There's a decent chance you've been to Mexico before, because it’s like... right there. So you don't need anyone to list reasons why it’s awesome (Tacos! Beaches! Tequila!). But just in case you were actually curious about what's going on beneath that spicy, sunny, oh-my-god-take-me-there-now surface, here's a smattering of strange and true facts about America's southern neighbor.
Julius Caesar did not invent the Caesar salad. And it wasn't Caesar Augustus, either, for that matter. No, it was the brainchild of Caesar Cardini, an Italian-American restaurateur and chef who dreamt up the dish at his Tijuana restaurant. Or so legend has it. The origin has been disputed, as Livio Santini, who worked in Caesar's restaurant, claimed to have brought the salad to the world from his mother's recipe. All that's for sure: that's a damn good salad.
2. There's a 3ft tamale that weighs 150 pounds
Sure, you've probably had tamales. And if you live in Chicago, you've probably even seen the Tamale Guy. But you haven't dominated el zacahuil. This tamale, typical of the state of San Luis Potosi, is a 3ft monstrosity of chile, spices, and hunks of pork or turkey, typically served on grilled banana leaves with pickled jalapeños. If you have tackled one of these, well, you probably won't make it to the end of this list, either from a food coma or heart attack. But good work.
Hawaii has Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano. Well, Hawaii can keep it, because in Mexico, it's about the motion in the magma, not size of the stratovolcano. The Cuexcomate volcano outside the city of Puebla is just 43ft-tall. To put it into perspective: that's not even half as tall as the Statue of Liberty, or equal to about 6.45 LeBron James stacked on top of one another. But why would you have six LeBrons, let alone 0.45 of him? Let's move on...
4. Perform the anthem correctly, or else...
The Mexican National Anthem (Himno Nacional Mexicano) is nothing to joke about. There are actually nine or 10 articles in a chapter of the law that go into detail about how to properly honor and perform the national anthem. If you play it incorrectly, you will be fined, and in some cases, will need to issue an apology to the country. Probably shouldn’t even make a joke about it here, in case someone in Mexico is reading.
5. Hot chocolate is literally the drink of the Gods
When Hernán Cortés landed on the shores of Mexico, the Aztecs thought he was a white god, and welcomed him with what they thought was a heavenly beverage: hot chocolate. How did Cortes repay them? Rape, pillage, and burning their homes to the ground. It wasn't on account of the hot chocolate being bad. He just was not a pleasant guy.
6. Mayans fought with hornets
Swords and spears are all fine and good, but if you ask the Mayans, a tad simple. A more effective method of scaring the sh*t out of enemies: harnessing a nest of hornets and throwing them into an oncoming attack. It's like Wu Tang Clan's dream fights, all rolled into one. OK, they were killa bees, but you get the point.
7. The (sometimes) world’s richest man lives there
Okay, to be fair, Bill Gates is currently the richest man in the world. But he keeps duking it out for that no. 1 slot with Carlos Slim, the Mexican business magnate, who's currently valued at $72 billion. To put it into perspective, he's worth 7% of Mexico's entire GDP. For Bill Gates to be worth that much in the US, he'd need to have more than $900 billion, and own "Alcoa, Phillip Morris, Sears, Best Buy, TGIFriday’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Marriott, Citibank, and JetBlue."
8. Cinco de Mayo is actually NBD
Every May 5, Americans drink margaritas and wear sombreros, eat guacamole, and just assume that their neighbors to the south are doing the same. Reality check: they aren’t, and they think you look stupid. Not at all Mexico's Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo is a very, very minor celebration to highlight the Mexican army’s underdog victory over French troops at the Battle of Puebla. It'd be like Canadians going crazy over Patriot's Day. Actually, Canadians don't get crazy. Bad analogy.
9. Meteorites are illegal
Essentially, anyway. In 2014, the government passed a law requiring federal protection against space threats, most specifically, meteorites. This all came after the Chelyabinsk meteor scared the living crap out of the Ural region of Russia in 2013. Hopefully, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck learn to speak Spanish before the next Armageddon approaches.
10. Mexican hipsters are called Cholombians
Look. At. Those. Haircuts. Asymmetrical, emo-style coifs are all the rage in parts of Mexico, and the wacky youths who sport them are known as Cholombians. The muy sexy style involves short spiky hair on top, with long bangs and a rat tail. HOT.
11. Mexican kids don’t get presents on Christmas
You know how when you’re a kid you wonder how Santa can hit all the houses on Christmas Eve? Well, it's a whole lot easier if he can skip an entire country. Mexican children do not receive presents on Christmas Day. In Mexico, Three Kings Day (El Dia de Reyes), on Jan. 6 is a far bigger deal. So Santa takes like two weeks off, then gets back on the reindeer.
If you're ever on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," and a question comes up about the largest city in North America, New York City is wrong. Don't blurt out "NEW YORK. FINAL ANSWER." In fact, the Distrito Federal has about 450,000 more people, or if you added another Staten Island full of people on to the Big Apple. Just imagine that. An entire second Staten Island filled with people. **Shudder**
13. It's also sinking
Venice isn’t the only city with a weight limit. Mexico City was built thousands of years ago on what used to be a lake. As a result, the city sinks nearly 10 inches per year. Very much like your grandma, who seems to shrink 10 inches per year and was also built a thousand years ago.
14. Some Mexicans actually speak Italian
Speaking of Venice... there's a pocket of Mexico where people speak the Italian dialect. In the 1800s, a group of Venetians settled in the state of Puebla and founded the city of Chipilo, bringing with them their dairy farming business and language. This Venetian variety is also spoken in parts of Veracruz and Queretaro, so it's not a one-off. In total, Mexicans speak about 60 other languages, too, including a ton of indigenous ones. So don't just assume everyone speaks Spanish. It's just not true.
Meagan Drillingeris a freelance writer for Thrillist. She enjoys a fine Malbec paired with a McDonald’s #2 meal. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @drillinjourneys.