The United Mexican States (Spanish: Estados Unidos Mexicanos ), or simply Mexico (Spanish: México ), is a country located in North America, bounded on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico[1]. Its capital is Mexico City (Ciudad de México), which is one of the largest cities on Earth.

Covering almost 2 million square kilometres, Mexico is the 6th largest country in America by total area and 15th largest in the world. With a population of about 108 million, it is the 11th most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world.

As the only Latin American member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1994, Mexico is firmly established as an upper middle-income country. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time since 1910 that the opposition defeated the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional: PRI), and Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional: PAN) was sworn in as President on December 1, 2000. The current President is Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, also from PAN.



For almost three thousand years, Mexico was the site of several advanced Amerindian civilizations – the Mesoamerican cultures – such as the Olmec, the Maya and the Aztecs. In 1519, the native civilizations of what now is known as Mexico were invaded by Spain; this was one of the most important conquest campaigns in America. Two years later in 1521, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was conquered by an alliance between Spanish and Tlaxcaltecs, the main enemies of Aztecs.

On September 16, 1810, the independence from Spain was declared by Miguel Hidalgo in the small town of Dolores, causing a long war that eventually led to recognized independence in 1821 and the creation of the First Mexican Empire with Agustín de Iturbide being the first and only emperor. In 1824, the new republic proclaimed Guadalupe Victoria as its first President. During the first decades of its independence, Antonio López de Santa Anna was the strong man of Mexican politics, and on-and-off dictator. After Santa Anna revoked the federal constitution, Texas declared its independence, which they managed to obtain in 1836. The annexation of Texas by the United States created a border dispute, that would cause the Mexican-American War. This war resulted in a Mexican defeat. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 Mexico lost one third of its area to the United States.

Dissatisfaction with Santa Anna's rule led to the liberal Revolution of Ayutla, beginning an era of liberal reforms, known as the Reforma. In the 1860s the country again suffered a military occupation, this time by France, seeking to establish the Hapsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian of Austria as Emperor of Mexico, with support from the Catholic clergy and conservative Creoles. This Second Mexican Empire was fought off by then president of the Republic, the Zapotec Indian Benito Juárez, who managed to restore the republic in 1867.

Porfirio Díaz, a republican general during the French intervention, assumed power in 1876. The period of his rule is known as the Porfiriato, which was noted by remarkable economic achievements but also by brutal oppression. The latter led to the Mexican Revolution in 1910, initially led by Francisco I. Madero. Madero was overthrown and murdered in 1913 by the reactionary general Victoriano Huerta. This caused a civil war, with such as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. The Revolution calmed down when the constitution of 1917 was proclaimed by Venustiano Carranza. Carranza was killed in 1920 and succeeded by Álvaro Obregón, who in turn was succeeded by Plutarco Elías Calles. In 1928 Obregón was reelected, but assassinated before he could assume power. This led Calles to found the National Revolutionary Party (PNR), which was later renamed to Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

During the next four decades, Mexico experienced impressive economic growth; some 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 that sparked a diplomatic crisis with those countries whose citizens had lost businesses expropriated by the Cárdenas government.

Although the economy flourished, the PRI rule became increasingly more oppressive, culminating in the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968, where 250 protesters were killed by security forces. In the 1970s, discontent with the administration of Luis Echeverría brought the country on the brink of a civil war. The chronic weakness of Mexico's economy in the 1970s and 1980s included peso devaluation and price inflation, creating a strong need for tens of millions of poor Mexicans to migrate north to the United States. In 1982, the Mexican government announced that it could no longer pay its debts. The first cracks in the monopoly position of PRI began to appear in 1988, when the party had to resort to election fraud in order to prevent leftist opposition candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas from winning the elections. Carlos Salinas was declared victor of the elections and embarked on a program of neoliberal reforms, culminating in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994. However, the very same day Mexico joined the NAFTA, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) began an armed rebellion against the federal government. A series of political assassination and corruption scandals further damaged Salinas' reputation. In December 1994, a month after Salinas was succeeded by Ernesto Zedillo, the December Mistake led to a new economical crisis.

Democratic reforms under Zedillo caused the PRI to lose its majority in Congress in 1997. In 2000, after 71 years, the PRI lost a presidential election to Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). In 2006, Felipe Calderón (PAN) was declared winner of that year's presidential elections with a razor-thin margin over Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). López Obrador however claimed the election was stolen, and pledged to create an alternative government.



Mexican territory includes the more remote Guadalupe Island and the Islas Revillagigedo in the Pacific Ocean. Mexico's total area covers 1,972,550 square kilometers, including approximately 6,000 square kilometers of islands in the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of California (see fig. 3). On its north, Mexico shares a 5000-kilometer 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. On its south, Mexico shares an 871 kilometer border with Guatemala and a 251-kilometer border with Belize.



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.

Areas south of the twentieth-fourth parallel with elevations up to 1,000 meters (the southern parts of both coastal plains as well as the Yucatán Peninsula), have a yearly median temperature between 24°C and 28°C. Temperatures here remain high throughout the year, with only a 5°C difference between winter and summer median temperatures. Although low-lying areas north of the twentieth-fourth parallel are hot and humid during the summer, they generally have lower yearly temperature averages (from 20°C to 24°C) because of more moderate conditions during the winter.


Government and politics

More information on politics and government of Mexico can be found at Politics of Mexico, the main article in the Politics and government of Mexico series.

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 major political parties in Mexico:

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 seventy years. New hopes for democratic development were raised in 2000 by Vicente Fox and the center-right party PAN's electoral victory over the long-governing PRI.

In 2006, Felipe Calderón of the PAN faced Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD in a very close election. On September 6th, 2006, Felipe Calderón was declared President Elect by the electoral tribunal. His cabinet was sworn in at midnight on December 1, 2006 and Calderón was handed the presidential band by outgoing Vicente Fox at Los Pinos. He was officially sworn as President on the morning of December 1, 2006 in Congress, amidst screaming, yelling and insults, in an extremely quick ceremony.


Administrative divisions

See also: Mexican state name etymologies

The United Mexican States are an union of 31 states and a federal district. Each state has its own constitution and congress, and its citizens elect a governor (gobernador) as well as representatives (diputados locales) to their respective state congresses. Each Mexican state is divided into municipalities, the smallest official political entity in the country, and governed by a mayor (alcalde).

The following map presents the 31 Mexican states and highlights the typical non-official geographical organization of them:

Administrative divisions of Mexico
State Population (2005) Area (km²) Capital
United Mexican States 103.088.000 1.959.248 Mexico City
1. Aguascalientes 1.051.000 5.625 Aguascalientes
2. Baja California 2.842.000 71.546 Mexicali
3. Baja California Sur 517.000 73.943 La Paz
4. Campeche 751.000 57.727 Campeche
5. Chiapas 4.256.000 73.681 Tuxtla Gutiérrez
6. Chihuahua 3.238.000 247.487 Chihuahua
7. Coahuila 2.475.000 151.445 Saltillo
8. Colima 562.000 5.627 Colima
9. Durango 1.489.000 123.367 Durango
10. Guanajuato 4.893.000 30.621 Guanajuato
11. Guerrero 3.116 000 63.618 Chilpancingo
12. Hidalgo 2.334.000 20.856 Pachuca
13. Jalisco 6.652.000 78.630 Guadalajara
14. State of México 14.161.000 22.333 Toluca
15. Michoacán 3.988.000 58.667 Morelia
16. Morelos 1.605.000 4.892 Cuernavaca
17. Nayarit 943.000 27.862 Tepic
18. Nuevo León 4.164.000 64.203 Monterrey
19. Oaxaca 3.522.000 93.343 Oaxaca
20. Puebla 5.391.000 34.251 Puebla
21. Querétaro 1.593.000 11.658 Santiago
22. Quintana Roo 1.134.000 42.535 Chetumal
23. San Luis Potosí 2.412.000 61.165 San Luis Potosí
24. Sinaloa 2.610.000 57.331 Culiacán
25. Sonora 2.384.000 179.516 Hermosillo
26. Tabasco 2.013.000 24.747 Villahermosa
27. Tamaulipas 3.020.000 80.148 Victoria
28. Tlaxcala 1.061.000 3.997 Tlaxcala
29. Veracruz 7.081.000 71.856 Jalapa
30. Yucatán 1.803.000 39.671 Mérida
31. Zacatecas 1.357.000 75.416 Zacatecas
32. Federal District 8.670.000 1.484 Mexico City

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 states: only since 1997 have its citizens been able to elect a Head of Government before it was selected by the President of the Republic. It is divided into boroughs (delegaciones), each of them governed by a Borough Chief (jefe delegacional).

Major cities

The following is a list of the major metropolitan areas of Mexico in order of population (as reported in the 2005 census[2]):

Rank City State Population Region
1 Mexico City Federal District 19.23 million Center South
2 Guadalajara Jalisco 4.10 million West
3 Monterrey Nuevo Leon 3.66 million North East
4 Puebla Puebla 2.11 million East
5 Toluca México 1.61 million Center South
6 Tijuana Baja California 1.48 million North West
7 León Guanajuato 1.43 million Center
8 Ciudad Juárez Chihuahua 1.31 million North West
9 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



According to the World Bank, Mexico ranks thirteenth in the world as regards GDP and has the fourth largest per-capita income in Latin America, ranking it among the highest in Latin America. 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 [2].

Mexico has a mixed economy. It contains a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private sector. Recent administrations have expanded competition in seaports, railroads, natural gas distribution, airports and telecomunications. State oil extraction-company PEMEX, and electricity- generation CFE remain the only legal companies in those sectors, due to a constitutional ban to prevent national or international private funding.

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 US automobile market has meant that companies like Volkswagen and others have located assembly plants in Mexico to serve that market. In addition there is a large television industry providing programming for both Mexicans and the Spanish speaking population in the United States.

Mexico has achieved macroeconomic stability under the recent goverments. 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 more free trade agreements than any country in the world[citation needed] (more than forty), notably those with Japan and the European Union. The NAFTA remains the country's most important free trade agreement, the United States being Mexico's largest trading partner, accounting for more than 85% of the country's trade, and 10% of the country's employment depending of exports to the USA. Mexican government has expressed their goal of joining the Mercosur.

Tourism in Mexico is a large industry, the third in importance. The most notable tourist draws are the ancient Meso-American ruins, and popular beach resorts. The coastal climate and unique culture – a fusion of the European (particularly Spanish) and the Meso-American – also make Mexico attractive. The peak tourists seasons in Mexico are during December and during July and August, with brief surges during the week before Easter and surges during Spring break at many of the beach resort sites which are popular with vacationing college students from the United States.

Ongoing economic concerns include the comercial dependance on the US[citation needed], the weakness of agriculture and industry, 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, Benito Juárez, one of the districts in the Distrito Federal and San Pedro Garza García, in the State of Nuevo Leon, would have a similar level of development to that of Italy, whereas Metlatonoc, Guerrero, would have an HDI similar to that of Malawi [3].


See also: Indigenous peoples of Mexico

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

Racially and ethnically Mexico is a diverse country. Its three main ethnic groups are mestizos (mixed Spanish and Amerindian people; 60% of the population); Amerindians (11.4-30%); and Europeans (9-15% ([4]); mostly of Spanish descent and to a lesser degree, some German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Polish, Russian, British, and Swedish immigrants). Mestizo is a term that can be very ambigous to people outside Mexico because the features of a mestizo can dramatically vary between those who look almost European and those who look more Amerindian. European Mexicans are mostly Spanish; the remaining minorities are largely comprised of Afro-Mexican, Middle Eastern and East Asian people. A large Chinese community exists in Mexicali, Baja California and there has been a small but steady influx of Filipinos since the late sixteenth century.

Life expectancy in Mexico increased from 34.7 for men and 33.0 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 per 1000 people; by 2001, the rate had dropped to 4.9 men per 1000 men and 3.8 women per 1000 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).



The Mexican Constitution does not mention the existence of a de-jure official language, however Spanish is spoken by 94% of the population and used for all official purposes, making it a de-facto official language. Nonetheless, the Law of Linguistic Rights, approved in 2001, grants all 62 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico the same validity as Spanish in the territories in which they are spoken, and all indigenous peoples are entitled to request documents and some public services in their languages. Along with Spanish, they have the legal status of "national languages". Approximately 6% of the Mexican population speaks an indigenous language, and 3% are not bilingual with Spanish. Of these, Nahuatl is spoken by 1.5 million and Maya by 0.8 million; while others, like Lacandon, are spoken by fewer than one hundred people. The Mexican government has promoted and established bilingual education programs in some indigenous rural communities.

English is widely used in business, at the border cities, as well as by the one million American citizens that live in Mexico, mostly retirees in small towns in Baja California, Guanajuato and Chiapas. Other European languages spoken by sizable communities Mexico are Venetian, Plautdietsch, German, French and Romani.



Mexico has no official religion. The separation between the religious institutions and the political administration of the nation was marked in the Constitution of 1857, and was ratified in the current constitution.

As of 2000, approximately 88 percent of Mexicans were Catholic, 7 percent non-catholic Christian, 0.5 percent another religion and 3.5 percent irreligious, the percentage of Catholic believers keeps decreasing every year. The center-west of the country tends to be the most catholic, while both irreligiousness and protestantism is more prevalent in the south. After Brazil and the USA, Mexico has the third largest population of Catholics in the world. Weekly church attendance is 46% of the Mexican population. [3]

The Catholics' proportion varies in different social areas. In the cities, it tends to be lower, though there are some indigenous regions where the members of Protestant creeds reach a percentage of 30%. Even, in some zones of Chiapas, the community of Muslim followers adds up approximately 5.000 believers.



About 1 million American expatriates live in Mexico as retirees or businessmen [4], which represent 1% of the Mexican population and 25% of all American citizens abroad. Other important foreign communities in Mexico are those of Argentine, Brazilian, Cuban, Colombian and Peruvian immigrants, among others. Throughout the 20th century, the country followed a policy of granting asylum to fellow Latin Americans and Europeans (mostly Spaniards) fleeing political persecution in their home countries. Large numbers of Chileans arrived in Mexico and nearby California – especially during the 1850s gold rush – although California was then annexed by the United States. Since the 1970s, over 100,000 Central American people have immigrated to Mexico.

With 1 million American expatriates, Mexico is home of the largest American community abroad. This may be due to the growing economic and business interdependence of the two countries under NAFTA and Mexico's increasing popularity among retirees. A clear example of the latter is seen in San Miguel de Allende and many towns along the Baja California peninsula and around Guadalajara, Jalisco. The official figure for foreign-born citizens in Mexico is 493,000 (since 2004), with a majority (86.9%) of these born in the United States (except 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 (the Federal District; 11.4%), Jalisco (9.9%), Chihuahua (9%) and Tamaulipas (7.3%). More than 54.6% of the immigrant population are fifteen years old or younger, while 9% are fifty or older.


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Social stratification

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 traditionally 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.

Mexicans tend to be people-oriented, putting friends, family and relatives before work or business matters. Starting in the 70's, the government supported the use of birth control, despite the country being predominantly Roman Catholic.

Pure pre-Hispanic Americans (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 indigenous 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.[citation needed] Many terms that refer to Mexicans in the United States exist, but Chicano, (a person born in the U.S.A. of Mexican descent) or Pocho ( a person born in the United States 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 United States come from the lowest economic stratus of society in Mexico, and have created a culture unique to them.


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 mariachi, rancheras, cumbia, salsa, merengue or banda. Visitors will find that even people who were thought to be unlikely to dance, do so[citation needed]. Singing enjoys the same popularity and Mexicans will sing mostly in family and friend reunions. Also, a place, such as a restaurant, with live music and singing will be a preferred choice for Mexicans to eat.

Most Mexicans live in urban areas, therefore they're able to enjoy a great variety of options for leisure. World-class shopping centers are some of the favorites. Most 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. Middle class Mexicans tend to travel to lots of places around the world, while lower class 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.


The favorite sport remains football (normally spelled Fútbol). Mexico has one of the strongest Fútbol leagues in the world, the Primera División de México

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.

Professional wrestling (or Lucha libre in Spanish) is a major crowd draw with national promotions such as AAA, LLL, CMLL and others.

American football is practiced at the major universities like ITESM (Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey), UANL (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León), UDLA (University of the Americas), and UNAM. The college league in Mexico is called ONEFA. There is also a strong following of the NFL in Mexico with the Steelers, Cowboys, Dolphins and Raiders being the most polular teams.

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.



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 constitutional 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 1970s, Mexico became the first country to establish a system of "distance-learning".[citation needed] 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 and most prestigious university in Mexico, today numbering over 269,000 students, is the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México]], UNAM) founded in 1551. Three Nobel laureates and most of Mexico's modern-day presidents are among its former students. UNAM conducts 50% of Mexico's scientific research and has presence all across the country with satellite campuses and research centres. The National Autonomous University of Mexico ranks 74th place in the Top 200 World University Ranking published by The Times Higher Education Supplement in 2006 [5], making it the highest ranked Spanish-speaking university in the world as well as the first Latin American university. The second largest university is the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN). These institutions are public, and there are at least a couple of public universities per state.

There are also private universities like the Monterrey's Technological and Higher Education Institute (ITESM), which is ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the 7th top International Business School worldwide[5] (it has thirty-two 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).


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 derived 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 Tenochtitlan'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). X is also used 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 is that the mere act of using the j spelling is interpreted by some as a form of colonial aggression[citation needed], even though a wide majority of Spaniards is not aware of the controversy at all. 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/).


International rankings

Organisation Survey Ranking
Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom 60 out of 157
The Economist Worldwide Quality-of-life Index, 2005 32 out of 111
Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 132 out of 167
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 70 out of 163
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 53 out of 177



See also

Infrastructure, communications and transport
Geography, history and politics
Culture and education




  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary, 3rd ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.; p. 733
  2. ^
  3. ^ University of Michigan-Study of worldwide rates of religiosity, church attendance (1997), Acessed Jan. 3, 2007
  4. ^ [ American Citizens Abroad
  5. ^
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