Where did the "all Mexicans love spicy food" meme originate?

This Christmas my Mexican-American family had a discussion about spicy food (prompted by some spicy tamales I bought from a coworker). All of them said they disliked very spicy food. True they do use spices in their food but sparingly. The strongest thing they’ll use is a light dosing of Tabasco, and they would never buy those “STRAIGHT FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL!” hot sauces you see in supermarkets. Yet I often see on and off the board the notion all Mexicans love the spiciest food imaginable. Admittedly much of my family has been in the US several generations, but even my uncles born across the border in Northeast Mexico feel this way. Is my family a bunch of oddballs? Do people in other parts of Mexico love incredibly spicy foods? Or is this a “no true Scotsman” meme?

I think solely because Latin American food on a whole tends to be spicier than the average white American is used to in his traditional diet. There’s a high level of people making assumptions involved.

I’ve never had nor heard anyone have the impression that Mexican food is intended to be particularly spicy, nor that Mexicans like spicy food.

What region of the US are you in?

Really? That’s just quite surprising to me. It’s a pretty common notion throughout at least the Midwest and on these boards. When I ask people who don’t like Mexican food why they don’t like it, it’s invariably because “it’s too spicy.” I think undoubtedly, on average, Mexican cuisine is spicier than your standard European fare, and that Mexican palates are geared towards spiciness the way, say, Central European palates are not. By my standards, Mexican is not at all “particularly spicy” but by the average meat-and-potatoes crowd not used to the spicier cuisines of say Asia or Africa, it’s pretty darned hot. I mean, Tabasco is blazingly hot to a lot of people, so the impression that Mexicans eat “the hottest food imaginable” is not really a stretch if your palate is calibrated to a heat level where Tabasco is painful.

Or the traditional diet of the 1950s-1960s, before salsa could seriously challenge ketchup as our national condiment.

Look at a cookbook from right after WWII. The American palate was much blander and more parochial, and even the bad Mexican we take for granted now certainly didn’t make much of an impact on that cuisine. ‘Meat-and-potatoes’ wouldn’t have been that bad a description of the average meal.

Western Washington State; most of my family is either from Eastern Washington or South Texas.

There are spicier regions of Mexico… Mexico like may other equatorial countries follows the spicier South and Spicy North Phenomenon… the closer you get to the equator, the spicier it gets.

Well, the fact that chilli peppers are native to the American continent probably has something to do with it.

I’m not in the US and I’ve never had anything Mexican that I’d even consider slightly Spicy Hot, but I think a lot of it depends what you’d consider “Spicy”.

I mean, I look at a Beef Vindaloo (when I’m in the mood for something really spicy) and go “Yum! Vindaloo! Nom nom nom!” whilst one of my good mates complains that anything with black pepper in it is “too spicy” for him.

I think it is partly because a lot of Americans confuse Tex-Mex with Mexican food. Tex-Mex is spicier than typical white American food, while Mexican food actually has a lot more variety than just stuff with salsa, peppers and cheese on it.

Our food has always been based around 3 principal ingredients since before the arrival of the Spaniards.

Corn, beans and chile. The latter was or is normally absent in the diet of northern europeans.

Here not all dishes are necessarily spicy but each individual can add heat according to their personal taste. But there is a saying in this country:

Sin chile no tiene chiste.

What you won’t find here though are people posturing about how much chile they can handle, as seems to be the case with other nationalities.

They may or may not cook spicy foods but that doesn’t mean they don’t like them. I buy the best damn salsa from a full aisle of home made salsa and hot sauces at a local Mexican Market. If it doesn’t make you sweat when you eat it, it’s not worth putting on a dish IMHO.

One of my daughters is married to a Hispanic and his family cooks awesome Mexican food. Their food is never spicy, however, they make and present several types of salsa. There is also the mandatory large bottle of Tapatio hot sauce on the serving table.

Spicy cooking I’d say no, not in that sense.

It’s hard not to have the impression when the Mexican I live with eats whole chilies breakfast, lunch and dinner (and claims everyone eats like that in Mexico). Fresh ones usually, but if it’s winter and I haven’t saved any he’ll get some of those cans. He will sit there munching on them while the sweat pours. I don’t get the appeal myself.

We have never had any sort of hot sauce in our house though.

This is anecdotal, but the Spanish teacher in our elementary school is from Mexico and she is always bringing us Mexican candy to try out and it ALWAYS has some sort of hot pepper in it. Or on it. The lollipops she eats are something like taking a regular lollipop and dipping it in cayenne pepper like some sort of deranged “lik-em stik” or “Fun Dip.”

To expand on what Electric Warrior says, consider the source; compared to the diets of the kind of people who would say such things as “all Mexicans love spicy food,” the average Mexican diet probably is a lot more spicy. That is to say, not necessarily very spicy at all, but contains things as hot as say, paprika.

I like very spicy food. I’ve noticed that it’s difficult to get it up here.

That said, even in L.A. I didn’t find Mexican food particularly hot. Except for chorizo. The chorizo I got down there was nice and spicy. Up here, not so much (even from an actual carnicería). But yeah, it was mostly ‘meat and starch’. The spices added flavour, but generally weren’t hot. If I wanted hot, I usually turned to Thai spicy fried rice and beef paneang.

That’s interesting. I got some really bland Mexican food in Amsterdam once. Maybe they are cooking for a European palate?

If you have any doubt as to the spiciness (or potential spiciness) of Mexican food, try some of this stuff.

i’m not so sure this is so much a meme as a stereotype. in fact, i’m not even sure it’s that much of a stereotype.

i mean, is it that far of a stretch to notice that mexican food uses all sorts of chile peppers, so people there have acquired a taste for spicy(ier) foods? of course i’m not implying that mexicans are genetically predisposed to liking spicy food, but they’re certainly socialized to enjoy food spicier than some other cultures, no?

of course if you’ve lived your entire life in western Wash, this becomes more of a moot point, but you can still see the logic behind the reasoning can’t you? i’m asian and i don’t go around wondering where the “all asian people love rice meme” came from. i’m self aware enough to know that in SE asia, people eat a bunch of rice. no great mystery there, and not really a great mystery here either.

Most Latin American food is as bland or even more bland than North American food. Mexico is pretty much the exception, in as much as it often feature chiles.

I’m pretty sure that the marketing ploy of equating spiciness with machismo–as done with the hot sauces mentioned in the OP–is solely a North American conceit.

Agree. I went to Guatemala, and the food there was like a really bland version of Mexican.