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United Mexican States
Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Anthem: Himno Nacional Mexicano
Location of Mexico
and largest city
Mexico City
Official languagesNone at federal level
Spanish (de facto)
GovernmentFederal Republic
• President
Vicente Fox
From Spain
• Declared
September 16, 1810
• Recognized
September 27, 1821
• Water (%)
• 2005 estimate
107,029,000 (11th)
• 2000 census
GDP (PPP)2005 estimate
• Total
$1.073 trillion (13th)
• Per capita
$10,186 (64th)
HDI (2003)0.814
very high · 53rd
CurrencyPeso (MXN)
Time zoneUTC-8 to -6
• Summer (DST)
Calling code52
ISO 3166 codeMX

The United Mexican States (Spanish: Estados Unidos Mexicanos, literally Mexican United States), generally known as Mexico (Spanish: México) is a country located in North America, bordered at the north by the United States, and at the south by Guatemala and Belize, in Central America. It is the northernmost and westernmost country in Latin America, and also the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world.

The site of advanced Mesoamerican or Amerindian civilizations, the land that currently makes up Mexico existed under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The nation continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time since the 1910 Mexican Revolution that the opposition defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) was sworn in as President on 1 December 2000.

Mexico is a powerful and influential neighbor of the United States, in terms of trade, culture, diplomacy, and a history of emigration of Mexicans into the U.S. since the early 1900's.


Although there are tantalizing fragments of evidence suggesting human habitation of Mexico more than 20,000 years ago (see Tlapacoya archaeological site), there is no uncontested evidence that humans arrived in Mexico earlier than ~15,000 BP. One of those asserting a date of 28,000 years is archaeologist Michael D. Coe of Yale University (see Mexico: From The Olmecs To The Aztecs, 5th Edition published by Thames and Hudson).

Ancient Mexicans began to selectively breed corn plants around 8,000 B.C. Evidence shows an explosion of pottery works by 2300 B.C. and the beginning of intensive corn farming between 1800 and 1500 B.C.

Pre-Columbian civilizations

An image of one of the pyramids in the upper level of Yaxchilán
Toltec warrior columns at Tollan (Tula), Hidalgo

Between 1800 and 300 BC, complex cultures began to form. Many matured into advanced Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations such as the: Olmec, Izapa, Teotihuacan, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huaxtec, Purepecha, Toltec and Mexica (Aztecs), which flourished for nearly 5,000 years before first contact with Europeans.[citation needed]


These indigenous civilizations are credited with many inventions in: building pyramid-temples, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, writing, highly accurate calendars, fine arts, intensive agriculture, engineering, an abacus calculator (Nepohualtzitzin), a complex theology, and the wheel. Without any draft animals to do labor, however, the wheel had limited applications and was primarily used for art and toys. Metallurgy focused on copper, gold, and silver.

Archaic inscriptions on rocks and rock walls all over northern Mexico (especially in the state of Nuevo León) demonstrate an early propensity for counting in Mexico. These very early and ancient count-markings were associated with astronomical events and underscore the influence that astronomical activities had upon Mexican natives, even before they possessed urbanization.

Many of the later Mexican based civilizations would all carefully build their cities and ceremonial centers according to specific astronomical events. Astronomy and the notion of human observation of celestial events would become central factors in the development of religious systems, writing systems, fine arts, and architecture. Pre-historic Mexican astronomers set in motion a tradition of obsessive observing, recording, and commemorating astronomical events that later become a hallmark of Mexican civilized achievements. Cities would be founded and built on astronomical principles, leaders would be appointed on celestial events, wars would be fought according to solar-calendars, and a complex theology using astronomical metaphors would organize the daily lives of millions of people.

At different points in time, three different Mexican cities were the largest cities in the world: Teotihuacan, Tenochtitlan, and Cholula. These cities, among several others, blossomed as centers of commerce, ideas, ceremonies, and theology. In turn, they radiated influence outwards onto nearby neighboring cultures in central Mexico.

Major civilizations

While many city-states, kingdoms, and empires competed with one another for power and prestige, Mexico can be said to have had five major civilizations: The Olmec, Teotihuacan, the Toltec, the Mexica (Aztecs) and the Maya. These civilizations (with the exception of the politically-fragmented Maya) extended their reach across Mexico, and beyond, like no others. They consolidated power and distributed influence in matters of trade, art, politics, technology, and theology. Other regional power players made economic and political alliances with these five civilizations over the span of nearly 4,000 years. Many made war with them. But almost all found themselves within these five spheres of influence.


The earliest known Mexican civilization is the Olmec. This civilization established the cultural blueprint which all succeeding indigenous civilizations would follow in Mexico and Central America. The roots of Olmec civilization began around 2300 B.C. (according to Arqueologia Mexicana, the Mexican archaeology journal) with the production of pottery in abundance, a major sign of urbanization. The first signs of Olmec civilization are in San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, near the coast in south-east Veracruz. Widely known today for their colossal sculpted heads, the Olmec influence extended across Mexico, into Central America, and along the Gulf of Mexico. They established new forms of government, pyramid-temples, writing, astronomy, art, mathematics, trade, and religion. Their achievements would pave the way for the later Maya civilization in the east, and the many civilizations to the west in central Mexico.

View of Avenue of the Dead from Pyramid of the Moon

The decline of the Olmec resulted in a power vacuum in Mexico. Emerging from that vacuum was Teotihuacan, first settled in 300 B.C. By 150 A.D., it had grown to become the first true metropolis of what is now called North America. Teotihuacan established a new economic and political order never before seen in Mexico. Its influence stretched across Mexico into Central America, founding new dynasties in the Mayan cities of Tikal, Copan, and Kaminaljuyú. Teotihuacan's influence over the Maya civilization cannot be overstated: it transformed political power, artistic depictions, and the nature of economics. Within the city of Teotihuacan was a diverse and cosmopolitan population. Most of the regional ethnicities of Mexico were represented in the city, such as Zapotecs from the Oaxaca region. They lived in apartment communities where they worked their trades and contributed to the city's economic and cultural prowess. By 500 A.D., Teotihuacan had become the largest city in the world. Teotihuacan's economic pull impacted areas in northern Mexico as well. It was a city whose monumental architecture reflected a new era in Mexican civilization, declining in political power about 650 A.D., but lasting in cultural influence for the better part of a millennium, to around 950 A.D.

Mayan architecture at Uxmal

Contemporary with Teotihuacan's greatness was the greatness of the Maya civilization. The period between 250 A.D. and 850 A.D. saw an intense flourishing of Maya civilized accomplishments. While the many Maya city-states never achieved political unity on the order of the central Mexican civilizations, they exerted a tremendous intellectual influence upon Mexico and Central America. The Maya built some of the most elaborate cities on the continent, and made innovations in mathematics, astronomy, and writing that became the pinnacle of Mesoamerican scientific achievements. The collapse of the Maya civilization in the ninth century in the lowland areas of present day Guatemala and the Peten region of Mexico is thought to have resulted from the effects of long term droughts, soil exhaustion and inter-city warfare among the city states, leading to the eventual decline of political and social cohesion during the ninth century A.D. After that time most sites were abandoned and the peoples appear to have dissolved into the countyrside However the Maya culture continued to predominate and flourish in northern Yucatan until about the thirteenth century. The last known Maya hold-out was the city of Tayasal on the western side of Lake Peten-Itza, which didn't succumb to the Spanish invasion until 1697.

Much of the history of Mayan culture is lost. What little is known has been gleaned from carved stone hieroglypic writings. The Spaniards burned all known Maya manuscripts (excepting four meager surviving codices) in an auto-da-fe conducted by the Bishop of Merida, Diego de Landa, in the late sixteenth century.

The most famous cities (Maya cities are more ritual, religious and administrative centers than social centers such as ancient Rome) that have been discovered and extensivley explored are (in the lowlands)Tikal, Calakmul, Caracol and Palenque, and, in northern Yucatan, Uxmal, Chichen Itza and Sayil. However, there remain many cities, possibly hundreds, that are still buried under the jungle awaiting archeological explorations.


Just as Teotihuacan had emerged from a power vacuum, so too did the Toltec civilization, which took the reigns of cultural and political power in Mexico from about 700 A.D. Many of the Toltec peoples were comprised of northern desert peoples, often called Chichimeca in Mexico's Nahuatl language. They fused their proud desert heritage with the mighty civilized culture of Teotihuacan. This new heritage would give rise to a new empire in Mexico. Tula was their capital, and the Toltec empire would reach as far south as Central America, and as far north as the Anasazi corn culture in the Southwestern United States. The Toltec established a prosperous turquoise trade route with the northern civilization of Pueblo Bonito, in modern-day New Mexico. Toltec traders would trade prized bird feathers with Pueblo Bonito, while circulating all the finest wares that Mexico had to offer with their immediate neighbors. In the Mayan area of Chichen Itza, the Toltec civilization spread and the Maya were once again powerfully influenced by central Mexicans. The Toltec political system was so influential, that any serious Maya dynasty would later claim to be of Toltec descent. In fact, it was this prized Toltec lineage that would set the stage for Mexico's last great indigenous civilization.

Mexica (Aztec)

With the decline of the Toltec civilization came political fragmentation in the Valley of Mexico. Into this new game of political contenders to the Toltec throne stepped outsiders: the Mexica (or Aztecs as they were subsequently labeled by European anthropologists) . They were a proud desert people, one of seven groups who formerly called themselves Chichimecs, "descendants of dogs", but changed their name at the direction of their tribal god (see "Mectli" below) after years of wandering. Newcomers to the Valley of Mexico, they were seen as crude and unrefined in the ways of the prestigious Nahua civilizations, such as the fallen Toltec empire.

Aztec warriors as shown in the Florentine Codex.

Latecomers to Mexico's central plateau, the Mexica never thought of themselves as equals to the prestigious civilizations that had preceded them, such as did Charlemagne with respect to the fallen Roman Empire, but they did take great pains to try and legitimize their right to rule by recasting tales of their tribe's early travels and rise to rule as consequences of their carrying on of the banner and policies of the Toltecs. This was not unusual - nearly all the peoples of the central plateau claimed some legitimacy via the Toltecs, whether by direct descent or by tribal claims of having travelled through ancient sites such as Teotihuacan and Tula on the way to the central plateau.

In 1428, the Mexica led a war of liberation against their rulers from the city of Azcapotzalco, which had subjugated most of the Valley of Mexico's peoples. The revolt was successful, and The Mexica, through cunning political maneuvers and ferocious fighting skills, managed to pull off a true "rags-to-riches" story: they became the rulers of central Mexico as the head of the Triple Alliance.

This Triple Alliance was composed of the city-states of Tenochtitlán, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. At their peak, 300,000 Mexica (Aztecs) presided over a wealthy tribute-empire comprising approximately 10 million people (out of 24 million within the region). This empire stretched from ocean to ocean, and extended into Central America.

By 1519, the Mexica capital, Tenochtitlán, was the largest city in the world with a population of around 350,000 (although some estimates range as high as 500,000). By comparison, the population of London in 1519 was 80,000 people. Tenochtitlán is the site of modern-day Mexico City.


The Mexica left a deep and durable stamp upon Mexican culture. Much of what is considered Mexican culture today derives from this Mexica civilization: place-names, words, food, art, dress, symbols, and even the name "Mexican". (See also Origin and history of the name "Mexica").

For much of its history, the majority of Mexico's population lived an urban lifestyle: cities, towns, and villages. Only a fraction of the population was tribal and wandering. Most people were permanently-settled, agriculturally-based, and identified with an urban identity, as opposed to a tribal identity. Mexico has long been an urban land, which was graphically reflected in the writings of the Spaniards who encountered them.

Spanish conquest

Europeans first reached Mexico in 1517 with the explorations of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba who visited the shores of southern Mexico, followed by Juan de Grijalva in 1518.

In 1519, the native civilizations of Mexico were invaded by Spanish troops numbering about a mere 600 soldiers led by the conquistadores, Hernán Cortés who entered the country from a native coastal town which he renamed "Puerto de la Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz" (present day Veracruz). He brought with them superior weaponry and other things not known in Americas at that time, like horses, basic objects like the wheel and old world diseases. The Spaniards took advantage of a widespread resentment of brutal Aztec rule, making alliances with other indigenous tribes who were dominated by the Aztecs. This tactic allowed them to fullfill their conquest, despite their small numbers. Two years later in 1521, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City) was conquered. It is said that the dead from smallpox filled the streets and canals. Hundreds of thousands of Aztecs died of disease.

Spain did not conquer all of Mexico when Cortés destroyed the city of Tenochtitlan in 1521. It would take another two centuries after the Siege of Tenochtitlan before the Conquest of Mexico would be complete, as sporadic and ineffective rebellions, attacks, and wars continued against the Spaniards by other indigenous tribes. Disease ran rampant throughout Mexico, dropping the population from about eight million to two million by 1600.

Colonial period

The Spanish defeat of the Mexica in 1521 marked the beginning of the 300 year-long colonial period of Mexico. After the fall of Tenochtitlan Mexico City, it would take decades of sporadic warfare to pacify the rest of Mesoamerica. Particularly fierce were the "Chichimeca wars" in the north of Mexico (1576–1606).

During the colonial period, which lasted from 1521 to 1810, Mexico was known as "Nueva España" or "New Spain", whose territories included today's Mexico, Central America as far south as Costa Rica, and the area comprising today's southwestern United States. Also the Philippines, coastal parts of Alaska, British Columbia, and Oregon were part of the New Spain.

Mexican war of independence

Map of Mexico, 1847
Act of Independence of the Mexican Empire (1821) donated by Pedro Thomas Ruiz de Velasco to the citizens of Mexico.

After Napoleon I invaded Spain and put his brother on the Spanish throne, Mexican Conservatives and rich land-owners who supported Spain's Bourbon royal family objected to the comparatively more liberal Napoleonic policies. Thus an unlikely alliance was formed in Mexico: liberales, or Liberals, who favored a republican Mexico, and conservadores, or Conservatives, who favored Mexico ruled by a Bourbon monarch who would restore the old status quo. These two elements agreed only that Mexico must achieve independence and determine her own destiny.

Taking advantage of the fact that Spain was severely handicapped under the occupation of Napoleon's army, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest of Spanish descent and progressive ideas, declared Mexico's independence from Spain in the small town of Dolores on September 16, 1810. This act started the long war that eventually led to the official recognition of independence from Spain in 1821 with the Treaty of Córdoba. As with many early leaders in the movement for Mexican independence, Hidalgo was captured by opposing forces and executed. After no European monarch accepted its throne, the newly independent Mexico was ruled by Agustín de Iturbide. After his coronation as Emperor of Mexico he became known as Agustin I, and ruled until his overthrow by republican forces led by Guadalupe Victoria and Antonio López de Santa Anna.

War with the United States

Antonio López de Santa Anna, Former President of Mexico

A dominant figure of the second quarter of that century was the dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna who was president seven different times, many of his terms were unsuccessful.

During this period, many of the mostly unsettled territories in the north were lost to the United States. Santa Anna was Mexico's leader during the conflict with Texas, which declared itself independent from Mexico in 1836 by defeating Santa Anna and the Mexican army. As president, Santa Anna tried to rule during the disastrous Mexican-American War (1846–1848). The U.S. government sent troops to Texas in order to secure the territory ignoring Mexican demands for U.S. withdrawal. Mexico saw this as a U.S. intervention in internal affairs by supporting a "rebel" province. In the war that ensued, the United States kept over half of Mexico's territory, including land comprising the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. Mexico lost nearly 2,000,000 km² after the war. In return for this vast territory, the United States gave $15,000,000 and assumed responsibility for paying $3,000,000 in claims of American citizens against the Mexican Government. In 1852 American James Gadsden agreed to pay Santa Anna $10,000,000 for a strip of territory south of the Gila River and lying in what is now southwestern New Mexico and southern Arizona to build a railroad route through the South. That last deal defined the current border between Mexico and the United States.

French intervention and Emperor Maximiliano I, Second Mexican Empire

Emperor Maximilian of Mexico
Benito Juárez, The only Indigenous President of Mexico

In the 1860s, the country again suffered a military occupation, this time by France, seeking to establish the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria as Emperor of Mexico, with support from the Roman Catholic clergy and conservative elements of the upper class as well as some indigenous communities. The Second Mexican Empire was then overthrown by President Benito Juárez, with diplomatic and logistical support from the United States and the military expertise of General Porfirio Díaz. General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the largely unsupported French Army in Mexico at the city of Puebla on May 5, 1862, celebrated as Cinco de Mayo ever since. However, after his death, the city was lost in early 1863, following a renewed French attack which penetrated as far as Mexico City, forcing Juárez to organize a new itinerant government.

Díaz dictatorship

Porfirio Díaz, President of Mexico

After the victory, there was resentment by Conservatives against Juárez (who they thought concentrated too much power and desired to be re-elected) to the point that an army general, Porfirio Díaz, rebelled against the government with the proclamation of the Plan de Tuxtepec in 1876.

Díaz became the new president. During a period of more than thirty years (1876–1911) while he was the strong man in Mexico, the country's infrastructure improved greatly thanks to investments from other countries. This period of relative prosperity and peace is known as the Porfiriato. However there was discontent amongst the people during the Porfiriato due foreign investors paying workers very small wages, which produced a very steep social division: only a small group of investors (domestic and foreign) were getting rich, but the vast majority of the people remained in abject poverty. Democracy was completely suppressed, and dissent was dealt with in repressive, often brutal ways (see, for example, Nogales, Veracruz).

Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution, sometimes called the Mexican Revolution of 1910, was a violent social and cultural movement, colored by socialist, nationalist, and anarchist tendencies. It began with the popular rejection of dictator Porfirio Díaz Mori in 1910 and continued even after the promulgation of a new constitution in 1917. The main problem at the beginning was the dictatorship of Diaz since 1884 and the plight of farm workers who had been stripped of their wealth and lands. In 1909, Francisco I. Madero proposed returning the land to the people. When Madero won the elections, he said that the process of returning the lands was going to take time; as a result he was the object of several conspiracies until his assassination in 1913.

Mexican economic miracle

During the next four decades, Mexico experienced impressive economic growth (from a very low base), and historians call this period "El Milagro Mexicano", the Mexican Miracle. This was in spite of falling foreign confidence in investment during the worldwide great depression. The assumption of mineral rights and subsequent nationalization of the oil industry into PEMEX during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas del Río was a popular move.

However, chronic dysentry of Mexico's economy in the 1970's and 1980's included peso devaluation and price inflation, creating a strong need for tens of millions of poor Mexicans to migrate north to the United States; many came illegally to obtain jobs and sent money back to family or relatives. Economic disparity between poor and rich, instability for middle-class Mexicans, and state economic socialism protected by an elitism of Spanish colonial times, the economy never retained the rewards of "El Milagro" for long.


On January 1 1994, Mexico became a full member of the North American Free Trade Agreement, joining the United States of America and Canada in a large economic bloc. On March 23 2005, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America was signed by the elected leaders of those countries.

Opposition to NAFTA is a rallying cause in Mexican left politics, and the EZLN made the day it came into effect the day they began their armed insurrection. The state of Chiapas remained under EZLN rebels until a peace accord with the Mexican government took effect on August 15, 1997 (see Zapatista Conflict.) The concerns that NAFTA reduced border security and increased illegal immigration created tension in U.S.-Mexican relations, and the two countries have regular summits to discuss those issues.

The Zapatista conflict

Subcomandante Marcos in Chiapas

In the twentieth century people in Chiapas felt that their poor and largely agricultural area had been ignored by the government since enactment of the constitution of 1917. One of the chief complaints was that many Indian farmers were required to pay absentee landlords, despite the fact that since the 1920s the Mexican government had been promising the peasants ownership of the land they had farmed and lived on for generations. Article 27 of the 1917 constitution guaranteed indigenous peoples the right to an "ejido" or communal land. As Mexico restructured its economy after the 1982 financial crisis the state sector shrank due to privatizations and reorganization while land reform became less of a priority (it had long since been completed in most of the country, with Chiapas as a notable exception). The Mexican government under President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, an avid neoliberal, sought to modernize the traditionally closed and state dominated economy and increase its openness to trade. As part of this process Mexico repealed the constitutional guarantee of communally owned ejidos for rural communities. As the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect on January 1, 1994, the indigenous peoples of Chiapas - struggling to make a living with few resources - felt increasingly left behind.

Such dissatisfaction led to the rise of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Zapatistas, or Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), which began an armed rebellion against the federal government on January 1, 1994. In that year, thousands of supporters of the anti-globalization movement gathered in Chiapas, and it was from this meeting that the modern movement was born.

The Zapatistas were in principle a peaceful movement that was pushed to use the force of arms to guarantee the indigenous right to ejidos. Subcomandante Marcos, the face of the Zapatistas, succeeded in attracting international attention, with the innovative use of modern information and communication technologies for the struggle of the indigenous peoples in Chiapas.

In August 2003, the EZLN declared all Zapatista territory an autonomous government independent of Mexico. Since then, the armed EZLN has been laying low to some extent working on the government level to implement health care and educational institutions in poor rural indigenous communities.

The end of the PRI's hegemony

Even though it was frequently accused of corruption, influence peddling and blatant election fraud, the PRI managed to retain a firm grip on political power in Mexico until the end of the 20th century. Almost all public offices were held by members of the PRI.

It was not until the 1980s that the PRI lost the first state governorship, an event that marked the beginning of the party's loss of hegemony. Through the electoral reforms started by president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and consolidated by president Ernesto Zedillo, by the mid 1990s the PRI had lost its majority in Congress. In 2000, after seventy years, the PRI lost a presidential election to Vicente Fox, candidate of the Alliance for Change. In the 2006 general elections, the PRI candidate failed to carry a single state and obtained considerably fewer votes than the PAN and PRD candidates (who were almost tied). The PRI lost half of its representation in the Chamber of Deputies, and 22 of the 60 seats it had held in the Senate.

Recent problems with the United States: Immigration and Drugs

Although hardly new, the issue of illegal immigration has acquired an increased relevance after the implementation of the NAFTA agreement in 1994. NAFTA became promptly an economic agreement of controversial results which may have increased Mexican unemployment by debilitating domestic industries within Mexico. The traditional safety valve for poor economic conditions in Mexico has been the massive manual labor demand across the border in the United States. A sensitive point which has soured relations between President George Bush and President Vicente Fox, illegal immigration has reached crisis levels during the first decade of the 21st century.

The increasing drug trafficking, mainly involving the smuggling of cocaine across the Mexican border into the United States, is the other huge problem between the two countries. After the invasion of Panama in 1989 to oust General Manuel Noriega because of his links to the drug trade, the United States saw, if any, only a temporary decrease in narcotics influxes from Colombia, the main cocaine exporter. The drug smuggling routes shifted from the Caribbean to Mexico and the long Mexican - U. S. border, involving innovative methods which include underground tunnels. The drug trade has converted Mexican cities along the border into virtual war zones where the drug cartels operate with surprising impunity. The Fox administration has tried, with limited success, to curb the power of the drug criminal organizations.

Protests over the disputed election of 2006

After the 2006 Mexican general election in July 2006 one of the main streets of downtown Mexico City (Avenida Reforma) was occupied by sympathisers of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, presidential candidate of the political alliance "Por el bien de todos" (For the good of all), amidst allegation that electoral fraud had been perpetrated. The protesters set up tents on the street and pledged to remain there in support of their candidate until the votes were recounted. Nevertheless, on September 15, they decided to stop the blockading in order to allow the annual Independence Day Military Parade.

Protesters also attempted to blockade the entrance to the Chamber of Deputies main building, however they were removed by the federal police.

The protests caused some traffic disruption and economic loss to the businesses of the affected area. The goverment of the Federal District, on the hands of the same party as Mr. Lopez Obrador, was criticized for not taking action against the protesters.

The Electoral Court investigated the alleged electoral fraud but, after rejecting most of the proofs presented by López Obrador's party and other members of public universities and other groups, claiming that these were "notably improcedent" ("notoriamente improcedente") and without giving more arguments, failed to find any major irregularities. However the Electoral Court noted on its final ruling, that certain actions taken by President Fox and illegal TV spots payed by the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial (Business Coordinating Council) risked the election by preventing fairness and equity of all the contenders. López Obrador did not accept the decision of the electoral courts and will continue to demonstrate against Calderon.

Government and politics


The 1917 Constitution provides for a federal republic with powers separated into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Historically, the executive is the dominant branch, with power vested in the president, who promulgates and executes the laws of the Congress. Congress has played an increasingly important role since 1997 when opposition parties first formed a majority in the legislature.

Government and politics of Mexico takes place in a framework of a federal presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Mexico is both head of state and head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. The President is both the head of state and head of government, as well as the commander-in-chief of the military. The president is elected directly from eligible votes and serves for six years, called a sexenio. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the Congress of the Union. The powers of the congress include the right to pass laws, impose taxes, declare war, approve the national budget, approve or reject treaties and conventions made with foreign countries, and ratify diplomatic appointments. The Senate addresses all matters concerning foreign policy, approves international agreements, and confirms presidential appointments. The Chamber of Deputies, addresses all matters pertaining to the government's budget and public expenditures.

The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

There are three important political parties in Mexico:

  • PAN: the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional). The PAN is a conservative liberal party. President Vicente Fox is a member of the PAN.
  • PRI: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional). When it was founded it was somewhat socialist, currently it's a liberal party.
  • PRD: the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática). The PRD is a left wing, somewhat socialist party. Important members of the PRD are Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the son of Lázaro Cárdenas, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Revolucionario Institucional or PRI) is the Mexican political party that wielded hegemonic power in the country—under a succession of names—for more than 70 years. New hopes for democratic development were given rise by the electoral defeat of the long governing political party, PRI, in 2000, by Vicente Fox from the center-right party PAN. In 2006, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa of the PAN faced Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD in a very close, and still disputed, election. As of August 2006, the results of this election remain disputed and a series of leftist protests remain underway despite the calls of President Vicente Fox for an end to the protests. On September 6th, 2006, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was declared the winner of the presidential election by the electoral tribunal.

Administrative divisions

Mexico is divided into 31 states (estados) and a federal district. Each state has its own constitution and its citizens elect a governor as well as representatives to their respective state congresses.

  1. Aguascalientes
  2. Baja California
  3. Baja California Sur
  4. Campeche
  5. Chiapas
  6. Chihuahua
  7. Coahuila
  8. Colima
  1. Durango
  2. Guanajuato
  3. Guerrero
  4. Hidalgo
  5. Jalisco
  6. México
  7. Michoacán
  8. Morelos
  1. Nayarit
  2. Nuevo León
  3. Oaxaca
  4. Puebla
  5. Querétaro
  6. Quintana Roo
  7. San Luis Potosí
  8. Sinaloa
  1. Sonora
  2. Tabasco
  3. Tamaulipas
  4. Tlaxcala
  5. Veracruz
  6. Yucatán
  7. Zacatecas
States of Mexico (excluding the islands)
States of Mexico (excluding the islands)

The Federal District is a special political division in Mexico, where the national capital, Mexico City, is located. It enjoys more limited local rule than the nation's "free and sovereign states": only since 1997 have its citizens been able to elect a Head of Government. Much of the capital city's metropolitan area overflows the limits of the Federal District.

Major cities

The following is a list of the principal Metropolitan Areas of Mexico in order of population as reported in the 2005 census [1]:

File:Angel of Independence.jpg
Mexico City, DF
Monterrey, Nuevo Leon
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Rank City State Population Region
01 Mexico City Federal District and State of Mexico 19.23 million Center South
02 Guadalajara Jalisco 4.10 million West
03 Monterrey Nuevo Leon 3.66 million North East
04 Puebla Puebla 2.11 million East
05 Toluca México 1.61 million Center South
06 Tijuana Baja California 1.48 million North West
07 León Guanajuato 1.43 million Center
08 Ciudad Juárez Chihuahua 1.31 million North West
09 Torreón Coahuila 1.11 million North East
10 San Luis Potosí San Luis Potosí 0.96 million Center
11 Querétaro Querétaro 0.92 million Center
12 Mérida Yucatán 0.90 million South East
13 Mexicali Baja California 0.85 million North West
14 Aguascalientes Aguascalientes 0.81 million Center
15 Tampico Tamaulipas 0.80 million North East
16 Cuernavaca Morelos 0.79 million Center
17 Acapulco Guerrero 0.79 million South
18 Chihuahua Chihuahua 0.78 million North East
19 Culiacán Sinaloa 0.76 million North West


Looking along Reforma from Chapultepec Castle

According to the World Bank, Mexico ranks 13th in the world in regard to GDP and has the fourth largest per capita income in Latin America just after Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica, and it is firmly established as an upper middle-income country. Since the economic crisis of 1994–1995 the country has made an impressive economic recovery. According to the director for Colombia and Mexico of the World Bank, the population below the poverty level has decreased from 24.2% to 17.6% in the general population and from 42% to 27.9% in rural areas from 2000-2004 [1].

Mexico has a mixed economy that recently entered the trillion dollar class. It contains a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private sector. The number of state-owned enterprises in Mexico has fallen from more than 1,000 in 1982 to fewer than 100 in 2005. Recent administrations have expanded competition in seaports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity generation, natural gas distribution, and airports. Mexico is also the fourth largest oil producer in the world.

A strong export sector helped to cushion the economy's decline in 1995 and led the recovery in 1996–1999. Private consumption became the leading driver of growth, accompanied by increased employment and higher wages. Its proximity to the world's largest automobile market has meant that companies like Volkswagen and others have located assembly plants in Northern Mexico to serve that market. In addition there is a large television industry providing programming for both Mexicans and the large Spanish speaking population (44 million out of 285 million) in the United States.

Mexico has entered a new era of macroeconomic stability. Following a 4.1% growth in 2004, real GDP grew 3% in 2005. According to the Bank of Mexico recent economic developments include a record-low inflation of 3.3% in 2005, low interest rates, a lower External debt to GDP ratio (8.9%) and a strong peso. Trade with the United States and Canada has tripled since NAFTA was implemented in 1994.

Mexico has opened its markets to free trade like few other countries have done, lowering its trade barriers with more than 40 countries in 12 Free Trade Agreements, including Japan and the European Union. However more than 85% of the trade is still done with the United States. Government authorities expect that by putting more than 90% of trade under free trade agreements with different countries Mexico will lessen its dependence on the United States. The government is seeking to sign an additional agreement with Mercosur.

Mexico still needs to overcome many structural problems as it strives to modernize its economy and raise living standards. Ongoing economic concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution (top 20% of income earners account for 55% of income), and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. If municipalities of Mexico were classified as countries in the HDI World Ranking, San Pedro Garza Garcia in the State of Nuevo Leon, and Benito Juárez, one of the districts in the Distrito Federal, would have a similar level of development to that of Italy, whereas Metlatonoc, Guerrero, would have an HDI similar to that of Malawi [2].

The country has continued to struggle with such issues as economic control and development, especially with the petroleum sector and the evolution of trade relations with the United States. Corruption at certain levels of the administration and crime continue to be chronic problems.


Zócalo, Oaxaca de Juárez
Indigenous Mexicans on a lower class Chiapas street

With an estimated 2005 population of about 106.5 million, Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world.

Mexico is a racially and ethnically diverse country. Its three main ethnic groups are mestizos (mixed European and Amerindian), Amerindians, and Europeans. Mexicans of European descent, which make up about 15% of the population, are mostly Spanish descendants. There are also those of German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Polish, Russian, British, and Swedish descent. The remaining minority is largely comprised of Afro-Mexican, Middle Eastern, and East Asian people. A large Chinese community exists in Mexicali, Baja California and a historic small influx of Filipinos to Mexico since the late 16th century.

About 800,000 American expatriates live in Mexico as retirees or businessmen. Mexico is also home for many other Latin American emigrants, including most numerously Argentines — Mexico being home to the largest Argentine population outside of Argentina, an estimated 150,000 (excluding those born in Mexico) in 2005. [3]Cubans, Brazilians, Chileans, other South and Central Americans. The PRI governments in power for most of the 20th century had a policy of granting asylum to fellow Latin Americans fleeing political persecution in their home countries. Large numbers of Chileans arrived in Mexico and nearby California, especially in the 1850's gold rush though California was annexed by the U.S. Over 100,000 Central American immigrants came legally in Mexico since the 1970's, while illegal entries hardly get passed through the southern border with Guatemala, mainly are destined for the United States.

According to the Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas ("National Council for the Development of Indigenous Peoples"), the culturally and linguistically affiliated Amerindian population in Mexico is approximately 12.7 million. However, the Mexican government does not collect racial information during censuses. In 2004, the National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Data Processing had estimated this figure to be 12,089,094 (~11.4% of Mexico's population) of indigenous people of which, more than one million do not speak Spanish and almost five million are bilingual (INEGI, 2004).

Judging by the proportion of people speaking indigenous languages, the states with the highest proportion of indigenous people are Yucatán (37.3%), Oaxaca (37.1%), Chiapas (24.6%) and Quintana Roo (23%). The states of Aguascalientes (0.2%), Coahuila (0.2%), Zacatecas (0.2%) and Nuevo León (0.5%) have the lowest proportion of speakers of indigenous languages (INEGI, 2004). The large-scale German settlement period of the mid 19th century in Northeast Mexico has blended in with the local culture, thus usage of the German language has declined there. The German and Northern Mexican cultural bond with Texas remains alive.

The greatest number of U.S citizens living outside U.S. territory reside in Mexico. This may be due to the growing economic and business interdependence of the two countries under NAFTA, and also that Mexico is considered an excellent choice for retirees. A clear example of the latter phenomenon is provided by San Miguel de Allende and many towns along the Baja California peninsula and around Guadalajara, Jalisco. The official figures for foreign-born citizens in Mexico are 493,000 (since 2004), with a majority (86.9%) of these born in the United States (with the exception of Chiapas, where the majority of immigrants are from Central America). The five states with the most immigrants are Baja California (12.1% of total immigrants), Mexico City or Federal District (11.4%), Jalisco (9.9%), Chihuahua (9%) and Tamaulipas (7.3%). More than 54.6% of the immigrant population are 15 years old or younger, while 9% are 50 or older. The large number of children may be because of the Central American population, or the American population consisting largely of Hispanics, or Americans taking advantage of lower costs of living to raise larger families. 4.2% of male immigrants and 3.8% of female immigrants did not have formal education while 20.2% of male immigrants and 17.7% of female immigrants had a college degree (INEGI, 2004).

Ironically, because of its reputation as a major source of undocumeted immigrants to the United States in el Norte, Mexico itself experiences this kind of immigration from Central America because of similar differences in wages and poverty between countries of origin and Mexico; analogous to the economic differential between the U.S. and Mexico. Many undocumented Central American immigrants in Mexico try to ultimately enter the United States, though some decide to stay.

Life expectancy in Mexico increased from 34.7 for men and 33 years for women in 1930 to 72.1 for men and 77.1 years for women in 2002. The states with the highest life expectancy are Baja California (75.9 years) and Nuevo Leon (75.6 years). The Federal District has a life expectancy of the same level as Baja California. The lowest levels are found in Chiapas (72.9), Oaxaca (73.2) and Guerrero (73.2 years), although the first two have had the highest increase (19.9 and 22.3% respectively).

The mortality rate in 1970 was 9.7/1000 people and by 2001 the rate had dropped to 4.9/1000 for men and 3.8/1000 for women. The most common reasons for death in 2001 were heart problems (14.6% for men 17.6% for women) and cancer (11% for men and 15.8% for women).


A woman dancing folklórico in the traditional dress of Jalisco

Mexicans are people oriented, and they will put friends, family and relatives before work or business matters. They are not stoic when it comes to passion for the honor of their mothers, sisters, wives or daughters. Family values in Mexico were preserved, even in the era of industrialization and social change, because the traditional family serves as protection and release from the troubling outside world. Religion has been a factor in the country's high birth rate and opposition of birth control, until recently the government supported the use of birth control acceptable to a mostly Catholic society.

Social stratification and racism

Mexico boasts a wealth of regional cultures that is unique in America. Every region in the country has a distinct culture, languages, and arts that create a huge mosaic as a whole.

Traditionally, Mexicans have struggled with the creation of a united identity. The issue is the main topic of "Labyrinth of Solitude" by Mexican nobel prize winner Octavio Paz. Mexico is a large country, therefore having many regional cultural traits. The north of Mexico, because of its historically high proportion of non-Spanish immigrants, is the least tradionally Mexican and most cosmopolitan of them all, making it a less exciting destination for foreign travelers. Central and southern Mexico is where many well-known traditions find their origin, therefore the people from this area are in a way the most traditional, but their collective personality can't be generalized. People from Puebla, for instance, are thought to be conservative and reserved, and just a few kilometers away, the people from Veracruz have the fame of being very outgoing and liberal. The México City middle classes are believed to be arriviste and prone to debt, or crime-prone if talking about the poor. The regiomontanos (from Monterrey) are thought to be cocky regardless of their social status, due to Northern prosperity. Different accents are used in almost every state in Mexico, making it fairly easy to distinguish the origin of someone by their distinct use of language.

Pure pre-Hispanic Americans also known as "Native Americans, or Indians are likely to be perceived as inferior, even though this rarely reaches the level of aggressive racism. It's a rarity to see pre-hispanic Americans in high positions. This hidden racism is latent in the use of the word "indio" as an insult for the darker skinned, which is even used between indigeneous people to offend each other. Racism against those of African ancestry is said less prevalent than in the U.S., but some Mexicans of African descent have protested against negative racial stereotypes.

Mexicans living in the United States, legally or illegally, are looked down upon by most middle class and high class Mexicans, since they feel they are creating a bad reputation for the rest of the Mexicans. Many terms that refer to Mexicans in the U.S.A. exist, but Chicano, (a person born in the U.S.A. of Mexican descent) or Pocho ( a person born in the U.S.A. with one parent Mexican and the other Anglo-American, and those who speak broken Spanish, or "Spanglish") are the most popular. In central and southern Mexico, these terms are used as a derogatory description. The majority of Mexican men or families that pursue a life in the U.S. come from the lowest stratus of society in Mexico, and have created a culture unique to them.

Standard of living

The standard of living in Mexico is higher than most of other countries in Latin America drawing people from places like Argentina, Brazil or Cuba to the country in search for better opportunities. With the recent economic growth, most middle and high income families live in single houses, commonly found within a walled village, called "fraccionamiento". The reason these places are the most popular among the middle and upper classes is that they offer a sense of security, since most of them are within walls and have survelliance, and living in one also provides social status, due to the infrastructure of most of these villages. Swimming pools or golf clubs, and/or some other commodities are found in these fraccionamientos. Houses inside them tend to be of higher quality, and larger than other homes, most of them with at least three or four bedrooms and even maid quarters and laundry. However, the poorer Mexicans live a harsh life. Poverty is specially poignant in the countryside. In the larger towns, hiring housekeepers or maids is not as common as in the past, but there are still many families that are willing to pay a person, generally a middle aged woman, to come help with the house chores once or twice a week. The gender roles for women in Mexico are generally strict, although this has lessened in the country's upper-classes influenced by Anglo cultural trends and some Mexican women are challenging patriarchal societal mores where males continue to practice "machismo", a major Latin American cultural norm (yet is stereotyped) of men are strong, self-reliant and aggressive.


Dancing and singing are commonly part of family gatherings, bringing the old and young together, no matter what kind of music is being played, like cumbia, salsa, merengue or the more Mexican banda. Dancing is a strong part of the culture, and visitors will find that even people who were thought to be unlikely to dance, do so. Singing enjoys the same popularity and Mexicans will sing when they are depressed, in a cantina to a mariachi song, or when they are very happy.

Mexicans in places like Guadalajara, Puebla, Monterrey, Mexico City, and most middle sized cities, enjoy a great variety of options for leisure. Shopping centers are a favorite among families, since there has been an increasing number of new malls that cater to people of all ages and interests. A large number of them, have multiplex cinemas, international and local restaurants, food courts, cafes, bars, bookstores and most of the international renowned clothing brands are found too. Mexicans are prone to travel within their own country, making short weekend trips to a neighbouring city or town.

Broadcast media

Two of the major television networks based in Mexico are Televisa and TV Azteca. Soap operas (telenovelas) are translated to many languages and seen all over the world with renown names like Verónica Castro, Lucía Méndez, Lucero, and Thalía. Even Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna from Y tu mamá también and current Zegna model have appeared in some of them. Some of their TV shows are modeled after American counterparts like Family Feud (100 Mexicanos Dijeron or "A hundred Mexicans said" in Spanish) and Que Dice la Gente, Big Brother, American Idol, Saturday Night Live and others. Nationwide news shows like Las Noticias por Adela on Televisa resemble a hybrid between Donahue and Nightline. Local news shows are modeled after American counterparts like the Eyewitness News and Action News formats. Border cities receive American television and radio stations, while satellite and cable subscription is common for the upper-classes in major cities, often watch American movies and TV shows.


File:Luis Hernandez.jpg
Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Mexico.

The favorite sport remains football (soccer), while baseball is also popular, especially in the Gulf of Mexico and the border states in the NW. The season runs from March to July with playoffs held in August. The Mexican professional league is named the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol.

Exhibitions like bull fighting are still practiced and professional wrestling as shown on shows like Lucha libre. American football is practiced at the major universities like UNAM.

Rugby is played at the amateur level throughout the country with the majority of clubs in Mexico City and others in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Celaya, Guanajuato and Oaxaca.

The national sport of Mexico is Charreria. Ancient Mexicans played a ball game which still exists in Northwest Mexico (Sinaloa, the game is called Ulama), though it is not a popular sport any more. Bullfighting is also a popular sport in the country. Almost all large cities have bullrings. La Monumental in Mexico city, has the largest bullring in the world, which seats 55,000 people.


A stucco relief in the Palenque museum, Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Compared to the other North American nations, the Mexican Constitution does not mention the existence of an "official language" just like the United States but unlike Canada, but it is mentioned in the treaty of Las Tres garantias, where Agustin de Iturbide declares the unity of all mexicans with an official religion ( Catholicism) and Spanish as the offcial language of Mexico. AlthoughSpanish is considered to be the "common" language of the country, used in all sorts of documents and spoken by the majority of the population. About 7% of the population speak an American dialect. The government officially recognizes 62 American languages. Of these, Nahuatl and Maya are each spoken by 1.5 million, while others, such as Lacandon, are spoken by fewer than 100. The Mexican government has promoted and established bilingual education programs in indigenous rural communities. A few tribes originally from what is now the United States of America, settled in Mexico in the 19th century, such as the Kickapoo and the Cherokee both came to the state of Coahuila to escape U.S.A. army raids, are said to maintain language and culture to a certain extent.

Although Spanish is the common language of Mexico, English is widely used in business. As a result, English language skills are much in demand and can lead to an increase in the salary offered by a company. It is also spoken along the U.S.A. border, in big cities, and in beach resorts. Also, the majority of private schools in Mexico offer bilingual education, both in Spanish and English. English is the main language spoken in U.S.A. expatriate communities such as those along the coast of Baja California, Jalisco and the town of San Miguel de Allende. The irony of English language is understood well in Mexico, but for Mexican immigrants retain the Spanish language in the U.S.A. is strikingly observed, thus it seems monolingual rules don't always apply.

With respect to other European languages brought by immigrants, the case of Chipilo, in the state of Puebla, is unique, and has been documented by several linguists like Carolyn McKay. The immigrants that founded the city of Chipilo in 1882 came from the Veneto region in northern Italy, and thus spoke a northern variant of the Venetian dialect. While other European immigrants assimilated into the Mexican culture, the people of Chipilo retained their language. Nowadays, most of the people who live in the city of Chipilo (and many of those who have migrated to other cities) still speak the unaltered Veneto dialect spoken by their great-grandparents making the Veneto dialect an unrecognized minority language in the city of Puebla. In Huatusco and Colonia Gonzalez, Veracruz, Veneto is still heard too.

A similar case is that of the Plautdietsch language, spoken by the descendants of German and Dutch Mennonite immigrants in the states of Chihuahua and Durango. Other German communities lie in Puebla, Mexico City, Sinaloa and Chiapas, with the largest German school outside of Germany being in Mexico City (Alexander von Humboldt school), these represent the large German populations where they still try to preserve the German culture and language. Other strong German communities lie in Sinaloa (Mazatlan), Nuevo Leon, Chiapas (Tapachula) and other parts of Puebla (Nueva Necaxa) where the German culture and language have been preserved to different extents.

French is also heard in the state of Veracruz in the cities of Jicaltepec, San Rafael and Mentideros, where the architecture and food is also very French. These French immigrants came from Haute-Saône département in France, especially from Champlitte and Borgonge. Another important French group were the "Barcelonette's" from the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département, whom interestingly the whole town and surrounding towns immigrated specifically to Mexico to find jobs and work in merchandising, they are well known in Mexico City, Puebla, and Veracruz. Another important French village in Mexico is Santa Rosalía in Baja California Sur, where French language and culture/architecture are still found.

Scandinavian languages and traditions can also be heard in Chihuahua, like Swedish and Norwegian in Nueva Escandinavia and other Scandinavian colonies in the north of the country. Russian is heard in the Baja California region of Valle de Guadalupe, thanks to the immigrants from southern Russia who settled these areas. They are the Molokans or "milk eaters", and they preserve their culture in Baja California, with the architecture in their houses and museums, they produce fine wine (Along with the large Italian community that lives near them) and their language and traditions, as well as dresses and festivities. Other Russians belong to a more recent wave of immigration from mainly Russia and Poland and the Ukraine along other Eastern Europeans, who settle mainly in Mexico City and Guadalajara.

The wave of Armenians, Lebanese, Syrians and Greeks came to Mexico in the early 20th century, mainly settled in urban areas and Baja California and Sinaloa, especially Greeks in the city of Culiacan, in proximity to relatives in California, U.S. is one notable migration. The Lebanese have settled in the Urban areas like Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Puebla. Cornish dialect of Cornwall, England disappeared from Mexico in the state of Hidalgo in the early 20th century, especially in the cities of Pachuca and Real del Monte, but the Cornish culture still survives in the architecture, sports, food and many aspects of these cities in central Mexico.


Guadalajara Cathedral by night

Mexico is predominantly Roman Catholic (about 89% of the population). It is the nation with the second largest Catholic population, behind Brazil. Also, 6% of the population adheres to various Protestant/Restoration faiths (e.g. Latter-day Saints, Pentecostal), and the remaining 5% of the population adhering to other religions or professing no religion. Some of the country's Catholics (notably those of indigenous background) syncretize Catholicism with various elements of Aztec or Mayan religions. The Virgin of Guadalupe has long been a symbol enshrining the major aspirations of Mexican society. According to anthropologist Eric R. Wolf, the Guadalupe symbol links family, politics, and religion; the colonial past and the independent present; and the indigenous and the Mexican. [4]

Judaism has been practiced in Mexico for centuries, and there are estimated to be more than 45,000-50,000 (some estimates say 60,000) Jews in Mexico today. [2] Islam has 318,608 adherents, according to official data, and is mostly practiced by Mexicans of Arab (mainly Syrian) and Turkish descent, though there very small percentage of the indigenous population in Chiapas state who adhere to Islam. Mexico has a very tiny Sikh population in the country of east Indian origin. The small number of Asian ethnic groups in Baja California has introduced Hinduism and Buddhism, but membership are generally small segments of Mexico's religious profile.


ITESM, Main Campus

Mexico has made impressive improvements in education in the last two decades. In 2004, the literacy rate was at 92.2%, and the youth literacy rate (ages 15-24) was 96%. Primary and secondary education (9 years) is free and mandatory. Even though different bilingual education programs have existed since the 1960s for the indigenous communities, after a constitution reform in the late 1990s, these programs have had a new thrust, and free text books are produced in more than a dozen indigenous languages.

In the 1970's, Mexico became the first country to establish a system of "distance-learning" . Schools that use this system are known as telesecundarias in Mexico. The Mexican distance learning secondary education is also transmitted to some Central American countries and to Colombia, and it is used in some southern regions of the United States as a method of bilingual education.

The largest university in Mexico is the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) UNAM, founded in 1551. Most of the Mexican Presidents in the modern history and three Nobel Laureates are among its former students. UNAM conducts 50% of Mexico's scientific research. The second largest university is the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN). These institutions are not self-sufficient. Several problems have arose with their semi-socialist system mainly in the area of high rates of absence from faculty employees and constant strikes by both, students and faculty. To obtain a 4-year degree students can spend up to ten years inside classrooms without penalty. The National Autonomous University of Mexico occupies the 96th place in the Top 200 World University Ranking published by The Times Higher Educaction Supplement in 2005, making it the highest ranked Spanish-speaking university in the world as well as the first Latin American university. The most important private universities are Monterrey's Technological and Higher Education Institute (ITESM) (which has 32 secondary campuses, apart from the Monterrey Campus), Mexico's Autonomous Technological Institute (ITAM), Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP), the Ibero-American University (Universidad Iberoamericana).

Crime and poverty

File:Cocaine bricks scorpion logo.jpg
Bricks of cocaine, a form in which it is commonly transported.

There is a great economic polarization between the rich and the poor. There are also high crime rates in some parts of the country. Mexican drug cartels deliver more than half of the methamphetamine supply into the United States. [5] The persistence of corruption at certain levels of the government and the police has prevented effective crime control efforts.

Police corruption remain as a large problem in Mexico, and are mostly fuelled by the lucrative drug trade and migrant smuggling. Between January and June 2006, drug wars between cartels claimed 1,003 victims. The problem is especially dangerous in the border city of Tijuana and in the coastal city of Acapulco, which is a key link to the United States and México City. [6]

Mexico City continues to experience major crime problems, particularly with street crime and kidnappings, and also a new type of kidnapping called "Express kidnapping" usually in which the victim is carjacked and beaten. It is estimated that there are between 2000 and 3000 crimes committed on the streets of Mexico City every day. Approximately 600 are reported (2000 average). Most of these are muggings, although the breakdown of the figures runs the gamut of criminal activity. Murders are not a significant part of the problem. These average around 2.5 per day which, given the size of the population, is relatively few. To put it in context, Washington, D.C. has a murder rate per capita around 5 times higher.

Origin and history of the name

Mexico is named after its capital city, whose name comes from the Aztec city Mexico-Tenochtitlan that preceded it. The Mexi part of the name may have been derived from Mexitli, a tribal war god whose name may have been dervied from the words metztli (the moon) and xictli (navel) and may mean "navel (possibly implying 'child') of the moon", or from Mectli, a goddess known to the early wandering pre-aztecs peoples and whose name can be translated as "navel of the maguey" or "maguey grandmother" (in several sources, it was she who first sent the ancestors of the Mexica on their trek southwards into empire and history). Mexico is the home of the people of Mexitli or Mectli (the Mexicas), co meaning "place" and ca meaning "people". Mexico can also be translated as "the place of Mectli's people near the nopal cactus." The symbol in myth of Tecnochtitlan's founding, an eagle perched on a nopal cactus which arose from the lake on which the city was built, is still found on Mexico's national flag today.

When the Spaniards conquered Mexico and imposed their own language (Spanish), they naturally did so according to the spelling rules of the Castilian language of the time. The Nahuatl language had a /ʃ/ sound (like English "shop"), and this sound was written x in Spanish (e.g. Ximénez); consequently, the letter x was used to write down words like Mexitli. Meanwhile, the letter j (or, rather, the letter i when used as a consonant, since j was not yet in common usage) was used for the /ʒ/ sound (as in "vision"), as was g before e or i. These old pronunciations of j and x are still found in Portuguese, Catalan and Ladino.

Over the centuries, the pronunciation of Spanish changed. Words like Ximénez, exercicio, xabón and perplexo started to be pronounced with a /x/ (this phonetic symbol represents the sound in the word "loch"). The /ʒ/ sound also started to be pronounced this way. The coalescence of the two phonemes into a single new one encouraged scholars to use the same letter for the sound, regardless of its origin (Spanish scholars have always tried to keep the orthography of their language faithful to the spoken tongue). It was j/g that was chosen. So, modern Spanish has ejercicio, ejército, jabón, perplejo, etc. (Another example is the old spelling of Don Quixote which is now Don Quijote. The old pronunciation is maintained in Portuguese "Quixote" and in French "Quichotte", and the English word "quixotic" maintains the spelling while pronouncing it with its English value.) In modern Spanish, x is used to represent the /ks/ consonant cluster in words derived from Latin or Greek.

Proper nouns and their derivatives are optionally allowed to break this rule. Thus, although xabón is now incorrect and archaic, alongside many millions of people called "Jiménez", there also are plenty called "Giménez" or "Ximénez" — a matter of personal choice and tradition.

In Mexico, it has become almost a matter of national pride to maintain the x spelling in the name of the country. It is regarded as more authentic and less jarring to the reader's eye. Mexicans have tended to demand that other Spanish-speakers use this spelling, rather than following Spaniard rules, and the demand has largely been respected. The Real Academia Española states that both spellings are correct, and most dictionaries and guides recommend México first, and present Méjico as a variant. Today, even outside of the country, México is preferred over Méjico by ratios ranging from 15-to-1 (in Spain) to about 280-to-1 (in Costa Rica). Also, in the local placenames "Oaxaca" and "Xalapa" or former territories like "Texas"; in places like "Xochimilco", however, the x represents a /ʃ/.

A cultural side-effect of the fact that Mexicans use México /'mexiko/ and Spaniards sometimes use Méjico to represent the same pronunciation. The mere act of using the j spelling is interpreted by some as a form of colonial aggression[citation needed]. On the other hand, some Peninsular scholars (such as Ramón Menéndez Pidal) preferred to apply the general spelling rule, arguing that the spelling with an x could encourage non-native students of Spanish to mispronounce México as /'meksiko/.

In the Nahuatl language, from which the name originally derived, the name for Mexico is Mexihco (International Phonetic Alphabet /meː.ɕiʔ.ko/).

Further reading

  • James D. Cockcroft, Mexico's Hope: An Encounter with Politics and History, 320 pages, Monthly Review Press 1999, ISBN 0-85345-925-8 – leftist view of Mexican history
  • Enrique Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power. A history of Modern Mexico 1810-1996, 896 pages – Perennial 1998, ISBN 0-06-092917-0, standard work by a renowned Mexican author.
  • Julia Preston and Samuel Dillon, Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2004, hardcover, 608 pages, ISBN 0-374-22668-7 – recent history since the Tlatelolco massacre of 1968 told by two journalists
  • Joanne Hershfield, David R. Maciel, Mexico's Cinema: A Century of Film and Filmmakers, SR Books 1999, ISBN 0-8420-2682-7 – comprehensive survey
  • Michael C. Meyer, William H. Beezley, editors, The Oxford History of Mexico, 736 pages, Oxford University Press 2000, ISBN 0-19-511228-8 – 20 essays, also covers cultural history
  • Kernecker, Herbert. "When in Mexico, Do as the Mexicans Do." In depth information about life in Mexico, including culture, history, economy, language and more in 176 comprehensive pages..ISBN 0-8442-2783-8.
  • San Cristobal : The Political climate - A brief description of the situation in the town of San Cristobal.
  • Mexico - A description of Mexico's geographical situation by Ekaterina Zhdanova-Redman.
  • The Zimmerman Telegram - A translation of the Zimmerman Telegram to English.

See also

Geography, history and politics

Culture and education

Communications and transportation


External links



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