Mexico Tourism Board Celebrates UNESCO Honor for Traditional Mexican Cuisine

2010 is the First Year Any National Cuisine is Placed on World Heritage List; Traditional Mexican Cuisine is Considered a Part of “Intangible Cultural Heritage”

MEXICO CITY  — The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) recently announced the first-ever gastronomy recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for traditional Mexican cuisine. Acknowledged as an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of increasing globalization, Traditional Mexican cuisine – ancestral, ongoing community culture, the Michoacan paradigm is now part of UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, an elite list of traditions, practices and rituals that encourage intercultural dialogue and shared identity. Mexican cuisine is one of the first cuisines or national food offering to be declared a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage and was officially recognized on November 16, 2010 at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.

Helping the MTB celebrate this honor, world-renowned chefs and around the country, including the much lauded and Torque D’Oro Chef of the Year Richard Sandoval, will host nine dinners across the United States and Canada to showcase the rich flavors and culture found Mexican cuisine. The series of dinners take place throughout the month of December in Chicago, Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and New York in the U.S.  Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal will also host celebrations.

“The chilies, spices and local ingredients that define Mexican cuisine are as vibrant and varied as the people of Mexico,” says Chef Sandoval. “From the age-old recipes of Mexico’s indigenous groups, to preparations inspired by the conquistadores, the cuisine has evolved with the country and its citizens – you can literally taste Mexico’s heritage in its cooking.  In fact, the constantly evolving flavor of Mexican cuisine inspired my culinary mantra, ‘old ways, new hands.’  As markets grow and kitchens become global, I aspire to uncover the potential of Mexican cuisine by applying modern culinary techniques and incorporating unexpected ingredients.  I’m thrilled that UNESCO recognizes the culture that’s reflected in Mexican cuisine and that we can celebrate this incredible culinary tradition together.”

Since 1987, Mexico has been recognized by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee as having 31 regional sites with outstanding universal value. These sites include the Ancient Mayan City of Calakmul, Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino, Historic Center of Mexico City and Xochimilco and the Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza.  Developed by UNESCO in 2003, “Intangible Cultural Heritage” reflects the traditions and living expressions passed down from generation to generation, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and events. Encompassing the social and economic value of these inherited transmissions, intangible cultural heritage provides communities with a link to the past, through the present, and into the future.

“Mexican cuisine unveils the heart of all that is authentic to its people with a variety of dishes that create a unique blend of tradition and modern zest,” said Alfonso Sumano, Director of the Americas, Mexico Tourism Board. “Mexico is proud of its rich culinary heritage and is honored to be recognized by UNESCO.”

Traditional Mexican cuisine reflects a comprehensive cultural model of farming, community and ancestral practices, and culinary techniques. Native ingredients such as tomatoes, squashes, avocados, cocoa and vanilla make up some of the basic staples of Mexican cuisine and help create many of the States regional and national identities.

Other chefs in the U.S. and Canada have shared their congratulations and joy about the news:

“Mexican food is about flavors, taste, tradition and history. I treasure this food and the memories of my grandmothers’ good cooking that were passed down from her mother and the generations of family before them. I was thrilled to hear about the UNESCO cultural heritage designation for Mexican Gastronomy and applaud the efforts put into recognizing the importance of food as a part of Mexico’s culture and a link to the past” – Traci Des Jardins, chef/owner of Mijita Cocina Mexicana in San Francisco, California

“To see the efforts of many talented intellectuals and culinary luminaries of Mexico come to a grand conclusion, is like pulling out of the oven a great dish you have been waiting for hours!  For many years, Mexican food has been heavily misrepresented and misunderstood the world over.  As a Mexican living abroad, constantly working in promoting our culinary heritage; the designation fuels my enthusiasm to continue sharing with as many people as I can what Mexican cuisine is truly all about. ‘Mexican food’ is not a two noun sentence; it is as rich and as diverse as our ecosystems. It is really not quite intangible…all one needs to do is visit any region in Mexico and experience firsthand the full extent of what it means.” – Rossana Ascencio, chef and cultural promoter in Vancouver, Canada

In addition to Mexican Cuisine, UNESCO also voted Pirekua, traditional song of the P’urhepecha and Parachicos in the traditional January feast of Chiapa de Corzo onto the list.  The Indigenous Festivity dedicated to the Dead, was also voted to UNESCO’s list of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” in 2008, and Ritual ceremony of the Voladores, Places of memory and living traditions of the Otomi-Chichimecas people of Toliman: the Pena de Bernal, guardian of a sacred territory in 2009. For a complete list of the UNESCO announcement go to

About the Mexico Tourism Board

The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) brings together the resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexico’s tourism attractions and destinations internationally. Created in 1999, the MTB functions as an executive agency of Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat, with autonomous management and the broad participation of the private sector. The MTB has offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.