; they are ballads telling stories of popular heroes, historical legends or even romances. Other common musical styles include rancheras and mariachi, all of which have elements that can be seen in Mexico’s modern pop music. Mexico’s literary history runs largely parallel to its political and colonial history – from the myths of the Maya and Aztecs, to the colonial writings of Spanish settlers and missionaries, to a decline in arts and literature in the 18th Century due to political upheaval, to a flowering of literature following the Mexican Revolution.
Its rich and diverse history, from the ancient civilizations through the Revolution, continues to inspire Mexico’s writers and artists.