Terra Cotta Tile

Celebrating Distinctions in Mexican History and Tile

Mexico is a country whose customs are rich in tradition, be it celebrating a day in history like Cinco de Mayo with an elaborate festival, or hand-crafting Saltillo tile almost the same way today as was done at its conception decades ago.

Americans often mistake Cinco de Mayo for Mexico’s Independence Day. Because we can’t all be James Holzhauer, the current Jeopardy champion making history by chasing the show’s Hall of Fame record, here’s a bit of background on both days that mark significant events in Mexico’s history.

Cinco de Mayo or Mexican Independence Day?

Cinco de Mayo is often confused with Mexico’s Independence Day. On September 16, 1810, Mexico revolted against Spain, by making their first cry for independence. Mexico’s independence doesn’t come however, until two decades later.

Handpainted Terracotta Tile offers a fresh take on a decades long tile tradition.
Handpainted Terracotta Tile, like our Duquesa Collection offers a fresh take on a decades-long tile tradition.

Cinco de Mayo or the 5th of May is a holiday that celebrates Mexico’s unlikely military victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War.

Today, Cinco de Mayo isn’t considered a major holiday in Mexico, but in the United States it has become an important day, especially for those with Mexican-American heritage, to honor Mexican culture by way of festivals filled with parades, music, dancing and food.

Terra Cotta or Saltillo Tile?

In Spanish, it’s pronounced tierra cocida. (Did you roll the double R’s?) To those who speak French, it’s terre cuite. The most recognized name however, terra cotta, comes from Italy. No matter the language, the name translates to baked earth.

An example of terra cotta tile color range, from yellow and orange, to amber and red.

Terra cotta tile is a red clay-based tile. The color of the clay as it comes from the earth (and thus the tile), will vary depending on where it is from, like Spain, France, Italy, etc.

The unifying factor, is that terra cotta tiles go through the same production process: a natural clay body is pressed or cut into shape and then baked and fired in a kiln. Once the tile hardens, it is often left unglazed to show the tile’s natural color variation. Many contemporary terracotta tiles, like our Duquesa Collection pictured above, implement hand-painting techniques as well.

A vintage-vibe kitchen with terra cotta tile floors. Image via Marisa Vitale for apartmenttherapy.com

A country known for it’s production of terra cotta tile, is Mexico. Saltillo tile is a red clay-based tile, that originates from Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. Manufacturing Saltillo tile is one of the two most known products to come from the region; the other being a sarape or long blanket-like shawl.


We’ll take the category, Tile Twisters, for 200 Alex. Answer: This tile, specific to Mexico is always consider to be terra cotta, but not all terra cotta tile is this. Question: What is Saltillo tile.

When you aren’t celebrating Cinco de Mayo this weekend, stop by one of Architectural Ceramic’s showrooms to browse our specialty vendors like those from Mexico and more. ¡Hasta pronto!

For further questions about terra cotta or Saltillo tile, or to place a tile order, please contact sales@architecturalceramics.com. Want weekly updates about Architectural Ceramics and our product lines? Join our newsletter here.

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