Mexico Questions and Answers
Students from Centro Educativo Juan de Dios Peza in Ciudad Juárez were the special online guests when Scholastic users interviewed kids from Mexico during the 199798 school year.
Customs and Culture
What are some of the common names for kids in Mexico? Which ones seem to be most popular now?
The most common and frequently used names have to do with our Christian tradition (saints), like Maria, Jose, Pedro, Juan, Francisco, etc. In my classroom some of my classmates' names are Gabriela, Alejandra, Laura, Rocio, and Jessica for girls, and for boys, we have Luis, Alfonso, Alberto (that's me), Oscar, etc. They all are very frequently used names. You'll see that some names are familiar to you because we have the Latin influence.
We would like to tell you about our July 4th celebration in the United States. It is also called Independence Day. We barbecue hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, steak, and we eat lots of good food. It is a day for families and friends to be together. At night we celebrate with fireworks. Do you celebrate your country's Independence Day? If so, what kinds of activities do you have as part of the celebration?
We celebrate our Independence Day on September 16. That day we don't go to school. All over Mexico parades are organized through the cities. Here in our hometown, our parade travels by one of our busiest and oldest streets, called 16 de Septiembre Street, which is our Main Street. The participants are students from many schools. Our military forces also march. Then everybody goes to Plaza de la Independencia, where we have a giant Mexican flag. When the night falls, everyone goes to the local Presidence (same idea as city hall). We call it Palacio de Gobierno. There, our municipal president gives a speech to the people and rings a big bell to remember that we are a free country. The exact same thing was done back in 1810, when Miguel Hidalgo initiated the fight for independence in a town called Dolores Hidalgo in the State of Guanajuato. To finish the ceremony, we watch some fireworks and eat Mexican food.
I am very interested in other cultures or historic traditions. What kind of traditions do you or your families hold?
Sixteen days before Christmas, the Posadas take place. They are social gatherings with a religious purpose. We sing, we break the traditional piñata, which is filled with candies and seasonal fruit, etc. Also, on the night before Christmas, all the family gets together for the traditional Christmas dinner. After dinner, around midnight, we open presents.
Do you celebrate Day of the Dead? When is it celebrated and what kinds of things do you do for this holiday?
The Day of the Dead falls on November 2. On this day, we visit the graves of our relatives and friends we knew. We take and place what used to be their favorite things on their graves, like their favorite dish, their favorite drink, flowers, and many other things. At home, we create an altar to honor a particular and dear relative or friend. We do the same placing of beloved objects and representative things we can identify with them. We also place their photographs, candles, etc., on their altars. The candles symbolize the light that will guide them through their new life. On this day, bakeries make a special bread called pan de muertos. In the stores and in our markets, we can buy the famous sugar candy skulls.
How do you celebrate Easter?
We celebrate Easter in many different ways: As in most parts of the world, Easter begins when Ash Wednesday comes. You go to Mass and you offer something to God. Then Catholics celebrate the cuaresma. This is when you make a sacrifice for God, or you offer him something that is hard to give up. You can't eat meat products on Fridays during the 40 days. This is called vigilia. Then you celebrate Easter Sunday; this year  it falls on April 13; as you know every year, it varies. On this particular day, the Catholic and Christian world celebrates the resurrection of God.
Another way we celebrate Easter: We make Easter eggs and hide them. Then the kids go and look for them and each time you find an egg, you get some money. But this form of celebrating is normally done in the places near the national border. Since we're so close to each other, your customs get mixed with ours. But it's cool celebrating it both ways.
What are your favorite celebrations and holidays?
Some of our favorite celebrations are: The Three Wise Men celebration, because you can eat king's bread and there's a little doll hidden inside it. If you get it, you have to organize a party for everyone. Mother's Day, because you spend time with your family, and you can demonstrate to your mom how much you love her. Students' Day (May 23): In some schools they have parties and in some places, things are cheaper for the students. Independence Day (September 16): It's the day that you remember when Mexico got its independence from Spain. In Mexico City, the president repeats what happened back then.
Because I'm half-Mexican, I love to go to Mexico. My favorite food is a Mexican dish my mom makes. What are some of your favorite foods?
Here in Mexico we have a lot of traditional dishes like mole that is chicken in a special sauce that tastes like chocolate. Other dishes are tacos, flautas, and "burritos," that are pretty much the same thing. We eat a lot of side dishes like beans and tortillas de maize. We also have a lot of spicy sauces and various condiments. Because we are on a border, we have a lot of influences from other countries, but deep into the country, our roots are very noticeable. We would like to know about your country. Every time, we have a festivity, we make traditional foods. For the Day of the Dead, we make bread, and on Christmas, we make tamales and atole.
I hear that chocolate is very important in Mexico. Could you tell me why?
Chocolate was discovered here in Mexico, but they didn't eat it the way we do now. They made it into a drink, which Hernan Cortes describes as the food of the gods. In time in Europe, they added milk and made what we know as milk chocolate.
Could you tell us about the agriculture in your country? Are there a lot of farms, and is farming a good living in your country? Where are the farms located, and are they near your city? What types of foods are grown there?
The areas that produce the highest volume of agricultural products are: south of Sonora (near the Pacific/northwest of Mexico), Jalisco, Michoacan, Guanajuato, south of Veracruz (in the Gulf of Mexico), and north of Oaxaca (south/Pacific). Other agricultural zones are Baja California and central Mexico (what is known as the Region Lagunera).
Mexico produces many different products, among which you can find corn, tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, rice, bananas, sugarcane, pineapple, cotton, wheat, beans, limes, and many tropical fruits, such as guanabana, mangos, and coconuts. The state of Michoacan is famous because it is one of the greatest strawberry producers. Veracruz produces a high volume of pineapple, coffee, mangos, bananas, sugarcane, rice, and oranges. Tabasco, in the Gulf of Mexico area, produces bananas and tropical fruits.
The states of Jalisco, Michoacan, and Guanajuato produce corn, avocados, strawberries, and limes. The states of Coahuila, Durango, and Zacatecas, located in central and north Mexico, produce hay, grapes, cotton, and beans.
Our state, Chihuahua, produces apples and cotton. It has an extension of 244,938 square kilometers. Chihuahua has a northern dry area and also has beautiful mountains.
Are there mountains near where you live, or any other special landforms (other than the Rio Grande)?
We live in the city of Juárez, and here we don't have mountains. But we have hills like the Cerro Bola. Here we live in a desert climate, where it is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.
Nevertheless, we do have beautiful mountains in the State of Chihuahua. They are the extension of the Rocky Mountains that travels into our country all the way down from Alaska through the United States and into the northern part of Mexico. In these mountains live the Tarahumaras, who are an ethnic group. This region gets very cold in the winter, and it snows there. Even though it is considered a poor area, its beauty brings many tourists all year round.
Would you please tell us about two to three places in your country that have beautiful scenery? Could you describe each of them and explain where they are located in relation to your school and city?
The most commonly visited places are located along the Pacific, like Acapulco in Guerrero and Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco, which is one of the most beautiful states in Mexico. In the Caribbean, we have places like Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Cozumel. These places are known for their beautiful beaches. There we find a lot of our prehistoric legacy, like Chichén Itza. In the Gulf of Mexico we have the state of Veracruz, a great producer of tropical fruits like bananas, pineapples, mangos, etc. Nevertheless, there are many places with a rich cultural and historical legacy in the interior, like San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, probably one of the most beautiful places and one with the most colonial history. The churches and cathedrals there are worth seeing. In our state, Chihuahua, there are places like the Sierra de Chihuahua, home of the natives Tarahumaras. It is visited by many American and European tourists. They love taking the panoramic train from Juárez, our hometown, all the way down to the Pacific Coast. Along the way, they have the opportunity to admire the waterfall, Cascada de Basasiachi.
I live near the ocean. What part of Mexico do you live in? What is near your school, in the city of Juárez?
Juárez is in the northern part of Mexico. The natural borderline of Juárez and El Paso City, Texas, is the Rio Grande. The climate here is very cold in the winter and very hot during the summer. We usually visit the city of El Paso to go shopping or do some other recreational stuff. You may think that Mexico is an underdeveloped country but it really is very capitalist and modern. My school is near downtown Juárez.
What does it look like where you live? How do you like living in Mexico?
When you look down from a plane, Juárez looks like one big city, but we're divided from El Paso by the international border. We have bridges to go across the Rio Grande, which is the official northern frontier of our country. Many people can't tell Mexico from the old Spain. Today Mexico looks nothing like Spain. Mexican people live in cities, just like in the U.S. I have seen American TV, and it makes our country look as if we were still in the days of the Mexican Revolution. That was a long time ago! There are many more things to drink than tequila, and not every Mexican dresses in a sombrero. We are just as smart as any people. I'm glad I cleared that up. Stereotypes are hard to break.
We are concerned about the problems in your country related to the Rio Grande. Some of our students come from Mexico. Is there anything that we can do to help you concerning these issues?
We think that maybe there is a solution to that problem. The problem starts from the manufacturing plants here in the city. They throw their residues, which sometimes include toxic waste, into the river, and that's a problem. Also, they use the Rio Grande to seal the border so that no people cross over there illegally. Sometimes they use military forces to defend this issue. Near the river, there is Sierra Blanca, where the proposal is to deposit nuclear waste, and maybe that will flow in the river water to another place.
In the United States, there are some people who do not have places to live and are homeless. Are there any homeless people in Mexico? If so, are there a lot of homeless people? Do they live in the cities or out in the countryside?
Yes, there are as many homeless people in Mexico as there are in the U.S., but we think that here, in Mexico, there are more homeless people than in the U.S. It all depends on the city. Besides, the U.S. is larger than Mexico, so probably the United States has as many homeless people as Mexico.
Homeless people are more notorious in the urban areas, but there are also many poor and homeless people out in the country. Also, there are not as many federal or state programs to help the homeless or the lower class. Also, there are no shelters for the homeless in Mexico except during hard winters.
What kind of houses do most of the students live in? What is your school building like? Does it have lots of rooms in it? Please describe it.
Students' houses are typical houses but they are mostly built out of bricks and cement blocks. Our school building is very tall. It has three floors and it has about 20 rooms. It has a basketball court and a volleyball court. It has five restrooms, one principal's office, and a vice principal's office. We have a computer lab, a science lab, and a small library. During the official holidays, we fly our flag. We also have a multipurpose room. There is a building across the street that will be used as the junior high and high school facility in the very near future.
Why do Mexicans come into the United States of America? I have noticed a lot of Mexicans in this country.
Mexicans go to the United States because they are looking for better opportunities that enable them to progress. They think that in the United States everyone is successful but what they don't know is that the people over there have worked hard to get where they are right now. Also, they migrate because the United States has very beautiful cities. Also, the fact that many of their relatives and friends have gone in the past makes them believe they could find higher-paying jobs there. I believe it is mainly because of the economic aspect they go there.
Here the people go to the U.S. because we are on the frontier with El Paso, Texas, but they go just for shopping. There are other people from the center of the country that go to the U.S. looking for a job or for vacations.
Have many of your students visited the United States?
Many students have traveled around your country. We live in a border town, so I could say that almost all students in this school have visited at least El Paso, Texas. I have visited places like San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Santa Fe, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, and New York City. I loved those cities because they are full of fun! We visit your country so I hope you come and visit ours.
What do many of your families do for a living primarily? Could you tell us about the various jobs and professions that your parents work in?
Some parents have a university degree. Some are doctors, others are architects, engineers, etc. Some people have their own businesses, for example, pharmacies, restaurants, manufacturing plants, supermarkets, stores, etc. Juárez is a very commercial town. Also, some people work in the manufacturing industry, because there are a great number of factories in this city. Others are cashiers, secretaries, and office employees.
What are some of the major exports from your city and region?
The principal export from Juárez is cattle. Our city exports a lot of marble and brick, both of them used in the construction industry. We also export typical Mexican candies. Of course, everything the manufacturing plants produce goes back to the United States.
Does the Chihuahua dog originate in Mexico?
The Chihuahua dog has its name because it was found in our beautiful state of Chihuahua. It is from Mexico, and although these dogs have a temper at times, they are wonderful pets for little kids. In pre-Hispanic Mexico, before the Spaniards conquered our country, our ancestors baked the poor dogs and ate them (those were the Aztecs). In a lot of the states in Mexico, the people enjoy the company of this animal.
History and Government
What does it take to become the president in your country? Can you tell me a bit more about your government and its leaders?
We do have a president. The current president [in the year 1997] is Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon. He has been president since 1994. To be president, you have to be over 35 years old. Also you have to be born of Mexican parents and in Mexico, have lived in Mexican territory for over five years, have a way of living, and not have a criminal record. Our country is divided into three branches legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative is represented by senators and representatives; the executive by the president; and the judicial by the Supreme Court of Justice.
Note: In December 2000 the Mexican people elected Vicente Fox as their president.
Do you have many monuments and statues representing famous Mexican heroes? Who are they, and could you tell me something about each of them? In South Carolina, we have many star cafes to honor famous singers, dancers, and leaders.
Yes, we have some statues and monuments here in the city and in our country. Most of them are relevant to our history in Mexico. We have statues of Benito Juárez, Benemérito de las Américas, Miguel Hidalgo, José María Morelos, Francisco Villa, Emiliano Zapata, and many more. Also in our city, Juárez, we have statues of artists like the one of German Valdez "Tin-Tan," Juan Gabriel, and one of the founders of the city, Fray García de San Francisco. In my hometown, there are monuments dedicated to the mothers, the workers, for José Canseco (an ex-president of International Rotary, who initiated a program named Polio-Plus to eradicate the polio in the world), and there are other monuments and statues. We also have monuments for foreign heroes and famous people like Abraham Lincoln and others. All over Mexico, we have many beautiful monuments like the ones in Mexico City. One of them is the Arco de la Revolucion (Arch of the Revolution) and the Angel de la Independencia (Independence Angel). Guadalajara City is famous because of its beautiful fountains, true monuments of architecture.
Do you need a visa to go to El Paso to shop, work, or travel on a regular basis? Is there any kind of checkpoint you have to go through at the international border between your city and El Paso, Texas?
As you know, we are on the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juárez City in Chihuahua, so when we want to go to the city of El Paso, we need a passport. It's named a border-crossing card. If you want to work in El Paso, you need to have a residence passport or permanent resident card, which gives you the opportunity to live and work in any part of the U.S.A. If you were born in El Paso, you don't need a passport; you just have to say "American" to the immigration agents and sometimes you need to show them your birth certificate. If you are not a U.S. citizen and you want to travel or visit some places in the U.S.A., you need to obtain a visa in the consulate or an extended permit. And yes, there are three checkpoints in Chihuahua. We call them: Puente Santa Fe (Santa Fe bridge), Puente Libre, and Puente Zaragoza.
Can you tell us about school in your country?
School in our country is very fundamental, because it is for the future of Mexico. School is divided into kindergarten; elementary (grades 16); junior high (grades 79); high school (grades 1012). Before junior high, education is mandatory. There are private and public schools in our country. The government provides books to elementary schools throughout the country and it fights illiteracy. We go to school five days a week, seven hours daily, Monday to Friday. We have summers off and Easter and Christmas vacations. In every public school and some private schools, there are evening classes.
Do you have home-schooling in your city, in which students are taught at home?
Yes, here in Juárez, there are some students who are being taught at home, and I believe there are kids who do not attend a formal school system all over Mexico, especially for medical reasons. It is not as common as it is in the United States and has nothing to do with parents wanting to provide a better system or not agreeing with the policies, etc.
How do you like being online around the world? Is it a lot of work? Do you like it?
Yes, having a communication connection to the world at my fingertips is very fascinating. It doesn't take a lot of work to communicate to the world. All you need is to understand English well, know how to operate a computer, and be creative to understand and answer questions.
Yes, it really is great to communicate these questions to other people. It is very satisfying to act as one of many representatives of my country in this magnificent way of making an international communication.
What are some fun projects that you do in your classrooms?
Some of the projects are Global Kid Connections: We are in contact with different countries so we can learn about their costumes, traditions, educational systems, etc. Communication With Canada Project we had communication with a school in Canada. We informed them about educational differences between Mexico and Canada. Expositions and Plays topics learned in our official program are presented at another level. Every Friday, we visit the Computer Center to research on the Internet different topics related to our classes.
What languages are taught in your school?
Spanish and English as a Second Language. We need to learn how to communicate because we live near the border and it is very important for us to understand the mass communication. El Paso, Texas, and Juárez have a very close relationship that of our manufacturing plants. Many students feel English is essential for our future careers. In our school English is very important, because we can talk with different persons and communicate especially on the Internet. There are a large number of people who cross the border on a daily basis to shop or for recreational purposes. About Spanish: We know it is Mexico's official language, and it's important because we believe in having good foundations. In our school we like to communicate with other people because we can get to know how they live and many important things.
I am a Native American, and my nation is Tuscarora. Here at school we learn our native language, which is Skarure (meaning Tuscarora). Do your schools teach your native language?
In Mexico there are a lot of native tribes, and each one of them has its own language or dialect. However, the most important of all Indian languages/dialect is the Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs). In our state high in the mountain area of Chihuahua, live the Tarahumaras, and they have their own dialect.
When the Spaniards conquered all the different tribes, they imposed upon the new towns the Spanish language. That's how the Nahuatl lost importance and Spanish became the official language. The Indian languages or dialects are not taught in schools.
Our class has several reading groups. Two groups are reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and the other group is reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hogsdon Burnett. Does your class have reading groups, and what are some of the books that your class has read?
In our school, we are very into reading. We have different reading groups and read books like Canasta de Cuentos Mexicanos (Mexican Story Basket) by Gabriel García Márquez, and famous books like La Vuelta al Mundo en 80 Dias (Around the World in 80 Days) by Jules Verne. Currently I am reading Relato de un Naufrago (the Story of a Shipwrecked Person) in which a Colombian sailor is abandoned in the middle of the Mexican gulf and struggles to survive alone. He is very short of food and is attacked by a shark, and seven eagles are harmful. He tries to eat even his shoes and at the end is saved. Personally I enjoy reading. I've read books by many authors, and my personal favorite is Jules Verne. My favorite books are Spanish books named El Rey del Gol (The King of the Goal) and Hugol (Hugoal); both tell the real-life story of the best scorer in Mexican soccer history, Hugo Sanchez. He played in El Real Madrid, a Spanish soccer team, and Spanish people shouted things at him like "go back to your country, you Indian!" But they ended up loving his ability to score.
Sports and Leisure
What are the favorite sports of many of the students? Does your school have teams in certain sports, and how good are the teams this year?
The students' favorite sports are basketball and soccer. Our school has a basketball team. Its name is JDDP, our school's initials. They are good, but they haven't entered a competitive game yet. They practice on Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., except when we have exams. Tests and exams are a very serious thing in this school. The administration does not want to distract us from the time we should devote to our studies. Hopefully when we get to play, we'll do great.
Is there a kind of national club for girls like America's Girl Scouts? Are there Girls Scouts in Mexico? Do you have a similar club, too, for boys that is like Boy Scouts here?
There are the Boy Scouts but in that club or group, boys and girls can join it. Then they divide them. The girls' group is called Gacelas and the boys' group is called Coyote. Gacela means "gazelle" and coyote means "coyote." Usually they meet during the week but also on Sunday before church. In Mexico, Boy Scouts are taught to be good Christians, but otherwise they function as in any other part of the world.
What type of music do you listen to? When you have free time, what type of activities do you do? Do you have movie houses in your town, and what kind of movies do you see?
Since we live near the border of the U.S. and Mexico, we have the English music influence on the young people of this city. Groups like Nirvana, U2, Green Day, Spice Girls, and more have a great influence. Grownups listen to Mexican songs. When we have free time, we (youth) hang out, listen to music, watch TV, or play soccer. When we go to the movies, we usually see scary movies and action ones.
Que pasa!! Please tell us what the weather is like. What is the temperature in summer and winter? What kinds of wildlife do you have in your area? Can you give us some examples and tell us about each of them? Do you have lizards?
The state of Chihuahua and other surrounding states are located in the north of Mexico and are located in a very dry zone. Some of the species one finds here are: coyote, wildcat, puma, rabbit, black bear, rattlesnake, tlacoyote, serpents, scorpions, tarantulas, etc.
Is it really hot in Mexico like it is in Florida? Do you have snow in Mexico? How much usually? We have a lot of rain here because of El Niño. Please tell us about the weather and seasons in your city.
Here it is very hot. In summer, the average is about 96°F, but it is a different kind of hot. It is dry and desert-like, and in Florida, the heat is very moist. Here in Mexico, there are places where there is never snow and there are some places where it does not snow very often, like here in Juárez city. El Niño is presenting us with much wind and a little rain.