Mexico is colourful, lively and animated...just some words that describe its culture. Its past history, current times and day to day realities mean its culture is constantly evolving and diversifying. The frenetic pace of life in Mexico is often reflected in films about the country and the musical styles that were born here.
Alejandro González Iñárritu is, in my opinion, an incredibly talented Mexican producer/director. Some of his best known works are 'Babel', '21 Grams', 'Mother and Child' and 'Nine Lives'.
He directed 'Amores Perros', which was released in the UK under its Spanish title but is sometimes called 'Love's A Bitch'. It's a compelling account of three love stories that unfold amidst the chaos of Mexico City. He also produced 'Rudo y Cursi', which was written and directed by Carlos Cuarón. It's a tale of two brothers determined to escape the drudgery of working on a Mexican banana plantation.
Another worthy, Mexican producer/director is Everardo Gout. His film, 'Days of Grace' is set in Mexico and follows the life of three people during three World Cups.
Finally there's the Mel Gibson film 'Apocalypto', which is entirely in Yucatàn Maya with subtitles. It follows the story of a Mayan man trying to escape sacrifice.
Mexico is famous for its sombrero wearing Mariachis. You can easily find samples of this upbeat musical style with a quick internet search. Of the better known groups, I suggest you listen to Vargas de Tecalitlán and Miguel Aceves Mejia.
I also recommend you check out the albums by Rodrigo y Gabriela, two exceptional guitarists who often tour the UK and have headlined at Glastonbury Hear them in concert and you'll have a hard time believing there are only two musicians on stage.
The diversity of Mexican culture is reflected by those who write about it. Here are some must-reads to enjoy before or during your time on Mexican soil.
First of all you have 'Aztec' by Garry Jennings. Published by Atheneum it's the first in a series of 5 historical novels. The mysteries of this great civilization unfold through the eyes of its hero, Mixtli.
Juan Rulfo wrote 17 short stories entitled 'El Llano en Flamme' of which 15 have been translated under the title 'The Burning Plain and other stories'. They'll transport you to the 1920s, when Mexico's 'Cristero Rebellion' was in full throttle. He was also a very talented photographer and around 200 of his photos were published in the book 'Juan Rulfo's Mexico' (Smithsonian Books 2002).
Finally you should read Carlos Fuentes' 'Crystal Frontier', whose characters stem from different backgrounds and who all live on the Mexico/US border.