Mexico Seeks Official UNESCO Recognition of Its Cuisine

Mexico Seeks Official UNESCO Recognition of Its Cuisine

Food & Drink

Mexico Seeks Official UNESCO Recognition of Its Cuisine


By Cari Martens

Can a nation’s cuisine be put on an official, globally recognized protected list? The government of Mexico is hoping so.

Mexico already has many of its monuments on UNESCO´s list of protected sites. Now its government is asking for international recognition for the country’s cuisine.

Officials of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization will decide in the coming weeks whether to add Mexico’s food to the organization’s list of intangible cultural patrimony, according to Mexican cuisine expert Gloria Lopez.

With the approaching Cinco de Mayo holiday once again bringing attention to Mexican cuisine, this would seem to be an appropriate time for the recognition to be officially sanctioned.

Lopez said the methods of preparing traditional tamales and salsas should be protected as much as Mexico’s recognized physical heritage, such as the pre-Hispanic city around the pyramids of Teotihuacan or Mexico City’s historic center of colonial buildings and remnants of ancient structures.

Corn, beans and chiles form the foundation of Mexico’s food, with each region of the country adding its own ingredients and seasonings to the mix, Lopez said.

Traditional Mexican cuisine dates back 3,000 years to the Mayans, who based their diet on corn, beans and vegetables.

Mexico’s pride in its cuisine is long-standing, Lopez said, and increasingly important as globalization and pollution jeopardize traditions in many of the country’s small towns. Mexican officials previously lobbied UNESCO to recognize Mexican cuisine with a more general proposal focusing on corn. This year’s application features the traditional cuisine of the Mexican state of Michoacan.

Genovevo Figueroa, Michoacan’s tourism secretary, said women in the state’s small towns cook savory meals using healthy, organic ingredients — a sharp contrast with the processed cheese and sour cream-covered nachos and tacos that many people outside the country typically think of as Mexican food.

Figueroa said he hopes this year’s UNESCO application will help others learn about authentic Mexican cooking. “The world identifies Mexican food with lots of grease and spices,” he said.

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