Mexico, or the United Mexican States, is a republic bordered by the United States of America, Guatemala, and Belize, as well as the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. With an estimated population of more than 111 million, there are many, many people of Mexican descent living within Mexico and around the world. Tattoos displaying pride in this cultural heritage and ancestral inheritance are an increasing part of tattoo culture and the body modification community. Mexican tattoos are comprised of a variety styles gathered from various areas of Mexican culture.
Mexican tattoos often represent the country of Mexico as it stands today, immigrants and emigrants alike might get tattoos of the Mexican flag, the Golden Eagle, military insignia, maps, place names, or national emblems. Just like the Bald Eagle in the United States, the Golden Eagle is symbolic of Mexico. It is a protected species and is frequently used in ceremonies. Oftentimes, Mexican tattoos will combine different elements to create a patriotic tattoo. The map of Mexico might be partially covered by the Mexican flag and a soaring eagle. Family names, particularly those of Mexican history, are sometimes incorporated into tattoos. This shows that the wearer has pride in their family and in their country; they are proud of where they came from and they stay true to their roots.
Mayan and Aztec tattoo designs are popular with those of Aztec or Mayan ancestry, those of general Mexican descent, and those who simply admire these famous indigenous peoples. Aztec and Mayan tattoos use art and symbolism from these groups in order to create tattoo designs. Gods and goddesses, religious beliefs, artifacts, and notable architecture are all used, especially those aspects that are exclusive or representative. A well-known aspect of Aztec culture was their participation in live human sacrifices. During these rituals, the heart was cut from the sacrifice's chest while they still lived. Because of this, ceremonial knives and daggers, sometimes bloodied, play a significant part in Aztec-inspired Mexican tattoos. Gods too, iconic and more obscure, are often featured, along with the elements they controlled like the sun. Other popular symbols include warriors, weapons, armor, statues, stone work, and figures.
The majority of Mexico is Catholic and, as such, Catholic and other Christian imagery are important in Mexican tattoos. While the Virgin Mary is an important figure to all Catholics, the Virgin of Guadalupe is specific to Mexico and Mexican Catholics. Often appearing in visions and dreams, the Virgin is probably the most tattooed Mexican religious figure. The Virgin of Guadalupe often has a darker complexion, to reflect the norms of the country, and is usually somber looking, with her face down-turned and a nimbus (or full-body halo) radiating around her. Other popular religious tattoos in Mexico include angels, Christ, crosses, rosaries, the crucifix, nails, and religious text.
Because many people from Mexico now living in the United States or other countries experience a lot of racism and trials, INS, or La Migra, tattoos and worker rights tattoos are gaining popularity. INS workers, La Migra as they are known, work to keep the border between Mexico and the US secure. Particularly in regions and towns along the border, the INS is despised for doing their job and restricting the flow of illegal immigrants. Many people get tattoos expressing their dislike for the INS, along with commemoration and memorial tattoos featuring the portraits of those who have been deported or those who are still back in Mexico. Oftentimes, workers enter the United States and send money home to Mexico to support their family that still resides there. Similarly, those working in America sometimes get tattoos expressing their right to work, often epitomized by Cesar Chavez, a proponent of worker's rights and symbol of the movement. Other revolutionaries and leaders are also featured in Mexican tattoos.
Mexican holidays, and the Day of the Dead specifically, are favorite tattoo motifs. The Day of the Dead is a holiday that blends Christian and pagan traditions, and is marked by celebrations and festivities. Family is very important in Latin American culture and Mexico is no exception. The Day of the Dead is a time for family and friends to celebrate family members and ancestors who have died, reconnecting with the past and remembering those who have gone before. Today, the holiday is celebrated in communities around the world. Day of the Dead tattoos often feature the art so representative of these festivities. Skulls decorated with the bright colors and pretty designs are associated with this day. The skulls are usually abstract or stylize and are some of the most frequently tattooed Mexican images.