Detailed map of Mexico and geographical facts about Mexico
Map of Mexico with cities. Where Mexico is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Mexico - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Mexico Fact File
Official name United Mexican States
Form of government Federal republic with two legislative chambers (Senate and Chamber of Deputies)
Capital Mexico City
Area 1,972,550 sq km (761,602 sq miles)
Time zone GMT - 6/8 hours
Projected population 2015 119,115,000
Population density 52.4 per sq km (135.8 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 72
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 24.5
Official language Spanish
Other languages Indigenous languages (Nahuatl [Aztec] and 25 Mayan languages)
Literacy rate 89.6%
Religions Roman Catholic 93%, Protestant 4%, other 3 %
Ethnic groups Mixed indigenous-European (mainly Spanish) 60%, indigenous 30%, European 9%, other 1 %
Currency Mexican peso
Economy Services 57%, agriculture 23%, industry 20%
GNP per capita US$9,000
Climate Tropical in south and on coastal lowlands; cooler and drier in central plateau and mountains
Highest point Vol Citaltepetl (Pico de Orizaba) 5,700 m (18,701 ft)
Map reference Pages 430-31
The story of Mexico is the story of Central American civilization itself. For thousands of years people have lived in the central valley, and when the Spanish arrived under Cortes in 1519 the population of the Aztec Empire may have numbered 15 million. The pattern of settlement established by Spain in Mexico, with large estates worked by Indians, was followed in many other Central and South American countries. Although most Mexicans are Roman Catholics, relations between Church and state have not always been easy, governments often viewing the Church's power as a challenge to their own. Mexico possesses major petroleum resources, is industrializing rapidly, and includes many traditional Indian cultures among its people from the Tarahumara in the northwest to the Maya of Quintana Roo.
Mexico Physical features and land use
The northern and less populated part of Mexico consists of the basin-and-range country of the Mesa Central. In this region desert scrub is the main plant cover, with grasses, shrubs, and succulents on higher ground. Cattle ranching is notable in this area. The land reaches heights of 2,400 m (7,900 ft) around Mexico City. South of the city three major peaks of the Sierra Volcanica Transversal reach elevations of more than 5,000 m (18,000 ft)— Citlaltepetl, Popocatepetl, and Ixtaccihuatl. An active earthquake zone, this is the most densely settled part of the country.
East of the Mesa Central the land falls steeply from the Sierra Madre Oriental to a broad coastal plain on the Gulf of Mexico fringed with swamps, lagoons, and sandbars. Further south is the isthmus of Tehuantepec, a neck of rainforested land dividing the mountains of the Sierra del Sur from the highlands rising toward the Guatemalan border. The Yucatan Peninsula to the east is a limestone plain lying only a little above sea level, marked by natural wells and sinkholes. Petroleum discoveries in the 1970s in Tabasco and Campeche, in the northwest
Yucatan, have made Mexico one of the world's biggest oil producers.
The Mesa Central ends just as abruptly on its western frontier, falling from the pine-forested heights of the Sierra Madre Occidental to a narrow coastal strip extending north to the Californian border. In the far northwest is the long narrow, dry, mountain-spined peninsula of Baja California.
Contrasts in altitude and latitude produce wide climatic variations from the coasts, where temperatures are uniformly high, to the temperate land which prevails over much of the Mesa Central. Above 2,000 m (6,000 ft) lies what is known as the cold land, tierra helada, while on the higher slopes of the snow-capped volcanic cones is the frozen land where temperatures are usually below 10 °C (50 °F).
People and culture Mexico
Most Mexicans are descendants of the Amerindian peoples who lived in the region at the time of the Spanish conquest, and of the Spanish colonists. The Aztecs were one of a number of developed cultures in the region. Their capital, Tenochtitlan, featured monumental architecture in the form of pyramids, and their society was strongly hierarchic, with slaves at the bottom and an emperor at the top. Art, sculpture, and poetry were advanced and they had a form of writing. Aztec religious practices involved the annual sacrifice (and eating) of large numbers of slaves, prisoners, and captives taken in war.
The Maya in Yucatan were another major culture in the region but by the time the Spanish arrived the empire had already collapsed. Only their majestic stone monuments in the jungle remained, with settlements of corn-cultivating Mayan subsistence farmers nearby.
The Spanish brought Christianity and a system of large-scale estates using poorly paid (or unpaid) Amerindian labor. Colonial control was exercised by a form of serfdom under which Amerindians paid either tribute or labor in return for conversion to Christianity. This system was abolished in 1829. In 1810 the independence struggle began: in 1822 Mexico declared itself a republic and in 1836 Spain formally recognized the country's independence. A century of political chaos climaxed with the violent Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1921.
Since 1929 Mexico has been dominated by one party, the PRI, which has ruled until recently in a corporatist and authoritarian fashion. There was widespread dissatisfaction with the political process and with the unsolved 1994 murders of two high-profile reformers within the ruling party. A peasant revolt in Chiapas in 1994 dramatized the problem of rural poverty and the poor understanding that Mexico's urban elite has of
the world beyond the cities. The elections held in 2000 for the first time brought a politician from an opposing party into power.
Economy and resources
Agriculture occupies around a quarter of the population, many farmers living by growing maize, beans, and squash. The main export crops are coffee, cotton, and sugarcane. Some meat is exported from the north, while fish exports include tuna, anchovies, sardines, and shrimp. About one-fifth of Mexico is forested, producing hardwood and chicle, the base for chewing gum.
Mexico is one of the largest oil exporters outside OPEC, most oil coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Petrochemicals provide most of the country's export earnings and are the chief energy source. Mexico is the world's leading producer of silver. Only about twenty percent of the country's mineral reserves have so far been exploited. There are also sizeable deposits of coal and uranium. Hydroelectricity contributes approximately one third of all power used.
Although the economy is diverse, with food-processing, textiles, forestry, and tourism making contributions, it has been through a series of crises beginning with devaluation in 1994. Economic activity contracted by seven percent in 1995 and more than 1 million Mexicans lost their jobs. The health of the banking sector, investor confidence, drug-linked corruption, and the shaky grip of the ruling elite on power are matters of continuing concern.