Mexico stretches from the US border southward into the ancient Aztec and Mayan heartlands. Independence from Spain came in 1836. One in five Mexicans lives in the sprawling capital.
Geography: Coastal plains along the Pacific and Atlantic seaboards rise to a high arid central plateau. To the east and west are the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. Limestone lowlands form the projecting Yucatan peninsula.
Climate: The plateau and high mountains are warm for much of the year. Pacific coast is tropical: storms occur mostly March–December. Northwest is dry.
People and Society: Most Mexicans are mestizos of Spanish–Amerindian descent. Rural Amerindians are largely segregated from Hispanic society and most live in poverty, though the state promotes their culture. The Zapatista movement backs indigenous rights. Few women in male dominated politics and business. Narcotics-related violent crime is rising.
The Economy: One of the world’s largest oil producers. Corn, fruit, vegetables, sugar are cash crops. NAFTA has boosted exports, but exposes farmers to subsidized US competition. Huge wealth disparity. Swine flu crippled economy in 2009.
Insight: More people cross the US–Mexican border each year –illegally or legally – than any other border in the world
Official Name: United Mexican States
Date of Formation: 1836
Capital: Mexico City
Population: 110 million
Total Area: 761,602 sq. miles (1,972,550 sq. km
Density: 149 people per sq. mile
Languages: Spanish*, Nahuatl, Mayan, Zapotec, Mixtec, Otomi, Totonac, other
Religions: Roman Catholic 88%, other 7%, Protestant 5%
Ethnic Mix: Mestizo 60%, Amerindian 30%, European 9%, other 1%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Mexican peso = 100 centavos