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In the current world, there are certain cultural heritages that can be described as “untouchable". In November 2010, UNESCO added the Mexican cuisine to its highly contested list of such heritage. This was done purely on merit. The cuisine is known for its varied traits. For instance, it’s known for its colorful decorations, variety of ingredients and spices, and most importantly for its varied flavors. However, it must be admitted that the Mexican cuisine has undergone rigorous evolution before it achieved its current state. Although institutions like UNSECO speak of Mexican cuisine as if it were uniform, the fact is that there are variations witnessed from one Mexican region to another. As a matter of fact, Mexico is a vast region and as expected, Mexican food varies from one geographical region to another. In addition, factors like ethnic cultural practices of local communities, varied levels of Spaniard influences and climatic conditions dictate what kinds of food can be found in which part of Mexico.
Northern Mexico, like all other regions of this country has a cuisine with which it’s identified with. Traditionally, the northern region is known for its wheat stuffed tortillas popularly known as burrito. Other traditional foods include pinto refried beans and dried meats. Today, this region is known for cuisine that comprise mainly of ostrich, goat and beef products, and specifically the famous arrachera cut. Basically, meat dishes are more popularly in the north than in any other Mexican region.
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In Central Mexico, the cuisine here is largely influenced by that of other Mexican regions. Conversely, this area has a few unique and tasty dishes such as carnitas, barbacoa, pozole and munedo.
Just like Central Mexico, Southern Mexico cuisine is largely influenced by other regions, specifically the Caribbean for the former. Sea foods are more prominent in the south, though the region is popularly known for its spicy chicken and vegetable dishes.
Other regions are known for quite different delicacies. The Oaxaca region, for instance, is known for a number of dishes which may be unheard of in the north, central or southern regions. This region identifies itself with such dishes as savory tamales, tlayudas and celebratory moles. The Mexican mountainous regions are known for goat birria, which is essentially goat meat mixed with tomato or related sauces (10). Finally, the Yucatan region is known for delicacies characterized by natural sweetness as opposed to spiciness of foods in other regions. The Yucatans are known for using achiote seasoning which is uncommon in other regions.
It’s certain that different regions of Mexico are known for different types of food. But what are the factors that have contributed to these factors. The aforementioned factors have all played their significant roles in bringing about the differences. Each of the factors is discussed in details in the succeeding paragraphs.
The environment, for instance, has had its fair share of influence on what comprises today’s northern cuisine. The northerners, unlike their southern counterparts, have agriculturally unproductive farm lands. The land here is arid with sandy and productive soils. The area’s natives, collectively referred to as Chichimecs, just like their ancestors, lived on game meat. Large land mammals like the buffaloes and deer served as the northerners’ staple food. Others meats came from rabbits and turkey. As hunter gatherers, they also gathered fruits and wild grasses to complement other diets. Nevertheless, this gradually changed as time progressed.
In the 14th century, the Aztec empire was flourishing in most parts of Mexico, but the north was heavily influenced. People clung to most of their traditions but cooking traditions was eventually altered. Most staples remained. However, new foods saw their entry into the Mexicans menu. Chocolate, chili, peppers, salt, and vanilla are some of the new foods that came with the Aztec empire. At this point, it must be noted that this empire pushed for domestication of formerly wild birds like turkey and duck. The empires quest to have these birds domesticated recorded excellent results that surpassed expectations.
Just about two centuries later, the Mexican cuisine was to undergo further changes. In 1521, particularly, the Spaniard conquered Mexico. After this event, Mexicans lives were bound to change for good. Almost all aspects of people’s lives were altered, and what people ate and/or cooked was also not left behind. Most of the Spaniards’ ranches and mines were situated mainly in the north. As expected, the northerners became major beneficiaries of all benefits (and ills) that were introduced by their conquerors. But what did the Spaniards bring with them to Mexico? It must be acknowledged that these people are associated with most of animals that are domesticated to date in Mexico. Some of these include pigs, cows and sheep. Moreover, the Spaniards are said to have introduced dairy products like butter, cheese and ghee to all parts of Mexico. Livestock, nonetheless, were not the only ones that the Spaniards are credited with. Most of the spices that spice up Mexican meals were initially from Spain. The same people are also said to have introduced coriander herbs and wheat.
Although native Northern Mexicans did their best to cling to their traditional ways of life, the Spaniards did a lot to alter the whole situation. For example, in the ancient Northern Mexico, men’s place was reserved in the field, but with the Spaniards, men found a permanent place in the kitchen. Most of the cooking, especially in the north, was done in camps and on ranch sites and so outside cooking became the order of the day. This, however, was not all. Traditionally, northerners either boiled or fried their foods. The Spaniards overturned this. Today, outside cooking and food grilling are the norm, rather than exception.
Apart from the Spaniards, there are other people that have contributed greatly to what is referred to as Northern Mexico cuisine. The French are said to have introduced French wine to Mexico a few decades after the Spaniards conquered the country (6). The Italians and Chinese also played a crucial part in introducing wines and spices respectively.
Today, Mexico is an independent country and so the Spanish colonialists have left. Other foreigners who collaborated with the Spaniards have also left. The country is free to make its own decision regarding all matters that affect people directly. Besides, immigrants have also flocked into the country. Nothing much, though, has changed as far as foods and their preparations methods are concerned. The Spanish left an indelible mark, not only in the north, but in Mexican cuisine as a whole. Since these people left, a few changes have been witnessed. Irrigation schemes have been developed, and this means that the northern region can comfortably practice commercial farming. Presently, the north, more than all other five regions, produces apples and peaches.
Overall, Mexican cuisine has been classified by UNESCO as one of the world’s untouchable heritage. This country’s cuisine, nevertheless, is not homogeneous. Each of the six Mexican regions has its unique dishes identified with it. In the north, just like in all other regions, there are a number of factors that have contributed to evolution of what had initially been traditional cuisine. Some of these factors include influences of colonial powers (mostly Spaniard), environment and ethnic community’s cultural influences.