Twenty years ago, children across the world made their first epic journeys to the Kanto region where they met Professor Oak, their obnoxious hometown rival, and the very first Pokémon companion who'd join them in their adventures.
In the two decades since red and green (blue in the West) were first released, Nintendo and the Pokémon Company have published well over 50 different Pokémon games set in new worlds and featuring hundreds of unique monsters.
Currently, there are 722 official Pokémon that have been confirmed by Nintendo (excluding alternate formes) that draw upon the folklore from various cultures. Mawile, a fairy/steele-type monster, is loosely based on the Japanse legend of the Futakuchi-onna, a demon woman with a second mouth hidden in the back of her head.
While some Pokémon are tied to myths, others are grounded in real-world cultures. In particular, there just so happen to be a handful of pocket monsters with direct links to Latin America. Some of them are super cool and some of them are…well, pretty racist. But they're all a part of the Pokémon legacy and you should know all about them.
Remember when everyone thought that Jynx was the most racist Pokémon ever? They hadn't met Ludicolo yet. In typical Pokémon fashion, it's difficult to tell what Ludicolo's supposed to be exactly. It's a pineapple. It's a duck. It's a man wearing a poncho and a sombrero who likes to sing and dance?
At best, Ludicolo's supposed to be a tribute to Mexican Mariachi. At worst, it's just offensive. You decide.
Sigilyph's a curious flying/psychic Pokémon first introduced in the Black and White games. Unlike most Pokémon, Sigilyph isn't based on a specific animal, but rather a drawing of one.
The monster's design is inspired by the Nazca Lines, a set of artistic geoglyphs etched into the earth of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru.
It's thought that the Nazca people drew the lines in an effort to draw the attention of their deities. Throughout the region, there are a number of etchings styled after monkeys, orcas, and spiders. Sigilyph is based on the Nazca hummingbird.
Hawlucha's way, way up there in hall of fame for Pokémon badasses. It's a fighting/flying type hawk with an affinity for airborne wrestling moves inspired by lucha libre.
Whereas Ludicolo come across as a slightly-racist reading of a cultural tradition, Hawlucha's characterization tends to be much more respectful and celebratory. Also it's just cool.
Everything that's great about Hawlucha is also true of Pikachu Libre. What it lacks in flight, it makes up for in personality and type advantage (because electric beats flying).
When the first Pokémon games were released, Mew was something of an urban legend. Kids dreamt of finding it and spent hours searching through games using every cheat code available in hopes of discovering #151.
When Mew's existence was finally confirmed and the Pokémon was made available to the public, we learned that Mew was the original Pokémon from which all others descended.
In the first Pokémon movie, Mew's described as being a psychic capable of learning all moves and transforming into other Pokémon. It's also explained that researchers looking for the elusive monster eventually (and unknowingly) discover it in the jungles of Guyana.
Ancient Guyanese cultures, it's implied, encountered Mew often enough that they incorporate it into their local mythology, a concept that's worth pointing out considering that Mew's known for rendering itself invisible.