Islam in Mexico

In Chiapas, Mexico, portions of the indigenous populations, such as Mayans and Tzotzils, have embraced Islam. Photo: Tumblr: Ihavefaith

Nayantara Mukherji is a journalist, editor, Inside Islam radio producer, and a recent addition to our writing team.

Although traditionally known for its strong Catholic community, Mexico is also home to a small yet diverse community of Muslims. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the country had about 110,000 Muslims in 2009. That’s less than 1 percent of the population of Mexico. But according to Zidane Zeraoui, professor of international relations at the Technological University of Monterrey, the history of Islam in Mexico goes back to its earliest days.

In my interview with Zeraoui here in Madison, he emphasized the fact that Muslims and Jews actually came to Mexico early in the colonial period.

There were ‘false Christians,’ or marranos who came to Latin America as Catholics converted by force. Officially, they were Catholics, but inside, in their private lives, they were still practicing their religions.

A building in Puebla, Mexico, built in the Mudéjar style. Photo: Archnet.org

Zeraoui said there are many indications of early Jewish and Muslim migrations in Mexico. For example, many buildings in Mexico (including churches, convents, and government buildings) are built in an architectural style called “Mudéjar,” a term that refers to Muslims living under Christian rule in Spain.

The city Zeraoui lives in, Monterrey, was founded by marranos, and even today, Jewish and Muslim influences remain strong in the city. Unlike the rest of Mexico, Zeraoui says people in Monterrey prefer goat meat to pork, an influence of kosher and halal food practices. They even have a type of meat they call “Sarassan meat.”

In Monterray, we don’t eat much pork, but if you were to go to Mexico City, the basis of food is pork.

Muslims in Mexico are generally concentrated in four cities: Tequesquitengo in Morelos, Torreón in Coahuila, San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, and Mexico City. About half the Muslims in Mexico today are converts/reverts. The groups are extremely diverse, and include both Shias and Sunnis.

Are you surprised to learn about the diversity of Islam in Mexico? Where do you see the influence of Islam in Latin America more generally? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

5 thoughts on “Islam in Mexico

  1. ASAK,
    Quite an interesting article. Did Marranos build mosques like buildings in early Mexico where they practiced their religion? Or are their any other signs of Muslim or Jewish life besides mMdejar and non-pork eating communities?

    B reg

    Mehmet, Cologne, Germany

  2. Thanks for the question, Mehmet. I’m not completely sure of the answer, by my impression is that since early Muslims and Jews in Mexico came as marranos, they could not publicly express their religion. Outwardly at least, they had to be Catholic. So instead, they expressed their beliefs in subtle ways, through architecture and cultural practices.

  3. This is a very interesting discovery and may be a topic for a thesis. I would also like to ask about Islam in Mexico. What is the relation between Mexican Muslims and Islam? Are they adequately aware of Islam?

  4. I agree with other comments this piece is very interesting . I am Mexican, reverted and residing in the US. Currently visiting some family in Cuernavaca , Morelos. Also brought a ray of light to my fellow Mexican Muslim community, which I am eager to see tomorrow at the Friday prayer in Mexico City, iA. Thank you enlighting my morning, wishing everyone bless day, inshaAllah

  5. I’m a Mexican Muslim (revert), and it is amazing that a lot of mexicans are embracing islam now a days. I live in Monterrey and I’ve seen that the muslim community here is growing every month, we even have a little masjid where we pray every friday in congregation and now in ramadan we are having taraweeh prayers every day.