Entrenched in a rich history of many different cultures, Mexican tattoos look unique compared to any other country. Despite hundreds of years away from the scene, Aztec designs remain prevalent. Mexican tattoo artists adopted their habits and created their own style. Religious customs from Mayan, Aztec, and Roman Catholic followings meshed into striking symbols.
Despite the feud between these groups, they made Mexico unique in their art and culture. Gang culture grips certain regions of the country, thus making tattoos a status symbol there. Common Mexican tattoos slowly became symbols of Mexican gangs. Check out this gallery of over forty Mexican tattoos, along with some of their history and meanings.
Dia de los Muertos Tattoos
Dia de los Muertos—or, the Day of the Dead—plants its roots in more than one religion. Both Roman Catholic and Aztec traditions meshed and formed what we know today. The day honors the dead, and it has several striking symbols that make it unique from other holidays. Sugar skulls show up in pop culture all over the world, but they started with this holiday. Mexicans named them sugar skulls because the little candies contain sugar that sates the dead visitors.
Each Dia de Los Muertos, the dead return to commune and celebrate with the living. Adorned with roses, vines, and sequins, Mexicans present beautiful sugar skulls to them. With Mexican tattoo designs, sometimes a lady named Santa Muerte–or, Lady Death–shows up. If you want to know more about Dia de los Muertos tattoos, feel free to visit our in-depth day of the dead gallery article on the topic.
Although the Aztec culture remained oppressed for centuries by conversion obsessed Catholic preachers, its culture still remains an important part of Mexican life. To this day, artists ink Aztec inspired tattoos on many clients. The carefully crafted Aztec calendar shows up often in tattoo designs. A circle with a face sits in the center and represents the sun with several different eras and months surrounding it. Although the Aztec calendar does not line up with the Roman calendar, the Aztec calendar contains higher accuracy!
The Aztec calendar accounted for longer periods of time and the tilt of the earth. Earth’s tilt spins over the course of thousands of years. Their amazing cleverness and wisdom still make people scratch their heads. This attention to detail continued in the form of tattoo art. Other common tattoo symbols feature feathered skulls or people, which represent priests and warriors of the past. Feathered snakes, with their fangs bared, also show up on the backs of many. The feathered serpents depict Quetzalcoatl, an Aztec god that governs the storms, winds, arts, and knowledge. Sometimes, the feathered serpent appears inside a lightning storm.
Mexican Gang & Mafia Tattoos
Because of the sheer amount of gang activity in Mexico, many tattoo designs connected with Mexico gained fame among Mexican gangs. The most striking design, somehow, also graces the Mexican flag. The flag shows an eagle, perched on a cactus, with a snake in its mouth and two swords beneath it.
The tattoo tells an ancient Aztec story, even though the Aztecs dispersed long ago. The gods told the Aztec people to build their city where they saw an eagle eating a snake on a cactus. Their vision ended up pointing them to the middle of the lake, but a little water never stopped the Aztecs.
Mexican Tattoo History
Whether the story is true or not, what is now Mexico City is definitely built on top of a marsh. It sinks into the ground a little more each year. While the Mexican flag is not exclusively used for gangs, remain aware of it when picking your tattoo. Mexican tattoos more closely connected with gangs include guns, smoke, and skulls. But just because someone wears that tattoo, doesn’t mean they count themselves among gang members. These are all common symbols in Mexico, and consequently, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
The huge amount of diversity that graces Mexico has created an amazing center of art and knowledge. Tattoos closely intertwine with the dominant religions and beliefs of Mexico. With a history spanning back before written times, Mexican tattoos show off a unique flair. They distinguish themselves, compared to other recognizable styles. Spotting a Mexican tattoo proves easy, even if you look in countries that aren’t necessarily Mexico. Their pride in history and their country shines in all Mexican tattoos.
If you enjoyed the article, feel free to check out our other tattoo articles! Leave a comment if you have any questions or concerns. As always, thanks for reading!