Mexican [mek-si-kuh n]
1. of or relating to Mexico or its people.
2. of or relating to Spanish as used in Mexico.
3. of or relating to the Nahuatl language or its speakers.
4. a native or inhabitant of Mexico, or a person of Mexican descent.
Mexicans (Mexicanos) are people from the United Mexican States (Estados Unidos Mexicanos) in North America. Mexico is a rich and diverse multiethnic country.
Mexican History and Influences
2nd Century BC – 12th Century
200 B.C – 700 A.D: Olmec influenced Teotihuacan
901 – 1200: Olmec possibly influenced Toltec
14th Century – 16th Century
March 13, 1325: The Mexica, an indigenous Nahua tribe, founded the Aztec empire in the Valley of Mexico. The Mexica founded Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco in Lake Texcoco around AD 1200. The Triple Alliance was an alliance of the three Nahua “altepetl” city-states: Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. The Mexica spoke Nahuatl. Today the ruins of Tenochtitlan are located in the central part of Mexico City
Photo credit: Alfonso Romero
1520: Spanish soldiers killed Aztec nobles in the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan during the celebration of Toxcatl on the 20th of May. On June 29th the tlatoani of Tenochtitlan and the ruler of the Aztec Triple Alliance, Moctezuma II, was killed. The following day was known as “La Noche Triste” because several hundred Spaniard men were killed while fighting to escape from Tenochtitlan. The Battle of Otumba was on July 7th. In this battle, the Spanish and Tlaxcala joined forces and defeated the superior Aztec force at Otumba de Gomez Farias.
1521: The Mexica Empire was captured by the Spanish on August 13,1521. The Spanish expanded their empire beyond the original boundaries of the Aztec and added more territories that remained under the Spanish Crown for 300 years. This is where cultural diffusion and intermixing among Amerindian populations occurred with Europeans.
September 16, 1810-September 27, 1821: The Mexican War of Independence (Guerra de Independencia de Mexico) ended the rule of Spain in 1821 in the territory of New Spain. Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla encouraged his congregation to revolt against the Spanish crown at the “Grito de Dolores” on September 16th. It wasn’t until the Battle of Monte de las Cruces that the forces under Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende defeated the Spanish troops at Ocoyoacac. The Treaty of Cordoba was signed by Agustin Cosme Damian de Iturbide y Aramburu and Spanish viceroy Juan O’Donoju.
The newly formed identity of “Mexican” was established after the Mexican War of Independence and the Mexican Revolution when the Constitution of 1917 was officially established. With independence from the Spanish Empire, the people of Mexico forged a national identity that fused the cultural traits of the indigenous pre-Colombian origin with European (especially Iberian) ancestry.
Mestizo Mexicans are Mexicans with both Indigenous and European ancestors.
Photo credit: Donald Cook
Indigenous Mexicans are those with native origins in Mexico. The majority of the indigenous population are concentrated in central and southern Mexican states.
European Mexicans are Mexicans with full European descent. Europeans first arrived to Mexico with the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Most migrated during the Spanish period and in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is said that most Europeans came to invest and become prominent in Mexican society, but then left in the early 20th century due to tough government restrictions.
The northern regions of Mexico has the greatest European population and admixture. More specifically, the northeast region had the highest proportion of whites since the indigenous population in that region was eliminated by early European settlers. On the other hand, the northwest region had many small indigenous communities that remained isolated.
Central Mexico is said to be the most ethnically diverse with Mexicans of European, Middle Eastern, and Spanish descent. This has become apparent with the presence of non-Iberian surnames (e.g. French, German, Italian, Arab) that are the most common in central Mexico, especially in the capital Mexico City and the state of Jalisco.
A majority of Arab Mexicans are of Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, or Palestinian origin. Arab immigration to Mexico started in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They settled primarily in Nayarit, Puebla, Mexico City and the Northern parts of Mexico which includes Baja California, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango.
The Lebanese left Lebanon to Mexico during the Israel-Lebanon War in 1948 and during the Six-Day War. The most common Arabic surnames in Mexico are Nader, Yahek, Ali, Haddad, Nasser, Malik, Abed, Mansoor, Harb, and Elias.
Afro-Mexicans are predominant in Costa Chica of Oaxaca, Costa Chica of Guerrero, Veracruz, and other towns in northern Mexico. Mexico had an active slave trade from the early Spanish period. Now the majority of Afro-descendants are Afromestizos.
Photo credit: Miguel Ugalde
Asian Mexicans make up less than 1% of the total population of Mexico and are of East, South and Southeast Asian descent. Asian immigration began with the arrival of Filipinos to Mexico during the Spanish period for 2 1/2 centuries between 1565-1815. Many Filipino and Mexican sailors, crews, slaves, prisoners, soldiers, and adventurers sailed between the Philippines and Mexico as part of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade. They assisted Spain in their trade between Asia and the Americas. Mostly Asian males were brought to Mexico as slaves and were called “Chino” (Chinese), but in reality the males had diverse origins, such as Japanese, Koreans, Malays, Filipinos, Javanese, Cambodians, Timorese, and people from Bengal, India, Ceylon, Makassar, Tidore, Terenate, and China. Asians were Mexico’s fastest growing immigrant group from the 1880s to the 1920s. Their presence increased from about 1,500 in 1895 to more than 20,000 in 1910. The Chinese was the fastest growing Asian group in Mexico.
It should be noted that both Asian and Afro influence is under-reported due to the fact that these two groups often passed as “Indios” or indigenous people of Mexico. Indigenous people were legally protected from chattel slavery, and by being recognized as part of this group, Asian and Afro-Mexicans slaves could claim having an indigenous background and that they were wrongly enslaved.
Updated: March 11, 2016