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A significant proportion of indigenous peoples practice syncretic religions—that is, they retain traditional religious beliefs and practices in addition to adhering to Roman Catholicism.
This syncretism is particularly visible in many village fiestas where ancestors, mountain spirits, and other spiritual forces may be honoured alongside Catholic saints.
Highly organized civilizations occupied various parts of Mexico for at least 2,000 years before European contact.
By the early 16th century most people lived in the Mesa Central under the general rule of the Aztec empire, but many separate cultural groups also thrived in this region, among them speakers of the Tarascan, Otomí, and Nahuatl languages.
Following the arrival of Europeans, intermarriage resulted in an increasing mestizo population that over the centuries became the dominant ethnic group in Mexico.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint, is located in Mexico City and is the site of annual pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of people, many of them peasants.
At the time Europeans arrived in the early 1500s, what is now Mexico was inhabited by peoples who are thought to have migrated into the Americas from Asia tens of thousands of years ago by crossing a former land bridge in the Bering Strait.
After their arrival in Mexico, many groups developed unique cultural traits.
Fewer than one-tenth of American Indians speak an indigenous language.
There are, however, more than 50 indigenous languages spoken by more than 100,000 people, including Maya in the Yucatán; Huastec in northern Veracruz; Nahua, Tarascan, Totonac, Otomí, and Mazahua mainly on the Mesa Central; Zapotec, Mixtec, and Mazatec in Oaxaca; and Tzeltal and Tzotzil in Chiapas.
Although myths of “racial biology” have been discredited by social scientists, “racial identity” remains a powerful social construct in Mexico, as in the United States and elsewhere, and many Mexicans have referred to their heritage and (“race”) with a measure of pride—particularly on October 12, the Día de la Raza (“Race Day”)—whether they conceive of themselves as indigenous, mestizo, or European.