Mexican Culture

The Influence of Rich Mexican culture in Tucson

Before Tucson, Arizona was part of the United States, this land belonged to Mexico. As such, you can feel the rich Mexican culture running through nearly every facet of Tucson life, influencing our art, music, fashion, and of course, our super tasty food.

Deep Roots

Tucson was originally founded as the Spanish military fort Presidio San Agustín del Tucsón in 1775. When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, Tucson became a part of Sonora, Mexico.

The U.S. acquired Tucson and Arizona south of the Gila River from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase between 1853 and 1854. At the time of the purchase, Tucson was a Mexican community of around 500 residents. It was these people and their descendants that helped form Tucson into the thriving city it is today.

While Tucson may have changed hands under the Gadsden Purchase, no culture has had a more substantial influence on the city than Mexico’s, and it continues to flourish and grow with each passing year.

Iron Gate that reads "Presidio San Agustin del Tucson 1775-1856"

Cultural Traditions

The influence of Mexican culture is on full display in downtown Tucson.

Our historic neighborhoods are called barrios (meaning a quarter or district in Spanish). In Barrio Viejo, for instance, you can see Mexican culture in the Sonoran architecture, brightly-colored adobe houses, and El Tiradito, a beautiful wishing shrine.

El Tiradito

El Tiradito, wishing shrine

The culture is prevalent in our annual events. Tucson’s All Souls Procession, an event inspired by Mexico’s Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), brings together over 150,000 members of our community to walk the streets in procession to honor the lives of lost loved ones. Attendees paint their faces in sugar skulls, wear costumes, and tow alters with pictures of family and friends who’ve passed on.

All Souls Procession Finale Dancers In Tucson, AZ

Performers in large round head-covering helmets with graphic faces drawn on them. One hanging on bar with fire at end

Traditional Mexican Dancers in bright, colorful dresses and sombreros
Traditional Mexican Dancers

Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates Mexico defeating the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, is a huge celebration in Tucson.

Mexican food plays a large role in Tucson’s culinary scene. Our oldest Mexican restaurant, El Charro Café, founded in 1922, is also the oldest Mexican restaurant in the country continuously operated by the same family. El Charro serves up Northern Mexican and Tucson-style Mexican dishes and is a fine example of Tucson’s deep Mexican roots.

Tucson, AZ is home to America's Best Mexican Food, but Mexican food in Tucson goes far beyond our restaurants. You can find delicious taco trucks and Sonoran hot dog vendors sprinkled throughout the city streets.

Three El Charro Tamales on plate

Tamales from El Charro

The sounds of Mexico also have a strong influence on Tucson’s music and art scene. You can find everything from world-class Mariachi music to rock and pop bands that are clearly inspired by Mexican culture. One can say the same for many of Tucson’s artists. Just take a look at many of the murals adorning our city, and the influence of Mexican culture shines through.

Mariachi Musicians Onstage

Tucson International Mariachi Conference

Tucson would not be the rich cultural hub it has become without the heavy influence of Mexican culture. It's ingrained in nearly everything we do, and our vibrant city is that much better for it.

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