The history of Mexican cuisine is just as interesting and colorful as the culture itself. While other countries cuisine can be dated back to centuries, it is the Mexican cuisine that has ancient roots. Mexican cuisine has been said to have origins in the Aztec and Mayan civilization. The Mayans were typically known for being gatherers and hunters. The Mayans thrived on agriculture and their most plentiful crops, included corn, beans, chilies and peppers, as well as avocados, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Many of these items are high in protein and became the foundation of many Mexican dishes.
In 1521 Spain invaded Mexico. Spanish food has one of the most massive influences on Mexican cuisine. In addition to all the foods the Mayans used in their diet, the Spanish added their own influences to the cuisine including livestock, such as sheep, pigs and cows. They also bought dairy products (cheese is a major ingredient in all Mexican cooking), honey, vanilla, garlic and wheat. As history progressed, Mexican food would find influences from other visitors including Caribbean, South American, French, West African and Portuguese. Some of the most well-known Mexican dishes including salsa, tamales, and enchiladas all come from the assimilation of ingredients brought to Mexico during the foundations of Mexican cuisine.
Mexican cuisine has always prided itself on being very rooted in tradition and history. So much so, the Mexican government recently tried to convince the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to recognize Mexican cuisine with an official status as ‘A Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. Mexican cuisine is a prominent part of the culture and it is used in the celebration of many holidays including Cinco De Mayo, Dia De Los Muertos (Halloween), Noche Buena (Christmas Eve/Christmas), and Carnival.
"History of Mexican Food." Discovery Channel International....