With an estimated population of over 120 million, Mexico is the eleventh most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world while being the second most populous country in Latin America. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and a special federal entity that is also its capital and most populous city. Other metropolises include Guadalajara, León, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, and Tijuana.
Pre-Columbian Mexico dates to approximately 8,000 BC, is recognized as one of seven cradles of civilization and was home to many advanced Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Maya and Aztec before first contact with Europeans. In 1521, the Spanish Empire conquered and colonized the territory from its base in Mexico-Tenochtitlan, which was administered as the viceroyalty of New Spain. Three centuries later, this territory became Mexico following recognition in 1821 after the colony's Mexican War of Independence. The tumultuous post-independence period was characterized by economic instability and many political changes. The Mexican–American War led to the territorial cession of the extensive northern territories to the United States. The Pastry War, the Franco-Mexican War, a civil war, two empires and a domestic dictatorship occurred through the 19th century. The dictatorship was overthrown in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, which culminated with the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution and the emergence of the country's current political system.
Mexico has the fifteenth largest nominal GDP and the eleventh largest by purchasing power parity. The Mexican economy is strongly linked to those of its North American Free Trade Agreement partners, especially the United States. Mexico was the first Latin American member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, joining in 1994. It is classified as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank and a newly industrialized country by several analysts. By 2050, Mexico could become the world's fifth or seventh largest economy. The country is considered both a regional power and middle power, and is often identified as an emerging global power. Due to its rich culture and history, Mexico ranks first in the Americas and seventh in the world by number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Mexico is a megadiverse country, ranking fourth in the world by biodiversity. In 2016 it was the eighth most visited country in the world, with 35 million international arrivals. Mexico is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G8+5, the G20, the Uniting for Consensus and the Pacific Alliance.
Mēxihco is the Nahuatl term for the heartland of the Aztec Empire, namely, the Valley of Mexico, and its people, the Mexica, and surrounding territories. This became the future State of Mexico as a division of New Spain prior to independence (compare Latium). It is generally considered to be a toponym for the valley which became the primary ethnonym for the Aztec Triple Alliance as a result, or vice versa. After New Spain won independence from Spain, representatives decided to name the new country after its capital, Mexico City. This was founded in 1524 on top of the ancient Mexica capital of Mexico-Tenochtitlan.
Traditionally, the name Tenochtitlan was thought to come from Nahuatl tetl [ˈtetɬ] ("rock") and nōchtli [ˈnoːtʃtɬi] ("prickly pear") and is often thought to mean "Among the prickly pears [growing among] rocks". However, one attestation in the late 16th-century manuscript known as "the Bancroft dialogues" suggests the second vowel was short, so that the true etymology remains uncertain.
The suffix -co is the Nahuatl locative, making the word a place name. Beyond that, the etymology is uncertain. It has been suggested that it is derived from Mextli or Mēxihtli, a secret name for the god of war and patron of the Mexica, Huitzilopochtli, in which case Mēxihco means "Place where Huitzilopochtli lives". Another hypothesis suggests that Mēxihco derives from a portmanteau of the Nahuatl words for "Moon" (Mētztli) and navel (xīctli). This meaning ("Place at the Center of the Moon") might refer to Tenochtitlan's position in the middle of Lake Texcoco. The system of interconnected lakes, of which Texcoco formed the center, had the form of a rabbit, which the Mesoamericans pareidolically associated with the Moon. Still another hypothesis suggests that the word is derived from Mēctli, the goddess of maguey.
The name of the city-state was transliterated to Spanish as México with the phonetic value of the letter 'x' in Medieval Spanish, which represented the voiceless postalveolar fricative [ʃ]. This sound, as well as the voiced postalveolar fricative [ʒ], represented by a 'j', evolved into a voiceless velar fricative [x] during the 16th century. This led to the use of the variant Méjico in many publications in Spanish, most notably in Spain, whereas in Mexico and most other Spanish–speaking countries México was the preferred spelling. In recent years the Real Academia Española, which regulates the Spanish language, determined that both variants are acceptable in Spanish but that the normative recommended spelling is México. The majority of publications in all Spanish-speaking countries now adhere to the new norm, even though the alternative variant is still occasionally used. In English, the 'x' in Mexico represents neither the original nor the current sound, but the consonant cluster [ks].
The official name of the country has changed as the form of government has changed. The declaration of independence signed on November 6, 1813 by the deputies of the Congress of Anáhuac called the territory América Septentrional (Northern America). On two occasions (1821–1823 and 1863–1867), the country was known as Imperio Mexicano (Mexican Empire). All three federal constitutions (1824, 1857 and 1917, the current constitution) used the name Estados Unidos Mexicanos—or the variant Estados-Unidos Mexicanos, all of which have been translated as "United Mexican States". The phrase República Mexicana, "Mexican Republic", was used in the 1836 Constitutional Laws.
The earliest human artifacts in Mexico are chips of stone tools found near campfire remains in the Valley of Mexico and radiocarbon-dated to circa 10,000 years ago. Mexico is the site of the domestication of maize, tomato and beans, which produced an agricultural surplus. This enabled the transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherers to sedentary agricultural villages beginning around 5000 BCE.
In the subsequent formative eras, maize cultivation and cultural traits such as a mythological and religious complex, and a vigesimal numeric system, were diffused from the Mexican cultures to the rest of the Mesoamerican culture area. In this period, villages became more dense in terms of population, becoming socially stratified with an artisan class, and developing into chiefdoms. The most powerful rulers had religious and political power, organizing construction of large ceremonial centers developed.
The earliest complex civilization in Mexico was the Olmec culture, which flourished on the Gulf Coast from around 1500 BCE. Olmec cultural traits diffused through Mexico into other formative-era cultures in Chiapas, Oaxaca and the Valley of Mexico. The formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. The formative-era of Mesoamerica is considered one of the six independent cradles of civilization.
In the subsequent pre-classical period, the Maya and Zapotec civilizations developed complex centers at Calakmul and Monte Albán, respectively. During this period the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures. The Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic script.
In Central Mexico, the height of the classic period saw the ascendancy of Teotihuacan, which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area as well as north. Teotihuacan, with a population of more than 150,000 people, had some of the largest pyramidal structures in the pre-Columbian Americas. After the collapse of Teotihuacán around 600 CE, competition ensued between several important political centers in central Mexico such as Xochicalco and Cholula. At this time, during the Epi-Classic, Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North, and became politically and culturally dominant in central Mexico, as they displaced speakers of Oto-Manguean languages.
During the early post-classic, Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, and the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán. Toward the end of the post-Classic period, the Mexica established dominance.
Alexander von Humboldt originated the modern usage of "Aztec" as a collective term applied to all the people linked by trade, custom, religion, and language to the Mexica state and Ēxcān Tlahtōlōyān, the Triple Alliance. In 1843, with the publication of the work of William H. Prescott, it was adopted by most of the world, including 19th-century Mexican scholars who considered it a way to distinguish present-day Mexicans from pre-conquest Mexicans. This usage has been the subject of debate since the late 20th century.
The Aztec empire was an informal or hegemonic empire because it did not exert supreme authority over the conquered lands; it was satisfied with the payment of tributes from them. It was a discontinuous empire because not all dominated territories were connected; for example, the southern peripheral zones of Xoconochco were not in direct contact with the center. The hegemonic nature of the Aztec empire was demonstrated by their restoration of local rulers to their former position after their city-state was conquered. The Aztec did not interfere in local affairs, as long as the tributes were paid.
The Aztec of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mexico. The Aztec were noted for practicing human sacrifice on a large scale. Along with this practice, they avoided killing enemies on the battlefield. Their warring casualty rate was far lower than that of their Spanish counterparts, whose principal objective was immediate slaughter during battle. This distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition of human sacrifice ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Over the next centuries Mexican indigenous cultures were gradually subjected to Spanish colonial rule.
The Spanish first learned of Mexico during the Juan de Grijalva expedition of 1518. The natives kept "repeating: Colua, Colua, and Mexico, Mexico, but we [explorers] did not know what Colua or Mexico meant", until encountering Montezuma's governor at the mouth of the Rio de las Banderas. The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire began in February 1519 when Hernán Cortés arrived at the port in Veracruz with ca. 500 conquistadores. After taking control of that city, he moved on to the Aztec capital. In his search for gold and other riches, Cortés decided to invade and conquer the Aztec empire.
When the Spaniards arrived, the ruler of the Aztec empire was Moctezuma II, who was later killed. His successor and brother Cuitláhuac took control of the Aztec empire, but was among the first to fall from the first smallpox epidemic in the area a short time later. Unintentionally introduced by Spanish conquerors, among whom smallpox was endemic, the infectious disease ravaged Mesoamerica in the 1520s. It killed more than 3 million natives as they had no immunity. Other sources, however, mentioned that the death toll of the Aztecs might have reached 15 million (out of a population of less than 30 million) although such a high number conflicts with the 350,000 Aztecs who ruled an empire of 5 million or 10 million. Severely weakened, the Aztec empire was easily defeated by Cortés and his forces on his second return with the help of state of Tlaxcala whose population estimate was 300,000. The native population declined 80–90% by 1600 to 1–2.5 million. Any population estimate of pre-Columbian Mexico is bound to be a guess but 8–12 million is often suggested for the area encompassed by the modern nation.
Smallpox was a devastating disease: it generally killed Aztecs but not Spaniards, who as Europeans had already been exposed to it in their cities for centuries and therefore had developed acquired immunity. The deaths caused by smallpox are believed to have triggered a rapid growth of Christianity in Mexico and the Americas. At first, the Aztecs believed the epidemic was a punishment from an angry god, but they later accepted their fate and no longer resisted the Spanish rule. Many of the surviving Aztecs believed that smallpox could be credited to the superiority of the Christian god, which resulted in their acceptance of Catholicism and yielding to the Spanish rule throughout Mexico.
The territory became part of the Spanish Empire under the name of New Spain. Mexico City was systematically rebuilt by Cortés following the Fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521. Much of the identity, traditions and architecture of Mexico developed during the 300-year colonial period.
The capture of Tenochtitlan and refounding of Mexico City in 1521 was the beginning of a 300-year-long colonial era during which Mexico was known as Nueva España (New Spain). The Kingdom of New Spain was created from the remnants of the Aztec hegemonic empire. Subsequent enlargements, such as the conquest of the Tarascan state, resulted in the creation of the Viceroyalty of New Spain in 1535. The Viceroyalty at its greatest extent included the territories of modern Mexico, Central America as far south as Costa Rica, and the western United States. The Viceregal capital Mexico City also administrated the Spanish West Indies (the Caribbean), the Spanish East Indies (the Philippines), and Spanish Florida.
The indigenous population stabilized around one to one and a half million individuals in the 17th century from the most commonly accepted five to ten million pre-contact population. The population decline was primarily the result of communicable diseases, particularly smallpox, introduced during the Columbian Exchange. During the three hundred years of the colonial era, Mexico received between 400,000 and 500,000 Europeans, between 200,000 and 250,000 Africans and between 40,000 and 120,000 Asians. The 18th century saw a great increase in the percentage of mestizos.
Colonial law with Spanish roots was introduced and attached to native customs creating a hierarchy between local jurisdiction (the Cabildos) and the Spanish Crown. Whereby upper administrative offices were closed to native-born people, even those of pure Spanish blood (criollos). Administration was based on the racial separation of the population among "Republics" of Spaniards, Amerindians and castas, autonomous and directly dependent on the king himself.
The Council of Indies and the mendicant religious orders, which arrived in Mesoamerica as early as 1524, labored to generate capital for the crown of Spain and convert the Amerindian populations to Catholicism. The 1531 Marian apparitions to Saint Juan Diego gave impetus to the evangelization of central Mexico. The Virgin of Guadalupe became a symbol of criollo patriotism and was used by the insurgents that followed Miguel Hidalgo during the War of Independence. Some Crypto-Jewish families emigrated to Mexico to escape the Spanish Inquisition.
The rich deposits of silver, particularly in Zacatecas and Guanajuato, resulted in silver extraction dominating the economy of New Spain. Taxes on silver production became a major source of income for Spain. Other important industries were the haciendas (functioning under the encomienda and repartimiento systems) and mercantile activities in the main cities and ports. Wealth created during the colonial era spurred the development of New Spanish Baroque.
As a result of its trade links with Asia, the rest of the Americas, Africa and Europe and the profound effect of New World silver, central Mexico was one of the first regions to be incorporated into a globalized economy. Being at the crossroads of trade, people and cultures, Mexico City has been called the "first world city". The Nao de China (Manila Galleons) operated for two and a half centuries and connected New Spain with Asia. Goods were taken from Veracruz to Atlantic ports in the Americas and Spain. Veracruz was also the main port of entry in mainland New Spain for European goods, immigrants, and African slaves. The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro connected Mexico City with the interior of New Spain.
Due to the importance of central New Spain, Mexico was the location of the first printing shop (1539), first university (1551), first public park (1592), and first public library (1646) in the Americas, amongst other institutions. Important artists of the colonial period, include the writers Juan Ruiz de Alarcón and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, painters Cristóbal de Villalpando and Miguel Cabrera, and architect Manuel Tolsá. The Academy of San Carlos was the first major school and museum of art in the Americas. Scientist Andrés Manuel del Río Fernández discovered the element vanadium.
Spanish forces, sometimes accompanied by native allies, led expeditions to conquer territory or quell rebellions through the colonial era. Notable Amerindian revolts in sporadically populated northern New Spain include the Chichimeca War (1576–1606), Tepehuán Revolt (1616–1620) and the Pueblo Revolt (1680). In order to protect Mexico from the attacks of English, French and Dutch pirates and protect the Crown's monopoly of revenue, only two ports were open to foreign trade—Veracruz on the Atlantic and Acapulco on the Pacific. Among the best-known pirate attacks are the 1663 Sack of Campeche and 1683 Attack on Veracruz.
Many Mexican cultural features including tequila, first distilled in the 16th century, charreria (17th), mariachi (18th) and Mexican cuisine, a fusion of American and European (particularly Spanish) cuisine, arose during the colonial era.
On September 16, 1810, a "loyalist revolt" against the ruling Junta was declared by priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato. The first insurgent group was formed by Hidalgo, the Spanish viceregal army captain Ignacio Allende, the militia captain Juan Aldama and "La Corregidora" Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez. Hidalgo and some of his soldiers were captured and executed by firing squad in Chihuahua, on July 31, 1811. Following his death, the leadership was assumed by priest José María Morelos, who occupied key southern cities.
In 1813 the Congress of Chilpancingo was convened and, on November 6, signed the "Solemn Act of the Declaration of Independence of Northern America". Morelos was captured and executed on December 22, 1815.
In subsequent years, the insurgency was near collapse, but in 1820 Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca sent an army under the criollo general Agustín de Iturbide against the troops of Vicente Guerrero. Instead, Iturbide approached Guerrero to join forces, and on August 24, 1821 representatives of the Spanish Crown and Iturbide signed the "Treaty of Córdoba" and the "Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire", which recognized the independence of Mexico under the terms of the "Plan of Iguala".
Mexico’s short recovery after the War of Independence was soon cut short again by the civil wars and institutional instability of the 1850s, which lasted until the government of Porfirio Díaz reestablished conditions that paved the way for economic growth. The conflicts that arose from the mid-1850s had a profound effect because they were widespread and made themselves perceptible in the vast rural areas of the countries, involved clashes between castes, different ethnic groups and haciendas, and entailed a deepening of the political and ideological divisions between republicans and monarchists.
Agustín de Iturbide became constitutional emperor of the First Mexican Empire in 1822. A revolt against him in 1823 established the United Mexican States. In 1824, a Republican Constitution was drafted and Guadalupe Victoria became the first president of the newly born country. Central America, including Chiapas, left the union. In 1829 president Guerrero abolished slavery. The first decades of the post-independence period were marked by economic instability, which led to the Pastry War in 1836. There was constant strife between liberales, supporters of a federal form of government, and conservadores, who proposed a hierarchical form of government.
During this period, the frontier borderlands to the north became quite isolated from the government in Mexico City, and its monopolistic economic policies caused suffering. With limited trade, the people had difficulty meeting tax payments and resented the central government's actions in collecting customs. Resentment built up from California to Texas. Both the mission system and the presidios had collapsed after the Spanish withdrew from the colony, causing great disruption especially in Alta California and New Mexico. The people in the borderlands had to raise local militias to protect themselves from hostile Native Americans. These areas developed in different directions from the center of the country.
Wanting to stabilize and develop the frontier, Mexico encouraged immigration into present-day Texas, as they were unable to persuade people from central Mexico to move into those areas. They allowed for religious freedom for the new settlers, who were primarily Protestant English speakers from the United States. Within several years, the Anglos far outnumbered the Tejano in the area. Itinerant traders traveled through the area, working by free market principles. The Tejano grew more separate from the government and due to its neglect, many supported the idea of independence and joined movements to that end, collaborating with the English-speaking Americans.
General Antonio López de Santa Anna, a centralist and two-time dictator, approved the Siete Leyes in 1836, a radical amendment that institutionalized the centralized form of government. When he suspended the 1824 Constitution, civil war spread across the country. Three new governments declared independence: the Republic of Texas, the Republic of the Rio Grande and the Republic of Yucatán.
The 1846 United States annexation of the Republic of Texas and subsequent American military incursion into territory that was part of Coahuila (also claimed by Texas) instigated the Mexican–American War. The war was settled in 1848 via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico was forced to give up more than one-third of its land to the U.S., including Alta California, Santa Fe de Nuevo México and the territory claimed by Texas. A much smaller transfer of territory in what is today southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico—known as the Gadsden Purchase—occurred in 1854.
The Caste War of Yucatán, the Maya uprising that began in 1847, was one of the most successful modern Native American revolts. Maya rebels, or Cruzob, maintained relatively independent enclaves in the peninsula until the 1930s.
Dissatisfaction with Santa Anna's return to power led to the liberal "Plan of Ayutla", initiating an era known as La Reforma. The new Constitution drafted in 1857 established a secular state, federalism as the form of government, and several freedoms. As the conservadores refused to recognize it, the Reform War began in 1858, during which both groups had their own governments. The war ended in 1861 with victory by the Liberals, led by president Benito Juárez, who was an ethnic Zapotec.
In the 1860s Mexico was occupied by France, which established the Second Mexican Empire under the rule of the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria with support from the Roman Catholic clergy and the conservadores. The latter switched sides and joined the liberales. Maximilian surrendered, was tried on June 14, 1867, and was executed a few days later on June 19 in Querétaro.
Porfirio Díaz, a republican general during the French intervention, was elected the 29th president in 1876. The 1880 election was won by Manuel González Flores. Díaz was reelected in 1884 and ruled until 1911. The period, known as the Porfiriato, was characterized by economic stability and growth, significant foreign investment and influence, investments in the arts and sciences and an expansion of the railroad network and telecommunications. The period was concurrent with the Gilded Age in the US and Belle Époque in France and was also marked by economic inequality and political repression.
Díaz ruled with a group of confidants that became known as the científicos ("scientists"). The most influential cientifco was Secretary of Finance José Yves Limantour. The Porfirian regime was influenced by positivism. They rejected theology and idealism in favor of scientific methods being applied towards national development. Various iconic buildings and monuments were initiated by Díaz, including the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Palacio de Correos de Mexico, Monumento a la Independencia and the Palacio Legislativo (which became the Monumento a la Revolución).
President Díaz announced in 1908 that he would retire in 1911, resulting in the development of new coalitions. But then he ran for reelection anyway and in a show of U.S. support, Díaz and William Howard Taft planned a summit in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, for October 16, 1909, an historic first meeting between a Mexican and a U.S. president and also the first time an American president would cross the border into Mexico. Both sides agreed that the disputed Chamizal strip connecting El Paso to Ciudad Juárez would be considered neutral territory with no flags present during the summit, but the meeting focused attention on this territory and resulted in assassination threats and other serious security concerns.
On the day of the summit, Frederick Russell Burnham, the celebrated scout, and Private C.R. Moore, a Texas Ranger, discovered a man holding a concealed palm pistol standing at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce building along the procession route, and they disarmed the assassin within only a few feet of Díaz and Taft. Both presidents were unharmed and the summit was held. Díaz was re-elected in 1910, but alleged electoral fraud forced him into exile in France and sparked the 1910 Mexican Revolution, initially led by Francisco I. Madero.
Madero was elected president but overthrown and murdered in a coup d'état two years later directed by conservative general Victoriano Huerta. That event re-ignited the civil war, involving figures such as Francisco Villa and Emiliano Zapata, who formed their own forces. A third force, the constitutional army led by Venustiano Carranza managed to bring an end to the war, and radically amended the 1857 Constitution to include many of the social premises and demands of the revolutionaries into what was eventually called the 1917 Constitution. It is estimated that the war killed 900,000 of the 1910 population of 15 million.
Assassinated in 1920, Carranza was succeeded by another revolutionary hero, Álvaro Obregón, who in turn was succeeded by Plutarco Elías Calles. Obregón was reelected in 1928 but assassinated before he could assume power. Although this period is usually referred to as the Mexican Revolution, it might also be termed a civil war since president Díaz (1909) narrowly escaped assassination and presidents Francisco I. Madero (1913), Venustiano Carranza (1920), Álvaro Obregón (1928), and former revolutionary leaders Emiliano Zapata (1919) and Pancho Villa (1923) all were assassinated during this period.
In 1929, Calles founded the National Revolutionary Party (PNR), later renamed the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and started a period known as the Maximato, which ended with the election of Lázaro Cárdenas, who implemented many economic and social reforms. This included the Mexican oil expropriation in March 1938, which nationalized the U.S. and Anglo-Dutch oil company known as the Mexican Eagle Petroleum Company. This movement would result in the creation of the state-owned Mexican oil company known as Pemex. This sparked a diplomatic crisis with the countries whose citizens had lost businesses by Cárdenas' radical measure, but since then the company has played an important role in the economic development of Mexico.
Between 1940 and 1980, Mexico remained a poor country but experienced substantial economic growth that some historians call the "Mexican miracle". Although the economy continued to flourish for some, social inequality remained a factor of discontent. Moreover, the PRI rule became increasingly authoritarian and at times oppressive in what is now referred to as 'Mexico's dirty war' (see the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, which claimed the life of around 300 protesters based on conservative estimates and as many as 800 protesters).
Electoral reforms and high oil prices followed the administration of Luis Echeverría, mismanagement of these revenues led to inflation and exacerbated the 1982 Crisis. That year, oil prices plunged, interest rates soared, and the government defaulted on its debt. President Miguel de la Madrid resorted to currency devaluations which in turn sparked inflation.
In the 1980s the first cracks emerged in PRI's monopolistic position. In Baja California, Ernesto Ruffo Appel was elected as governor. In 1988, alleged electoral fraud prevented the leftist candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas from winning the national presidential elections, giving Carlos Salinas de Gortari the presidency and leading to massive protests in Mexico City.
Salinas embarked on a program of neoliberal reforms which fixed the exchange rate, controlled inflation and culminated with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into effect on January 1, 1994. The same day, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) started a two-week-long armed rebellion against the federal government, and has continued as a non-violent opposition movement against neoliberalism and globalization.
In 1994, Salinas was succeeded by Ernesto Zedillo, followed by the Mexican peso crisis and a $50 billion IMF bailout. Major macroeconomic reforms were started by President Zedillo, and the economy rapidly recovered and growth peaked at almost 7% by the end of 1999.
In 2000, after 71 years, the PRI lost a presidential election to Vicente Fox of the opposition National Action Party (PAN). In the 2006 presidential election, Felipe Calderón from the PAN was declared the winner, with a very narrow margin over leftist politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). López Obrador, however, contested the election and pledged to create an "alternative government".
After twelve years, in 2012, the PRI won the Presidency again with the election of Enrique Peña Nieto, the governor of the State of Mexico from 2005–2011. However, he won with only a plurality of about 38%, and did not have a legislative majority.
Mexico is located between latitudes 14° and 33°N, and longitudes 86° and 119°W in the southern portion of North America. Almost all of Mexico lies in the North American Plate, with small parts of the Baja California peninsula on the Pacific and Cocos Plates. Geophysically, some geographers include the territory east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (around 12% of the total) within Central America. Geopolitically, however, Mexico is entirely considered part of North America, along with Canada and the United States.
Mexico's total area is 1,972,550 km2 (761,606 sq mi), making it the world's 14th largest country by total area, and includes approximately 6,000 km2 (2,317 sq mi) of islands in the Pacific Ocean (including the remote Guadalupe Island and the Revillagigedo Islands), Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Gulf of California. From its farthest land points, Mexico is a little over 2,000 mi (3,219 km) in length.
On its north, Mexico shares a 3,141 km (1,952 mi) border with the United States. The meandering Río Bravo del Norte (known as the Rio Grande in the United States) defines the border from Ciudad Juárez east to the Gulf of Mexico. A series of natural and artificial markers delineate the United States-Mexican border west from Ciudad Juárez to the Pacific Ocean. Donald Trump made the construction of a border wall (on the U.S. side) an element of his 2016 presidential campaign. On its south, Mexico shares an 871 km (541 mi) border with Guatemala and a 251 km (156 mi) border with Belize.
Mexico is crossed from north to south by two mountain ranges known as Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental, which are the extension of the Rocky Mountains from northern North America. From east to west at the center, the country is crossed by the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt also known as the Sierra Nevada. A fourth mountain range, the Sierra Madre del Sur, runs from Michoacán to Oaxaca.
As such, the majority of the Mexican central and northern territories are located at high altitudes, and the highest elevations are found at the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt: Pico de Orizaba (5,700 m or 18,701 ft), Popocatepetl (5,462 m or 17,920 ft) and Iztaccihuatl (5,286 m or 17,343 ft) and the Nevado de Toluca (4,577 m or 15,016 ft). Three major urban agglomerations are located in the valleys between these four elevations: Toluca, Greater Mexico City and Puebla.
The Tropic of Cancer effectively divides the country into temperate and tropical zones. Land north of the twenty-fourth parallel experiences cooler temperatures during the winter months. South of the twenty-fourth parallel, temperatures are fairly constant year round and vary solely as a function of elevation. This gives Mexico one of the world's most diverse weather systems.
Areas south of the 24th parallel with elevations up to 1,000 m (3,281 ft) (the southern parts of both coastal plains as well as the Yucatán Peninsula), have a yearly median temperature between 24 to 28 °C (75.2 to 82.4 °F). Temperatures here remain high throughout the year, with only a 5 °C (9 °F) difference between winter and summer median temperatures. Both Mexican coasts, except for the south coast of the Bay of Campeche and northern Baja, are also vulnerable to serious hurricanes during the summer and fall. Although low-lying areas north of the 24th parallel are hot and humid during the summer, they generally have lower yearly temperature averages (from 20 to 24 °C or 68.0 to 75.2 °F) because of more moderate conditions during the winter.
Many large cities in Mexico are located in the Valley of Mexico or in adjacent valleys with altitudes generally above 2,000 m (6,562 ft). This gives them a year-round temperate climate with yearly temperature averages (from 16 to 18 °C or 60.8 to 64.4 °F) and cool nighttime temperatures throughout the year.
Many parts of Mexico, particularly the north, have a dry climate with sporadic rainfall while parts of the tropical lowlands in the south average more than 2,000 mm (78.7 in) of annual precipitation. For example, many cities in the north like Monterrey, Hermosillo, and Mexicali experience temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) or more in summer. In the Sonoran Desert temperatures reach 50 °C (122 °F) or more.
In 2012, Mexico passed a comprehensive climate change bill, a first in the developing world, that has set a goal for the country to generate 35% of its energy from clean energy sources by 2024, and to cut emissions by 50% by 2050, from the level found in 2000. During the 2016 North American Leaders' Summit, the target of 50% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2025 was announced.
Mexico ranks fourth in the world in biodiversity and is one of the 17 megadiverse countries. With over 200,000 different species, Mexico is home of 10–12% of the world's biodiversity. Mexico ranks first in biodiversity in reptiles with 707 known species, second in mammals with 438 species, fourth in amphibians with 290 species, and fourth in flora, with 26,000 different species. Mexico is also considered the second country in the world in ecosystems and fourth in overall species. Approximately 2,500 species are protected by Mexican legislations.
In 2002, Mexico had the second fastest rate of deforestation in the world, second only to Brazil. The government has taken another initiative in the late 1990s to broaden the people's knowledge, interest and use of the country's esteemed biodiversity, through the Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad.
In Mexico, 170,000 square kilometres (65,637 sq mi) are considered "Protected Natural Areas." These include 34 biosphere reserves (unaltered ecosystems), 67 national parks, 4 natural monuments (protected in perpetuity for their aesthetic, scientific or historical value), 26 areas of protected flora and fauna, 4 areas for natural resource protection (conservation of soil, hydrological basins and forests) and 17 sanctuaries (zones rich in diverse species).
The discovery of the Americas brought to the rest of the world many widely used food crops and edible plants. Some of Mexico's native culinary ingredients include: chocolate, avocado, tomato, maize, vanilla, guava, chayote, epazote, camote, jícama, nopal, zucchini, tejocote, huitlacoche, sapote, mamey sapote, many varieties of beans, and an even greater variety of chiles, such as the habanero and the jalapeño. Most of these names come from indigenous languages like Nahuatl.
Because of its high biodiversity Mexico has also been a frequent site of bioprospecting by international research bodies. The first highly successful instance being the discovery in 1947 of the tuber "Barbasco" (Dioscorea composita) which has a high content of diosgenin, revolutionizing the production of synthetic hormones in the 1950s and 1960s and eventually leading to the invention of combined oral contraceptive pills.
The United Mexican States are a federation whose government is representative, democratic and republican based on a presidential system according to the 1917 Constitution. The constitution establishes three levels of government: the federal Union, the state governments and the municipal governments. According to the constitution, all constituent states of the federation must have a republican form of government composed of three branches: the executive, represented by a governor and an appointed cabinet, the legislative branch constituted by a unicameral congress and the judiciary, which will include a state Supreme Court of Justice. They also have their own civil and judicial codes.
The federal legislature is the bicameral Congress of the Union, composed of the Senate of the Republic and the Chamber of Deputies. The Congress makes federal law, declares war, imposes taxes, approves the national budget and international treaties, and ratifies diplomatic appointments.
The federal Congress, as well as the state legislatures, are elected by a system of parallel voting that includes plurality and proportional representation. The Chamber of Deputies has 500 deputies. Of these, 300 are elected by plurality vote in single-member districts (the federal electoral districts) and 200 are elected by proportional representation with closed party lists for which the country is divided into five electoral constituencies. The Senate is made up of 128 senators. Of these, 64 senators (two for each state and two for the Federal District) are elected by plurality vote in pairs; 32 senators are the first minority or first-runner up (one for each state and one for the Federal District), and 32 are elected by proportional representation from national closed party lists.
The executive is the President of the United Mexican States, who is the head of state and government, as well as the commander-in-chief of the Mexican military forces. The President also appoints the Cabinet and other officers. The President is responsible for executing and enforcing the law, and has the power to veto bills.
The highest organ of the judicial branch of government is the Supreme Court of Justice, the national supreme court, which has eleven judges appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The Supreme Court of Justice interprets laws and judges cases of federal competency. Other institutions of the judiciary are the Federal Electoral Tribunal, collegiate, unitary and district tribunals, and the Council of the Federal Judiciary.
Three parties have historically been the dominant parties in Mexican politics: the National Action Party: a conservative party founded in 1939 and belonging to the Christian Democrat Organization of America; the Institutional Revolutionary Party, a center-left party and member of Socialist International that was founded in 1929 to unite all the factions of the Mexican Revolution and held an almost hegemonic power in Mexican politics since then; the Party of the Democratic Revolution: a left-wing party, founded in 1989 as the successor of the coalition of socialists and liberal parties.
Public security is enacted at the three levels of government, each of which has different prerogatives and responsibilities. Local and state police departments are primarily in charge of law enforcement, whereas the Mexican Federal Police are in charge of specialized duties. All levels report to the Secretaría de Seguridad Pública (Secretary of Public Security). The General Attorney's Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) is the executive power's agency in charge of investigating and prosecuting crimes at the federal level, mainly those related to drug and arms trafficking, espionage, and bank robberies. The PGR operates the Federal Ministerial Police (Policia Federal Ministerial, PMF) an investigative and preventive agency.
While the government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, serious abuses of power have been reported in security operations in the southern part of the country and in indigenous communities and poor urban neighborhoods. The National Human Rights Commission has had little impact in reversing this trend, engaging mostly in documentation but failing to use its powers to issue public condemnations to the officials who ignore its recommendations. By law, all defendants have the rights that assure them fair trials and humane treatment; however, the system is overburdened and overwhelmed with several problems.
Despite the efforts of the authorities to fight crime and fraud, most Mexicans have low confidence in the police or the judicial system, and therefore, few crimes are actually reported by the citizens. The Global Integrity Index which measures the existence and effectiveness of national anti-corruption mechanisms rated Mexico 31st behind Kenya, Thailand, and Russia. In 2008, president Calderón proposed a major reform of the judicial system, which was approved by the Congress of the Union, which included oral trials, the presumption of innocence for defendants, the authority of local police to investigate crime—until then a prerogative of special police units—and several other changes intended to speed up trials.
Drug cartels are a major concern in Mexico. Mexico's drug war has left over 60,000 dead and perhaps another 20,000 missing. The Mexican drug cartels have as many as 100,000 members. Mexico's National Geography and Statistics Institute estimated that in 2014, one out of five Mexicans was victim of crime in some form.
President Felipe Calderón made abating organized crime one of the top priorities of his administration by deploying military personnel to cities where drug cartels operate. This move was criticized by the opposition parties and the National Human Rights Commission for escalating the violence, but its effects have been positively evaluated by the US State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs as having obtained "unprecedented results" with "many important successes".
Since President Felipe Calderón launched a crackdown against cartels in 2006, more than 28,000 alleged criminals have been killed. Of the total drug-related violence 4% are innocent people, mostly by-passers and people trapped in between shootings; 90% accounts for criminals and 6% for military personnel and police officers. In October 2007, President Calderón and US president George W. Bush announced the Mérida Initiative, a plan of law enforcement cooperation between the two countries.
The foreign relations of Mexico are directed by the President of Mexico and managed through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The principles of the foreign policy are constitutionally recognized in the Article 89, Section 10, which include: respect for international law and legal equality of states, their sovereignty and independence, non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, peaceful resolution of conflicts, and promotion of collective security through active participation in international organizations. Since the 1930s, the Estrada Doctrine has served as a crucial complement to these principles.
Mexico is one of the founding members of several international organizations, most notably the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the OPANAL and the Rio Group. In 2008, Mexico contributed over 40 million dollars to the United Nations regular budget. In addition, it was the only Latin American member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development since it joined in 1994 until Chile gained full membership in 2010.
Mexico is considered a regional power hence its presence in major economic groups such as the G8+5 and the G-20. In addition, since the 1990s Mexico has sought a reform of the United Nations Security Council and its working methods with the support of Canada, Italy, Pakistan and other nine countries, which form a group informally called the Coffee Club.
After the War of Independence, the relations of Mexico were focused primarily on the United States, its northern neighbor, largest trading partner, and the most powerful actor in hemispheric and world affairs. Mexico supported the Cuban government since its establishment in the early 1960s, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua during the late 1970s, and leftist revolutionary groups in El Salvador during the 1980s. Felipe Calderón's administration put a greater emphasis on relations with Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Mexican Armed Forces have two branches: the Mexican Army (which includes the Mexican Air Force), and the Mexican Navy. The Mexican Armed Forces maintain significant infrastructure, including facilities for design, research, and testing of weapons, vehicles, aircraft, naval vessels, defense systems and electronics; military industry manufacturing centers for building such systems, and advanced naval dockyards that build heavy military vessels and advanced missile technologies.
In recent years, Mexico has improved its training techniques, military command and information structures and has taken steps to becoming more self-reliant in supplying its military by designing as well as manufacturing its own arms, missiles, aircraft, vehicles, heavy weaponry, electronics, defense systems, armor, heavy military industrial equipment and heavy naval vessels. Since the 1990s, when the military escalated its role in the war on drugs, increasing importance has been placed on acquiring airborne surveillance platforms, aircraft, helicopters, digital war-fighting technologies, urban warfare equipment and rapid troop transport.
Mexico has the capabilities to manufacture nuclear weapons, but abandoned this possibility with the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1968 and pledged to only use its nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. In 1970, Mexico's national institute for nuclear research successfully refined weapons grade uranium which is used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons but in April 2010, Mexico agreed to turn over its weapons grade uranium to the United States.
Historically, Mexico has remained neutral in international conflicts, with the exception of World War II. However, in recent years some political parties have proposed an amendment of the Constitution in order to allow the Mexican Army, Air Force or Navy to collaborate with the United Nations in peacekeeping missions, or to provide military help to countries that officially ask for it.
The United Mexican States are a federation of 31 free and sovereign states, which form a union that exercises a degree of jurisdiction over the Federal District and other territories.
Each state has its own constitution, congress, and a judiciary, and its citizens elect by direct voting a governor for a six-year term, and representatives to their respective unicameral state congresses for three-year terms.
The Federal District is a special political division that belongs to the federation as a whole and not to a particular state, and as such, has more limited local rule than the nation's states.
The states are divided into municipalities, the smallest administrative political entity in the country, governed by a mayor or municipal president (presidente municipal), elected by its residents by plurality.
Mexico has the 15th largest nominal GDP and the 11th largest by purchasing power parity. GDP annual average growth for the period of 1995–2002 was 5.1%. Mexico's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) was estimated at US $2.2602 trillion in 2015, and $1.3673 trillion in nominal exchange rates. Mexico's GDP in PPP per capita was US $18,714.05. The World Bank reported in 2009 that the country's Gross National Income in market exchange rates was the second highest in Latin America, after Brazil at US $1,830.392 billion, which lead to the highest income per capita in the region at $14,400. Mexico is now firmly established as an upper middle-income country. After the slowdown of 2001 the country has recovered and has grown 4.2, 3.0 and 4.8 percent in 2004, 2005 and 2006, even though it is considered to be well below Mexico's potential growth. Furthermore, after the 2008–2009 recession, the economy grew an average of 3.32 percent per year from 2010 to 2014.
From the late 1990s onwards, the majority of the population has been part of the growing middle class. But according to Mexico's National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) from 2006 to 2010 the portion of the population who were in poverty rose from 19% to 46% (52 million persons). However, rather than Mexico’s economy crashing, international economists attribute the huge increase in the percentage of population living below the country's poverty line to the CONEVAL changing the standards used to define it, pointing out that the percentage of people living in poverty according Mexico’s national poverty line is around 40 times higher than the one reported by the World Bank’s international poverty line, with the difference between the two being the biggest in the world. It is pondered then if it wouldn't be better for countries in the situation of Mexico to adopt more internationalized standards to measure poverty so the numbers obtained could be used to make accurate international comparisons. According to the OECD's own poverty line (defined as the percentage of a country's population who earns half or less of the national median income) 21.5% of the Mexico's population lives in situation of poverty. This is also reflected by the fact that infant mortality in Mexico is three times higher than the average among OECD nations, and the literacy levels are in the median range of OECD nations. Nevertheless, according to Goldman Sachs, by 2050 Mexico will have the 5th largest economy in the world.
Among the OECD countries, Mexico has the second highest degree of economic disparity between the extremely poor and extremely rich, after Chile – although it has been falling over the last decade, being only one of few countries in which this is the case. The bottom ten percent in the income hierarchy disposes of 1.36% of the country's resources, whereas the upper ten percent dispose of almost 36%. OECD also notes that Mexico's budgeted expenses for poverty alleviation and social development is only about a third of the OECD average – both in absolute and relative numbers.
According to a 2008 UN report the average income in a typical urbanized area of Mexico was $26,654, while the average income in rural areas just miles away was only $8,403. Daily minimum wages are set annually being set at $80.04 Mexican pesos ($4.5 USD) in 2017.
The electronics industry of Mexico has grown enormously within the last decade. Mexico has the sixth largest electronics industry in the world after China, United States, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Mexico is the second largest exporter of electronics to the United States where it exported $71.4 billion worth of electronics in 2011. The Mexican electronics industry is dominated by the manufacture and OEM design of televisions, displays, computers, mobile phones, circuit boards, semiconductors, electronic appliances, communications equipment and LCD modules. The Mexican electronics industry grew 20% between 2010 and 2011, up from its constant growth rate of 17% between 2003 and 2009. Currently electronics represent 30% of Mexico's exports.
Mexico produces the most automobiles of any North American nation. The industry produces technologically complex components and engages in some research and development activities. The "Big Three" (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) have been operating in Mexico since the 1930s, while Volkswagen and Nissan built their plants in the 1960s. In Puebla alone, 70 industrial part-makers cluster around Volkswagen. In the 2010s expansion of the sector was surging. In 2014 alone, more than $10 billion in investment was committed. In September 2016 Kia motors opened a $1 billion factory in Nuevo León, with Audi also opening an assembling plant in Puebla the same year. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan currently have plants in constructuion.
The domestic car industry is represented by DINA S.A., which has built buses and trucks since 1962, and the new Mastretta company that builds the high-performance Mastretta MXT sports car. In 2006, trade with the United States and Canada accounted for almost 50% of Mexico's exports and 45% of its imports. During the first three quarters of 2010, the United States had a $46.0 billion trade deficit with Mexico. In August 2010 Mexico surpassed France to become the 9th largest holder of US debt. The commercial and financial dependence on the US is a cause for concern.
The remittances from Mexican citizens working in the United States account for 0.2% of Mexico's GDP which was equal to US$20 billion per year in 2004 and is the tenth largest source of foreign income after oil, industrial exports, manufactured goods, electronics, heavy industry, automobiles, construction, food, banking and financial services. According to Mexico's central bank, remittances in 2008 amounted to $25bn.
Major players in the broadcasting industry are Televisa, the largest Spanish media company in the Spanish-speaking world, and TV Azteca.
The telecommunications industry is mostly dominated by Telmex (Teléfonos de México), privatized in 1990. By 2006, Telmex had expanded its operations to Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay and the United States. Other players in the domestic industry are Axtel and Maxcom. Because of Mexican orography, providing a landline telephone service at remote mountainous areas is expensive, and the penetration of line-phones per capita is low compared to other Latin American countries, at 40 percent; however, 82% of Mexicans over the age of 14 own a mobile phone. Mobile telephony has the advantage of reaching all areas at a lower cost, and the total number of mobile lines is almost two times that of landlines, with an estimation of 63 million lines. The telecommunication industry is regulated by the government through Cofetel (Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones).
The Mexican satellite system is domestic and operates 120 earth stations. There is also extensive microwave radio relay network and considerable use of fiber-optic and coaxial cable. Mexican satellites are operated by Satélites Mexicanos (Satmex), a private company, leader in Latin America and servicing both North and South America. It offers broadcast, telephone and telecommunication services to 37 countries in the Americas, from Canada to Argentina. Through business partnerships Satmex provides high-speed connectivity to ISPs and Digital Broadcast Services. Satmex maintains its own satellite fleet with most of the fleet being designed and built in Mexico.
The use of radio, television, and Internet in Mexico is prevalent. There are approximately 1,410 radio broadcast stations and 236 television stations (excluding repeaters). Major players in the broadcasting industry are Televisa—the largest media company in the Spanish-speaking world—and TV Azteca.
Energy production in Mexico is managed by state-owned companies: the Federal Commission of Electricity and Pemex.
Pemex, the public company in charge of exploration, extraction, transportation and marketing of crude oil and natural gas, as well as the refining and distribution of petroleum products and petrochemicals, is one of the largest companies in the world by revenue, making US $86 billion in sales a year. Mexico is the sixth-largest oil producer in the world, with 3.7 million barrels per day. In 1980 oil exports accounted for 61.6% of total exports; by 2000 it was only 7.3%.
The largest hydro plant in Mexico is the 2,400 MW Manuel Moreno Torres Dam in Chicoasén, Chiapas, in the Grijalva River. This is the world's fourth most productive hydroelectric plant.
Mexico is the country with the world's third largest solar potential. The country's gross solar potential is estimated at 5kWh/m2 daily, which corresponds to 50 times national electricity generation. Currently, there is over 1 million square meters of solar thermal panels installed in Mexico, while in 2005, there were 115,000 square meters of solar PV (photo-voltaic). It is expected that in 2012 there will be 1,8 million square meters of installed solar thermal panels.
The project named SEGH-CFE 1, located in Puerto Libertad, Sonora, Northwest of Mexico, will have capacity of 46.8 MW from an array of 187,200 solar panels when complete in 2013. All of the electricity will be sold directly to the CFE and absorbed into the utility's transmission system for distribution throughout their existing network. At an installed capacity of 46.8 MWp, when complete in 2013, the project will be the first utility scale project of its kind in Mexico and the largest solar project of any kind in Latin America.
The National Autonomous University of Mexico was officially established in 1910, and the university become one of the most important institutes of higher learning in Mexico. UNAM provides world class education in science, medicine, and engineering. Many scientific institutes and new institutes of higher learning, such as National Polytechnic Institute (founded in 1936), were established during the first half of the 20th century. Most of the new research institutes were created within UNAM. Twelve institutes were integrated into UNAM from 1929 to 1973. In 1959, the Mexican Academy of Sciences was created to coordinate scientific efforts between academics.
In 1995, the Mexican chemist Mario J. Molina shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Paul J. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone. Molina, an alumnus of UNAM, became the first Mexican citizen to win the Nobel Prize in science.
In recent years, the largest scientific project being developed in Mexico was the construction of the Large Millimeter Telescope (Gran Telescopio Milimétrico, GMT), the world's largest and most sensitive single-aperture telescope in its frequency range. It was designed to observe regions of space obscured by stellar dust.
Mexico has traditionally been among the most visited countries in the world according to the World Tourism Organization and it is the most visited country in the Americas, after the United States. The most notable attractions are the Mesoamerican ruins, cultural festivals, colonial cities, nature reserves and the beach resorts. The nation's wide range of climates, from temperate to tropical, and unique culture – a fusion of the European and the Mesoamerican – make Mexico an attractive destination. The peak tourism seasons in the country are during December and the mid-Summer, with brief surges during the week before Easter and Spring break, when many of the beach resort sites become popular destinations for college students from the United States.
As of 2016, Mexico was the 8th most visited country in the world and had the 14th highest income from tourism in the world which is also the highest in Latin America. The vast majority of tourists come to Mexico from the United States and Canada followed by Europe and Asia. A smaller number also come from other Latin American countries. In the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, Mexico was ranked 22nd in the world, which was 3rd in the Americas.
The coastlines of Mexico harbor many stretches of beaches that are frequented by sun bathers and other visitors. According to national law, the entirety of the coastlines are under federal ownership, that is, all beaches in the country are public. On the Yucatán peninsula, one of the most popular beach destinations is the resort town of Cancún, especially among university students during spring break. Just offshore is the beach island of Isla Mujeres, and to the east is the Isla Holbox. To the south of Cancun is the coastal strip called Riviera Maya which includes the beach town of Playa del Carmen and the ecological parks of Xcaret and Xel-Há. A day trip to the south of Cancún is the historic port of Tulum. In addition to its beaches, the town of Tulum is notable for its cliff-side Mayan ruins.
On the Pacific coast is the notable tourist destination of Acapulco. Once the destination for the rich and famous, the beaches have become crowded and the shores are now home to many multi-story hotels and vendors. Acapulco is home to renowned cliff divers: trained divers who leap from the side of a vertical cliff into the surf below.
At the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula is the resort town of Cabo San Lucas, a town noted for its beaches and marlin fishing. Further north along the Sea of Cortés is the Bahía de La Concepción, another beach town known for its sports fishing. Closer to the United States border is the weekend draw of San Felipe, Baja California.
The roadway network in Mexico is extensive and all areas in the country are covered by it. The roadway network in Mexico has an extent of 366,095 km (227,481 mi), of which 116,802 km (72,577 mi) are paved, making it the largest paved-roadway network in Latin America. Of these, 10,474 km (6,508 mi) are multi-lane expressways: 9,544 km (5,930 mi) are four-lane highways and the rest have 6 or more lanes.
Mexico was one of the first Latin American countries to promote railway development, and the network covers 30,952 km (19,233 mi). The Secretary of Communications and Transport of Mexico proposed a high-speed rail link that will transport its passengers from Mexico City to Guadalajara, Jalisco. The train, which will travel at 300 kilometres per hour (190 miles per hour), will allow passengers to travel from Mexico City to Guadalajara in just 2 hours. The whole project was projected to cost 240 billion pesos, or about 25 billion US$ and is being paid for jointly by the Mexican government and the local private sector including the wealthiest man in the world, Mexico's billionaire business tycoon Carlos Slim. The government of the state of Yucatán is also funding the construction of a high speed line connecting the cities of Cozumel to Mérida and Chichen Itza and Cancún.
Mexico has 233 airports with paved runways; of these, 35 carry 97% of the passenger traffic. The Mexico City International Airport remains the largest in Latin America and the 44th largest in the world transporting 21 million passengers a year.
Among the achievements is a significant increase in access to piped water supply in urban areas (88% to 93%) as well as in rural areas (50% to 74%) between 1990 and 2010. Additionally, a strong nationwide increase in access to improved sanitation (64% to 85%) was observed in the same period. Other achievements include the existence of a functioning national system to finance water and sanitation infrastructure with a National Water Commission as its apex institution; and the existence of a few well-performing utilities such as Aguas y Drenaje de Monterrey.
The challenges include water scarcity in the northern and central parts of the country; inadequate water service quality (drinking water quality; 11% of Mexicans receiving water only intermittently as of 2014); poor technical and commercial efficiency of most utilities (with an average level of non-revenue water of 43.2% in 2010); an insufficient share of wastewater receiving treatment (36% in 2006); and still inadequate access in rural areas. In addition to on-going investments to expand access, the government has embarked on a large investment program to improve wastewater treatment.
According to estimations made by Mexico's National Geography and Statistics Institute, as of 2017 Mexico has 123.5 million inhabitants making it the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. Between 2005 and 2010, the Mexican population grew at an average of 1.70% per year, up from 1.16% per year between 2000 and 2005.
Even though Mexico is a very ethnically diverse country, research about ethnicity has largely been a forgotten field, in consequence of the post-revolutionary efforts of Mexico's government to unify all Mexicans under a single ethnic identity (that of the "Mestizo"). As a result, since 1930 the only ethnic classification that has been included in Mexican censuses has been that of "Indigenous peoples". Even then, across the years the government has used different criteria to count Indigenous peoples, with each of them returning considerably different numbers. It is not until very recently that the Mexican government begun conducting surveys that considered the Afro-Mexican and Euro-Mexican population that lives in the country.
As of 2015, the foreign-born population was 1,007,063. The majority of these individuals were born in the United States and Mexico is home to the largest number of U.S. citizens abroad. After Americans the largest immigrant groups are Guatemalans, Spaniards and Colombians. Besides the Spanish, large immigrant-descended groups are the French, Germans, Lebanese and Chinese. Mexico is the largest source of immigration to the United States. Some 11.6 million residents of the United States have Mexican citizenship as of 2014.
Mexico is ethnically diverse; with people of several ethnicities being united under a single national identity. The core part of Mexican national identity is formed on the basis of a synthesis of cultures, primarily European culture and indigenous cultures, in a process known as mestizaje. Mexican politicians and reformers such as José Vasconcelos (promoter of the cosmic race) and Manuel Gamio (promoter of indigenismo) were instrumental in building a Mexican national identity on the concept of mestizaje.
The large majority of Mexicans have historically been classified as "Mestizos". In modern Mexican usage, the term mestizo is primarily a cultural identity rather than the racial identity it was during the colonial era, resulting in individuals with varying phenotypes being classified under the same identity, regardless of wheter they are of mixed ancestry or not. Since the term carries a variety of different socio-cultural, economic, racial and biological meanings, it was deemed too imprecise to be used for ethnic classification, thus it was abandoned by the government and is not in wide use in Mexican society, although it's often used in literature about Mexican social identities and on intellectual circles. In the Yucatán peninsula the word Mestizo has historically had a different meaning, being used to refer to the Maya-speaking populations living in traditional communities, because during the Caste War of the late 19th century those Maya who did not join the rebellion were classified as mestizos. In Chiapas the word "Ladino" is used instead of mestizo. According to Encyclopædia Britannica racially Mestizo Mexicans make up 50% to 67% of the country's population.
The total percentage of Mexico's population who is indigenous varies considerably depending of the criteria used by the government on its censuses: it is 5.4% if the hability to speak an indigenous language is used as the criteria to define a person as indigenous, if racial self-identification is used it's 14.9% and if people who considers themselves part indigenous are also included it amounts to 21.5%. Nonetheless all the censuses conclude that the majority of Mexico's indigenous population is concentrated in the southern and south-eastern Mexican states, primarily in rural areas. Some indigenous communities have a degree of autonomy under the legislation of "usos y costumbres", which allows them to regulate some internal issues under customary law. According to the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples, the states with the greatest proportion of indigenous residents are: Yucatán at 59%, Quintana Roo 39% and Campeche 27%, chiefly Maya; Oaxaca with 48% of the population, the most numerous groups being the Mixtec and Zapotec peoples; Chiapas at 28%, the majority being Tzeltal and Tzotzil Maya; Hidalgo 24%, the majority being Otomi; Puebla 19%, and Guerrero 17%, mostly Nahua peoples and the states of San Luis Potosí and Veracruz both home to a population that is 15% indigenous, mostly from the Totonac, Nahua and Teenek (Huastec) groups. The absolute numbers of the indigenous population growing, but at a slower rate than the rest of the population so that the percentage of indigenous peoples in regards to total population is nonetheless falling. All of the indices of social development for the indigenous population are considerably lower than the national average. In all states indigenous people have higher infant mortality, in some states almost double of the non-indigenous populations. Literacy rates are also much lower, with 27% of indigenous children between 6 and 14 being illiterate compared to a national average of 12%. The indigenous population participate in the workforce longer than the national average, starting earlier and continuing longer. However, 55% of the indigenous population receive less than a minimum salary, compared to 20% for the national average. Many practice subsistence agriculture and receive no salaries. Indigenous people also have less access to health care and a lower quality of housing.
Similarly to Mestizo and Indigenous peoples, estimations for the percentage of European-descended Mexicans within the Mexican population vary considerably: their numbers range from around 10%–20% according to the Encyclopædia Britannica to as high as 47% according to a nationwide survey conducted by Mexico's government, made with the intent of having a precise outlook of the social and economic inequalities that exist between light skinned European looking Mexicans and Indigenous or African looking Mexicans, is the first time the Mexican government has conducted an official population study that referenced Mexico's white population in nearly a century. While during the colonial era, most of the European migration into Mexico was Spanish, in the 19th and 20th centuries a substantial number of non-Spanish Europeans immigrated to the country. According to 20th and 21st century academics, large scale intermixing between European immigrants and native Indigenous peoples would produce a Mestizo group which would become the overwhelming majority of Mexico's population by the time of the Mexican revolution. However, according to church registers from the colonial times, the majority of European men married with European women. Said registers also put in question other narratives held by contemporary academics, such as European migrants who arrived to Mexico being almost exclusively men. Nowadays Mexico’s northern and western regions have the highest European populations, with the majority of the people not having native admixture or being of predominantly European ancestry.
The Afro-Mexican population (1,381,853 individuals as of 2015) is an ethnic group made up of descendants of Colonial-era slaves and recent immigrants of sub-Saharan African descent. Mexico had an active slave trade during the colonial period and some 200,000 Africans were taken there, primarily in the 17th century. The creation of a national Mexican identity, especially after the Mexican Revolution, emphasized Mexico's indigenous and European past; it passively eliminated the African ancestors and contributions. Most of the African-descended population was absorbed into the surrounding Mestizo (mixed European/indigenous) and indigenous populations through unions among the groups. Evidence of this long history of intermarriage with Mestizo and indigenous Mexicans is also expressed in the fact that in the 2015 inter-census, 64.9% (896,829) of Afro-Mexicans also identified as indigenous. It was also reported that 9.3% of Afro-Mexicans speak an indigenous language. The states with the highest self-report of Afro-Mexicans were Guerrero (6.5% of the population), Oaxaca (4.95%) and Veracruz (3.28%). Afro-Mexican culture is strongest in the communities of the Costa Chica of Oaxaca and Costa Chica of Guerrero.
During the early 20th century, a substantial number of Arabs (mostly Christians) began arriving from the crumbling Ottoman Empire. The largest group were the Lebanese and an estimated 400,000 Mexicans have some Lebanese ancestry. Smaller ethnic groups in Mexico include South and East Asians, present since the colonial era. During the colonial era Asians were termed Chino (regardless of ethnicity), and arrived as merchants, artisans and slaves. The largest group were Filipinos and some 200,000 Mexicans can trace Filipino ancestry. Modern Asian immigration began in the late 19th century and at one point in the early 20th century, the Chinese were the second largest immigrant group.
The first census in Mexico that included an ethnic classification was the 1793 census. Also known as the Revillagigedo census, it was Mexico's (then known as New Spain) first national population census. Most of its original datasets have reportedly been lost, thus most of what is known about it nowadays comes from essays and field investigations made by academics who had access to the census data and used it as reference for their works such as Prussian geographer Alexander von Humboldt. While every author gives different estimations for each racial group in the country they don't seem to vary much, with Europeans ranging from 18% to 22% of New Spain's population, Mestizos ranging from 21% to 25%, Indians ranging from 51% to 61% and Africans being between 6,000 and 10,000, The estimations given for the total population range from 3,799,561 to 6,122,354. It is concluded then, that across nearly three centuries of colonization, the population growth trends of whites and mestizos were even, while the total percentage of the indigenous population decreased at a rate of 13%–17% per century. The authors assert that rather than whites and mestizos having higher birthrates, the reason for the indigenous population's numbers decreasing lies on them suffering of higher mortality rates, due living in remote locations rather than on cities and towns founded by the Spanish colonists or being at war with them. Anthropologist Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán goes beyond said numbers and splits the Mestizo group into "Euromestizos", "Indomestizos" and "Afromestizos" calculating their numbers on more than one million, 700,000 and 600,000 respectively. Independent-era Mexico eliminated the legal basis of the Colonial caste system which led to exclude racial classification in the censuses to come.
According to Mexico's second census ever which considered race, made right after the Mexican revolution on 1921, 59% of Mexico's population was Mestizo, 29% was Indigenous and only 9% was European, with Mestizos being the most numerous ethno-racial group in almost all the states. For a long time this census' results have been taken as fact, with extraofficial international publications such as The World Factbook and Encyclopædia Britannica using them as a reference to estimate Mexico's racial composition up to this day. However, in recent time Mexican academics have subjected the census' results to scrutiny, claiming that such a drastic alteration on demographic trends in regards to the 1793 census is not possible and cite, among other statistics the relatively low frequency of marriages between people of different continental ancestries in colonial and early independent Mexico. Said authors claim that the Mexican society went through a "more cultural than biological mestizaje process" sponsored by the state on its efforts to unify the Mexican population which resulted on the inflation of the percentage of the Mestizo Mexican group at the expense of the identity of the other races that exist in Mexico.
In recent times the Mexican government has decided to conduct ethnic surveys and censuses again, and has also widen the criteria to classify the ethnicies who were already considered, an example being the Indigenous Mexican classification, which was previously reserved to people who lived in indigenous communities and/or spoke an indigenous language. According to these recent surveys Indigenous peoples amount to 21.5% of Mexico's population (including people who declared to be partially indigenous), Afro-Mexicans are 1.2% of Mexico's population (including people who declared to be partially African) and European Mexicans amount to 47% of Mexico's population (based on appearance rather than on self-declared of ancestry). Less numerous groups in Mexico such as Asians and Middle Easterners are also accounted for, albeit their numbers do not vary significantly from previous estimations. Out of all the ethnic groups that have recently been surveyed, that of Mestizos is notably absent, which may be consequence of the ethnic label's fluid and subjective definition, which complicates a precise calculation as well the tendency that Mexicans have to identify people with "static" ethnic labels rather than "fluid" ones.
The country has the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world with almost a third of all Spanish native speakers.
Almost all of the Mexican population speaks Spanish, 99.3% according to the latest census; nonetheless around 5.4% still speaks an indigenous language besides Spanish. The indigenous languages with the most speakers are Nahuatl, spoken by approximately 1.45 million people, Yukatek Maya spoken by some 750,000 people and the Mixtec and Zapotec languages, each spoken by more than 400,000 people.
The National Institute of Indigenous Languages INALI recognizes 68 linguistic groups and some 364 different specific varieties of indigenous languages. Since the promulgation of the Law of Indigenous Linguistic Rights in 2003, these languages have had status as national languages, with equal validity with Spanish in all the areas and contexts in which they are spoken.
In addition to the indigenous languages, other minority languages are spoken by immigrant populations, such as the 80,000 German-speaking Mennonites in Mexico, and 5,000 speakers of the Chipilo dialect of the Venetian language spoken in Chipilo, Puebla.
Arabic is the most commonly spoken foreign language in Mexico.
Here are the 20 largest urban areas in Mexico.