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6 things you never knew linked Mexico and Germany
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (left) meets German President Joachim Gauck (right) in Berlin on Monday. Photo: DPA.

6 things you never knew linked Mexico and Germany

The Local · 11 Apr 2016, 17:11

Published: 11 Apr 2016 17:11 GMT+02:00
Updated: 11 Apr 2016 17:11 GMT+02:00

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Germany kicked off celebrations on Monday for this year's German-Mexican cultural year, including the opening of a Mayan art exhibit in Berlin, a visit from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and more.

Both countries take their signature booze seriously and share a fondness for the VW Beetle, but there's a lot more that ties them together.

The Local takes a look at what exactly links these two perhaps unlikely friends, more than 9,000 kilometres apart.

1. Germany once offered to give Texas back to Mexico

An 1827 map of Mexico. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Mexico's defeat in the Mexican-American War in 1847 was a bitter one, entailing the loss of about half of its northern territory. So it might have seemed like a very tempting prospect to potentially gain back some of what used to be Mexico, even decades later.

At least, that's apparently what Germany thought.

In 1917 at the height of the First World War, Mexico had declared itself neutral while its northern neighbour the United States had not yet entered the international bloodbath. But Germans feared the Americans would soon join the war (and in fact they did so later that year).

So the Germans sent Mexico a cordial invitation to change their minds about the whole neutrality thing, saying that if the US got in of the fight, it would be in Mexico's best interest to join forces with Germany. And upon their victory, Germany would hand Texas, New Mexico and Arizona back over to Mexico.

This invitation, known as the Zimmermann Telegram, was intercepted by British intelligence.

But Mexico ultimately declined. 

2. Humboldt University namesake blazed German trail to Mexico

Alexander von Humboldt. Portrait: Joseph Karl Stieler/Wikimedia Commons.

Alexander von Humboldt, one of the two Humboldt brothers for which the university is named, was one of the first documented German visitors to Mexico when in 1803 he arrived to map the country's topography and learn about its culture.

"Alexander von Humboldt’s reports on his trip to Mexico back in 1803/4 heralded the start of Germany’s fascination with Mexico, undiminished to this day," explains the German Foreign Office on its website.

"Conversely, Germany has also traditionally been held in high regard in Mexico."

And Germans sporting their typical socks-and-sandals ensembles have been flocking to its beaches ever since.

3. Germans love tequila - even if it's less than authentic

Former German Tourism Commissioner Ernst Hinsken. Photo: DPA.

About seven percent of the German population drinks tequila at least one a month, which is a higher rate than gin (4.5 percent), according to the German Spirits Industry Association.

Young Germans between the ages of 18 and 29 especially enjoy tequila with 13.4 percent of this age group admitting to downing at least one shot every month - a higher rate than for traditional herbal liqueurs like Jägermeister (12.2 percent).

Germany even has its own tequila brand: the sombrero-capped Sierra Tequila by Hamburg-based Borco, which is exported to more than 90 different countries, according to the German Spirits Industry Association.

Schleswig-Holstein authorities last year seized a huge shipment of 25,000 litres in fake tequila in Hamburg which then had to be done away with.

And the German officials with their 500-year-old Beer Purity Law understand just how important the authenticity of alcohol can be: They even had Mexican officials to stand by to monitor as they destroyed the impostor product.

4. German companies are huge employers in Mexico

The production room of Volkswagen's plant in Puebla, Mexico. Photo: DPA.

Germany and Mexico are actually quite big economic partners, with some 1,700 German companies registered in the Latin American country, according to the German Foreign Office.

Most of those are in the car industry, including heavyweights Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

Plus, last year their bilateral trade was worth $17.4 billion (€15.23 billion), making Germany Mexico's principal trading partner in the European Union.

5. Germans named a shot after Mexico

A "Mexikaner" shot. Photo: Achim Schleuning/Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Germany has its fair share of German-named schnapps to swig back on a night out (or a Tuesday morning).

Story continues below…

But one which almost every bar now boasts on their menus might be especially perplexing to newcomers because though it's called a Mexikaner (Mexican), there's not much Mexican about it. The shot is often made with German grain alcohol or vodka and tomato juice like a mini Bloody Mary, and was born from a very German Kneipe.

The story goes that Hamburg pub owner Mike Coloni had ordered some cut-price booze for his joint Steppenwolf (coyote) in 1987. But the cheap liquor tasted so awful that he decided he had to devise a way to mask the taste, Coloni told broadcaster NDR.

Coloni experimentally added some tomato juice, Tabasco, salt and pepper and offered the concoction for free and it soon became a hit.

"It tastes like something Mexican," one pleased customer noted, and thus the name stuck.

6. Drinking twinsies

Officials from sister regions Bavaria and Jalisco celebrate in 2005. Photo: DPA.

The countries' capitals are official sister cities, and also appropriately paired are the states of Jalisco and Bavaria - homes of tequila and of the German Beer Purity Law, respectively. 

The Beer Purity Law - which marks its 500th birthday this year - dictates that true beer is made with the simple ingredients of water, barley and hops, later adding yeast.

Similarly, the Official Mexican Standard (NOM) dictates that tequila is only that which is produced in a certain area around Jalisco and using the blue agave plant.

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