/mek"si koh'/, n.
1. a republic in S North America. 97,563,374; 761,530 sq. mi. (1,972,363 sq. km). Cap.: Mexico City.
2. a state in central Mexico. 6,245,000; 8268 sq. mi. (21,415 sq. km). Cap.: Toluca.
3. Gulf of, Mexican, Golfo de México /gawl"faw dhe me"hee kaw'/. an arm of the Atlantic surrounded by the U.S., Cuba, and Mexico. 700,000 sq. mi. (1,813,000 sq. km); greatest depth 12,714 ft. (3875 m).
4. a town in NE Missouri. 12,276. Mexican, México /me"hee kaw'/ (for defs. 1, 2). Spanish, Méjico (for defs. 1, 2).

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Introduction Mexico -
Background: The site of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The nation continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time since the 1910 Mexican Revolution that the opposition defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Vicente FOX of the National Action Party (PAN) was sworn in on 1 December 2000 as the first chief executive elected in free and fair elections. Geography Mexico
Location: Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the US and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the US
Geographic coordinates: 23 00 N, 102 00 W
Map references: North America
Area: total: 1,972,550 sq km land: 1,923,040 sq km water: 49,510 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly less than three times the size of Texas
Land boundaries: total: 4,353 km border countries: Belize 250 km, Guatemala 962 km, US 3,141 km
Coastline: 9,330 km
Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 NM territorial sea: 12 NM exclusive economic zone: 200 NM continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: varies from tropical to desert
Terrain: high, rugged mountains; low coastal plains; high plateaus; desert
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Laguna Salada -10 m highest point: Volcan Pico de Orizaba 5,700 m
Natural resources: petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas, timber
Land use: arable land: 13% permanent crops: 1.1% other: 85.7% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 65,000 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: tsunamis along the Pacific coast, volcanoes and destructive earthquakes in the center and south, and hurricanes on the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coasts Environment - current issues: scarcity of hazardous waste disposal facilities; rural to urban migration; natural fresh water resources scarce and polluted in north, inaccessible and poor quality in center and extreme southeast; raw sewage and industrial effluents polluting rivers in urban areas; deforestation; widespread erosion; desertification; deteriorating agricultural lands; serious air and water pollution in the national capital and urban centers along US- Mexico border; land subsidence in Valley of Mexico caused by groundwater depletion note: the government considers the lack of clean water and deforestation national security issues Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategic location on southern border of US People Mexico -
Population: 103,400,165 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 32.8% (male 17,310,230; female 16,630,935) 15-64 years: 62.7% (male 31,552,877; female 33,246,668) 65 years and over: 4.5% (male 2,069,826; female 2,589,629) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.47% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 22.36 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 4.99 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.71 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/ female total population: 0.97 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 24.52 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.03 years female: 75.21 years (2002 est.) male: 68.99 years
Total fertility rate: 2.57 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.29% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 150,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 4,700 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Mexican(s) adjective: Mexican
Ethnic groups: mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%
Religions: nominally Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 6%, other 5%
Languages: Spanish, various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional indigenous languages
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 89.6% male: 91.8% female: 87.4% (1995 est.) Government Mexico -
Country name: conventional long form: United Mexican States conventional short form: Mexico local short form: Mexico local long form: Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Government type: federal republic
Capital: Mexico (Distrito Federal) Administrative divisions: 31 states (estados, singular - estado) and 1 federal district* (distrito federal); Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila de Zaragoza, Colima, Distrito Federal*, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan de Ocampo, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro de Arteaga, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz- Llave, Yucatan, Zacatecas
Independence: 16 September 1810 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 16 September (1810)
Constitution: 5 February 1917
Legal system: mixture of US constitutional theory and civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory (but not enforced)
Executive branch: chief of state: President Vicente FOX Quesada (since 1 December 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government election results: Vicente FOX Quesada elected president; percent of vote - Vicente FOX Quesada (PAN) 42.52%, Francisco LABASTIDA Ochoa (PRI) 36.1%, Cuauhtemoc CARDENAS Solorzano (PRD) 16.64%, other 4.74% elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 2 July 2000 (next to be held NA July 2006) cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president; note - appointment of attorney general requires consent of the Senate head of government: President Vicente FOX Quesada (since 1 December 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
Legislative branch: bicameral National Congress or Congreso de la Union consists of the Senate or Camara de Senadores (128 seats; 96 are elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms, and 32 are allocated on the basis of each party's popular vote) and the Federal Chamber of Deputies or Camara Federal de Diputados (500 seats; 300 members are directly elected by popular vote to serve three-year terms; remaining 200 members are allocated on the basis of each party's popular vote, also for three-year terms) election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PRI 60, PAN 46, PRD 15, PVEM 5, PT 1, CD 1; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PRI 211, PAN 207, PRD 50, PVEM 16, PT 8, PSN 3, PAS 2, CD 1, independents 2 elections: Senate - last held 2 July 2000 for all of the seats (next to be held NA 2006); Chamber of Deputies - last held 2 July 2000 (next to be held NA 2003)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (judges are appointed by the president with consent of the Senate) Political parties and leaders: Convergence for Democracy or CD [Dante DELGADO Ranauro]; Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI [Dulce Maria SAURI Riancho]; Mexican Green Ecological Party or PVEM [Jorge Emilio GONZALEZ Martinez]; National Action Party or PAN [Luis Felipe BRAVO Mena]; Party of the Democratic Revolution or PRD [Amalia GARCIA Medina]; Party of the Nationalist Society or PSN [Gustavo RIOJAS Santana]; Social Alliance Party or PAS [Guillermo CALDERON Dominguez]; Workers Party or PT [Alberto ANAYA Gutierrez] Political pressure groups and Confederation of Employers of the
leaders: Mexican Republic or COPARMEX; Confederation of Industrial Chambers or CONCAMIN; Confederation of Mexican Workers or CTM; Confederation of National Chambers of Commerce or CONCANACO; Coordinator for Foreign Trade Business Organizations or COECE; Federation of Unions Providing Goods and Services or FESEBES; National Chamber of Transformation Industries or CANACINTRA; National Peasant Confederation or CNC; National Union of Workers or UNT; Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers or CROM; Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants or CROC; Roman Catholic Church International organization APEC, BCIE, BIS, Caricom (observer),
participation: CCC, CDB, CE (observer), EBRD, ECLAC, FAO, G-3, G-6, G-15, G-19, G- 24, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, NAM (observer), NEA, OAS, OECD, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Juan Jose BREMER Martino FAX: [1] (202) 728-1698 consulate(s): Albuquerque, Brownsville (Texas), Calexico (California), Corpus Christi, Del Rio (Texas), Detroit, Douglas (Arizona), Eagle Pass (Texas), Fresno (California), McAllen (Texas), Midland (Texas), Omaha, Orlando, Oxnard (California), Philadelphia, Portland (Oregon), Presidio (Texas), Raleigh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Bernardino, Santa Ana (California), Seattle, Tucson consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, El Paso, Houston, Laredo (Texas), Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Nogales (Arizona), Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Juan (Puerto Rico) chancery: 1911 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006 telephone: [1] (202) 728-1600 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Jeffery
US: DAVIDOW embassy: Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, 06500 Mexico, Distrito Federal mailing address: P. O. Box 3087, Laredo, TX 78044-3087 telephone: [52] 55 5080-2000 FAX: [52] 55 5080-2005, 2834 consulate(s) general: Ciudad Juarez, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana consulate(s): Hermosillo, Matamoros, Merida, Nuevo Laredo, Nogales
Flag description: three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and red; the coat of arms (an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its beak) is centered in the white band Economy Mexico
Economy - overview: Mexico has a free market economy with a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private sector. Recent administrations have expanded competition in seaports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity, natural gas distribution, and airports. Income distribution remains highly unequal. Trade with the US and Canada has tripled since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994. Following 6.9% growth in 2000, real GDP fell 0.3% in 2001, with the US slowdown the principal cause. Positive developments in 2001 included a drop in inflation to 6.5%, a sharp fall in interest rates, and a strong peso that appreciated 5% against the dollar. Mexico City implemented free trade agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and the European Free Trade Area in 2001, putting more than 90% of trade under free trade agreements. Foreign direct investment reached $25 billion in 2001, of which $12.5 billion came from the purchase of Mexico's second largest bank, Banamex, by Citigroup.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $920 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: -0.3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $9,000 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 5% industry: 26% services: 69% (2001 est.) Population below poverty line: 40% (2001 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 1.6%
percentage share: highest 10%: 41.1% (2001) Distribution of family income - Gini 51.9 (1996)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 6.5% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 39.8 million (2000) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 20%, industry 24%, services 56% (1998)
Unemployment rate: urban - 3% plus considerable underemployment (2001)
Budget: revenues: $136 billion expenditures: $140 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001 est.)
Industries: food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron and steel, petroleum, mining, textiles, clothing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, tourism Industrial production growth rate: -3.4% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 194.367 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 75.91% hydro: 16.88% other: 3.19% (2000) nuclear: 4.02% Electricity - consumption: 182.829 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 77 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 2.145 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes; beef, poultry, dairy products; wood products
Exports: $159 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Exports - commodities: manufactured goods, oil and oil products, silver, fruits, vegetables, coffee, cotton
Exports - partners: US 88.4%, Canada 2%, Germany 0.9%, Spain 0.8%, Netherlands Antilles 0.6%, Japan 0.4%, UK 0.4%, Venezuela 0.4%, (2001 est.)
Imports: $168 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Imports - commodities: metalworking machines, steel mill products, agricultural machinery, electrical equipment, car parts for assembly, repair parts for motor vehicles, aircraft, and aircraft parts
Imports - partners: US 68.4%, Japan 4.7%, Germany 3.6%, Canada 2.5%, China 2.2%, South Korea 2.1%, Taiwan 1.6%, Italy 1.3%, Brazil 1.1% (2001 est.)
Debt - external: $191 billion (2001) Economic aid - recipient: $1.166 billion (1995)
Currency: Mexican peso (MXN)
Currency code: MXN
Exchange rates: Mexican pesos per US dollar - 9.1614 (January 2002), 9.3423 (2001), 9.4556 (2000), 9.5604 (1999), 9.1360 (1998), 7.9185 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Mexico - Telephones - main lines in use: 12.332 million (2000) Telephones - mobile cellular: 2.02 million (1998)
Telephone system: general assessment: low telephone density with about 12 main lines per 100 persons; privatized in December 1990; the opening to competition in January 1997 improved prospects for development domestic: adequate telephone service for business and government, but the population is poorly served; domestic satellite system with 120 earth stations; extensive microwave radio relay network; considerable use of fiber-optic cable, coaxial cable, and mobile cellular service international: satellite earth stations - 32 Intelsat, 2 Solidaridad (giving Mexico improved access to South America, Central America, and much of the US as well as enhancing domestic communications), numerous Inmarsat mobile earth stations; linked to Central American Microwave System of trunk connections; high capacity Columbus-2 fiber-optic submarine cable with access to the US, Virgin Islands, Canary Islands, Morocco, Spain, and Italy (1997) Radio broadcast stations: AM 851, FM 598, shortwave 16 (2000)
Radios: 31 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 236 (plus repeaters) (1997)
Televisions: 25.6 million (1997)
Internet country code: .mx Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 51 (2000)
Internet users: 3.42 million (2001) Transportation Mexico -
Railways: total: 18,000 km standard gauge: 18,000 km 1.435- m gauge (2001)
Highways: total: 323,977 km paved: 96,221 km (including 6,335 km of expressways) unpaved: 227,756 km (1997)
Waterways: 2,900 km note: navigable rivers and coastal canals
Pipelines: crude oil 28,200 km; petroleum products 10,150 km; natural gas 13,254 km; petrochemical 1,400 km
Ports and harbors: Acapulco, Altamira, Coatzacoalcos, Ensenada, Guaymas, La Paz, Lazaro Cardenas, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, Progreso, Salina Cruz, Tampico, Topolobampo, Tuxpan, Veracruz
Merchant marine: total: 44 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 656,594 GRT/987,822 DWT ships by type: bulk 3, cargo 1, chemical tanker 4, liquefied gas 3, petroleum tanker 27, roll on/roll off 3, short-sea passenger 3 note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Canada 2, Denmark 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 1,852 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 235 over 3,047 m: 11 2,438 to 3,047 m: 28 914 to 1,523 m: 86 under 914 m: 25 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 85 Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 1,617 under 914 m: 1,085 (2001) over 3,047 m: 1 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 461 1,524 to 2,437 m: 69
Heliports: 2 (2001) Military Mexico -
Military branches: National Defense Secretariat (SEDENA) (including Army and Air Force), Navy Secretariat (including Naval Air and Marines) Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age note: starting in 2000, females were allowed to volunteer for military service (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 27,229,581 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 19,761,440 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching males: 1,077,536 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $4 billion (FY99)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1% (FY99)
GDP: Transnational Issues Mexico - Disputes - international: none
Illicit drugs: illicit cultivation of opium poppy (cultivation in 2001 - 4,400 hectares; potential heroin production - 7 metric tons) and cannabis cultivation in 2001 - 4,100 hectares; government eradication efforts have been key in keeping illicit crop levels low; major supplier of heroin and largest foreign supplier of marijuana and methamphetamine to the US market; continues as the primary transshipment country for US-bound cocaine from South America; major drug syndicates control majority of drug trafficking throughout the country; growing producer and distributor of ecstasy

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officially United Mexican States

Country, southern North America.

The Rio Grande forms part of its northeastern border with the U.S. Area: 758,449 sq mi (1,964,375 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 100,976,000. Capital: Mexico City. About three-fifths of Mexico's people are mestizos, one-third are American Indians, and the rest are of European ancestry. Languages: Spanish (official); more than 50 Indian languages are spoken. Religion: Roman Catholicism. Currency: Mexican peso. Mexico has two major peninsulas, the Yucatán in the southeast and Baja California in the northwest. The high Mexican Plateau forms the core of the country and is enclosed by mountain ranges: the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Sierra Madre Oriental, and the Cordillera Neo-Volcánica. The last has the country's highest peak, the volcano Citlaltépetl, which reaches 18,406 ft (5,610 m). Mexico has a mixed economy based on agriculture, manufacturing, and the extraction of petroleum and natural gas. About one-eighth of the land is arable; major crops include corn, wheat, rice, beans, coffee, cotton, fruits, and vegetables. Mexico is the world's largest producer of silver, bismuth, and celestite. It has significant reserves of oil and natural gas. Manufactures include processed foods, chemicals, transport vehicles, and electrical machinery. It is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. Inhabited for more than 20,000 years, the area produced great civilizations in AD 100–900, including the Olmec, Toltec, Maya, and Aztec. The Aztecs were conquered in 1521 by Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés, who established Mexico City on the site of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán. Francisco de Montejo conquered the remnants of Maya civilization in 1526, and Mexico became part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. In 1821 rebels negotiated independence from Spain, and in 1823 a new congress declared Mexico a republic. In 1845 the U.S. voted to annex Texas, initiating the Mexican War. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Mexico ceded a vast territory in what is now the western and southwestern U.S. The Mexican government endured several rebellions and civil wars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (see Mexican Revolution). During World War II (1939–45) it declared war on the Axis Powers, and in the postwar era it was a founding member of the United Nations (1945) and the Organization of American States (1948). In 1993 it ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement. The election of Vicente Fox to the presidency (2000) ended 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party.
(as used in expressions)
Mexico Gulf of
Mexico National Autonomous University of

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▪ 2009

1,964,375 sq km (758,450 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 106,683,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

      Although Mexican Pres. Felipe Calderón maintained favourable overall public-approval ratings, he encountered considerable difficulties in advancing his policy agenda during 2008. The most serious challenge confronting Mexico was an increasingly violent struggle against drug traffickers. Since assuming office in 2006, President Calderón had dispatched approximately 30,000 army troops and federal police to 10 different Mexican states in a high-visibility offensive against drug cartels. This initiative yielded significant results. During 2007–08 the government arrested several prominent traffickers (including Sandra Ávila Beltrán, known as the “queen of the Pacific” for her leadership of the Sinaloa cartel), and it maintained its policy of extraditing cartel leaders to the United States. Some sources judged that the rising retail price and the declining purity of cocaine sold in the U.S. reflected the effectiveness of Mexico's crackdown.

      These advances, however, came at a very high price for Mexico. As shipping cocaine, methamphetamines, and other drugs into the U.S. became more difficult, traffickers began selling a higher proportion of their product in Mexico, where addiction levels rose steadily. Fragmented cartels waged war against each other for control over lucrative smuggling routes, and they increasingly turned their formidable firepower (derived from sophisticated armaments smuggled from the U.S.) against army and police personnel. In a particularly gruesome turn, they frequently beheaded their victims as a macabre sign of their determination. The violence claimed victims ranging from rival cartel members to senior federal police commanders and law-enforcement personnel, innocent bystanders caught up in gunfights, and members of Mexican-style country music groups (gruperos), whose song lyrics often depicted the lifestyle of drug traffickers. Most disturbing, the overall incidence of drug-related violence (more than 5,600 deaths in 2008) was on the rise, with no clear indication that the Mexican government had yet gained the upper hand.

      The Calderón administration's high-profile attempt to open the petroleum industry to private investment and to reform the state-owned Mexican Petroleum Co. (PEMEX) also encountered resistance. With Mexico's oil production and proven reserves steadily falling, and with oil export receipts accounting for nearly 40% of the federal government's total revenue, in April President Calderón introduced legislation that would give PEMEX greater budgetary autonomy, reform its management, permit private contractors to build and operate refineries and to distribute and store refined petroleum products, and allow PEMEX to offer performance incentives to private firms. Calderón was compelled to accept opposition legislators' demands for broad public debate of energy policy, however, because he needed multiparty congressional support for his initiative. During May and June the Senate held widely publicized hearings on the question, and in July the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) sponsored a referendum in nine states and the Federal District. Although the legislation finally adopted by the Congress in October included key elements of Calderón's original plan, it barred so-called risk contracts offering incentives to private firms engaged in petroleum exploration and production. Moreover, the national debate over energy policy permitted Andrés Manuel López Obrador (the PRD's de facto leader and Calderón's main opponent in the bitterly disputed 2006 presidential election) to revive his political fortunes by leading the nationalist opposition to an expanded private-sector role in the energy sector.

      Although the federal government's policy setbacks might pose problems for the ruling National Action Party (PAN) in the 2009 midterm congressional elections, the PAN's difficulties were minor compared with those affecting the PRD. In March, Alejandro Encinas, a former governor of the Federal District and López Obrador's preferred candidate for party leader, appeared to have narrowly defeated Jesús Ortega of the more moderate New Left faction in the race for party president. Not for the first time in the PRD's 19-year history, however, the election was badly tarnished by ballot fraud and other irregularities. Months of wrangling ensued. In July interim party leaders finally agreed to annul the results and postpone the election until 2010. In November, though, the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judicial Branch ruled that in fact Ortega had won, opening the way for him to take charge.

      In August the Supreme Court rejected appeals filed by the federal attorney general and the National Human Rights Commission against a 2007 Federal District law that decriminalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In ruling that the Federal District government had not violated Congress's constitutional authority to legislate on health and penal matters, the court opened the way for Mexican state governments to reexamine abortion policy.

      Mexico- U.S. relations during the year focused heavily on the challenges posed by illegal drug trafficking and undocumented migration. Following lengthy bilateral negotiations, in October 2007 the United States announced that it would support Mexico's antinarcotics fight with a three-year technical assistance program (the Mérida Initiative), which would commit $1.4 billion in equipment and training. The Mexican government nevertheless objected to U.S. congressional amendments that conditioned the aid on the Mexican military's human rights record, and it insisted that the U.S. government do more to control the flow of illegal firearms into Mexico. In June 2008 the U.S. Congress finally approved revised legislation that provided a $400 million aid package to Mexico during the first year of the program.

      The U.S. Congress failed to enact a comprehensive immigration reform, creating a policy vacuum that encouraged state and local governments in the United States to devise their own approaches to illegal immigration. The federal government did, however, proceed with the construction of physical barriers along major sections of the Mexico-U.S. border, an action that the Mexican government severely criticized as an obstacle to improved bilateral understanding.

      With the U.S. economy sliding into recession, Mexico's GDP grew by only an estimated 1.6% in inflation-adjusted terms during 2008. Remittances from Mexican workers residing in the United States declined. Pressures from rising food, gasoline, and electricity prices in early 2008 pushed the annual rate of inflation up to 6.6%. The widening international financial crisis placed strong pressures on the peso-U.S. dollar exchange rate, and declining petroleum prices in late 2008 threatened to reduce future government revenues. The Calderón administration proceeded with important infrastructure projects in part to stimulate employment growth, but overall job creation in the formal sector of the economy faltered.

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 2008

1,964,375 sq km (758,450 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 106,535,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

      Mexico's conflictive 2006 presidential election continued to cast a shadow over political events in Mexico during 2007. Over time, however, Pres. Felipe Calderón proved capable of slowly building public support and moving his legislative agenda forward. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the presidential candidate of the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) who narrowly lost the hotly contested presidential race, retained significant public visibility. Yet his attempt to establish a “legitimate” parallel government came to naught, and some (though not all) PRD congressional representatives and state government officials were willing to conduct normal business with the Calderón administration.

 Calderón began his term with a high-visibility militarized offensive against drug-trafficking cartels. By early 2007 he had deployed 30,000 army troops and federal police in such operations in nine different states. Human rights advocates voiced concerns about the extensive use of the armed forces for this purpose because military operations of this kind had often produced serious human rights violations. Still other observers expressed fears about the longer-term consequences of expanding the military's role in domestic affairs. On balance, though, public opinion polls indicated strong public support for Calderón's actions. The fact that Mexico experienced an unprecedented surge in drug-related killings, kidnappings, and gruesome violence (including beheadings) in early 2007 did suggest, however, that any progress against drug cartels would be slow.

      Between March and September the Congress enacted legislation in three important areas. Most controversially, in March the Calderón administration pushed through a modification of the retirement pension system operated by the Social Security Institute for State Workers (ISSSTE). The measure raised the retirement age for public-sector employees and phased in individual retirement savings accounts. The very high commissions charged by private financial firms prevented a similar 1997 reform of the Mexican Social Security Institute private-sector pension system from achieving its goals of significantly expanding pension coverage and raising the rate of saving. This was one reason why Calderón's initiative sparked intense opposition from public-sector unions, even though public employees currently working were not affected by the ISSSTE measure.

      In September the federal Chamber of Deputies finally approved a fiscal-reform package designed to increase tax revenues by 2.5–3% of GDP and thereby provide funds for substantially expanded public-sector infrastructure investment and social spending. A 16.5% levy on net business income (after deductions for long-term investments, physical inputs, salaries, and employee benefits) was a central feature of the legislation. The measure also increased incentives for state governments to raise their own revenues, and it reduced somewhat the government's reliance on the state-owned Mexican Petroleum Co. (PEMEX) as a source of tax revenue, which thereby freed up additional resources for PEMEX's exploration and development projects. Because former president Vicente Fox had twice failed to secure congressional approval of tax-reform proposals, many observers applauded President Calderón's more effective negotiating tactics and the prospect that, even though Calderón's National Action Party (PAN) lacked a majority of seats in either the federal Chamber of Deputies or the Senate, his administration might not be caught in executive-legislative gridlock.

      Federal legislators, reacting to both the very high cost of Mexican political campaigns and the controversies sparked by privately funded television advertisements during the 2006 presidential race, also approved a law that sharply limited private campaign spending and restricted parties' television and radio spots to government-provided airtime closely regulated by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). Although criticized by the media as an infringement on the freedom of expression, the measure received support from across the political spectrum. In exchange for its support for Calderón's fiscal-reform package, however, the PRD insisted that the electoral reform bill also include a provision providing for the early removal of some of the IFE's executive counselors, whose terms would normally run until 2010. The PRD especially blamed the IFE's president, Luis Carlos Ugalde, for errors and omissions that allegedly deprived López Obrador of victory in his 2006 presidential bid. This provision raised widespread concern about the future institutional autonomy of the IFE, which was widely credited with ensuring Mexico's smooth transition to a competitive electoral democracy.

      The PRD-dominated Federal District legislative assembly drew national and international attention in April when it legalized abortion on demand during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The action drew predictably harsh condemnation from Mexico's Roman Catholic hierarchy and the centre-right PAN, which had long counted Catholics among its core supporters. The Calderón administration insisted that abortions could not be performed in hospitals that the federal government operated in the Federal District, a position that set the stage for a Supreme Court review of the matter.

      In foreign affairs the Calderón administration worked hard to repair diplomatic relations with Cuba and Venezuela, which had been severely strained during the Fox years. Within North America the Mexican government pursued discussions with Canada and the United States concerning a “Security and Prosperity Partnership” designed to deepen cooperation between the three countries. Mexico demonstrated its commitment to cooperation with the U.S. government in the battle against organized drug trafficking by extraditing several major traffickers to the United States. It also conducted extensive negotiations with the United States over greatly expanded U.S. financial and technical assistance (equipment and training) to combat drug-related organized crime. However, the U.S. government's failure to enact a progressive immigration-reform bill and continuing U.S. efforts to tighten border security to block Mexican migrants remained significant irritants in bilateral relations.

      Mexico's GDP rose by 3.0% during 2007, compared with 4.8% in 2006. The annual rate of inflation (consumer prices) was 4.0%. In 2006, for the first time in many years, the formal sector had generated sufficient employment to meet the demand created by new entrants into the labour force. The gap between job supply and demand reemerged in 2007, however, as the U.S. economy—Mexico's principal export market and a source of employment for millions of Mexican emigrants—slowed. The U.S. economic slowdown, especially in industries such as home construction, also affected the volume of cash remittances that emigrants sent back to Mexico ($23 billion in 2006).

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 2007

1,964,375 sq km (758,450 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 104,038,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
Presidents Vicente Fox Quesada and, from December 1, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

      The July presidential election was the main focus of public debate in Mexico during 2006. Officially registered candidates from five parties or coalitions competed for the presidency: Roberto Campa (New Alliance Party, PANAL); Felipe Calderón (Calderon, Felipe ) ( National Action Party, PAN) (see Biographies); Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Alliance for the Good of All, composed of the Party of the Democratic Revolution [PRD], the Labour Party [PT], and Democratic Convergence [CD]); Roberto Madrazo (Alliance for Mexico, composed of the Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI] and the Mexican Green Ecological Party [PVEM]); and Patricia Mercado (Social-Democratic and Peasant Alternative, PASDC). In addition, Rafael Guillén (“Subcomandante Marcos”) represented the Zapatista National Liberation Army in an unofficial campaign to promote grassroots democracy.

 The campaign centred on the bitter rivalry between López Obrador, a popular former head of the Federal District government and the candidate who led in public opinion polls during much of the race, and Calderón, representing the incumbent centre-right PAN. In response to Calderón's charges that he was “a danger for Mexico” and a Hugo Chávez-style populist whose social-justice programs would endanger the country's hard-won financial stability, López Obrador reassured the private sector and international investors that he was not antibusiness. Calderón sought to benefit from outgoing Pres. Vicente Fox's personal popularity by advocating continuity in economic policy. To PAN audiences Calderón stressed his conservative social values, but in an effort to win broader support, he also promised to be a “jobs president.”

      Although balloting on July 2 occurred without major disruptions, the narrow difference between the vote totals for Calderón and López Obrador quickly led to controversy. Within hours after the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) announced that it would not release results of its national exit poll because the difference between the two leading candidates was within the sample's statistical margin of error, first López Obrador and then Calderón claimed victory. A district-level tally several days later confirmed an extremely narrow lead for Calderón, but López Obrador contested this result.

      López Obrador subsequently demanded that the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judicial Branch (TEPJF) order a ballot-by-ballot recount. He argued that the entire electoral process had been tainted by the Fox administration's partisan actions in support of Calderón and by massive irregularities on election day affecting as many as two-fifths of all polling sites. At the same time, López Obrador announced a national campaign of peaceful civic resistance to bring public pressure on electoral authorities. Toward this end, on July 30 his supporters blockaded one of Mexico City's main boulevards and occupied the Zócalo, the public plaza facing the National Palace. The PRD's position was undoubtedly influenced in part by memories of the fraudulent 1988 presidential election (in which PRD founder Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas narrowly lost to the PRI's Carlos Salinas de Gortari), the fact that the PAN and PRI had together denied the PRD any role in selecting the IFE counselors responsible for overseeing the 2006 election, and the Fox administration's polarizing attempt in 2004–05 to prosecute López Obrador for ignoring a court order on a zoning issue and thereby to disqualify him as a presidential candidate.

      In early August the seven-member TEPJF unanimously rejected demands for a full recount but agreed to reexamine ballots from some 9.1% of all polling places. Then in early September the tribunal issued another unanimous ruling confirming Calderón as president-elect. It certified a final count giving him 36.7% of valid votes, compared with López Obrador's 36.1% (a difference of just 233,831 of the 41,557,430 ballots cast). The final shares of the valid vote for other registered presidential candidates were: Madrazo, 22.7%; Mercado, 2.8%; and Campa, 1.0%.

      The TEPJF's final ruling criticized President Fox and private-sector groups for their sustained efforts to undercut López Obrador and sway voters' opinion in favour of Calderón. Even so, López Obrador refused to accept the tribunal's decision, and on September 16 (Mexico's independence day), his supporters publicly acclaimed him head of a parallel government. They also vowed to continue their civic resistance campaign, including high-visibility efforts to discredit both Fox and Calderón. López Obrador loyalists did, however, lift their occupation of central Mexico City, in part to avoid a confrontation with the armed forces during their annual parade commemorating Mexican independence.

      For the first time, in 2006 the PAN won the largest bloc of seats in the federal Chamber of Deputies (41.2%), compared with 25.2% for the PRD, 20.8% for the PRI, 3.8% for the PVEM, 3.2% for the PT, 3.2% for CD, 1.8% for PANAL, and 0.8% for PASDC. The PAN also won the largest share of seats in the federal Senate (40.6%), compared with 25.8% for the PRI, 22.6% for the PRD, 4.7% for the PVEM, 3.9% for CD, 1.6% for the PT, and 0.8% for PANAL. The sharp decline in the electoral fortunes of the once-dominant PRI might increase its incentives to enter into legislative coalitions with the PAN, but the PAN's strengthened position might still not permit it to push through promised policy changes on such controversial matters as foreign investment in the petroleum and electrical-power sectors.

      The PAN's success was due in part to the well-funded negative advertising campaign it waged against López Obrador and to mistakes that López Obrador himself committed during the campaign (including his disrespectful personal attacks on the still-popular President Fox and his refusal to participate in the first of two televised presidential debates). Moreover, Calderón appealed successfully to middle-class voters who had benefited from low inflation, a stable foreign-exchange rate, and expanded access to home mortgages.

      Although the six-week occupation of central Mexico City by López Obrador supporters severely disrupted transportation and businesses in the area, the prolonged controversy over election results did not have any lasting impact on the Mexican stock market or overall economic performance. Gross domestic product grew by 4.7% in inflation-adjusted terms during the year, and consumer prices rose by only 3.6%. Mexico, the world's fifth largest oil producer, also continued to benefit from high international petroleum prices.

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 2006

1,964,375 sq km (758,449 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 107,029,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
President Vicente Fox Quesada

      Political maneuvering in advance of the July 2006 presidential election dominated events in Mexico during 2005. In May Pres. Vicente Fox was finally forced to halt legal proceedings against Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Lopez Obrador, Andres Manuel ) (see Biographies), the popular head of the Federal District government and the leading presidential candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). In May 2004 the federal attorney general had requested that the Chamber of Deputies lift López Obrador's immunity from prosecution as an elected official (an action that might eventually have permitted his removal from office), on the grounds that he had authorized construction of a hospital access road across private land in defiance of a judicial order. Fox failed signally, however, in his efforts to convince domestic and international publics that the case against López Obrador represented a test of the rule of law.

      López Obrador maintained that Fox's real motive was his desire to disqualify the leading leftist candidate and thereby tilt the upcoming presidential race in favour of his own centre-right National Action Party (PAN). Following a march in Mexico City by nearly one million people protesting the government's political manipulation of judicial proceedings, the Fox administration was compelled to drop the charges. The outpouring of public support for López Obrador paved the way for his nomination in September as the PRD's presidential standard-bearer.

      In October and November both the PAN and the long-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) also chose their presidential candidates. Felipe Calderón won the PAN's party primaries decisively. The son of a PAN founder, a former president of the party (1996–99), a leader of the PAN's Chamber of Deputies delegation (2000–03), and a former minister of energy (2003–04), Calderón appealed to party traditionalists long at odds with “neopanistas” such as President Fox. Calderón's principal opponent was Santiago Creel, minister of the interior between 2000 and 2005 and President Fox's apparent favourite for the nomination.

      The PRI's candidate-selection process was the most conflictive. Former PRI president Roberto Madrazo, a former governor of Tabasco (1994–2000) who had held the party together in the wake of its historic defeat in the 2000 presidential election, won the party primary in November. His principal opponent had been Arturo Montiel, a former governor of the state of México who—until he was forced to resign following press revelations concerning his family's unexplained accumulation of wealth—had represented an anti-Madrazo coalition of PRI notables. The divisions that emerged around Madrazo's nomination increased the risks of serious defections from the PRI, a development that would hurt its electoral performance in 2006.

      The intense partisan rivalries surrounding the presidential contest raised unsettling questions regarding Mexico's future. Some observers worried that if the election was marred by significant irregularities and the reported results did not indicate a clear winner, the country's electoral institutions might not be capable of managing the ensuing tensions. Others were concerned that a tumultuous presidential succession might undercut the country's hard-won financial stability.

      In an effort to safeguard against such outcomes, in September the prominent entrepreneur Carlos Slim convoked 300 public figures in support of a National Agreement for Unity, the Rule of Law, Development, Investment, and Employment. Slim, head of the Grupo Carso conglomerate and Mexico's (and Latin America's) wealthiest individual, and his fellow opinion leaders used the 12-page document to underscore the multiple economic, social, and political challenges facing contemporary Mexico and to argue that all sectors—not just the government—had to work together constructively to address these problems.

      The Fox administration itself sought to reassure the national and international business communities by maintaining strict macroeconomic discipline. The government held the annual rate of inflation to a very low 3.8% during 2005, and the government's budget deficit was estimated at 0.2% of GDP. In part because international oil prices remained high, Mexico's international financial reserves reached $65.6 billion in June. The country's GDP rose by an estimated 2.7% during the year.

      Elsewhere on the domestic political front, in February the special prosecutor appointed to investigate human rights crimes committed during Mexico's “dirty war” of the late 1960s and early 1970s lost his case against former president Luis Echeverría (1970–76)—involving the killing of at least a dozen demonstrators in Mexico City on June 10, 1971—when the Supreme Court ruled that the crime of genocide was not applicable in cases originating before 1982. In June Raúl Salinas, older brother of former president Carlos Salinas (1988–94), was freed after having served more than 10 years in prison on charges associated with the 1994 assassination of PRI secretary-general José Francisco Ruiz Massieu. Although Raúl Salinas still faced charges of illegal enrichment, prosecutors had failed to produce reliable evidence in their main case against him. In August the secretary-general of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), Leonardo Rodríguez Alcaine, died at age 86. He was succeeded by Joaquín Gamboa Pascoe, leader of the Federal District Workers' Federation.

      Mexico's always-complex relations with the United States also generated considerable controversy during 2005. Immigration-reform legislation remained stalled in the U.S. Congress, and the two governments made no further progress in negotiating a bilateral accord on migration issues. Yet the northward flow of undocumented Mexican migrants continued unabated, and U.S. immigration officials reported a record number of deaths as migrants seeking to evade U.S. border controls were forced into inhospitable desert and mountainous terrain. The governors of Arizona and New Mexico declared states of emergency in their border areas to draw the U.S. government's attention to escalating migration problems.

      It was drug trafficking-related violence along the border, however, that was the principal flash point in Mexico-U.S. relations. Protracted fighting between rival drug cartels over border-crossing routes in the Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, area resulted in multiple deaths and greatly heightened concerns about public security in the region. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Antonio O. Garza, Jr., briefly closed the U.S. consulate in Nuevo Laredo to underscore the U.S. government's frustration with Mexico's handling of the situation—an action that provoked heated reactions from senior Mexican officials.

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 2005

1,964,375 sq km (758,449 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 105,447,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
President Vicente Fox Quesada

      Political topics dominated the agenda in Mexico during 2004. Highly public maneuvering in advance of the 2006 presidential election gave a premature lame-duck cast to the administration of Pres. Vicente Fox Quesada. The failure of President Fox's centre-right National Action Party (PAN) to win a congressional majority in the 2003 midterm elections, as well as growing frustration with his inability to secure congressional approval for his principal policy initiatives, eroded Fox's public credibility despite the fact that his personal-approval ratings remained comparatively strong.

      However, the events that sparked the greatest controversy—and deprived the government of political oxygen for an extended period—were repeated comments by Martha Sahagún de Fox suggesting that she aspired to succeed her husband in the presidency. Although Sahagún maintained that she was the victim of gender discrimination in a male-dominated political culture, widespread opposition to her candidacy also reflected deeply held Mexican beliefs about the threat posed by an individual's (or a family's) perpetuation in power. The political reaction against Sahagún's possible candidacy proved so strong that in July she was forced to renounce her presidential ambitions.

      Although Sahagún was forced to withdraw, her actions encouraged other presidential aspirants to initiate their own campaigns scarcely more than halfway through Fox's term in office. Secretary of Energy Felipe Calderón was forced to resign his cabinet post in May after he appeared at a public rally backing his candidacy, but he remained a contender for the PAN's presidential nomination. In addition, Jorge G. Castañeda, Fox's first secretary of foreign relations, launched an independent presidential bid.

      Although the PAN remained more united than its main partisan rivals, the party's prospects for retaining the presidency dimmed as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, the party that had held national power for 71 years until its defeat in 2000) regained ground. During 2004 the PRI won important gubernatorial races in Chihuahua, Durango, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. PRI victories in northern states hitherto identified with the PAN were serious blows to the latter party. Internal rivalries continued to divide the PRI, however, and there remained a distinct possibility that nominating party leader Roberto Madrazo (who had been charged with serious electoral fraud in his successful 1994 gubernatorial campaign in Tabasco) for the presidency might crush the party's renewed hopes under the weight of the past. The PRI remained the party with the strongest national organizational base and the largest group of core supporters, however, and was thus a serious contender for the presidency in 2006.

      One of the year's greatest political controversies involved Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the popular governor of the Federal District. Even in the wake of sensational corruption scandals involving other Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) officials, public opinion polls consistently favoured López Obrador to win the 2006 presidential race. His candidacy was, however, endangered by judicial charges stemming from his decision—in defiance of a court order—to construct across private land a public-access road to a hospital. In May the federal attorney general initiated legal proceedings against López Obrador by requesting that the Chamber of Deputies lift his immunity from prosecution as an elected public official, an action that might eventually lead to his formal conviction, removal from office, and ineligibility to hold future public office. These actions touched off a political firestorm, with the PRD and its allies arguing that the Fox administration was manipulating the judicial process in order to eliminate its most visible partisan rival (and the PRD's best-ever chance of winning the presidency).

      The past also featured prominently in the year's political struggles. In July the special prosecutor appointed to investigate human rights crimes committed during Mexico's “dirty war” of the late 1960s and early 1970s filed an indictment against former president Luis Echeverría (1970–76) and several other retired military and security officials. The prosecutor formally charged Echeverría with the crime of genocide for his involvement in a government-trained paramilitary group's violent repression of a protest march in Mexico City on June 10, 1971, an action in which some two dozen demonstrators were killed. Leftist groups and human rights organizations applauded the action as an important step toward breaking Mexico's long tradition of official impunity. However, the PRI and the armed forces immediately closed ranks in defense of Echeverría and his co-defendants, arguing that consolidating Mexico's new democratic order required all parties to set aside divisive controversies over the past. A judge overturned the indictment principally on the grounds that the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had expired, and the special prosecutor then appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

      In international affairs the year's most important development was the temporary rupture of diplomatic relations between Mexico and Cuba. Relations between the two governments had remained tense since early 2002, when President Fox asked Cuban Pres. Fidel Castro to depart early from the UN International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mex. (so as not to overlap with the visit of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush), and when Mexico reversed its long-standing diplomatic position by aligning itself with international critics of the Castro regime's human rights record. In May the Fox government accused Cuban officials of intervening in Mexico's internal affairs. Mexico withdrew its own ambassador to Cuba and ordered Cuba's ambassador to leave Mexico. Formal relations were restored in July, but the bilateral relationship remained awkward.

      On the economic front a recovery gained momentum as Mexico achieved an inflation-adjusted growth rate of 4.4% (compared with 1.3% in 2003). Mexico benefited from economic recovery in the United States (the country's principal export market) and high international oil prices. Government officials maintained tight budgetary discipline, however, and sought to use the petroleum-export earnings windfall to pay down the country's external debt rather than to increase public expenditures. The need to generate sufficient employment to meet the country's pressing human needs remained a particularly serious concern.

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 2004

1,964,375 sq km (758,449 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 100,588,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
President Vicente Fox Quesada

      The year 2003 saw important developments in Mexico's economy, domestic politics, and international affairs. The economy, burdened by the recession in the United States (Mexico's largest export market), had grown by only 0.9% in inflation-adjusted terms in 2002. As the U.S. recovery began, analysts predicted real growth of 1.3% in Mexico for 2003. Growth at this pace, however, was insufficient to generate the volume of jobs required by Mexico's expanding workforce or to reduce severe socioeconomic and regional inequalities. The combination of economic downturn during 2001–02 and gradually rising labour costs continued to encourage some employers to move production facilities from Mexico to lower-wage competitors such as China. Nevertheless, macroeconomic trends (including an inflation rate in the single digits) were generally more positive during 2003.

      The agricultural sector was a major exception. As the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered its 10th year, a further round of scheduled tariff reductions on trade in agricultural products posed new challenges to Mexican farmers, who already had long suffered from shortfalls in financial credits, technological inputs, and transportation and marketing arrangements. These concerns sparked widespread protests and demands (fueled by U.S. criticism of Mexican government subsidies for agricultural producers at a time when U.S. farm supports had increased rapidly) that the NAFTA provisions on trade in agricultural products be rejected or renegotiated. The protests forced Pres. Vicente Fox's administration to undertake protracted negotiations with agricultural producers. The government's announcement of an expanded package of rural-development measures (including higher price supports for certain grains) temporarily eased the domestic political problem, but the long-term crisis of the Mexican countryside remained unresolved.

      Political news was dominated by the hotly contested midterm congressional and state-level elections held on July 6. Many observers were inclined to view the elections as a referendum on the Fox administration, and from that perspective the results were indeed disappointing for Fox. Although his personal popularity remained in the 60% range, his centre-right National Action Party (PAN) won just 30.5% of the valid congressional vote. This compared with 34.4% for the long-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), 17.1% for the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), 6.2% for the Mexican Ecological Green Party (PVEM), 2.4% for the Labour Party (PT), and 2.3% for the Democratic Convergence Party (PCD).

      The PRI was reinvigorated by its results in the national election and by its victory in the Nuevo León gubernatorial race. More generally, some analysts interpreted the outcome as voters' rejection of Fox's economic-reform agenda, especially his continued advocacy of unpopular efforts to promote foreign private investment in the petroleum and electrical-power industries. Others wondered whether the comparatively low turnout rate in the July elections (just 41% of registered voters went to the polls) signaled growing disillusionment with the slow pace of further democratic reform since Fox's election. Nevertheless, the PAN's showing in July—although well below the share of the vote that it had received in 2000 when the charismatic Fox was its presidential candidate and the electorate embraced his call for “Change Now!”—was substantially higher than its historical average and indicated further organizational consolidation at the national level. The PRD also recovered somewhat from its especially poor performance in 2000; on the basis of the popularity of Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, it scored an overwhelming victory in Federal District local elections.

      The most immediate result of the elections was the continuation of divided government. The PAN held only the second largest bloc of representatives (151) in the federal Chamber of Deputies; the other seats were distributed between the PRI (224), PRD (96), PVEM (17), PT (6), and PCD (5), with a final seat to be given to either the PAN or the PT. The PAN's failure to win a majority in the Chamber promised to complicate even further such Fox legislative initiatives as reform of the federal labour law.

      The year 2003 also saw the first changes in Fox's cabinet. In January Secretary of Foreign Relations Jorge G. Castañeda—the architect of many significant departures in Mexican foreign policy—resigned his position, citing frustration with Mexico's inability to conclude a historic agreement on migration issues with the United States. He was replaced by Luis Ernesto Derbez, formerly secretary of the economy (whose position was, in turn, taken by Fernando Canales Clariond, until then governor of Nuevo León). Between April and September cabinet officials changed at the comptroller general's office and at the Secretariats of Agrarian Reform, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, and Tourism. Some of these shifts occurred as part of Fox's efforts to reinvigorate his administration in the wake of the July elections; many of these appointments brought experienced PAN leaders into national office.

      In international affairs the failure of Mexican and U.S. negotiators to reach agreement over migration reform and the significant domestic political opposition to the Fox administration's high-profile engagement with the United States contributed to a cooling in bilateral relations. Perhaps partly to signal its displeasure over the failure to conclude an agreement on migration issues, the Fox government aggressively criticized the use of the death penalty in the U.S. In January Mexico petitioned the International Court of Justice to block the executions of 51 Mexican nationals held on death row in the U.S. The action was taken on the grounds that state and local U.S. officials had violated the 1963 Vienna Convention by failing to notify Mexican prisoners of their right to communicate with their consulates.

      The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq also raised tensions. In 2001 Mexico had assumed one of the nonpermanent seats on the UN Security Council for only the third time in history. As international tensions over Iraq mounted, the Fox administration was squeezed between vocal domestic opposition to the immediate use of force against Iraq and escalating pressure from the United States for Mexico to support the U.S. position. In the end the U.S. decision to invade Iraq without a Security Council resolution specifically authorizing the use of force saved the Fox administration from making a difficult choice (Fox had indicated opposition to a proposed U.S. resolution), but not before the Iraq crisis introduced new strains in Mexico-U.S. relations.

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 2003

1,964,375 sq km (758,449 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 100,977,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
President Vicente Fox Quesada

      The year 2002 was one of uncertainty for Mexico in both economic and political terms.

      The Mexican economy recovered somewhat from its disappointing performance in 2001, when there was a 0.2% decline in the country's inflation-adjusted gross domestic product. Analysts expected the economy to grow by 1.6% in real terms during 2002, and the official target for inflation was a low 4.5%. Nevertheless, the key variable—future economic trends in the U.S., the recipient of nearly 90% of Mexico's exports—remained outside policy makers' control.

      The future of the maquiladora industry (manufacturing plants that import and assemble duty-free components for export) remained especially uncertain. The industry, concentrated principally along the northern border with the U.S., had been the most rapidly growing segment of the manufacturing sector throughout the 1990s, but it suffered a 9% drop in output during 2001 and showed slow signs of recovery during 2002. Many observers feared that factories that had suspended production during the 2001 economic slowdown would not reopen, opting instead to transfer their activities to lower-wage locations in Central America, the Caribbean, or Southeast Asia.

      Mexico did, however, weather the regional wave of financial instability that resulted from Argentina's economic collapse in 2001–02. The peso–U.S. dollar exchange rate slipped somewhat, but foreign-investment flows into the country were strong. The government remained firmly committed to maintaining macroeconomic discipline, and it held very substantial foreign-exchange reserves. In early 2002 Mexican government loans received a highly sought “investment grade” rating from Wall Street. Financial analysts noted that Mexico's membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement also helped insulate the country from regional disturbances by encouraging foreign financial analysts to differentiate between Mexico and other Latin American nations.

      In domestic politics, the administration of Pres. Vicente Fox appeared to be losing momentum on some fronts, though Fox's personal popularity remained high. Indeed, after declining in early 2002, public approval of the president's performance rose after March to the 60% range. The administration also won a victory when the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge by supporters of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) to the 2001 Law on Indigenous Rights and Culture.

      However, divisions within the government and its lack of a legislative majority in the Congress severely hindered major legislative initiatives. In April the government's efforts to expand private investment in the generation of electrical power suffered a setback when the Supreme Court ruled that an executive decree on this matter was unconstitutional. The administration subsequently worked to build multiparty support for constitutional amendments that would encourage increased private investment but without privatizing the public enterprises that dominated the sector. Nevertheless, both the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) remained on record against proposed constitutional reforms.

      Two campaign-finance-related scandals drew much attention during the year. President Fox was placed on the defensive by allegations that “Friends of Fox,” the nonparty organization that he employed so successfully in his presidential campaign, had violated federal electoral law by accepting substantial contributions from foreign sources. The second controversy involved the federal comptroller's investigation into charges that PRI candidate Francisco Labastida's 1999–2000 presidential campaign had illegally received large transfers of funds from the state-owned oil company, PEMEX, via the PRI-allied Mexican Petroleum Workers' Union. The case tested the Fox administration's public commitment to rooting out corruption. Some observers also feared that successful prosecution of the union leaders involved in the scandal might further complicate efforts to enact significant labour law reform.

      In foreign policy terms as well, the prospects for key Mexican initiatives remained decidedly mixed. In 2002 Mexico assumed one of the 10 rotating seats on the UN Security Council, and in March in Monterrey the government hosted the UN International Conference on Financing for Development. In early September the Mexican government formally withdrew from the 1947 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (known as the Rio Treaty), which a government spokesperson characterized as “a relic of the Cold War.”

      Mexico proved unsuccessful, however, at moving forward its negotiations with the administration of Pres. George W. Bush over U.S. immigration reforms. Although the Fox administration continued to seek U.S. legislative changes that would safeguard the rights of undocumented Mexican workers already resident in the U.S., as well as increase the availability of visas for Mexican citizens seeking temporary employment there, American concerns remained focused on the “war on terrorism” and heightened border controls. Admitting publicly that negotiations on the subject were “stalled,” Fox expressed some frustration with the Bush administration's inability to follow through on its stated commitment to addressing the status of Mexican immigrants. Nevertheless, the prospect in late 2002 of armed conflict with Iraq suggested that it might prove difficult to draw U.S. attention back to bilateral issues.

      Certainly the most sensational foreign policy development during 2002 concerned Mexico's diplomatic relations with Cuba. In an effort to remain consistent with the pro-human rights image that the democratically elected Fox administration wished to project, the Ministry of Foreign Relations signaled that Mexico would vote in favour of the UN Human Rights Commission's critical statement on the Castro government's human rights record. (In preceding years Mexico had abstained when this evaluation was made.) In retaliation, in late April, Cuban Pres. Fidel Castro released a secretly recorded tape of a March 19 telephone conversation between Fox and Castro, in which Fox indirectly suggested that Castro might shorten his participation in the Monterrey summit and not appear at the forum at the same time as President Bush.

      Castro's revelation unleashed a storm of criticism from the PRD and the PRI. The parties strongly denounced the Fox government's alignment with the U.S. and its “betrayal” of Mexico's historic ties with the Cuban Revolution, and they acted together to deny Fox congressional approval for a scheduled trip to the U.S. and Canada. This background may have contributed to Fox's decision in August to cancel a trip to Texas in order to protest that state's execution of a Mexican prisoner who had been arrested for murder without being allowed access to Mexican consular authorities. His decision won applause from across the political spectrum.

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 2002

1,964,375 sq km (758,449 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 99,969,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
President Vicente Fox Quesada

      The inauguration of Vicente Fox Quesada as president of Mexico on Dec. 1, 2000, ended 71 years of uninterrupted national rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party and opened a new historical era. Although economic and political constraints slowed change in some areas, perhaps disappointing some domestic and foreign observers expecting a more rapid transformation, Fox's personal-approval ratings remained in the 60% range throughout 2001.

      As the candidate of the opposition National Action Party (PAN), Fox had promised quick resolution of the long-simmering conflict in southern Chiapas state, and in his first months in office he devoted substantial political capital to seeking a peaceful resolution of the matter. In his inaugural address to the Mexican Congress, Fox announced his commitment to the restarting of negotiations with the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), the withdrawal of army troops from several controversial postings in Chiapas, and the appointment of a cabinet-level indigenous rights coordinator. Fox also submitted to Congress a constitutional-reform initiative congruent with the terms of a peace accord that the EZLN and the federal government had reached in 1996. In July this initiative, known as the Law on Indigenous Rights and Culture, was ratified by the required number of state legislatures. The EZLN and its allies, however, harshly denounced the measure, claiming that it broke with the earlier peace accord by not creating an autonomous territorial base for the exercise of indigenous rights. Legislatures in states with some of Mexico's largest indigenous populations rejected the constitutional reform for this same reason. Legislators from the centre-right PAN had been among the most vehement opponents of this aspect of the president's Chiapas initiative—an indication of the extent to which Fox's difficult relations with members of his own party might complicate implementation of his policy agenda.

      The Fox administration's other major legislative initiative concerned fiscal reform. The proposal sought to stabilize (and make more transparent) the Mexican banking system and modify the federal budgetary-approval process in order to prevent executive-legislative political deadlock from threatening continued government operations at the end of each calendar year. The measure's most controversial components concerned taxes, however. The administration touted its proposal with the phrase “Because it is just” and underscored the importance of expanding the country's tax base for future social spending, education, infrastructure development, and the national savings rate. Nevertheless, the prospect of significant tax increases generated considerable opposition, much of it focusing on the proposal to eliminate value-added-tax exemptions for food and medicines. It appeared by year's end that there would be substantial modifications to the government's reform proposal before it won final congressional approval.

      As a presidential candidate, Fox had also promised significant measures to reduce poverty, but during 2001 a sharp downturn in the Mexican economy constrained a number of social-policy initiatives. The downturn followed an economic slump in the U.S.—the market for approximately 90% of Mexico's exports. Fox had promised 7% economic growth on a sustained basis and the creation of 1,350,000 new formal-sector jobs each year, yet it was projected that inflation-adjusted growth in 2001 would be close to zero, and there was a loss of more than 600,000 jobs in the first eight months of the Fox administration. Most experts anticipated continued low inflation (4–6%) and moderate interest rates in 2002, but they also predicted a real increase in gross domestic product of only about 2%.

      It was in the foreign-affairs arena that the Fox administration initially made most rapid progress. In a high-profile gesture of the signal importance that both leaders attached to Mexican-U.S. relations, Fox and U.S. Pres. George W. Bush met at Fox's ranch in the state of Guanajuato on February 16. The two recently inaugurated leaders agreed to closer bilateral cooperation in a number of areas, and in the months following the meeting, there was indeed evidence of more effective collaboration against drug traffickers and immigrant smugglers. Responding to Bush's commitment to reviewing U.S. drug-certification policy (in which the U.S. Congress required the executive branch to certify that countries were collaborating effectively with the U.S. in the battle against drug traffickers), Mexico broke with long-established precedent by extraditing suspected drug traffickers to the U.S. for trial. The two governments also made efforts to resolve long-standing disagreements concerning the sharing of Rio Grande water.

      Immigration policy was the area in which the most novel developments occurred. The U.S. had vetoed consideration of immigration issues during negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s, and when President-elect Fox traveled to Washington, D.C., in August 2000, his call for a more open border between Mexico and the U.S. was greeted with considerable skepticism. Nevertheless, Bush and Fox established a cabinet-level working group composed of senior officials from the U.S. Department of State and Department of Justice and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of the Interior. In the following months, discussions focused primarily on expanded visa quotas for temporary workers (especially in agriculture but also in construction, food processing, and the hotel and restaurant industries) and ways to normalize over time the status of the estimated 3.5 million undocumented Mexican migrants in the U.S. Bush and leading Republican strategists appeared eager both to consolidate a highly positive bilateral relationship with Mexico and the Fox administration and to win support from the increasingly influential Latino electorate while simultaneously reducing opposition from conservative forces adamantly opposed to the amnesty of illegal immigrants. When domestic political opposition in the U.S. threatened to stall negotiations, Fox used his state visit to Washington, D.C., on September 5–6 to highlight the importance of the issue, calling for a joint commitment to reaching formal agreement on immigration policy reform by the end of 2001.

      In this area as well, unanticipated events intervened. The September 11 attacks in the U.S. immediately reordered American foreign-policy priorities, and relations with Mexico were forced onto the back burner. American attitudes toward border enforcement also shifted dramatically, accompanied by stringent new border and visa controls. Bush reassured Fox that he remained committed to changing immigration policy, and Fox attempted to regain momentum in this area by proposing a continentwide security area in which Mexico would actively combat cross-border terrorist activities. The prospects for rapid action on immigration issues dimmed considerably, however.

      In October Fox's efforts to move Mexico away from an isolationist position were realized when Mexico won a seat on the UN Security Council; it was the first time in two decades that Mexico would serve on the council. The country attracted unfavourable headlines in late November when a National Human Rights Commission released a report that held the Mexican government responsible for the detention and torture of hundreds of those who “disappeared” in the 1970s in the “dirty war” against leftist groups. Fox acknowledged the government role and appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the cases.

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 2001

1,958,201 sq km (756,066 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 98,881,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
Presidents Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León and, from December 1, Vicente Fox Quesada

      The triumph in the July 2, 2000, presidential election of Vicente Fox Quesada (see Biographies (Fox Quesada, Vicente )) was the single most important event in Mexico during the year. His dramatic victory ended the Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI's) 71-year-long dominance in national government and marked the beginning of a new political era.

      By mobilizing unexpectedly broad support behind the Alliance for Change coalition (an alliance of the centre-right National Action Party [PAN] and the Mexican Green Ecologist Party [PVEM]), Fox won by a landslide over PRI candidate Francisco Labastida Ochoa. The official tally gave Fox 42.5% of the votes against Labastida's 36.1%. Three-time presidential candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, heading the Alliance for Mexico coalition (an alliance of the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution [PRD], the Labour Party [PT], the Convergence for Democracy [CD], the Nationalist Society Party [PSN], and the Social Alliance Party [PAS]), trailed with 16.6%.

      Several factors contributed to this outcome. The charismatic Fox, a former governor of the state of Guanajuato, proved to be the most effective campaigner, with the most powerful message. He argued that Mexico could not consolidate democracy without changing the party in national power. He asserted, moreover, that Mexico's problems demanded new leadership and a fresh approach. On this basis, Fox was able to win support from across the sociopolitical spectrum and in all parts of the country. Many PRD sympathizers voted for Fox in a strategic bid to oust the PRI.

      The Federal Electoral Institute, which had been independent of government control since 1996, worked to ensure a fair election. An up-to-date voter registry was created, and government agencies' use of public resources to support particular parties and candidates was constrained, though not completely eliminated. Confident that their ballots would be counted accurately, Mexican voters went to the polls and voiced their frustrations with the country's economic instability, corruption in government, and tradition of impunity for the elite.

      The election's outcome deeply shocked both the PRI and the PRD. Although Pres. Ernesto Zedillo won international praise for his immediate public recognition of Fox's electoral triumph and for his statesmanlike pledge to work closely with the incoming administration to ensure a smooth transfer of power on December 1, many traditional elements within the PRI blamed Zedillo for the party's unprecedented defeat. The PRI remained a potentially powerful force—with a large bloc of votes in the national Congress, control over the majority of state and municipal governments, and strong support among some social groups—but the party faced a prolonged internal leadership crisis and a difficult transition to its new role as opposition party.

      Similarly, the PRD suffered major reverses, especially in the size of its legislative bloc in the Congress. Although the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as head of the Federal District government allowed the party to maintain control over a key political base, the PRD was also placed on the political defensive. One of the most interesting elections took place in the southern state of Chiapas, an impoverished area that had experienced several years of conflict between government forces and the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army. Elected as state governor was Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía, who was supported by a coalition of eight parties in opposition to the PRI, which had long governed the area. One of Salazar's first acts as governor was to order the state's attorney general to review the cases of all those who claimed to be Zapatista political prisoners and to suspend the sentences of those charged with political crimes.

      Fox's most daunting task was expected to be forging a working coalition behind his programmatic agenda. This would be difficult because no party held a majority in either chamber of the new Mexican Congress. The 500 seats in the federal Chamber of Deputies were distributed among the PAN (206), PRI (211), PRD (49), PVEM (17), PT (8), CD (4), PSN (3), and PAS (2). Similarly, in the federal Senate the 128 seats were distributed among the PRI (60), PAN (46), PRD (16), PVEM (5), and CD (1). Under these circumstances, the success of Fox's reform program would depend centrally on coalition building. Constitutional reform initiatives, which require a two-thirds majority vote, would be especially subject to veto by Fox's political opponents.

      Because the PAN shared a number of macroeconomic objectives with the PRI, Fox's administration was not expected to radically alter national economic policy. Fox was committed to new investments in public education, however. He also stated the goal of creating 1,350,000 new jobs in the formal sector each year. Observers believed Fox would, moreover, pursue policies beneficial to small and medium-sized firms.

      One unresolved question was whether the transfer of power from the PRI to the PAN would be accompanied by the economic instability that had bedeviled Mexico at the end of several previous presidencies. The country's overall economic situation at the end of the Zedillo administration was quite favourable, with inflation-adjusted gross domestic product rising by approximately 7.9% in 2000 and with gradually falling inflation and interest rates. Zedillo also took a number of steps—including maintaining tight fiscal discipline, accumulating substantial foreign exchange reserves, reducing short-term debt obligations, and arranging for emergency lines of international credit—to avoid a repetition of the country's devastating 1994–95 financial crisis. Nevertheless, the financial sector's continued weakness and the uncertainties inevitably associated with a historic political transition remained elements of concern.

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 2000

1,958,201 sq km (756,066 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 97,367,000
Mexico City
Head of state and government:
President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León

      The state of the economy and presidential politics were key issues in Mexico in 1999. The economy expanded at a modest inflation-adjusted rate of 3.2%. This growth rate was lower than that achieved in 1996 (5.1%) and 1997 (6.7%) as the country emerged from the devastating 1994–95 recession, but it was a significant improvement over that of 1998, when the economy was buffeted by international financial instability. Consumer prices rose by an estimated 18.4% during the year. Despite renewed growth, the effects of the 1994–95 economic crisis lingered on in the form of depressed incomes for significant portions of the population, continued severe poverty and lack of employment in many areas, stagnation in such vital industries as construction, and politically volatile matters such as the public controversy associated with FOBAPROA, the deposit-protection agency created to absorb a significant portion of commercial banks' nonperforming loans and thereby stabilize the financial sector. Although the government and opposition parties finally ended a yearlong debate by reaching agreement concerning the final disposition of FOBAPROA obligations, evidence of fraud and mismanagement in the bank bailout remained a heated political issue. Equally troubling over the longer term, the total cost of the bank bailout (estimated in September at $93.4 billion, an amount equivalent to 19.3% of Mexico's gross domestic product) and the continuing weakness of Mexican financial institutions—especially their inability to provide adequate credit to the private sector—constituted serious constraints on future economic growth.

      On the political front, the year's events were dominated by the start of the 1999–2000 presidential campaign. The stakes were perceived to be particularly high because opposition forces had a realistic chance of winning the country's highest office and finally dislodging the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) from the political dominance that it had exercised since its founding in 1929.

      Several developments were important in this regard. Following the adoption of a new electoral code in 1996, the Federal Electoral Institute demonstrated its political independence and thereby increased voters' confidence that federal elections would be conducted fairly. The growing political strength of opposition parties—after the 1997 midterm elections, they held a majority of seats in the federal Chamber of Deputies, and they also controlled an expanding number of state and local governments—permitted them to strengthen their organizational structures and forge more durable links with key constituencies. Moreover, because voters appeared increasingly inclined to hold incumbents accountable for poor policy performance, opposition leaders were encouraged that they might successfully exploit dissatisfaction with the lingering effects of the 1994–95 economic crisis and controversies such as the banking bailout to win the presidency in July 2000.

      A key challenge facing opposition parties was whether they would forge an electoral alliance capable of defeating a weakened but still powerful PRI. Between July and October an array of opposition groups conducted extensive negotiations over possible terms for a common electoral front. Nonetheless, the centre-right National Action Party (PAN) finally announced that it would not join an alliance with the centre-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).

      Behind this outcome lay a combination of programmatic differences, personal rivalries, and the two parties' calculations concerning their electoral prospects in 2000, especially in the event that internal divisions within the PRI further weakened the ruling party and significantly increased the odds of an opposition presidential victory. In programmatic terms the two parties were divided over such issues as the privatization of portions of the electrical power generation and petroleum industries and the handling of the FOBAPROA case. Personal rivalry between the two parties' presidential candidates—the PAN's Vicente Fox Quesada and the PRD's Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano—may also have played a role in this regard.

      The most conspicuous issue dividing the PAN and the PRD, however, concerned the method for selecting the coalition's presidential candidate. The PRD strongly favoured an open primary, arguing that a democratic selection process required broad citizen participation. The PAN, whose candidate Fox held a significant lead in public opinion polls, maintained that the coalition's candidate should be selected through a special opinion poll whose participants would accurately represent the national electorate. The PAN apparently feared that it could not equal the PRD's capacity to mobilize supporters in a vote held separately from a regularly scheduled national election.

      The long-reigning PRI also faced new challenges. Breaking with tradition, Pres. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León announced in March that he would play no direct role in the selection of his party's presidential candidate. Instead, he advocated an open party primary to choose the PRI's nominee.

      Zedillo's announcement prompted four prominent PRI members—Manuel Bartlett Díaz, Francisco Labastida Ochoa, Roberto Madrazo Pintado, and Humberto Roque Villanueva—to declare their candidacies. The primary was held on November 7. Labastida, a former agriculture and interior minister and the individual widely believed to be Zedillo's preferred candidate, captured 58% of the vote to become his party's nominee.

      Presidential election calculations may also have affected the course of two major political conflicts: the continuing stalemate in Chiapas, and a bitter strike at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). In Chiapas, where the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in January 1994 attracted national and international attention by staging an armed revolt in the name of defending the rights of indigenous peoples, negotiations between the EZLN and the government remained stalled, with little prospect of a negotiated solution to the conflict before the end of the Zedillo administration.

      At the UNAM, students went on strike in April to protest the imposition of tuition charges and other fees. Although university administrators soon withdrew the fee proposal, the conflict escalated to involve other, more radical calls for restructuring what was Latin America's largest public university. Neither senior university officials nor the federal government was prepared to pay the high political costs involved in ending the strike by forcible means. As a result, the conflict dragged on amid growing concerns that the dispute might do lasting damage to Mexico's most important institution of higher education.

Kevin J. Middlebrook

▪ 1999

      Area: 1,958,201 sq km (756,066 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 95,830,000

      Capital: Mexico City

      Head of state and government: President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León

      The year 1998 began on a sombre note for the administration of Pres. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León. The country was still in a state of shock following the massacre of some 45 Indian peasants in the municipality of Chenalho within the impoverished southern state of Chiapas on Dec. 22, 1997. Those murdered and dozens more who were injured were alleged to be sympathizers of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). It soon became apparent that government paramilitary groups may have been responsible for these acts of violence, and Attorney General Jorge Madrazo was sent to Chiapas to investigate this possibility. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry, under the control of Emilio Chuayffet, responded to the episode by intensifying troop movements in Chiapas, drawing widespread criticism. Chuayffet's general approach to the massacre was viewed as flawed, and on Jan. 3, 1998, he resigned. He was quickly replaced by Agriculture Minister Francisco Labastida Ochoa.

      Zedillo also took the opportunity to announce on January 5, that former foreign minister (and chief debt negotiator) Angel Gurria would become finance minister; that office had been vacated by Guillermo Ortiz when his appointment as governor of the central bank (Banco de Mexico) was confirmed in late December 1997. One of Gurria's first acts in his new post was to announce cuts in spending in an effort to help offset the low level of income from oil (which accounted for about 40% of budget revenues) and the less-favourable economic environment as the Asian financial crisis continued to unfold. Additional budget cuts were announced in late March and July.

      Further Cabinet changes were made on May 13, with the appointment of former interior secretary Esteban Moctezuma Barragán as social development secretary and the replacement of Javier Bonilla as labour secretary by the head of the state workers' social security institute, José Antonio González. Moctezuma was a close associate of Zedillo, and so his appointment was viewed as a possible signal that he might be groomed as Zedillo's successor as the presidential nominee of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the elections scheduled for 2000. Zedillo, however, continued to emphasize that he did not intend to adhere to the PRI's long-standing tradition of the president choosing his successor and wished the party to make the choice.

      On May 19 relations with the U.S. were undermined temporarily when U.S. authorities announced that officials from 12 of Mexico's largest 19 banks were being indicted on charges of laundering drug money. This followed a secret investigation known as Operation Casablanca and appeared to contradict the spirit of an alliance formed between the two countries a year earlier in which the U.S. undertook to observe Mexican sovereignty and work as a partner in the offensive against the drug cartels.

      Developments for most of the year appeared to preclude significant progress toward a definitive peace settlement with the EZLN in Chiapas. Evidence of further militarization and the resignation in early June of mediator Bishop Samuel Ruiz as well as the collapse of the organization he chaired raised tensions and reinforced the Zapatistas' reluctance to return to the negotiations, which had been stalled since early 1997. Devastating floods in Chiapas in September and dissatisfaction with the conduct of state elections on October 4 did not help the situation, but progress again seemed possible when the EZLN on October 18 offered to restart talks with the congressional commission for peace and reconciliation. Negotiations collapsed again in late November.

      Although the PRI appeared to have adjusted to some extent to having lost its majority control of the Chamber of Deputies following the July 1997 elections, a major problem arose in connection with banking reform proposals submitted in April. These included the incorporation into the domestic debt of some $65 billion of bad bank loans incurred in the wake of the 1994-95 financial crisis. This move was opposed by the two main opposition parties, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the National Action Party (PAN), and they succeeded in early June in winning an audit of the scheme, which delayed further consideration of the matter until the final quarter of the year. By early November it appeared that compromise proposals (to convert two-thirds of the original total into public debt) might be close, with PAN likely to back the government. Both PAN and the PRI were, however, pressing for Ortiz to be called to account for the poor handling of the original scheme. On December 30, just 36 hours before the constitutional deadline, PAN and PRI deputies agreed on an unusually austere budget that would entail spending cuts well beyond the 10% or so planned by Zedillo's government.

      In regard to other economic matters, growth was slowed by international conditions, especially the financial crisis in Asia. Continuing strong demand from the U.S., however, helped to ensure that the annual rise in gross domestic product would be over 4%, as compared with 7% in 1997. Inflation appeared likely to exceed the official target ceiling of 12%, with about 15% seeming probable for the year (after 15.7% in 1997). The weakening of the peso to about 10 per $1 from about 8 at the end of 1997, together with moves ending subsidies on staples such as tortillas, contributed to the upward pressure on prices.

      Following years when the trade account was in surplus—more than $7 billion in 1995 and over $6 billion in 1996—the surplus declined in 1997 to $624 million as the nation's economic recovery continued. This development intensified during 1998, with a first-half deficit of more than $3 billion rising to more than $5 billion by the end of the year. The current account was also moving more sharply into deficit and was expected to total about $15 billion for the year, compared with $10.8 billion projected in the original budget forecast.


▪ 1998

      Area: 1,958,201 sq km (756,066 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 94,275,000

      Capital: Mexico City

      Head of state and government: President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León

      Having enjoyed a firm economic recovery in 1996, when gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.1%, Mexico began 1997 on a positive note for the administration of Pres. Ernesto Zedillo. Authorities and members of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) realized from the outset, however, that there could be setbacks following the midterm congressional elections, the first-ever poll for mayor of Mexico City, and some local and provincial elections, when the population would register at the ballot box its response to the handling of the economy in the wake of the financial crisis in late 1994 and early 1995. In addition, the ruling party itself appeared to be increasingly subject to rifts and defections, and from December 1996 onward, Zedillo redoubled efforts to restore party unity but was unable to prevent a wave of senior figures from defecting to other parties.

      In large measure the first half of 1997 was dominated by campaigning for the midterm elections, held on July 6. From the beginning the focus was on the Mexico City mayoral race, which the National Action Party (PAN) initially appeared likely to win. When, however, it selected Carlos Castillo Peraza as its candidate on March 2 (with former presidential candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos choosing not to run) and the other main opposition grouping, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), decided to field its cofounder, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano (see BIOGRAPHIES), it soon became evident that Cárdenas was the front-runner. The PRI's choice was Alfredo del Mazo, who had served as governor of Mexico state from 1981 to 1986.

      A further omen of the impending defeat for the ruling PRI in the congressional polls was the result of the municipal and legislative elections in the state of Morelos, held on March 16. The number of municipalities controlled by the PRI was reduced from 32 (of 33) to 17, with the PRD taking 13 and PAN 2. In the state legislature the opposition parties together won a majority of seats (11 for PRD and 5 for PAN) as against 13 for the PRI.

      All 500 seats in the national Chamber of Deputies were up for renewal on July 6, with 300 of them directly elected and 200 allocated proportionally. In the election the PRI won 38.5% of the vote, which was below the minimum of just over 42% needed to qualify for a simple majority of seats. In the final tally the PRI won 165 seats by direct vote and 74 indirectly, which left the party a dozen short of a majority. The PRD and PAN received similar shares of the vote (25.8% and 26.9%, respectively), although the PRD won several more seats (125 versus 121) owing to the method of allocation. In the elections for the Senate, the PRI took 13 of the 32 vacant seats, which left it with 77 of 128 seats overall; PAN took 9 and PRD 8 for totals of 33 and 16, respectively. The small opposition groupings—the Mexican Green Ecologist Party (PVEM) and the Labour Party (PT)—which took 4% and 2.5% of the vote, won 8 and 7 deputies' seats, respectively, and one each in the Senate.

      The damaging effect of the election for the PRI was the opposition's accord to operate together in a loose alliance in the legislature with a view to gaining greater bargaining power with the government on policy issues. They were particularly interested in budgetary matters and the reduction of sales taxes, which had been sharply increased (from 10% to 15%) in the wake of the 1994-95 economic crisis.

      Though the PRI strongly contested the opposition alliance's bid for control of many of the key congressional committees (including the budget committee), it did not prevail. Porfirio Muñoz Ledo of PRD also became the first non-PRI leader of the Chamber of Deputies.

      As was expected, PRD's Cárdenas won the Mexico City mayoralty by a wide margin (he took 48% of the vote), with 25.5% for del Mazo (PRI) and 16% for Castillo Peraza (PAN). Cárdenas began his three-year term in December. He met with Zedillo in September and October on financial and security matters (the federal government controls funding for the capital).

      Cárdenas appeared to have won assurances that he would be involved in the appointment of the police chief but seemed unlikely to have much say in regard to the city's budget.

      Other election results in July 1997 included wins for the PRI in the states of San Luis Potosí, Colima, Campeche, and Sonora, while PAN won in Nuevo León and Querétaro. The PRI's loss of its majority in the Chamber of Deputies led to the departure on September 9 of the party's president, Humberto Roque Villanueva; he was succeeded by Mariano Palacios Alcocer, who had previously served as governor of Querétaro state.

      Fidel Velázquez, the veteran leader of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), linked to the PRI, died in June. (See OBITUARIES.) He was succeeded by Leonardo Rodríguez Alcaine. The CTM's umbrella organization, the Congress of Labour, showed signs during the year of increasing disunity as several groups defected to the rival Forum for New Trade Unionism. These developments prevented the negotiation of the annual tripartite pact between government, business, and unions, which was usually concluded before the following year's budget launch.

      Late in December in a tiny village in southern Mexico, 45 people, many of them women and children, were killed. Sixteen men, possibly members of a paramilitary group, were charged with the murders.

      On the economic front the recovery evident during 1996 continued in the first half of 1997, with an expansion of some 7% (based on 6% growth in the first quarter and 7.4% in the second). This was underpinned by the strong performance of manufacturing (up 9.1%) and construction (up 10.2%) as well as fair growth in services (6.3%) and agriculture (5.8%).

      By early November, when the 1998 budget proposals were submitted, the government estimated that GDP would increase 6.5% in 1997, up from the 6% foreseen in September and the 4-4.5% at the start of the year. Throughout the year unemployment appeared to be declining gradually, with the rate for the end of the year projected at 4.5%, compared with 5.5% at the end of 1996. It was also expected, however, that inflation would rise to 15.5-16%.

      The external accounts remained relatively strong, although the trade surplus, which was over $6 billion in 1996, was reduced as imports rose. By the end of September, the accumulated surplus stood at $1,840,000,000. The reduced trade deficit and other payment obligations were officially expected to push the current account deficit up to $6,700,000,000 by the end of the year, from $1,760,000,000 a year earlier.

      The authorities remained committed to the floating-exchange-rate regime established in early 1995 in the wake of the economic crisis, with the rate against the U.S. dollar holding up well during the first nine months of the year, when it traded mostly in the range 7.7-7.9 pesos per $1.


▪ 1997

      A federal republic of North America, Mexico has coastlines on the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Area: 1,958,201 sq km (756,066 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 92,711,000. Cap.: Mexico City. Monetary unit: Mexican peso, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 7.62 pesos to U.S. $1 (12.01 pesos = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León.

      The year 1996 began in the shadow of the previous year's financial crisis. Although that crisis had been largely overcome as the result of the government's implementation of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity program, difficulties remained to be tackled on both the political and economic fronts. At the end of December 1995, there had been a partial Cabinet reshuffle. Energy Minister Ignacio Pichardo Pagaza, a former head of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and widely viewed as belonging to the party's "old guard," was replaced by Jesús Reyes Heroles. Arsenio Farell Cubillas was appointed comptroller general in place of Norma Samaniengo, and Carlos Almeida López became head of the president's press office, a post formerly occupied by Carlos Salomon. These changes, though relatively minor, were seen as a prelude in the new year to further political reform, to which Pres. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León had pledged a firm commitment.

      As the year began, Zedillo resumed this reform drive, seeking the cooperation of the two main opposition parties, the National Action Party (PAN) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Although both parties intermittently withdrew from the negotiations, Zedillo at the end of July managed to achieve an accord that, among other attributes, ended the ruling party's role at the head of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). Accordingly, Interior Minister Emilio Chuayffet resigned as president of the IFE in mid-October along with other PRI members who had served on the board since it was established in 1990; the question of replacement and selection of new nominees remained to be clarified.

      On other political matters Zedillo's endeavours were less positive. Finalizing terms of a peace accord with the Zapatista National Liberation Army, which had surfaced in the southern state of Chiapas at the beginning of January 1994, continued to be problematic, with negotiations repeatedly breaking down. Developments were complicated at the end of June by the appearance of another armed guerrilla group, known as the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), in the village of Aguas Blancas, Guerrero state, on the first anniversary of a massacre of 17 peasants by state police.

      The group consisted of some 70 people, masked and carrying AK-47 and R-15 rifles. Their brief appearance at a commemoration for those killed the previous year, being held by members of the left-leaning PRD and peasant groups, was nonconfrontational but called for the overthrow of the Zedillo government, which it alleged to be antidemocratic and illegitimate. The incident was initially played down by the authorities, but during the next few weeks and months, there were more incidents involving the EPR in a number of different states, which prompted a major counterinsurgency effort by the government.

      The conflict appeared to simmer down to some degree when the EPR declared a cease-fire in the days preceding (and during) municipal and local legislative elections in the state of Guerrero on October 6. Just before the elections, tension was high as a result of some 15,000 government troops who had been posted to the state to flush out the EPR. On October 5 troops were ordered to temporarily suspend their counterinsurgency operations and remain confined to barracks until the elections had been held. This fostered an atmosphere of relative peace as the voting took place. There were, nevertheless, reports of irregularities perpetrated by the PRI in regard to voting lists, vote buying, and intimidation, compiled by the independent Civic Alliance (Alianza Cívica). Recriminations by the PRI and the PAN, however, were limited, given that both parties won significant numbers of seats. Also, in the weeks immediately after the elections, EPR hostilities did not resume.

      At its convention in late September, the rank and file of the ruling PRI adopted a number of resolutions that unleashed additional controversy and threatened the prospects for internal party reform, which Zedillo was seeking. Two major resolutions were approved. One concerned rules covering the party's choice of presidential candidate in 2000, when Zedillo's term ended. Government technocrats with no experience of elected office (such as Zedillo) and fewer than 10 years of PRI membership would not be allowed to be candidates. A unanimous resolution of the party was to defend state ownership of the petrochemical industry (a part of the state oil concern, Pemex) and resist the privatization moves the government had been seeking to impose. This, in fact, led to the deferral in October of the planned government sell-off.

      Throughout 1996 Zedillo continued to be dogged by the backlog of unfinished business from the administration of Pres. Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Not the least of these were the investigations into the murder of former PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio and the case against Salinas's brother, Raúl, concerning his alleged involvement in the assassination of the PRI secretary-general, José Francisco Ruiz Massieu, in September 1994. During October the discovery of a body believed to be that of a member of the legislature suspected in the Ruiz Massieu case, on the grounds of property owned by Raúl Salinas, appeared to provide more evidence of foul play.

      In regard to the economy, the picture was significantly brighter than in 1995, as a modest recovery began after the almost 7% decline in gross domestic product (GDP) registered in 1995. Growth in the first quarter of 1996 was measured at 2.2%, and in the second quarter there was significant expansion year-on-year of 7.2%. By mid-1996 recovery was evident in both manufacturing and construction, which had declined sharply (by 6.4% and 22%, respectively) in 1995. Indeed, in June, when industrial output rose by 12% overall, manufacturing was up from the previous year by 12.6% and construction by 13.2%. The increases resulted largely from exports rather than domestic demand. Overall, GDP growth of about 3% in 1996 was officially expected.

      Inflation, which surged to an annual rate of almost 52% in 1995 as a result of the devaluation of the peso and the impact of adjustment measures, was reduced significantly in 1996. The monthly consumer price index rose by 1.3-1.6% from June through September, compared with a 2.4% increase per month in the first half of the year.

      Concerning the exchange rate, which had been altered to a floating regime in the wake of the 1995 financial crisis, the peso showed remarkable stability during the first nine months of 1996, tending to appreciate from its end-of-1995 level of about 7.7 to the U.S. dollar. Indeed, by the end of September, the rate—which then stood at 7.54 per $1—was comfortably within the target average of 7.7 envisioned for the year. During the second week of October, however, the rate declined to around 7.8 new pesos per $1, and the rate at the year's end was expected to be about 8 per $1.

      The relative strength of the peso did not hamper the achievement of monthly trade surpluses during the first nine months of 1996. In fact, the accumulated surplus stood at approximately $5.5 billion by the end of September, and it appeared probable that the total at the end of the year would be at the upper end of the $6.5 billion to $7 billion range. The buoyant trade results led to further improvements in the current-account position.


▪ 1996

      A federal republic of North America, Mexico has coastlines on the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Area: 1,958,201 sq km (756,066 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 91,145,000. Cap.: Mexico City. Monetary unit: Mexican new peso, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 6.54 new pesos to U.S. $1 (10.33 new pesos = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León.

      Mexico began 1995 amid a deepening financial crisis that had been unleashed in late December 1994 following the mishandled devaluation of the currency and rising tensions on the political front. An initial effort to stem the continuing run on the peso by means of an international aid package in early January failed. A more successful result occurred in early March after the administration of Pres. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León inaugurated an austerity program that helped qualify the country for substantial support from the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund; they made available up to $20 billion and nearly $17.8 billion (as a standby loan), respectively. This enabled Mexico to underwrite the repayment of most of the $28 billion of short-term, dollar-denominated debt that matured during the year. An additional $10 billion of credits was granted via the Bank for International Settlements.

      The terms for Mexico's receiving the international financial support were hard and were expected to result in the onset of a severe recession in the country's economy as part of an adjustment process in which the large 1994 deficits on trade ($18.5 billion) and current accounts ($28.7 billion) were to be sharply reduced. The austerity plan announced on March 9 set out the key targets for 1995. They included a decline of about 2% in gross domestic product (GDP), which contrasted sharply with the 4% increase President Zedillo had envisioned during his 1994 election campaign. The target for annual inflation rose to 42%, compared with the 7.05% registered for 1994. Even more dramatic was the projected reduction in the current account deficit to no more than $2.4 billion, which would result in a major improvement in the trade account to a surplus of $5.4 billion.

      In fact, however, it became clear by September that the recession was more severe than initially thought, with a projected annual decline in GDP of 5%. Government spending was to be reduced by 10% during the year, with only about 35% being spent in the first half. Having peaked at 8% in April as a result of an increase in sales taxes, monthly inflation was cut to about 2% in the third quarter of the year; the annual rate, however, was expected to rise to perhaps 46%. By the end of September, the annual target for the trade surplus had been achieved, with positive monthly balances being registered from February onward. Still, the peso began falling again in November, bottoming at 7.80 to the dollar before the central bank intervened to stabilize it.

      There were some measures to help offset the austerity program for the poorest Mexicans. On April 1 the minimum wage was increased 10%, and all other wages were to be freely negotiated; subsidies for many staple items were temporarily retained; a rural employment program was set up to provide minimum incomes to rural workers; income tax rebates were to be made available to those earning up to four times the minimum wage; and health benefits for the unemployed would run for six months instead of two. The Alliance for Economic Recuperation, an agreement worked out on October 29 between the government, labour, and business, foresaw minimum wage raises of 20% to keep pace with projected inflation, and steps were taken to reduce consumption and restrain inflation.

      As 1995 progressed, millions of Mexicans joined spontaneous protest movements, of which "El Barzón" ("The Yoke") was probably the largest. These sprang up to demand government action in regard to mounting personal debts alleged to have been incurred as a result of official mismanagement. This especially applied to the middle sectors of society and to small businesses that had taken on increased financial commitments in the belief (promoted by the former administration of Carlos Salinas de Gortari) that the country was headed for sustained prosperity.

      Zedillo responded on August 22 by announcing a debt-relief plan. This aimed to ease the debt burdens of some 7.5 million borrowers, 6 million of whom owed banks and other financial institutions up to 200,000 new pesos and the remainder of whom owed sums greater than that. The bad loan portfolios of the country's banks, which were estimated at $15.2 billion—15% of total loans—were also expected to be reduced under the plan.

      On the political front, President Zedillo was beleaguered by the backlog of adverse developments inherited from the previous administration. Local elections late in the year suggested that the hold of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was slipping. In January he tried to achieve a rapid and peaceful resolution of the conflict with the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the southern state of Chiapas, which had begun a year earlier. When this failed, he launched in February a brief military offensive against the EZLN, issuing an arrest warrant for the most prominent member of its leadership (Subcomandante Marcos; see BIOGRAPHIES (Marcos, Subcomandante )) and other key figures. The unpopularity of this led Zedillo to reverse the policy again, with a series of negotiations taking place in April. During subsequent months progress was slow, and late in the year negotiations were still ongoing. Fernando Yáñez Muñoz, known as "Comandante Germán," a founder of the EZLN, was arrested on weapons charges in October but was quickly released when the government realized that the incident was undermining the talks with the Chiapas rebels. Official inquiries continued into the assassinations of the PRI's original presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, on March 23, 1994, and of its secretary-general, José Francisco Ruiz Massieu, on Sept. 28, 1994. While neither of these murders was satisfactorily explained, it was widely suspected that senior members of the PRI were involved, perhaps in collaboration with the drug mafia.

      The decision to arrest Raúl Salinas de Gortari, the brother of the former president, on February 28 on the grounds that he masterminded the murder of Ruiz Massieu was heralded as a bold move that temporarily helped to restore Zedillo's credibility. This came along with moves to extradite the former deputy attorney general, Mario Ruiz Massieu, from the U.S. to face charges that he obstructed the investigation into his brother's murder; he was denied release on bail in late December. Paulina Castañón, the wife of Raúl Salinas, was arrested in Switzerland in November for using false documents to withdraw funds, thought to be laundered drug money, from her husband's bank account. Meanwhile, Carlos Salinas, whose whereabouts in exile were not known, expressed his "amazement" that his brother had amassed $84 million and deposited it in a Swiss account under a false name.

      The arrest of Raúl Salinas and the judicial order on March 6 that he stand trial for the Ruiz Massieu murder apparently ended the long-standing tradition that former presidents and their kin are immune from the law after leaving office. Allegations that former president Salinas was personally involved in a cover-up after the Colosio murder were withdrawn, however, after he staged a hunger strike.

      The assassination on May 10 of the former attorney general in the state of Jalisco, Leobardo Larios Guzmán, who had been investigating the murder (in 1993) of Juan Jesús Cardinal Posadas Ocampo, focused attention back on the role of the drug mafia and contributed to pressure on Zedillo to produce results in the following months. Little real progress was made, however.

      Zedillo announced in September that the government planned to carry out an electoral reform within the next 12 months aimed at putting an end to disputes over election results. The PRI and the two main opposition parties were reported to have reached an agreement on December 15 that made provision for independent candidates, an election commission outside government control, and limits on election spending by candidates.

      Several significant Cabinet changes took place during the year. On June 28 it was announced that the interior minister, Estebán Moctezuma Barragán, was being replaced by Emilio Chuayffet Chemor, a former governor of Mexico state. The new appointee was a member of the PRI's hard-line "political" wing of the party, which had for some years been subordinate to the "technocrats" (of whom Zedillo was one). During the weekend of August 19-20, the resignations of PRI leader Mario de Los Angeles Moreno and Secretary-General Pedro Joaquin Coldwell were announced. These were followed by the appointment of Labour Minister Santiago Oñate Laborde, an economist, to head the party and of Juan Sigfrido Millan, a senator and top-ranking official within the Mexican Labour Confederation (CTM), to be secretary-general. Oñate's post at the Labour Ministry went to the veteran labour official Javier Bonilla Garciá. A serious blow was dealt Zedillo and the PRI with the resignation from the party on October 13 of Manuel Camacho Solis, a top party leader and former Mexico City mayor.


▪ 1995

      A federal republic of North America, Mexico has coastlines on the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Area: 1,958,201 sq km (756,066 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 91,840,000. Cap.: Mexico City. Monetary unit: Mexican new peso, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 3.42 new pesos to U.S. $1 (5.44 new pesos = £1 sterling). Presidents in 1994, Carlos Salinas de Gortari and, from December 1, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León.

      Various crises punctuated the election year of 1994 in Mexico. The first of these erupted on January 1 when a group, using the name Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), launched a rebellion in the southern state of Chiapas. The rebels, who were fighting for the rights of indigenous Maya Indians and for greater democracy, called for the resignation of Pres. Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who had only 11 more months left in his six-year term. Salinas promptly appointed a peace negotiator and a local mediator. This put an end to the fighting, but it took until March to reach terms for a preliminary peace accord that had to be put to the indigenous people for approval. A series of political reforms, to be in place for the August 21 elections, were agreed upon by the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and nine other parties, including members of the main opposition National Action Party (PAN) and the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). Among the political reforms that had won approval was the appointment of independent electoral bodies to oversee elections and of a prosecutor to investigate allegations of fraud, as well as an end to the use of government funds to finance political parties. The reforms were enacted on March 24.

      On March 23 the PRI's presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, was assassinated after addressing a political rally in the border city of Tijuana. (See OBITUARIES (Colosio Murrieta, Luis Donaldo ).) A single gunman, Mario Aburto Martínez, was convicted in October, but it was also alleged that senior members of the PRI may also have been involved. Such allegations resurfaced in late September when José Francisco Ruiz Massieu, the PRI's secretary-general, was also murdered, and again in late November when his brother, Mario Ruiz Massieu, resigned as deputy attorney general, charging that party officials were obstructing the murder investigation. As a result of Colosio's assassination, the PRI announced on March 29 that Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, a former Cabinet member who had been running Colosio's campaign, would be its new presidential candidate. (See BIOGRAPHIES (Zedillo, Ernesto ).)

      On election day, Zedillo won by a clear margin of more than 20 percentage points ahead of his nearest rival, Diego Fernández de Cevallos of the PAN. His share of the votes was slightly smaller than that of his predecessor, Salinas. Soon after his election Zedillo invited his opponents to discuss the policies that his government would enact.

      The PRI also retained its majorities in both the Chamber of Deputies (300 of 500 seats) and the Senate (95 of 128 seats), with the PAN winning 119 and 25, respectively, and the PRD 71 and 8. Zedillo took office on December 1. The Cabinet showed some continuity with the Salinas administration. The economic team was led by Jaime Serra Puche as minister of finance (formerly minister of trade and industry), and his deputy, Herminio Blanco, was promoted to the trade and industry post. Former chief foreign debt negotiator José Angel Gurria Trevino was selected to head the foreign relations ministry. Three women were appointed: Norma Samaniego as controller, Silvia Hernández as minister of tourism, and Julia Carabias as minister of fisheries. A significant innovation was the appointment of PAN member Antonio Lozano García as attorney general, the first Cabinet member from an opposition party in 65 years of rule by the PRI.

      A week after Zedillo took office, political turmoil again threatened Chiapas, where on December 8 the new state governor—Eduardo Robledo Rincón from the ruling PRI—took office. Because the EZLN alleged that Robledo's victory had been fraudulent, it installed its own governor, Amado Avendaño of the PRD. Zedillo ordered the army to continue to observe a cease-fire and rejected demands for a new election in Chiapas. Soon after he took office, Zedillo announced that he would "significantly intensify" efforts to solve the murders of Colosio and Massieu.

      Despite Mexico's political difficulties, its economy remained on course for growth. Gross domestic product was projected to increase by 3.1% after a rise of 2.9% in the first nine months. Inflation was expected to be low, 6.9% for all of 1994 after monthly rates of about 0.5%. The combination of higher U.S. Treasury rates and Colosio's assassination pushed domestic interest rates up in the second quarter and temporarily checked expansion, but the situation improved in the third quarter, especially in manufacturing.

      On September 24 the annual prices and wages pact between the government, business, and labour was renewed. Then, on December 20, faced with a rapid increase in the outflow of capital, the new government abandoned the nation's longtime policy of only gradually depreciating the peso. It devalued the currency about 14% against the dollar and on the following day allowed the peso to float freely. By the end of the year, the peso had fallen an additional 28%, bringing the 11-day loss to 42%. The collapse of the peso caused the stock market to plunge precipitously.

      The accumulated trade deficit for the first nine months of 1994 stood at $13,730,000,000. This was already in excess of the $13.5 billion deficit at the end of 1993. With monthly deficits in the final quarter expected to rise to $1.5 billion, the annual deficit appeared likely to increase to well over $17 billion (a deficit of $17.5 billion was officially predicted), contributing to a current account deficit of $28.5 billion. The country's international reserves were eroded significantly during the year. The Banco de Mexico president, Miguel Mancera, announced on October 19 that on October 14 reserves stood at $17,190,000,000, the lowest figure since the end of 1991, when they were $17.5 billion. Reserves at the end of 1993 totaled $24.5 billion. The consequences of devaluation on the government's statistics had not yet been calculated.

      Relations with the U.S. and Canada, the country's partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), continued to strengthen. NAFTA became fully operational on January 1. Resentment, however, was expressed over California's approval of Proposition 187, which would deny educational and other benefits to illegal immigrants, many of whom were Mexican. (SUSAN M. CUNNINGHAM)

▪ 1994

      A federal republic of North America, Mexico has coastlines on the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Area: 1,958,201 sq km (756,066 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 89,955,000. Cap.: Mexico City. Monetary units: Mexican (old) peso, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 3,122 pesos to U.S. $1 (4,730 pesos = £1 sterling), and the Mexican new peso (currency circulating alongside the Mexican [old] peso from January 2 for a period of 2 1/2 years at the rate of 1 new peso = 1,000 [old] pesos). President in 1993, Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

      The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S., moved toward ratification in 1993 with the introduction of various amendments. One such pact, agreed upon in August, would allow trade sanctions to be taken against NAFTA members who broke their national laws on various issues, including wage levels, the environment, labour standards, and human rights. In November the U.S. Congress and Mexican Senate approved the treaty.

      The territory covered by NAFTA member nations would be the largest free-trade zone in the world, populated by 370 million consumers, with a combined gross national product of $6.4 trillion. The agreement had its critics, however, both in Mexico and among prominent U.S. politicians. NAFTA opponents in the U.S. Congress raised concerns about Mexico's one-party dominance, corruption, and human rights and labour rights abuses. Anti-NAFTA groups also emerged within Mexico. According to Carlos Heredía of the progressive policy group Development Gap, many Mexicans were worried that NAFTA would serve only to reinforce the current political system.

      Uncertainty over NAFTA depressed economic growth in Mexico throughout the year. After a 2.6% growth in gross domestic product in 1992, there was only a 1.4% expansion in the first half of 1993. Though interest rates were kept high, at 8%, as a lure to attract foreign capital, such investment declined sharply from the 1992 total. Inflation, however, was forecast to fall from the 1992 level of 11.9% to 8.5% by the end of 1993.

      At the beginning of October, Pres. Carlos Salinas de Gortari announced economic measures agreed upon in the annual pact between the government, labour unions, and the private sector. These included a cut in corporate and employment taxes and an increase in the minimum wage (at the time, equivalent to $5.45 a day) by more than 15%. Radical agricultural reforms were announced in October, offering direct cash grants to farmers instead of the previous system of price supports. Industrial privatization schemes continued, with new regulations introduced in May for the opening up of the electricity sector to private companies. During the same month, similar opportunities were announced for private investment in maritime port authorities. The management of Mexico City's water system was handed over to private consortia in June in a $2 billion contract.

      The Ministry of Health released data on cholera throughout the country. A total of 6,000 cases were reported nationwide in 1993, with 108 deaths from the disease. A media campaign was launched, concentrating on proper sewage treatment, boiling of drinking water, and avoidance of fried food bought from street stalls.

      Water and sewage control across Mexico was reviewed by the government as part of a $50 million environmental campaign. The government introduced legislation forcing companies to prevent or clean up their waste spillages. Budgeted for 1993 was $230 million to improve the sewerage and drinking-water systems for towns north and south of the U.S. border as part of the so-called Integrated Environmental Border Program. It was estimated that some $1.6 billion would be spent on pollution-control equipment by 1994.

      The year began badly for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), with a series of political embarrassments. A private dinner party, attended by President Salinas and leading ministers, was held in February for 30 wealthy business figures in order to raise funds for the forthcoming PRI election campaign. Each guest was asked to make a donation of about 75 million pesos, in return for which business concessions were granted. One guest, television magnate Emilio Azcárraga, was said to have offered three times that sum. In an attempt to defuse the public outcry when the story leaked, PRI announced that it would accept only a maximum of 1 million pesos from each guest. Later Genaro Borrego Estrada, the PRI chairman, was moved to a new position as the head of the Mexican social security department, widely regarded as a demotion that was punishment for his role in the event.

      Also in February allegations were made by a Mexican representative of IBM Corp. that government officials had tried to extort bribes from the firm in connection with a $21.7 million contract for upgrading Mexico City's airport. The claims were swiftly proved false in an official investigation, but the accusations remained in the news for some time, providing further bad publicity.

      In several state elections PRI won comfortably, apparently unaffected by the above-mentioned scandals. Guillermo Mercado Romero won for PRI in Baja California Sur, normally a stronghold of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN); Hidalgo, Quintana Roo, Guerrero, and Yúcatán were also taken easily by PRI candidates.

      Presidential elections were scheduled for August 1994. The major parties began preparations with internal reorganizations at their annual conferences. PAN chose a new leader in March; Carlos Castillo Peraza replaced Luís Álvarez. Castillo Peraza announced a change in the party's traditionally conservative image, calling for extra care for the poor. A new party, the Democratic Forum Party (PFD), a Christian Democratic movement headed by Pablo Emilio Madero, was formed in March. The emergence of PFD effectively weakened PAN, from which several leading members departed to join the new party. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Sólorzano retained his leadership of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), reckoned to be the most serious threat to PRI's political domination.

      Because the constitution prohibited the president of the republic from holding two consecutive terms of office, in November the PRI announced the successor to Salinas. The choice was Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta, secretary of social development in the Salinas government and one of the president's closest associates.

      Electoral reforms were approved at the end of August. These included a ceiling to be set on financial contributions to party funds, increased independence of electoral institutes, and regulation of access to the media by canvassing parties. Also, as of 1999, the offspring of a foreign-born Mexican parent would be allowed for the first time to run for the presidency. This last reform was greeted with mixed feelings by PAN, whose most popular candidate, Vicente Fox, would thus not be eligible for the 1994 elections.

      (HUW CLOUGH)

* * *

Mexico, flag of   country of North America and the third largest country in Latin America (Latin America, history of), after Brazil and Argentina. Although there is little truth to the long-held stereotype of Mexico as a slow-paced land of subsistence farmers, Mexican society is characterized by extremes of wealth and poverty, with a limited middle class wedged between an elite cadre of landowners and investors on the one hand and masses of rural and urban poor on the other. But in spite of the challenges it faces as a developing country, Mexico is one of the chief economic and political forces in Latin America. It has a dynamic industrial base, vast mineral resources, a wide-ranging service sector, and the world's largest population of Spanish speakers—about two and a half times that of Spain or Colombia. As its official name suggests, the Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States) incorporates 31 socially and physically diverse states and the Federal District.

      More than half of the Mexican people live in the centre of the country, whereas vast areas of the arid north and the tropical south are sparsely settled. Migrants from impoverished rural areas have poured into Mexico's cities, and more than three-fourths of Mexicans now live in urban areas. Mexico City, the capital, is one of the most populous cities and metropolitan areas in the world. Mexico has experienced a series of economic booms leading to periods of impressive social gains, followed by busts, with significant declines in living standards for the middle and lower classes. The country remains economically fragile despite the forging of stronger ties with the United States and Canada through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

      Mexico's urban growing pains are in sharp counterpoint to the traditional lifestyles that prevail in more-isolated rural areas. In states such as Oaxaca or Chiapas, small communal villages remain where indigenous peasants live much as their ancestors did. The cultural remnants of great pre-Columbian civilizations, such as Teotihuacán or the Mayan pyramids at Chichén Itzá and Tulum, provide a contrast to colonial towns such as Taxco or Querétaro. In turn, these towns appear as historical relics when compared with the modern metropolis of Mexico City. Yet even the bustling capital city, which has been continually built and rebuilt on the rubble of past civilizations, reveals Mexico's wide range of social, economic, and cultural struggles. As the renowned Mexican poet and intellectual Octavio Paz (Paz, Octavio) observed,

Past epochs never vanish completely, and blood still drips from all their wounds, even the most ancient. Sometimes the most remote or hostile beliefs and feelings are found together in one city or one soul, or are superimposed like [pre-Columbian] pyramids that almost always conceal others.

      It is this tremendous cultural and economic diversity, distributed over an enormously complex and varied physical environment, that gives Mexico its unique character.

 Sharing a common border throughout its northern extent with the United States, Mexico is bounded to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by the Gulf of Mexico (Mexico, Gulf of) and the Caribbean Sea, and to the southeast by Guatemala and Belize. Mexico also administers such islands and archipelagoes as the Tres Marías in the Pacific and Cozumel and Mujeres off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Including these insular territories, the roughly triangular country covers an area about three times the size of Texas. While it is more than 1,850 miles (3,000 km) across from northwest to southeast, its width varies from less than 135 miles (217 km) at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to more than 1,200 miles (1,900 km) in the north.

Geologic origins
      Mexico is located in one of the Earth's most dynamic tectonic areas. It is a part of the circum-Pacific “Ring of Fire”—a region of active volcanism and frequent seismic activity. Among its towering volcanic peaks are Citlaltépetl (Pico de Orizaba, Volcano) (also called Orizaba), which forms the highest point in the country at 18,406 feet (5,610 metres), and the active volcano Popocatépetl, which rises to 17,930 feet (5,465 metres) to the southeast of Mexico City. These and other Mexican volcanoes are young in geologic terms, from the late Tertiary Period (about 65.5 to 1.8 million years ago), and are examples of the volcanic forces that built much of the central and southern parts of the country. Mexico is situated on the western, or leading, edge of the huge North American Plate, whose interaction with the Pacific, Cocos, and Caribbean plates has given rise to numerous and severe earthquakes as well as the earth-building processes that produce southern Mexico's rugged landscape. It is in this dynamic and often unstable physical environment that the Mexican people have built their country.

Physiographic regions
      Mexico can be divided into nine major physiographic regions: Baja California, the Pacific Coastal Lowlands, the Mexican Plateau, the Sierra Madre Oriental, the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Cordillera Neo-Volcánica, the Gulf Coastal Plain, the Southern Highlands, and the Yucatán Peninsula.

      The Baja California peninsula in northwestern Mexico is an isolated strip of extremely arid land extending between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California (California, Gulf of) (Sea of Cortez). Unevenly divided between the states of Baja California and Baja California Sur, the peninsula is nearly 800 miles (1,300 km) long but seldom more than 100 miles (160 km) wide. The central core of the peninsula is a granitic fault block with peaks of more than 9,000 feet (2,700 metres) above sea level in the Sierra San Pedro Mártir and Sierra de Juárez. The gently sloping western side of these mountain ranges is in contrast to the steep eastern escarpment, which makes access from the Gulf of California extremely difficult. The Sonoran Desert extends onto the peninsula along the northern end of the gulf.

      The Pacific Coastal Lowlands begin near Mexicali and the Colorado River delta in the north and terminate near Tepic, some 900 miles (1,450 km) to the south. For most of that distance, they face the Gulf of California while traversing the states of Sonora, Sinaloa, and Nayarit. Bounded on the east by the steep-sided Sierra Madre Occidental, the lowlands are a series of coastal terraces, mesas, and small basins interspersed with riverine deltas and restricted coastal strips. Although the vast Sonoran Desert dominates their northern section, parts of the lowlands have been irrigated and transformed into highly productive farmland.

 The largest and most densely populated region is the inland Mexican Plateau, which is flanked by the Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre Oriental. The plateau consists of the vast Mesa del Norte (Northern Plateau) and the smaller but heavily populated Mesa Central (Mesa de Anáhuac). The Mesa del Norte begins near the U.S. border; covers great stretches of the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Jalisco, and Aguascalientes; and ends near San Luis Potosí city. From there the Mesa Central stretches to a point just south of Mexico City. The plateau tilts gently upward from the north toward the south; at its northern end, the Mesa del Norte is about 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) above sea level. Throughout the region, relatively flat intermontane basins and bolsones (ephemeral interior drainage basins) are interrupted by mountainous outcrops. In the north the Chihuahuan Desert covers a section of the plateau that is more extensive than the U.S. state of California.

 The Mesa Central covers large parts of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Hidalgo, and México states and the Federal District (Mexico City). Its southern end rises 7,000–9,000 feet (2,100–2,700 metres) in the vicinity of Mexico City. The Mesa Central, moister and generally flatter than the Mesa del Norte, is divided into a series of fairly level intermontane basins separated by eroded volcanic peaks. The largest valleys rarely exceed 100 square miles (260 square km) in area, and many others are quite small. Among the generally fertile basins is the Bajío (El Bajío, or the Basin of Guanajuato), the traditional breadbasket of the country, which is located in the northern part of the Mesa Central. Many of the basins were once sites of major lakes that were drained to facilitate European and mestizo settlement. Around Mexico City the weak, structurally unstable soils that remain have caused the colonial-era Metropolitan Cathedral and other buildings to shift on their foundations and, over many years, to list or sink unevenly into the ground.

 The largely volcanic Sierra Madre Occidental, which forms the western border of the Mexican Plateau, has an average elevation of 8,000–9,000 feet (2,400–2,700 metres) and extends roughly 700 miles (1,100 km) from north to south. It has been highly incised by westward-flowing streams that have formed a series of gorges, or barrancas, the most spectacular of which is the complex known as Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre) in southwestern Chihuahua state.

      The Sierra Madre Oriental, a range of folded mountains formed of shales and limestones, is situated on the eastern side of the Mexican Plateau. Often considered an extension of the Rocky Mountains (which are cut by the Rio Grande but continue in New Mexico and western Texas), it runs roughly 700 miles (1,100 km) from north to south before merging with the Cordillera Neo-Volcánica. Its average elevations are similar to those of the Sierra Madre Occidental, but some peaks rise above 12,000 feet (3,650 metres). The mountains have major deposits of copper, lead, and zinc.

 The Cordillera Neo-Volcánica (Neo-Volcánica, Cordillera), also called the Neo-Volcanic Axis or Trans-Volcanic Axis, is a geologically active mountain range whose smoldering cinder cones link the Sierra Madre Occidental with the Sierra Madre Oriental at the southern edge of the Mesa Central. As it crosses Mexico from Cape Corrientes on the west coast to Xalapa and Veracruz on the eastern coast, it forms a mountainous backdrop to the states of Jalisco, Michoacán, Guerrero, México, Morelos, and Puebla as well as the Federal District. This volcanic range includes the spectacular peaks Citlaltépetl, Popocatépetl, and Iztaccíhuatl (Ixtacihuatl), among others. One of the world's youngest volcanoes, Parícutin (Paricutín) emerged violently from the fields of Michoacán between 1943 and 1952. The region is rich in silver, lead, zinc, copper, and tin deposits. The hot, dry Balsas Depression, which takes its name from the major river draining the region, is immediately south of the Cordillera Neo-Volcánica. The depression is formed of small, irregular basins interrupted by hilly outcrops, which give the area a distinctive physical landscape.

      The Gulf Coastal Plain, which is much wider than its Pacific coast counterpart, extends some 900 miles (1,450 km) along the Gulf of Mexico from Tamaulipas state (on the Texas border) through Veracruz and Tabasco states to the Yucatán Peninsula; it includes the Tabasco Plain in its southeastern section. The triangular northern portion of the plain, which is characterized by lagoons and low-lying swampy areas, reaches a width of more than 100 miles (160 km) near the U.S. border but tapers toward the south. North of the port of Tampico, an outlier of the Sierra Madre Oriental reaches the sea and interrupts the continuity of the Gulf Coastal Plain. South from there the plain is narrow and irregular, widening at the northern end of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

 The Southern Highlands are a series of highly dissected mountain ranges and plateaus, including the Sierra Madre del Sur, Mesa del Sur, and the Chiapas Highlands, also called the Sierra Madre de Chiapas. On their southwestern side, approximately from Puerto Vallarta to the Gulf of Tehuantepec (Tehuantepec, Gulf of), are a series of relatively low ranges known collectively as the Sierra Madre del Sur. The crystalline mountains, which achieve elevations of 7,000–8,000 feet (2,100–2,400 metres), often reach the sea to create a rugged coastal margin, part of which is known as the Mexican Riviera. Several coastal sites, such as Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, and Puerto Escondido, have become alluring tourist destinations. However, the less-hospitable inland basins provide a difficult environment for traditional peasant farmers. Farther northeast is the Mesa del Sur, with numerous stream-eroded ridges and small isolated valleys some 4,000–5,000 feet (1,200–1,500 metres) above sea level. The picturesque Oaxaca Valley is the largest and most densely settled of these, with a predominantly indigenous population. It is one of the poorest areas of Mexico.

      Bisecting the Southern Highlands is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (Tehuantepec, Isthmus of), a low-lying, narrow constriction of land that reaches an elevation of less than 900 feet (275 metres). Its hilly central area descends to narrow coastal plains on the south and to the Tabasco Plain on the north.

      The Chiapas Highlands are an extension of the mountain ranges of Central America. Within the highlands the low, crystalline Sierra de Soconusco (Sierra Madre de Chiapas) range lies along the Pacific coast. To the northwest and paralleling the coast is the Grijalva River valley. A group of highly dissected, folded, and faulted mountains is located between the valley and the Tabasco Plain, a southeastern extension of the Gulf Coastal Plain. Among the active volcanic peaks of the region is El Chichón, which destroyed several villages in 1982.

 The Yucatán Peninsula lies to the northeast of the Tabasco Plain and extends northward, forming a divider between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The peninsula's limestone (karst) terrain is generally pockmarked and uneven but seldom exceeds 500 feet (150 metres) in elevation. There is little surface drainage, and subterranean erosion has produced caverns and sinkholes (cenotes), the latter being formed when cavern roofs collapse. The islands of Cozumel and Mujeres lie off the peninsula's northeastern tip, near the resort boomtown of Cancún.

      Because of its climatic characteristics and arrangement of landforms, Mexico has few major rivers or natural lakes. The largest are found in the central part of the country. The Lerma River has its headwaters in the Toluca Basin, west of Mexico City, and flows westward to form Lake Chapala (Chapala, Lake), the country's largest natural lake. The Santiago River (Santiago, Río Grande de) then flows out of the lake to the northwest, crossing the Sierra Madre Occidental on its way to the Pacific. The eastward-flowing waters of the Pánuco River and its tributaries, the Moctezuma and Santa María rivers, originate in the eastern Mesa Central and tumble through gorges in the Sierra Madre Oriental on their way to the Gulf of Mexico. Lakes Pátzcuaro and Cuitzeo (Cuitzeo, Lake), west of Mexico City, are remnants of vast lakes and marshes that covered much of the southern Mesa Central before European settlement.

      There are few permanent streams in the arid Mesa del Norte, and most of these drain into the interior rather than to the ocean. By far the most important river in that part of the country is the Río Bravo del Norte (called the Rio Grande in the United States), which forms a lengthy part of the international border. The Conchos River, a tributary of the Río Bravo, is important for irrigation agriculture and hydroelectricity.

      The Balsas River and its tributaries drain the Balsas Depression as well as much of the southern portion of the Mesa Central. Dammed where it crosses the Sierra Madre del Sur, the Balsas is a major source of hydroelectric power. Farther southeast, on the Guatemala frontier, the Grijalva- (Grijalva River)Usumacinta (Usumacinta River) river system drains most of the humid Chiapas Highlands. Together with the Papaloapan River, which enters the Gulf of Mexico south of Veracruz, the Grijalva and Usumacinta account for about two-fifths of the total volume of Mexico's rivers.

      Streams on the west and east coasts are short and steep because the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental originate close to the coastal margins. Along the Pacific Coastal Lowlands the Yaqui (Yaqui River), Fuerte (Fuerte River), and Culiacán rivers have been dammed and support vast irrigated fields. Aridity in Baja California and the porous limestones that underlie the Yucatán Peninsula cause those regions to be virtually devoid of permanent surface streams.

      Throughout tropical southeastern Mexico, high rates of precipitation produce infertile reddish or yellow lateritic soils high in iron oxides and aluminum hydroxides. The richest soils in the country are the chernozem-like volcanic soils found in the Mesa Central. Deep, easily crumbled, and rich in base minerals, some of those dark soils have been farmed continuously for many centuries. However, overuse has caused serious sheet erosion and has exposed tepetate (a lime hardpan) in many areas. In the arid north, gray-brown desert soils occupy the largest expanses. High in lime and soluble salts, they can be extremely productive when irrigated, but in such cases salinization (salt buildup) can be a serious problem, resulting in barren fields.

      Because of its vast size and topographic diversity, Mexico has a wide array of climatic conditions. More than half of the country lies south of the Tropic of Cancer. In those areas, tropical maritime air masses from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, are attracted by the relatively low pressures that occur over land. The maritime air masses are the main sources of precipitation, which is heaviest from May through August. Tropical hurricanes, spawned in oceans on both sides of the country, are common in the coastal lowland areas from August through October. Northern Mexico is dominated by the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, and arid and semiarid conditions predominate over much of the Mexican Plateau.

      Seasonal temperature variations within the tropics are small, often only about 10 °F (5 °C) between the warmest and coolest months. In those areas winter is defined as the rainy rather than the cold season. Elevation is a major climatic influence in most parts of Mexico, and several vertical climatic zones are recognized. From sea level to just over 3,000 feet (900 metres) is the tierra caliente (“hot land”), with uniformly high temperatures. For example, Veracruz, located on the Gulf of Mexico, has an average daily temperature of approximately 77 °F (25 °C). The tierra templada (“temperate land”) extends to about 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) and includes the city of Xalapa, at an elevation of more than 4,600 feet (1,400 metres), where the average daily temperature is 66 °F (19 °C). The tierra fría (“cold land”) extends as high as 11,000 feet (3,350 metres) and includes Pachuca, at just under 8,000 feet (2,440 metres), where the average annual temperature is 59 °F (15 °C). Above the tierra fría are the páramos, or alpine pastures, and the tierra helada (“frozen land”), or permanent snow line, which is found at 13,000–14,000 feet (4,000–4,270 metres) in central Mexico.

      North of the tropics, temperature ranges increase substantially and are greatest in the north-central portion of the Mesa del Norte, where summer and winter temperatures are extreme. The highest temperatures in the country, exceeding 110 °F (43 °C), occur in July and August in central Baja California and in the northern Sonoran (Sonoran Desert) and Chihuahuan deserts. Outside the high mountainous areas of northern Mexico and the north central portion of the Mesa del Norte, the lowest temperatures normally do not descend below 32 °F (0 °C).

      Most of Mexico lacks adequate precipitation for at least part of the year. Except for the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Sierra Madre Oriental, and the Gulf Coastal Plain, the area north of the Tropic of Cancer generally receives less than 20 inches (500 mm) of precipitation annually and is classified climatically as either tropical desert or tropical steppe. Nearly all of Baja California, much of Sonora state, and large parts of Chihuahua state receive less than 10 inches (250 mm) of rainfall yearly. Much of central and southern Mexico receives less than 40 inches (1,000 mm) of precipitation annually, mostly from May through August, and is classified as having tropical savanna or highland savanna climates. Only the Gulf Coastal Plain and the adjacent mountains—roughly from Tampico southward to Villahermosa—the Chiapas Highlands, and the southern part of the Yucatán Peninsula receive abundant precipitation year-round. A tropical rainforest climate exists there because of uniformly high temperatures and humid conditions.

Plant and animal life
      Mexico is one of the world's more biologically diverse countries, encompassing vast deserts, tropical rainforests, mangrove swamps, and alpine ecosystems and supporting a wide range of reptiles and mammals, as well as myriad other types of animals. The country sits astride the commonly accepted boundary dividing the Nearctic (North American) and Neotropical (Neotropical region) (Middle American and South American) biogeographic realms.

      The Sonoran (Sonoran Desert) and Chihuahuan deserts of northern and north-central Mexico are characterized by sparse desert scrub vegetation, although at higher elevations distinctive ecosystems including short grasses, scattered shrubs, and a variety of cacti and other succulents have evolved. A similar process has also occurred in much of the states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas. One of the more unusual species is the boojum tree; found only in a small area of Sonora and Baja California, it resembles an enormous upside-down carrot standing up to 50 feet (15 metres) above the desert soil.

      Forests of coniferous and deciduous trees originally covered most of the Sierra Madre Occidental, large parts of the Mesa Central, and the Southern Highlands. However, long periods of human occupation in these regions have decimated most of the natural vegetation. In the early 21st century the government declared that it had significantly slowed the rate of deforestation, but its statistics were disputed by many environmentalists. The vast majority of Mexican forests are under local control, and impoverished or overcrowded communities contribute to higher local rates of deforestation. Extensive coniferous forests are still found at higher elevations in the Sierra Madre Occidental. The semiarid Balsas Depression has tropical scrub vegetation composed of shrubs, low deciduous trees, and scattered cacti. The high-precipitation zones of the Gulf Coastal Plain, the adjacent east-facing mountain slopes, the Chiapas Highlands, and the southern part of the Yucatán Peninsula are dominated by tropical rainforests (selvas). The dense, layered stands of broadleaf evergreen trees are among the most luxuriant and diversified in the world. Tropical hardwoods, ferns, epiphytes, and a variety of palms are commonly found there. But Mexico's rainforests, like those elsewhere in the tropics, continue to be degraded through farming, logging, ranching, and mining. Satellite images have indicated a particularly high loss of forest in Chiapas from the 1970s to the early 21st century. A large portion of the Pacific coastal area, from Mazatlán to the Guatemalan border, is covered by tropical deciduous or semi-deciduous forests, which lack the variety and density of tropical rainforests.

      Mexico's diverse array of fauna is especially notable in its southern selvas. The rainforests of the Gulf Coast and Chiapas Highlands and the semi-deciduous forests of the Pacific coast provide habitat for monkeys, parrots, jaguars, tapirs, anteaters, and other tropical species. In contrast, the natural wildlife of northern Mexico was severely affected by the introduction of European grazing animals more than 400 years ago. While rabbits, snakes, and armadillos abound in the deserts and steppes, larger animals such as deer, pumas, and coyotes are found mainly in isolated or mountainous areas. Numerous marine species live along Mexico's coastlines. In parts of the Gulf of Mexico and off the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, clear waters teem with tropical fish.

      Mexico is central to the migratory patterns of many species. Countless ducks and geese fly annually into the northern part of the Sierra Madre Occidental. In addition, millions of endangered monarch butterflies (monarch butterfly) (Danaus plexippus) migrate annually between regions of the United States and Mexico's western Mesa Central to overwinter on about a dozen forested peaks, particularly in eastern Michoacán state. That state's Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. However, smog from the Mexico City metropolitan area and extensive logging activities threaten the butterflies and their roosting trees.


Cultural regions
      Specific cultural areas have evolved in Mexico because of differences in physical environment, ethnicity, and settlement histories, and few of the regions correspond exactly with the country's physiographic regions. Mexico traditionally has been divided between the Spanish-mestizo north and the Indian-mestizo south, corresponding roughly to the pre-Columbian boundary that separated the highly developed indigenous civilizations of the Mesa Central and the south from the less agriculturally dependent groups to the north. The country can be further divided into 10 traditional cultural regions: the North, Northeast, Northwest, Baja California peninsula, Central, West, Balsas, Gulf Coast, Southern Highlands, and Yucatán Peninsula.

      The sparsely populated North closely corresponds in area to the Mesa del Norte and covers the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosí. Mining and ranching were introduced there by the Spanish in the 16th and the 18th century, respectively, and those activities continue to characterize the rural landscape, though modern irrigation projects and industrialization along the border with the United States have transformed the economy there.

      The Northeast, which stretches from Tampico to the U.S. border and inland to the Sierra Madre Oriental, includes the states of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas. The indigenous population of the area was eliminated by early European settlers, who established farms and ranches in their wake. Although it was long one of the country's poorest regions, the emerging petroleum and steel industries and the development of irrigation projects along the Río Bravo del Norte have greatly improved the Northeast's economic condition.

 The Northwest is an extensive region lying west of the crest of the Sierra Madre Occidental and stretching southward from Sonora state on the U.S. border through Sinaloa and northern Nayarit. This physiographically complex region had a substantial Native American population before the Spanish conquest, and the Tarahumara and Seri are among the indigenous peoples still occupying isolated settlements there. As in the North, mineral resources originally attracted the Spanish, but ranching and irrigated agriculture later came to dominate the rural areas. Industrial plants, encouraged by neoliberal economic policies (emphasizing the free market and the reduction of government intervention) and NAFTA, have been opened in many cities of the Northwest. In addition, the region is a hub for trafficking in illegal drugs bound for the United States.

      Baja California is a peninsula that includes the states of Baja California in the north and Baja California Sur in the south. Although there are now large urban areas at both ends of the peninsula, it was historically one of the more-isolated parts of Mexico. The original, scattered indigenous population was decimated by diseases introduced by Christian missionaries in the late 18th century. Europeans and mestizos established themselves in farming communities at oases, originally at sites such as San Ignacio and Mulegé (Mulejé). After the paved Transpeninsular Highway opened up the length of the peninsula in the 1970s, tourism began to thrive, especially at Cabo San Lucas (San Lucas, Cape) and other sites in the far south.

      The Central region is Mexico's cultural core. It extends over the central and eastern portions of the Mesa Central and its surrounding highlands, including the states of Hidalgo, México, Morelos, Puebla, Querétaro, and Tlaxcala and the Federal District ( Mexico City). It was the centre of the Aztec empire as well as numerous other indigenous civilizations before becoming the core of New Spain and the capital of modern Mexico. The Central region is now the primary centre of urbanization and industrialization, as well as being one of the country's most important agricultural areas. Numerous basins, such as those of México, Toluca, Puebla, and Morelos, are densely settled. Most of the population is mestizo, but indigenous groups are still found in the more-isolated portions of Michoacán, Hidalgo (notably in the Mezquital valley), and Puebla. Even now there are sharp contrasts between modern urban Mexico and traditional rural indigenous lifestyles in the region.

 The West is centred on the city of Guadalajara and encompasses the state of Jalisco along with portions of Colima, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato states. The Bajío has long been called the breadbasket of Mexico because of its relatively large rural population, fertile basins, and access to the Pacific. Despite its agricultural prominence, a large number of small urban centres, such as Querétaro, Salamanca, Irapuato, and León, are developing industrially, while Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas have become the most important ports on the Pacific. Many of the things often thought of as distinctively Mexican—such as tequila, mariachi music, and the ornate embroidered sombrero and costume of the charro (gentleman rancher)—originated in the West.

      The Balsas cultural region, which closely corresponds to the physiographic area of the same name, extends through northern Guerrero state. It is arid, hot, and sparsely settled. Cattle ranching has been the mainstay of the economy, although subsistence-level slash-and-burn agriculture is widely practiced by impoverished peasant farmers.

      The Gulf Coast region includes the coastal zones of Veracruz and Tabasco states as well as the adjacent east-facing slopes of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The population of the coastal area is overwhelmingly mestizo, but indigenous groups are found in the mountains north of Veracruz. The city of Veracruz is the cultural centre of the region and has long been the country's major nonpetroleum port. Coatzacoalcos is another of the country's leading ports. Mexican oil production centres on a series of huge inland and offshore fields in the region, near Villahermosa and other parts of the southern Bay of Campeche (Campeche, Bay of). Cattle ranching and commercial agriculture are also important components of the economy. The southern parts of the region were swampy and nearly devoid of settlement until the Papaloapan and Grijalva-Usumacinta river projects allowed commercial exploitation of the rich alluvial soils.

      The Southern Highlands encompass much of the states of Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. This poverty-stricken region has the highest concentration of indigenous peoples in the country, although mestizos dominate the southern half of Chiapas. Such groups as the Zapotec and Mixtec farm minifundia (small plots of land) in the highlands using traditional methods. When viewed from the air, the landscape resembles a patchwork quilt, but its picturesque image belies widespread poverty. In marked contrast are the vibrant and modern coastal tourist centres, such as Acapulco and the more recently developed Puerto Escondido, as well as inland cities such as Oaxaca. Most of Chiapas is relatively isolated from the rest of Mexico, but increasing numbers of Guatemalan refugees have entered the state. Since the 1990s the region has become the centre of indigenous autonomy movements—such as the Zapatista National Liberation Army—which have gained worldwide notoriety.

 The Yucatán Peninsula, also called the Southeast region, was a centre of the ancient Maya civilization. It includes the states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo. The region still has a predominantly Mayan indigenous rural population and is known for its archaeological sites, such as Chichén Itzá and Uxmal (both of which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites (World Heritage site)) as well as Tulum. Mérida, the only major city in the region, was an early centre for the production of henequen (a type of agave), which led to a regional economic boom in the late 1800s. In the tropical rainforests to the south, the sparse population depends on subsistence agriculture or hunting and gathering.

Ethnic groups
       Mexico's population is composed of many ethnic groups, including indigenous American Indians (Mesoamerican Indian) (Amerindians), who account for more than one-sixth of the total, and Mexicans of European heritage (“whites”), who are nearly as numerous. Generally speaking, the mixture of indigenous and European peoples has produced the largest segment of the population today—mestizos, who account for nearly two-thirds of the total—via a complex blending of ethnic traditions and perceived ancestry. Although myths of “racial biology” have been discredited by social scientists, “racial identity” remains a powerful social construct in Mexico, as in the United States and elsewhere, and many Mexicans have referred to their heritage and raza (“race”) with a measure of pride—particularly on October 12, the Día de la Raza (“Race Day”)—whether they conceive of themselves as indigenous, mestizo, or European. Their identities as members of ethnic groups may be additionally complicated, given that ethnicity is a function of cultural patterns and traditions as varied as a group's sense of linguistic, religious, and socioeconomic history.

      At the time Europeans arrived in the early 1500s, what is now Mexico was inhabited by peoples who are thought to have migrated into the Americas from Asia tens of thousands of years ago by crossing a former land bridge in the Bering Strait. After their arrival in Mexico, many groups developed unique cultural traits. Highly organized civilizations occupied various parts of Mexico for at least 2,000 years before European contact.

      By the early 16th century most people lived in the Mesa Central under the general rule of the Aztec empire, but many separate cultural groups also thrived in this region, among them speakers of the Tarastec, Otomí, and Nahuatl (Nahuatl language) languages. Outside the Mesa Central were numerous other cultural groups, such as the Maya of the Yucatán and the Mixtec and Zapotec of Oaxaca. The splendid Aztec cities of the Mesa Central were marvels of architectural design, irrigation technology, and social organization. Spectacular Mayan ruins in the Yucatán give evidence of widespread urbanization and intensive agricultural productivity dating back more than 2,000 years. In many ways the indigenous civilizations of Mexico were more advanced than that of their Spanish conquerors.

      Following the arrival of Europeans, intermarriage resulted in an increasing mestizo population that over the centuries became the dominant ethnic group in Mexico. Northern Mexico is overwhelmingly mestizo in both urban and rural areas. Mexicans of European descent, including those who immigrated during the 20th century, are largely concentrated in urban areas, especially Mexico City, and in the West. As is the case throughout Latin America, people of European descent and other lighter-skinned Mexicans dominate the wealthiest echelons of Mexican society, owing to racial discrimination and centuries of economic, political, and social policies favouring the inheritance of wealth. In contrast, mestizos occupy a wide range of social and economic positions, while indigenous Indians are predominantly poor and working-class, often industrial and service workers in cities and peasants in the countryside. Notwithstanding such generalizations, some individuals manage to improve their lot through education, political action, or entrepreneurship.

      There are several areas where indigenous peoples are still the dominant population group. Maya speakers constitute the majority in the rural Yucatán and the Chiapas Highlands. In the Oaxaca Valley and in remoter parts of the Sierra Madre del Sur, indigenous (primarily Zapotec) communities abound. Despite their decreasing numbers, enclaves of American Indians also are still significant in isolated mountain areas on the eastern margin of the Mesa Central.

      Spanish, which is the official national language and the language of instruction in schools, is spoken by the vast majority of the population. Fewer than one-tenth of American Indians speak an indigenous language. There are, however, more than 50 indigenous languages spoken by more than 100,000 people, including Maya in the Yucatán; Huastec in northern Veracruz; Nahua, Tarastec, Totonac, Otomí, and Mazahua mainly on the Mesa Central; Zapotec, Mixtec, and Mazatec in Oaxaca; and Tzeltal and Tzotzil in Chiapas. Many public and private schools offer instruction in English as a second language.

 There is no official religion in Mexico, as the constitution guarantees separation of church and state. However, more than nine-tenths of the population are at least nominally affiliated with Roman Catholicism. The Basilica of Guadalupe (Guadalupe, Basilica of), the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Guadalupe, Our Lady of), Mexico's patron saint, is located in Mexico City and is the site of annual pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of people, many of them peasants. Throughout Mexico are thousands of Catholic churches, convents, pilgrimage sites, and shrines.

      Protestants account for a tiny but rapidly growing segment of the population, and their missionaries have been especially successful in converting the urban poor. A significant proportion of indigenous peoples practice syncretic religions—that is, they retain traditional religious beliefs and practices in addition to adhering to Roman Catholicism. This syncretism is particularly visible in many village fiestas where ancestors, mountain spirits, and other spiritual forces may be honoured alongside Catholic saints. Moreover, the identities of many saints and spirits have been blended together since the early colonial period. At times, however, belief systems still come into conflict. Among the Huichol (Wirraritari) and other Indian groups, for example, a hallucinogenic cactus fruit called peyote is employed in spiritual ceremonies; however, governmental authorities consider peyote to be an illegal narcotic.

Settlement patterns
      Before the arrival of Europeans, the indigenous population was highly concentrated in the Central, West, and Southern Highland regions. The Spanish settled in existing indigenous communities in order to exploit their labour in agriculture and mining. As a result, these areas have remained the most densely populated throughout Mexico's history.

      Away from this central core, more-isolated settlements were centred on mines, mission sites, and military outposts. Mining had the largest impact on population redistribution. Silver-mining towns such as Durango, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, Pachuca, and Zacatecas were founded in the mid- and late 16th century and represented the first European settlements outside the central core. By contrast, it was not until the mid-19th century that large-scale ranching was introduced to northern Mexico. This created a clustered pattern of rural settlement, with large areas effectively devoid of population.

      Internal migration has altered the distribution of the population since the mid-20th century, with massive numbers of people moving from rural areas to cities. Many have moved because they lacked land, job opportunities, and social amenities. Moreover, economic stresses associated with neoliberal trade policies (including NAFTA) appear to be increasing the rate of rural-to-urban migration.

      More than three-fourths of Mexicans now live in cities, compared with about half of the population in 1960. In the 1980s there were more than 100 urban centres with at least 50,000 people. By the early 21st century well over 100 cities had populations in excess of 100,000, including some two dozen with more than 500,000 people. The major axis of urbanization stretches diagonally across central Mexico from Puebla through Mexico City to Guadalajara, forming a nearly uninterrupted urban agglomeration. Mexico's northern border cities have grown rapidly since the 1970s—most remarkably during the 1990s—in large part because migrants from central Mexico have been attracted to the region by jobs in the nearby United States and in maquiladoras (maquiladora) (export-oriented manufacturing plants where duty-free imported parts are assembled) on the Mexican side of the Mexico-U.S. border. Juárez (Ciudad Juárez), facing El Paso, Texas, across the international boundary, and Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, Calif., have grown spectacularly since the 1950s and now have more than one million people each. These and other sprawling border centres are ringed by self-built and ramshackle houses. The populations of the largest metropolitan areas are growing the most rapidly in absolute numbers, but the highest percentage increases have often been in small- and intermediate-sized cities.

      Within the hierarchy of Mexican urban places, Mexico City remains the undisputed apex, with a population several times that of the next largest city. By the late 20th century its metropolitan area accounted for about one-sixth of the national population and was ranked among the largest urban centres in the world. Mexico City is the political, economic, social, educational, and industrial capital of the country. People are attracted there by the perception of increased chances for social and economic mobility as well as by the dynamic character of the capital.

       Guadalajara, the country's second largest urban area, is a much more traditional city in structure and appearance than is Mexico City. As the regional capital of Jalisco and much of the West, Guadalajara is a major market centre and has a powerful industrial sector. With a well-respected university and medical school, it is also a major educational and cultural centre.

       Monterrey, which is located in a relatively stark portion of the Mesa del Norte, was the site of an integrated iron and steel foundry as early as 1903. It developed as the main iron and steel centre of the country by the 1930s and '40s, benefitting from its proximity to iron ore and coal deposits in nearby Coahuila state. A number of other heavy industries are also located there. Although Monterrey has a colonial quarter, most of the modern city dates only to the beginning of the 20th century. And because much of its urban growth has been rapid and recent, Monterrey is singularly unremarkable in appearance. As the centre of the National Action Party (PAN), Monterrey is a stronghold of political conservatism.

Demographic trends
      Mexico's population grew more than sixfold from 1910 to the early 21st century. The rate of natural increase began to rise rapidly in the 1940s because of marked improvements in health care standards and food supplies. There have been drastic declines in the death rate, and infant mortality, although still quite high in comparison with more-developed countries, has been significantly reduced. Although its growth rate slowed during the late 20th century, the Mexican population is still increasing quickly. Given the country's rapid growth, its population is disproportionately young, with more than one-third of Mexicans under age 15. Life expectancy at birth has doubled since 1930 and is comparable to that of more-developed countries.

      Mexico's large population, which surpassed 100 million shortly after the turn of the 21st century, has severely taxed the ability of the government to provide basic social services and economic opportunities for the people. Were it not for the widespread migration of young adults of childbearing age to the United States, Mexico's total population would arguably be much larger and its problems significantly more profound. Thus, migration has acted as a safety valve in easing the country's social and economic pressures. And remittances of income earned abroad, overwhelmingly in the United States, have contributed significantly to Mexico's economy. The flow of legal and illegal migrants from Mexico to the United States has increased sharply since the late 1970s. Estimates are highly inaccurate and vary greatly, but it is believed that between 8,000,000 and 13,000,000 Mexicans relocated illegally to the United States between 1970 and 2000. At the same time, Mexicans have become the largest group of legal U.S. immigrants, with more than 170,000 recorded in the year 2000 alone. While a large proportion have low educational levels and limited technical skills, an increasing number of highly qualified technicians and professionals have found their way north. Mexican governments have tended to favour and defend the interests of those citizens wishing to work in the United States, but Mexican immigration has remained a contentious issue north of the border owing to an often conflicting mixture of political, cultural, and economic motives.

      Mexico has a developing market economy that is strongly tied to that of the United States, with its major markets and sources of capital. The Mexican economy is one of the more influential in Latin America and has grown rapidly since the 1970s. However, the country's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) remains far below that of the United States. The Mexican economy depends largely on services—including trade, transportation, finance, and government—which account for about two-thirds of GDP. Manufacturing is responsible for about one-fifth of GDP. Although nearly one-fifth of Mexican workers are employed in the agricultural sector, it accounts for only a tiny part of GDP. On the other hand, remittances from Mexican workers abroad, notably in the United States, bring billions of dollars into the economy each year.

 For much of the 20th century, Mexico's economy was largely characterized by state-owned and mixed-capital enterprises combined with a highly regulated private sector. The government strictly controlled foreign investment and imports and barred private investors from ownership in many activities, including mining, forestry, insurance, and power production. Semiautonomous state corporations managed the petroleum industry, generated and distributed electricity, ran the banks, operated the railways and airlines, and controlled telecommunications. In addition, the government regulated the prices of many goods and services. However, the country began an enormous economic transformation in the 1980s. The government, following neoliberal economic theory, completely deregulated many industries, dismantled state enterprises, welcomed large amounts of foreign investment, and removed most import restrictions. It partly privatized telecommunications, the energy sector, and the transportation sector, including airlines, railways, and ports. In the mid-1990s the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created a free-trade zone between Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

      Mexico, like other Latin American countries, has experienced a series of boom-and-bust cycles in its economic history; however, its diversified industrial and service sectors have aided economic recovery and growth. An economic crisis in the early 1980s was largely precipitated by a global fall in petroleum prices and exacerbated by high interest rates and inflation. Despite a dynamic period of growth in the early 1990s, the Mexican peso was devalued in 1994, and the country plunged into a severe, if temporary, recession. Lower- and middle-class families were particularly strained as poverty levels and unemployment increased and foreign capital left the country. The government stabilized the economy by reducing spending, instituting an economic austerity program, and accepting a controversial U.S.-sponsored bailout. Subsequent administrations continued to guide the country according to neoliberal theories. In spite of fears that manufacturing jobs were being lost to East Asian factories, at the turn of the 21st century the economy grew steadily because of rising demand for consumer goods and petroleum in the U.S. market, combined with a spike in global oil prices.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      Much of the country is too arid or too mountainous for crops or grazing, and it is estimated that no more than one-fifth of the land is potentially arable. Moreover, Mexico's rapidly growing population has made the country a net importer of grains. In the early 21st century agriculture accounted for a small and diminishing part of GDP, but, while the rural workforce was significant, it too was shrinking rapidly. Chief crops include corn (maize), sugarcane, sorghum, wheat, tomatoes, bananas, chilies, green peppers, oranges, lemons and limes, mangoes, and other tropical fruits, along with beans, barley, avocados, blue agave, and coffee. Traditional farming methods still prevail in many regions, especially in those with predominantly indigenous populations, such as the Southern Highlands. In these areas, intensive subsistence agriculture based on corn, beans, and squash—the fundamental trinity of Mesoamerican agriculture—is practiced on small plots of land, often part of communal village holdings. The system is highly labour-intensive and has low per capita productivity, which limits the opportunities for economic advancement. Normally, between one-tenth and one-eighth of the country's total area is planted to crops annually.

      While not its major objective, one of the legacies of the revolution of 1910 was land reform, which produced the ejido system of communal holdings. At the time of the revolution, the rural peasantry was virtually landless and worked under a debt peonage system on haciendas (hacienda) (large estates). The constitution of 1917 contained a statute limiting the amount of land that a person could own and, through the concept of social utility, legalized the federal government's expropriation and redistribution of land. Initially, small parcels were granted to communal groups whose members worked holdings individually (usually cropland) or in common (usually pasture or woodland). By the end of the 1930s, haciendas had all but disappeared from the Mesa Central, Balsas Depression, and Southern Highlands. Land redistribution produced numerous small holdings 10–20 acres (4–8 hectares) in size as well as cooperative ejidos, most of which have since been privatized. Many peasants still eke out a living through subsistence agriculture and earn small amounts of cash by sending part of their harvest to the towns and cities of central and southern Mexico.

      Commercial agricultural products come from three major regions of the country—the tropical regions of the Gulf Coast and Chiapas Highlands, the irrigated lands of the North and Northwest, and the Bajío in the Mesa Central. Tropical crops have been grown on the Gulf Coastal Plain and its adjacent highlands since the early colonial period. Production now extends southeastward from near Tampico to the Chiapas Highlands and inland to the eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre Oriental. There coffee and sugarcane are the most important crops in value and acreage. Aside from illicit drugs, coffee is Mexico's most valuable export crop. Sugarcane is now produced largely for the domestic market, as are bananas, pineapples, papayas, mangoes, cacao, and rice. Mexico is one of the world's leading producers of vanilla, which is also grown in these areas. Smaller areas of cacao, coffee, and sugarcane are found in Chiapas. Cotton has become a major crop along the Pacific Coastal (Soconusco) Plain of Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border.

      Nearly one-fifth of Mexican cropland under production is irrigated, which has brought large-scale commercial production to the North and Northwest. Cotton has become the major crop in the areas developed by irrigation projects since the 1930s. The Laguna Project near Torreón was the country's first attempt at providing water to the arid North, and huge cooperative ejidos were formed to farm cotton using modern mechanized methods. This was followed by the Las Delicias Project near Chihuahua, which also featured cotton but later brought substantial acreages of wheat into production. Wheat, especially north of Sinaloa, is the most important crop in the Northwest, which is now the country's centre of grain production. Cotton, vegetables, and oilseeds are also important there. Melons and winter vegetables such as tomatoes and lettuce are grown for markets in the United States and have become increasingly important because of NAFTA and the elimination of tariffs. Cotton is the major crop of the Mexicali Valley. The Northwest also has the dubious distinction of being the leading staging area for narcotics smuggling. Marijuana and opium poppies are produced in relatively isolated areas there, notably in Sinaloa.

      Within the Mesa Central, the Bajío traditionally has been considered the breadbasket of Mexico. Wheat, corn, vegetables, peanuts (groundnuts), strawberries, and beans are produced on smallholdings. While still a major producing region with the advantage of proximity to major urban markets, the Bajío has been eclipsed in agricultural preeminence by the Northwest.

      Livestock ranching has been concentrated in the North since Mexico gained independence. Open-range cattle operations, frequently exceeding 385 square miles (1,000 square km) in size, were created in the 1800s, and a number of large holdings persisted despite agrarian reform. Because of the arid conditions and limited natural vegetation, the region's carrying capacity for grazing animals is low. Many of the criollo cattle of the North, descendants of stock introduced from Spain in the 1500s, have been replaced by Herefords, Brahman, and other breeds, while open-range methods are giving way to rotational grazing systems. Some natural pastures have been improved by means of irrigation, top-seeding, and fertilization. Supplemental feeding of stock has also become more common.

      Cattle are also raised commercially for the domestic market in tropical areas, mainly in the Northeast, Gulf Coast, and Southern Highlands regions. In these areas Brahman, or Zebu, cattle are favoured because of their tolerance of heat and high humidity. Luxuriant vegetation and ample moisture make the animal-carrying capacity of the land much higher than in the North. Large tracts of rainforest have been cleared and planted with imported African grasses to facilitate grazing.

      Mexico produces two specialized crops that are rarely grown elsewhere. henequen, a member of the genus Agave, yields a fibre used in furniture manufacturing and cordage. The plant was introduced in the 1880s to the northern Yucatán, which for many years was the sole commercial source of henequen. Land reforms in the mid-1930s replaced extensive henequen plantations with cooperatives and small farms, which still produce this important export crop.

  maguey, also of the genus Agave, is planted in many parts of the Mesa Central. Originally used in making pulque, an inexpensive alcoholic beverage, maguey was cultivated by many small farmers because it could thrive on infertile, rocky soils. tequila, Mexico's national liquor, is also derived from agave plants, including at least 51 percent from blue agave. The drink takes its name from the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco, the centre for its production and distilling. Yet another alcoholic drink derived from an agave is mescal, which is produced primarily in Oaxaca.

      Mexico's largest forests are in the tropical east and south. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of the country was covered by forests in the mid-1500s, but indiscriminate exploitation has decimated this resource. Though conservation is practiced in some of the pine forests in the northern Sierra Madre Occidental, logging has heavily damaged some areas, and farmers in the Gulf Coast region and elsewhere continue to reduce rainforests with slash-and-burn methods and expanding pastures. The tropical forests of the south and east yield a wide variety of valuable products, including hardwoods, such as oaks and mahogany, and an assortment of fragrant woods, such as cedar and rosewood. In addition, the rainforests of Chiapas and the southern Yucatán contain sapodilla trees, which are the source for chicle, the latex traditionally used to make chewing gum (though most commercial varieties of gum are now manufactured with synthetic latex). Softwoods are found in the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental above 6,000 feet (1,800 metres). Stands of ponderosa, lodgepole, and other pines are especially well developed in the Sierra Madre Occidental, especially in the states of Chihuahua and Durango.

      Mexico has a bountiful supply of marine resources, but fish and seafood are not a major part of the national diet. Two shrimping areas of the Gulf Coast, from Tampico north to the U.S. border and from Veracruz south to Campeche, have been fished commercially since the 1940s. The Gulf of California (California, Gulf of) shrimping grounds, first exploited on a large scale in the late 1950s, are now the most important in the country. The Gulf of California is also known for its game fish, such as black marlin and other billfish. Deepwater fish abound off the Pacific coast of Baja California. Since the formation of a commercial fishing fleet in the 1960s, this area has become the country's main fishing ground, producing most of the total commercial catch. Sardines, anchovies, and tuna are the leading species taken. In the nearshore zone of the Pacific coast of Baja California, lobster and abalone are captured in commercial quantities. The rest of the commercial marine catch comes from the Gulf of Mexico, especially off the Campeche Bank north of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Resources and power
      Minerals have been an important part of the economy throughout Mexico's history. Mexico is the world's leading producer of silver (silver processing), which has long been the most valuable metal extracted there. The major mining area during the colonial period was the so-called Silver Belt, a region that extended from Guanajuato and Zacatecas in the Mesa Central to Chihuahua in the Mesa del Norte, with outposts such as San Luis Potosí farther east.

      The Silver Belt is still Mexico's primary source of nonfuel minerals, although now both industrial and precious minerals are sought. Silver is taken from the older centres of Guanajuato, Pachuca, and Zacatecas. Zinc, bauxite (the ore of aluminum), lead, gold, mercury, cadmium, and such trace minerals as antimony and manganese are also important. The once-rich copper deposits discovered in the late 1800s near Santa Rosalía in Baja California have been largely depleted. The country's largest remaining deposits of copper are exploited in open-pit mines at Cananea and La Caridad in northern Sonora state. Iron ore deposits near Durango were first mined in the early 20th century.

      Mexico ranks among the world's most prolific petroleum-producing countries, and petroleum exports account for a large share of foreign-exchange earnings. Mexico's first commercially productive petroleum fields were discovered about 1900 off Tampico on the Gulf Coast. Shortly thereafter, foreign investors helped exploit additional fields farther south, near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The oil industry was nationalized in 1938 with the creation of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), and the Mexican constitution states that the oil industry must remain under state control. (In 2008, however, because of declining oil production, the Mexican Congress passed a series of controversial energy reforms that included provisions to allow private investment in Pemex for the first time since 1938.)

 Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos), Latin America's largest petroleum company, is a semiautonomous governmental agency charged with petroleum exploration, production, and marketing. It produces several hundred billion barrels of oil annually and operates major petroleum-producing fields in the Gulf of Mexico and along its coast, including the Poza Rica (near Tuxpan), the Tampico-Misantla basin, and various sites in Chiapas and Tabasco. Major natural gas fields are located near Reynosa in northeastern Mexico, near Veracruz, and in the Chiapas-Tabasco region of the Gulf of Mexico coast. The country has huge proven and potential reserves of petroleum and substantial reserves of natural gas.

      A system of oil and natural gas pipelines has been constructed to move these products to major cities in the Mesa Central and to the U.S. border, where they formerly linked up with pipelines in the United States. Large oil refineries have been built near the Gulf of Mexico at Minatitlán and Reynosa to augment the older productive capacity of those at Ciudad Madero near Tampico. Additional refineries are located at Salamanca, Tula and Atzcapotzalco near Mexico City, Poza Rica, and Salina Cruz. Sulfur is found in conjunction with petroleum in many of the Gulf fields and is used in the manufacture of a wide variety of products. Petrochemical plants have been built in Veracruz state at Coatzacoalcos, the major export centre for sulfur products, and at Ciudad Pemex in Tabasco. Both are located in formerly unpopulated rainforest regions. A number of petrochemical sites are also found near refineries in the Mesa Central.

      Thermal power plants, fired mainly by oil and natural gas, generate about three-fourths of Mexico's electricity. Both nuclear power and renewable resources (wind, solar, and biomass) combined account for about one-tenth of the country's electric power, and hydroelectric complexes provide about one-sixth of the country's needs. In the 1940s and '50s, hydroelectric power was seen as vital for the country. Because of their proximity to major population clusters, most of the early projects were located on the streams exiting the eastern and southern escarpments of the Mesa Central. Better transmission technologies subsequently permitted hydroelectric complexes to be located farther away, such as the Malpaso Project on the Grijalva River on the margins of the Chiapas Highlands.

      Mexico is one of the more-industrialized countries in Latin America, and its membership in NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) has further expanded its industrial base, especially for export. Manufacturing accounts for about one-fifth of GDP and provides jobs for about one-sixth of the workforce. Chief manufactures include motor vehicles and parts; processed foods and beverages; paints, soaps, and pharmaceuticals; bricks, cement, and ceramics; iron and steel; metal products; paper and paper products; chemicals; electronics and other consumer products; and refined petroleum.

      Historically, a disproportionate share of manufacturing was located in and around the Mexico City metropolitan area, largely because of its huge market and superior infrastructure. The capital's metropolitan area still dominates manufacturing, and an impressive array of products are manufactured there and in neighbouring cities, including automobiles, electronics, iron and steel, foods, and a wide variety of consumer goods. The government's efforts to disperse factories to sites away from the Mexico City megalopolis have been aided substantially by the increasing number of maquiladoras (maquiladora) producing such goods as motor vehicles and automobile parts, electronics, clothing, and furniture. The overwhelming majority of maquiladora plants are foreign-owned and situated in Mexico to take advantage of low labour costs and less-stringent environmental regulations. Following the advent of NAFTA, there was an explosion of foreign investment in cities around the country, but primarily in the Central and North regions. As a result, industrial employment has become more dispersed than at any time in Mexican history.

      Automobile assembly plants produce vehicles for export to the United States and Canada as well as for the domestic market, in such sites as Puebla and Toluca in the Central region, Guadalajara in the West, and Hermosillo in the Northwest. Textile production, traditionally more dispersed than other industries, has its older centres in Puebla and Guadalajara and newer ones in Torreón and Juárez. A growing number of electronics assembly plants, including television and computer components, have been concentrated in Tijuana.

      Finance is a cornerstone of Mexico's service sector and includes savings and loan associations, insurance, the stock market, and commercial banks. Altogether, finance accounts for roughly one-eighth of GDP but a much smaller percentage of the labour force. Mexico formerly had a dual banking structure consisting of governmental financial institutions and private banks that were owned by commercial and industrial groups. In 1982 the private banking sector was nationalized in an effort to reduce the perceived manipulation and exploitation of the financial markets by private capital. Mexico's financial system was then again privatized in the late 1980s as part of the country's embrace of neoliberal economic theories.

      The Bank of Mexico issues the national currency, the peso, which is divided into units of 100 centavos. The country's stock exchange plays only a minor role in providing capital. Most funds are secured through government bonds or bank securities.

      The United States is Mexico's most important trading partner, and U.S.-based companies account for more than half of Mexico's foreign investment. The United States is also the source of about three-fifths of Mexican imports and the destination for more than four-fifths of the country's exports. In contrast, trade with Mexico represents only about one-tenth of total U.S. trade. Thus, Mexico is far more dependent on the economy of its northern neighbour than the United States is on the Mexican economy. Although both countries are members of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO), both of which are founded on pledges of free and open trade, Mexico has protested the deleterious effects of subsidized agricultural exports from the United States, including corn, high-fructose corn syrup, and apples. There is mounting concern that these and other U.S. exports, under NAFTA protection, are forcing millions of Mexican smallholders off their farms and into service-based or industrial jobs in maquiladoras or in the United States. Meanwhile, many U.S. workers are concerned about the loss of their jobs to maquiladoras.

      Among Mexico's major exports are machinery and transport equipment, steel, electrical equipment, chemicals, food products, and petroleum and petroleum products. About four-fifths of Mexico's petroleum is exported to the United States, which relies heavily on Mexico as one of its principal sources of oil. Mexico's major imports include machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, and consumer goods.

      The quantity and value of Mexican exports (especially nonpetroleum exports) grew rapidly in the 1990s, largely in response to the government's neoliberal economic policies and to the creation of NAFTA. Since then, vast amounts of duty-free imports and exports have flowed between the United States and Mexico within a narrow border zone, especially on roads linking Tijuana, Mexicali, Juárez, Hermosillo, Monterrey, and other major cities with the border.

      When banking and finance are figured in, the service sector—including commercial activities, tourism and other entertainment, business services, and the various levels of government—accounts for about two-thirds of GDP. Commerce alone accounts for about one-fifth of GDP and government for roughly one-sixth.

 Tourism is a major contributor to the economy. Because of its cultural diversity, tropical settings, relatively low prices, and easy accessibility, Mexico exerts a strong attraction on U.S. tourists, who constitute the majority of visitors to the country. Tourists once traveled mainly to Mexico City and the surrounding colonial towns of the Mesa Central, as well as to the monumental ruins of Teotihuacán, just northeast of Mexico City. Although Mexico City is still a major destination for visitors, its reputation has been sullied by social and environmental problems, notably high levels of air pollution and crime. Tourists also still flock to the beaches of the world-famous resorts of Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Mazatlán, and Puerto Escondido. But Cancún and Cozumel (along the eastern shore of the Yucatán Peninsula) and Cabo San Lucas (San Lucas, Cape) (of southern Baja California Sur) have become even more attractive to international travelers since the 1960s as a result of the construction of new hotels, airports, and other facilities. Cancún now attracts more international visitors per year than Mexico City. Among the more-visited Mayan ruins are Chichén Itzá, Tulum, Uxmal, (Uxmal) and the area of ruins and coral reefs called the “Riviera Maya,” to the south of Cancún.

Labour and taxation
      About two-thirds of the Mexican labour force is employed in the service sector and about one-sixth in manufacturing. The agricultural sector, which employs less than one-fifth of Mexican workers, is made up largely of subsistence farmers and labourers. About two-fifths of Mexican adults participate in the labour market. Women greatly increased their presence in the workforce from the 1970s to the early 21st century, owing in part to the demand for young women on maquiladora assembly lines as well as the need for supplemental income in many families. However, women's wages generally lag behind those of men. The average workweek in the manufacturing sector is about 45 hours. The right to engage in strikes (labour stoppages) is guaranteed by law, and a large percentage of Mexican workers are unionized (organized labour). The largest and most powerful union is the Confederation of Mexican Workers, which has historically had ties with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

      Minimum-wage laws have been in effect since 1934, but they are difficult, if not impossible, to enforce for workers in the informal (shadow) economy, including many street vendors and day labourers. Official minimum wages are determined by the type of work and the cost of living in specific regions. Urban job classifications pay higher minimum wages than rural categories, and the highest minimum wages are paid in Mexico City and the border cities of Tijuana, Mexicali, and Juárez.

      The government collects several forms of revenue, including individual income taxes, corporate income taxes, and sales taxes. Value-added taxes, excise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, production taxes on mining, and local levies on real estate are also important. Earnings from petroleum exports, via the state-owned company Pemex, have been considerable in times of elevated oil prices.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Mexico has had difficulty creating an integrated transportation network because of the country's diverse landscape and developing economy. As a result, several parts of Mexico lack good rail and road connections, especially from east to west across the northern part of the country. Although Mexico was one of the first countries in Latin America to promote railway development, the extensive formerly state-owned railway system remains inefficient; however, significant improvements were initiated after the government privatized the system. Major rail routes extend outward from Mexico City northwestward along the Pacific coast to Mexicali, northward through the Central Plateau to El Paso and Laredo, Texas, eastward via the Gulf Coastal Plain to the Yucatán Peninsula, and southeastward to Oaxaca.

      Most passengers and freight are transported via Mexico's highway system, notably by interstate buses and cross-country trucking, respectively. Trucks also carry most of the exports from Mexico's maquiladoras to U.S. markets. As with the railroad, all major highways lead to Mexico City. Several link northern border cities to the capital, and others connect the Yucatán Peninsula and the Guatemalan border with the Mesa Central. The Pan-American Highway runs from Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, on the border with Guatemala, to Nuevo Laredo, on the border with the United States, passing through Mexico City. Although many highways have been improved, Mexico's roads are barely adequate to serve national needs. In addition to traffic hazards such as potholes and a shortage of guardrails on mountain roads, many roads have a dangerous traffic mix of overladen trucks, cars, pedestrians, bicycles, buses, and, in some areas, grazing animals. Traffic mortality rates are also affected by drunk driving, mechanical problems (notably poor brakes and nonfunctioning headlights), and a disregard for pedestrian safety.

      The proliferation of trade and tourism between Mexico and the United States is reflected in the high volume of border crossings. Indeed, at the turn of the 21st century, more than one million people crossed the U.S.-Mexican frontier legally every day, in both directions. Moreover, each year tens of thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans make illegal attempts to enter the United States, largely in search of jobs and better opportunities.

      Air travel has become a major mode of transportation for upper- and middle-class Mexicans. Domestic and international airports have been built throughout the country, largely to serve the growing tourist trade. In the 1990s the government began to privatize the airline industry. By the early 21st century the former national airlines, Aeroméxico and Mexicana, had been sold to private investors, and a number of new companies and increased competition resulted. Air service now reaches all tourist locations and most of the country's small- and medium-sized urban centres.

      The vast majority of Mexican households own one or more radios, and about three-fourths own a TV set. Cellular phone use increased rapidly since the mid-1990s. Personal computers and Internet use also rose in popularity and affordability, although not as rapidly as in the wealthier United States. Internet cafes are now found in nearly all major towns and cities.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      Mexico is a federal republic composed of 31 states and the Federal District. Governmental powers are divided constitutionally between executive, legislative, and judicial branches, but, when Mexico was under one-party rule in the 20th century, the president had strong control over the entire system. The constitution of 1917, which has been amended several times, guarantees personal freedoms and civil liberties and also establishes economic and political principles for the country.

      The legislative branch is divided into an upper house, the Senate, and a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. Senators serve six-year terms and deputies three-year terms; members of the legislature cannot be reelected for the immediately succeeding term. Three-fifths of the deputies are elected directly by popular vote, while the remainder are selected in proportion to the votes received by political parties in each of five large electoral regions.

      Popularly elected and limited to one six-year term, the president is empowered to select a cabinet, the attorney general, diplomats, high-ranking military officers, and Supreme Court justices (who serve life terms). The president also has the right to issue reglamentos (executive decrees) that have the effect of law. Because there is no vice president, in the event of the death or incapacity of the president, the legislature designates a provisional successor. The executive branch has historically dominated the other two branches of government, although the Congress has gained a larger share of power since the late 20th century.

Local government
      The federal constitution relegates several powers to the 31 states and the Federal District (Mexico City), including the ability to raise local taxes. Moreover, state constitutions follow the model of the federal constitution in providing for three independent branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial. Most states have a unicameral legislature called the Chamber of Deputies, whose members serve three-year terms. Governors are popularly elected to six-year terms and may not be reelected. Because of Mexico's tradition of highly centralized government, state and local budgets are largely dependent on federally allocated funds. Under PRI rule, Mexican presidents influenced or decided many state and local matters, including elections. Although such centralized control is no longer generally accepted, Mexico's principal political parties maintain locally dominant power bases in various states and cities.

      At its most basic level, local government is administered by more than 2,000 units called municipios (municipio) (“municipalities”), which may be entirely urban or consist of a town or central village as well as its hinterland. Members of municipio governments are typically elected for three-year terms.

      The judicial system consists of several courts, including the Supreme Court of Justice , whose 11 members are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Congress; the Electoral Tribunal, which is sworn to oversee elections; the Federal Judicial Council; and numerous circuit and district courts. Although Mexico has both federal and state courts, most serious cases are heard in federal courts by judges without the assistance of juries.

      According to law, defendants have several rights to assure fair trials and humane treatment; in practice, however, the system is overburdened and riddled with problems. In spite of determined efforts by some authorities to fight theft, fraud, and violent crime, few Mexicans have strong confidence in the police or the judicial system, and therefore a large percentage of crimes go unreported. On the other hand, poor and indigenous defendants suffer an inordinate share of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and many are held for long periods prior to trials or sentencing. Mexico's prisons, like most of those in Latin America, are generally overcrowded and notorious for unhealthful conditions, corruption, and abuses of various kinds. The vast majority of Mexican prisoners are held in hundreds of state and local facilities, although smaller numbers are in federal prisons.

Political process
      Mexico's political system revolves around a limited number of large political parties, while on its fringes are a group of smaller parties. The most powerful political party in the 20th century was the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional; PRI), which ran Mexico as an effective one-party state from 1929 until the late 20th century. During this period the PRI never lost a presidential election—though often there were allegations of vote rigging—and the vast majority of its gubernatorial candidates were similarly successful. Typically, the sitting president, as leader of the party, selected its next presidential candidate—thus effectively choosing a successor. Ernesto Zedillo (Zedillo, Ernesto), the president from 1994 to 2000, broke from that tradition in 1999, prompting the PRI to hold a primary election to choose a candidate; Zedillo also instituted other electoral reforms. As a result, in 2000 the PRI's presidential candidate was defeated by Vicente Fox Quesada (Fox, Vicente) of the conservative National Action Party (Partido de Acción Popular; PAN), who led an opposition coalition, the “Alliance for Change,” to victory, marking the end of 71 years of continuous rule by the PRI. (The party had already lost control of the Chamber of Deputies in 1997.) The election, which was monitored by tens of thousands of Mexican and international observers, was considered to be the fairest and most democratic in Mexico's troubled electoral history.

      In subsequent elections PAN, the PRI, and the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática; PRD), which had also emerged as a major political party in the 1990s, continued to win a large number of congressional seats and to vie for control of the Federal District, several states, and the national government. Among the lesser parties are the Mexican Ecological Green Party (Partido Verde Ecologista Mexicano; PVEM), the leftist Labour Party (Partido del Trabajo; PT), and the Democratic Convergence Party (PCD). Mexico also has several small communist parties.

      A woman suffrage movement began in Mexico in the 1880s and gained momentum during the Mexican Revolution (1910–20). Women were first allowed to vote in the Yucatán in 1917. Elsewhere in Mexico, however, women could not vote in local elections or hold local office until 1947. A constitutional amendment in 1953 extended those rights to national elections and offices. By the early 21st century women occupied about one-fifth of the seats in the Senate and more than one-fourth in the Chamber of Deputies, as well as a small number of ministerial and Supreme Court positions. Many states require that no more than 70 to 80 percent of candidates be of one gender. Although all Mexican citizens age 18 and older are required by law to vote, enforcement is lax. Mexicans living outside the country, including millions in the United States, are now allowed to vote by absentee ballot.

      Several types of police operate within Mexico at federal, state, and local levels. However, there is a general perception that police and political corruption is endemic at all levels, with the mordida (“bite”), which can alternatively be seen as a bribe or as unofficial, informal payment for official service, remaining a mainstay.

      Mexico's armed forces include an air force, a navy with about one-fifth of the military's total personnel, and an army constituting nearly three-fourths of the total. Military service is mandatory at age 18 for a period of one year. The military has not openly interfered with elections or governance since the 1920s, in marked contrast with civil-military relations elsewhere in Latin America.

      Sometimes the military takes part in law enforcement, particularly in counternarcotics operations, and it has often focused its efforts on perceived threats to internal security, including groups suspected of insurgency or terrorism. For example, many military and police units were deployed in southern Mexico in the late 20th century to combat the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN; also called the Zapatistas), which launched an open rebellion in 1994 in Chiapas (and remained active more than a decade later). Although the government respects the human rights of most citizens, serious abuses of power have been reported as part of the security operations in southern Mexico and in the policing of indigenous communities and poor urban neighbourhoods.

Health and welfare
      There are pronounced differences in health conditions from region to region within Mexico. In general, rural areas have much higher mortality and morbidity levels than do urban areas. Regions with large indigenous populations, such as Chiapas, Oaxaca, and portions of Guerrero, as well as isolated mountainous sections of the Mesa Central, have especially low health standards and high death rates. There also are great differences in health conditions among social classes in cities. Poor and indigenous Mexicans tend to suffer from an inordinate share of illness associated with unsafe water supplies, infections, and respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, as well as with physical violence. Generally speaking, the leading causes of death in Mexico are diseases of the circulatory system, diabetes mellitus, cancers, accidents and violence, and diseases of the digestive and respiratory systems.

      Federally subsidized medical and hospital care is available to all Mexican citizens. Several government institutions, including the Mexican Social Security Institute and the Security and Social Services Institute for Government Workers, operate hospitals. Public medicine, like public education, is considered inferior to private care, however, and those who can afford it avail themselves of private physicians and hospitals.

      Clinics, though sometimes attended only by a nurse, are found throughout the country. Anything more than the most basic medical needs, however, must be handled in the cities. The quality of medical service varies throughout the country, with Mexico City by far the principal centre for specialized treatment. The overall quality of medical care in Mexico lags behind that available in the United States and Europe, and many Mexicans travel outside the country for more-sophisticated surgical procedures or treatments.

      In spite of government efforts to extend health care to disadvantaged citizens, in rural areas and among poorer families, modern medicine is often considered too expensive or difficult to obtain, or it is not trusted. In many cases curanderos (traditional healers) or shamans are sought for their knowledge of curative herbs and other folk remedies. Hot springs and saunalike sweat baths are used in some indigenous communities.

      A lack of adequate housing is one of Mexico's most serious problems. Within the cities the federal government has built multiunit housing projects, but urban populations have increased more rapidly than new units can be constructed, and economic difficulties have reduced the funds available for new construction. Although substandard housing is more visible in urban areas, living conditions are also unhealthful in some rural areas. In virtually all urban areas, peripheral squatter settlements are a major feature of the landscape. Rural migrants, as well as members of the urban underclass, build makeshift housing, often of used or discarded materials, on unoccupied lands at the edges of cities. These colonias initially lack the most basic urban services (water, electricity, sewerage), but most evolve over time into very modest but livable communities.

      Mexico has made significant efforts to improve educational opportunities for its people. School attendance is required for children ages 6 to 18, and since 2004 preschool has been mandatory as well. In addition to increasing the number of schools for children, adult literacy programs have been promoted vigorously since the 1970s. By the turn of the 21st century it was estimated that about nine-tenths of Mexicans were literate, up nearly 20 percent since 1970.

      Public schools in Mexico are funded by the federal government. Although nearly three-fourths of all primary public schools are located in rural areas, such schools are the poorest in the country and often do not cover the primary cycle. Many internal migrants move to cities because of the availability of better schools for their children and the social opportunities that derive from an education. In rural areas as well as in many low-income urban areas, teachers need only a secondary education to be certified to teach. Despite increases in the numbers of schoolrooms, teachers, and educational supplies, about one-seventh of all school-age children do not attend school, and almost one-third of adults have not completed primary school.

      Nevertheless, nearly half of the Mexican population has completed a secondary (high school) degree, though secondary schools are virtually nonexistent in rural areas. As with primary education, private secondary schools are considered vastly superior to public ones, and families who can afford it send their children to private schools. This contributes to the socioeconomic imbalance that greatly favours the middle and upper classes.

 Universities are found only in the largest cities. Moreover, of the more than 50 universities in the country, one-fifth are located in Mexico City, and a high proportion of all university students study there. The National Autonomous University of Mexico (Mexico, National Autonomous University of) (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; UNAM), the College of Mexico, and the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education are among the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the country. Although two million university students are enrolled in courses every year, less than one-eighth of the population has a tertiary degree.

Cultural life

Cultural milieu
      Mexican society is ethnically and regionally diverse, and there are sharp socioeconomic divisions within the population. Many rural communities maintain strong allegiances to regions, often referred to as patrias chicas (“small homelands”), which help to perpetuate cultural diversity. The large number of indigenous languages and customs, especially in the south, also accentuate cultural differences. However, Indigenismo, or pride in the indigenous heritage, has been a major unifying theme of the country since the 1930s. In attempts to unite the country culturally by identifying a uniquely Mexican culture, the government has sometimes supported indigenous folk arts and crafts as well as the European-inspired classical arts.

Daily life and social customs
      Daily life in Mexico varies dramatically according to socioeconomic level, gender, ethnicity and racial perceptions, regional characteristics, rural versus urban differences, and other social and cultural factors. A Mayan peasant in the forests of the Yucatán leads an utterly different existence than the successful lawyer in Toluca or a lower-middle-class worker in Monterrey. Further differences are exacerbated by the large number of Mexican expatriates in the United States who eventually return, either for short-term visits or permanently, and, in turn, import many “American” ways of life. These differences give Mexico much of its character and colour, but they also present the country with stubborn challenges. But, notwithstanding the vast range of lifestyles and class-based opportunities in Mexico, some similarities are widely shared.

Class (social class) divisions
      Mexican society is sharply divided by income and educational level. Although a middle class has struggled to expand in the cities, the principal division is between the wealthy, well-educated elite and the urban and rural poor, who constitute the vast majority of the population.

      Widespread rural poverty is a serious problem. An increasing proportion of the rural population is landless and depends on day labour, often at less than minimum wages, for survival. In many areas, but particularly in the northern half of the country, large landholders form an agricultural elite. Controlling extensive resources and often using modern mechanized farming methods, they receive a huge proportion of the income generated by agriculture. A rural middle class has evolved, but it represents only a small percentage of total agriculturalists.

      By far the largest segment of the urban population is in the lowest socioeconomic class. Many city dwellers have incomes below the official poverty level, including a significant percentage of workers who are government employees. Extensive squatter settlements, often lacking basic services, are a common element of all Mexican cities. In contrast, the relatively affluent middle- and upper-income groups enjoy the amenities of urban life and control most of the social, political, and economic activity of the country.

family and gender issues
      Family remains the most important element of Mexican society, both in private and in public life. An individual's status and opportunities are strongly influenced by family ties, from infancy to old age. Many households, in both rural and urban areas, are inhabited by three or more generations because of the economic advantage (or necessity) of sharing a roof as well as traditionally close relationships. Mexicans generally maintain strong links with members of their extended families, including in-laws and “adoptive” relatives—that is, friends of the family who are generally regarded as “aunts” and “uncles.” Because of the importance of family in Mexican life, it is not uncommon to find the elderly, adults, teenagers, and small children attending parties and dances together. As in other countries, weddings are some of the more lavish family-oriented events in Mexico, but many families also celebrate a young woman's quinceañera (15th birthday party) with similar extravagance.

      Partly as a consequence of women's increasing engagement in work outside the home, particularly among the middle and upper classes, there is an increasing tendency to share domestic chores, including infant care, but among the lower classes “women's work” still tends to be strictly circumscribed. Double standards also tend to prevail in regard to dating, leisure activities, and educational choices. Many males believe that their self-identity is tied to displays of machismo (male chauvinism), whereas women are often expected to be submissive and self-denying—an ideal that may be described as marianismo, in reference to the Virgin Mary. Although many Mexicans have broken away from these molds, violence and discrimination against women remain major concerns. Moreover, most incidents of domestic violence go unreported and unpunished owing to prevailing social attitudes and a deep distrust of the justice system.

Food and drink
      For the vast majority of Mexicans of all economic levels, cuisine varies greatly by region but depends heavily on an ancient trinity of staples: corn (maize), beans—which provide an excellent source of protein—and squash. Rice is another staple usually served side-by-side with beans. In addition, Mexicans tend to make liberal use of avocados (often in the form of guacamole), chili peppers, amaranth, tomatoes, papayas, potatoes, lentils, plantains, and vanilla (a flavouring that is pre-Columbian in origin). Hot peppers (often served in a red or green sauce) and salt are the most common condiments. Maize tortillas are often served on a plate alongside main dishes, and the smell of toasted or burned corn permeates many households. Dairy products and red meat—often in the form of fried fast foods—form a small part of the diet of most poor people but contribute to a high incidence of heart disease and diabetes among the middle classes and elites. However, even poor Mexicans have begun consuming portions of processed foods that have arrived in the form of cheap imports.

      Among the preferred desserts are sweet breads (including iced buns and oversized cookies), chocolates (which originated in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica), and dulce de leche (caramelized milk, also called cajeta or leche quemada [“burned milk”]). On city sidewalks and streets, little bells announce the approach of paleteros, ambulatory vendors whose small insulated carts are filled with frozen paletas (popsicle-like treats made from creams or juices) and ice cream. Sugar-battered flautas (deep-fried filled corn tortillas), another treat, are popular with children.

      Meals are often washed down with aguas frescas (watery sweet drinks, usually chilled), including jamaica (a deep red or purple drink made from the calyxes of roselle flowers), horchata (a milky rice-based drink), and drinks flavoured with watermelon or other fresh fruit. Also popular are soft drinks, licuados (fruit shakes, or smoothies), and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Great fame and potency are attributed to mescal, a class of fermented agave drinks that includes tequila (made from at least 51 percent blue agave in the vicinity of the town of Tequila). Domestic and imported beers are also in great demand among those who consume alcohol. During the Christmas holidays and on the Day of the Dead, one of the more popular drinks is atole (or atol), a hot combination of corn or rice meal, water, and spices.

      Popular dishes vary by region and individual circumstances, but some of the more widely enjoyed foods include tortillas (flat bread wraps made from wheat or maize flour), enchiladas, cornmeal tamales (cooked within corn husks or banana leaves), burritos, soft-shell tacos, tortas (sandwiches of chicken, pork, or cheese and vegetables enclosed in a hard roll), stuffed chili peppers, and quesadillas (tortillas filled with soft cheese and meat). Other favourites are soups and spicy stews such as menudo (made from beef tripe and fresh vegetables) and pozole (stewed hominy and pork). Seafood dishes such as pulpo (octopus), chilpachole (spicy crab soup), and ceviche (seafood marinated in lime or lemon juice) are more popular in coastal and lacustrine areas. In Oaxaca and a few other states, fried and spiced chapulines (grasshoppers) are considered a delicacy. A favourite among the Nahua Indians is huitlacoche (corn fungus) served within fat-fried quesadillas.

      Many families and households still gather for a large midday meal at 2 or 3 PM, followed by a siesta (afternoon nap), but this tradition—once much associated with Mexican life, at least by foreigners—has become less common owing to company-mandated lunch hours, long commutes in Mexico City, and the demands placed upon farm and factory workers who are distant from their homes. Massive supermarkets now exist alongside local ferias (markets), but, in smaller towns and villages as well as in many urban neighbourhoods, open-air street markets are still active.

Holidays and festivals
 Most of Mexico's holidays are associated with Christian feast days, including the pre-Lenten Carnaval, Easter, and the Christmas holidays ( Las Posadas—lasting from December 16 to Christmas Eve, December 24), as well as festivals for patron saints. December 12 is the fiesta of the country's patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe (Guadalupe, Our Lady of). For several weeks in January, the city of Morelia celebrates its fiesta of the Immaculate Conception, and on January 17 pets and livestock in many areas are festooned with flowers and ribbons for the fiesta of San Antonio Abad. Around the world Mexico is known for its celebration of the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) on November 1, which is also known as All Saints' Day. Halloween (October 31) and All Souls' Day (November 2) are also locally important. During this period and in the preceding weeks, families celebrate the spirits of departed loved ones in various ways, including erecting ofrendas (small altars) in their houses, decorating tombs, and eating skull-shaped candies and sweet breads. It is both a celebration of one's ancestors, with whom many believe they can communicate during these events, and an acceptance of death as natural and inevitable rather than as something to be feared.

       Columbus Day (October 12) is celebrated as the Día de la Raza (“Race Day”) in recognition of the mixed indigenous and European heritage of Mexico—the mestizo character of its population—and because many Mexicans object to paying homage to the controversial explorer and conqueror Christopher Columbus (Columbus, Christopher). Labour Day (May 1) in Mexico is part of an international holiday. The more widely celebrated patriotic events are Independence Day (September 16) and Cinco de Mayo (May 5), which commemorates a victory over French invaders in 1862. At 11 PM on the evening before Independence Day, crowds gather in plazas throughout the country to join political leaders in the clamorous grito (battle cry of independence), a reenactment of the Grito de Dolores uttered by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, parish priest of Dolores, in 1810.

The arts
      Mexican writers and artists have received worldwide acclaim for their creativity and originality. Within their work both a folk and a classical tradition have been strong.

 The country's best-known writers have gained their reputations by dealing with questions of universal significance, as did Samuel Ramos, whose philosophical speculations on humanity and culture in Mexico influenced post-1945 writers in several genres. The prolific critic and cultural analyst Octavio Paz (Paz, Octavio) is considered by many to be the foremost poet of Latin America. The novels of Carlos Fuentes (Fuentes, Carlos) are honoured throughout the world, and Juan José Arreola (Arreola, Juan José)'s fantasies are widely admired. Among dramatists, Rodolfo Usigli, Luisa Josefina Hernández, and Emilio Carballido have made important contributions.

 Perhaps the most widely recognized Mexican art form is the mural, which is heavily influenced by the extant art and architecture of the Aztec, Maya, and other pre-Columbian civilizations. The Mexican Muralist school counted among its members the most powerful figures of the genre. The murals created by Diego Rivera (Rivera, Diego), José Clemente Orozco (Orozco, José Clemente), and David Alfaro Siqueiros (Siqueiros, David Alfaro), depicting aspects of the Mexican Revolution, the country's modernization, and class struggle, have become legendary. Orozco is also perhaps the most popular of Mexico's folk artists. His animated plaster-of-paris skeleton characters are both satirical and lifelike. Other notable artists include Rufino Tamayo (Tamayo, Rufino), Juan Soriano, and Frida Kahlo (Kahlo, Frida).

      As in other Latin American countries, music and dance have provided cross-generational cohesion in Mexico. Although traditional music, including mariachi and ranchero songs, vie for listeners with Mexican hip-hop and salsa, countless popular songs have been passed down from generation to generation, resulting in a shared sensibility that bonds families and provides a social glue for regional and national culture. mariachi music features guitars, violins, and brass instruments, but electronic synthesizers and heavy downbeats can be added to produce nortec music, and accordions often accompany norteño bands (see Tejano). Other popular instruments include four-string acoustic bass guitars, tambourines, drums, and small guitars called requintos. In addition to their own musical creations, many Mexicans enjoy Latin imports such as cumbia and danzón and various styles of rock and pop music.

      Mexico has a long theatrical tradition that is kept alive by myriad professional, academic, and indigenous groups. Some would argue that lucha libre (Mexican professional wrestling), with its masked heroes and cheering throngs, is a popular arm of theatre. However, these and most other dramatic events now depend more on television and other electronic media than on theatrical performance. Television permeates the country, so that viewers in every region and socioeconomic group appreciate evening fare such as telenovelas (soap operas), game shows, sports events, musical variety shows, and an array of motion pictures. Many of the most popular programs are produced within Mexico, but others are imported from Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, or other Latin American countries.

      Although Mexico's film (motion picture) industry is one of the largest in the region, Hollywood-produced action films, dubbed into Spanish, are a preferred genre throughout the country. Several Mexican actors and filmmakers have been internationally recognized, including directors Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores perros, 2000; Babel, 2006), Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también, 2001), and Guillermo del Toro (El laberinto del fauno [2006; Pan's Labyrinth]). Spanish director Luis Buñuel (Buñuel, Luis) and French Surrealist André Breton (Breton, André) both spent many years in Mexico, and their influences are seen in the works of current Mexican directors. In 2002 Salma Hayek became the first Mexican actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actress, for Frida. One of Mexico's most distinguished visual artists is photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Álvarez Bravo, Manuel).

Cultural institutions
      Universities and museums in every major city provide institutional support for art and cultural events. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church cannot be overlooked as a patron of select forms of art and entertainment throughout the country, including the street dramas and dances that accompany local fiestas. To encourage and help disseminate Mexican art in all its forms, the federal government sponsors the National Institute of Fine Arts. Under its auspices are the programs of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Ballet Folklorico, and the Modern and Classical Ballet, all of which perform nationally and internationally to promote Mexican culture. Folk and popular culture also receive support through government bodies, among them the Native Institute, which seeks to preserve and stimulate traditional craftsmanship.

      Among Mexico's internationally acclaimed museums are the Museum of Folk Art, the immense National Museum of Anthropology, and its offshoot the National Museum of History. In suburban Mexico City is the Luis Barragán (Barragán, Luis) House and Studio, which honours the Mexican architect and was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2004. Away from the capital, Monterrey's Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the country's many noteworthy regional cultural centres.

Sports and recreation
      As in most of Latin America, football (soccer) commands the passion of Mexican sports fans of all ages. From small towns to Mexico City, virtually everything comes to a halt when the Mexican national team competes in a World Cup match. Mexico hosted the World Cup finals in 1970 and 1986.

      During the colonial period and the 19th century, bullfighting was the Mexican sport of choice. Whether the matadors were Spaniards or Mexican-born, huge crowds gathered to cheer their efforts in the bullring. Bullfighting remains an integral part of Mexican culture, and it was not until the introduction of baseball in the late 19th century that many Mexican fans transferred some of their loyalty away from bullfighting. Several Mexican players have distinguished themselves in the U.S. major leagues, most notably pitcher Fernando Valenzuela (Valenzuela, Fernando), winner of the Cy Young Award in 1981.

      Mexican boxers and long-distance runners have also had great success in international competition, including lightweight boxing champion Julio César Chávez (Chávez, Julio César). In 1968 Mexico became the first developing country to host an Olympiad (Olympic Games); Mexico City was the site of the Summer Games—though the event was notorious for its cost overruns and the public demonstrations and violence immediately preceding it, including the shooting of hundreds of demonstrators by the military.

      Mexico maintains a system of national and state parks, reserves, and other protected lands. The country's first protected area was created by presidential decree in 1876. Subsequent decrees designated Mexico's first forest reserve in 1898 and its first national park, Desierto de los Leones (“Desert of the Lions”), near Mexico City in 1917. The backbone of the park system was created by two presidents: during the 1930s Lázaro Cárdenas (Cárdenas, Lázaro) established some 40 national parks and 7 reserves, and José López Portillo (López Portillo, José) (1976–82) added another 9 national parks and 20 reserves. However, the government's limited budget does not adequately fund and staff the park system. As a result, environmental pollution, illegal logging, heavy tourist traffic, and other human actions are major threats to public lands.

      Among Mexico's larger national parks are Cumbres de Monterrey (Monterrey Peaks), which was created in 1939 around picturesque canyons and slopes in the Sierra Madre Oriental; Cañón del Sumidero (Sumidero Canyon) and Valle de los Cirios (Cirios Valley), both founded in 1980; and Sian Ka'an, which was established in 1986 on a large expanse of rainforest in Quintana Roo. Cañón de Río Blanco (White River Canyon) National Park was established in 1938. Hundreds of thousands of tourists annually visit the national parks around Mexico City, including Iztaccihuatl-Popocatépetl (1935) and La Malinche (1938). The country's principal marine parks, established in the 1990s, are the Veracruz Reef System and Scorpions Reef, the latter of which protects a group of islands and reefs north of the Yucatán Peninsula. UNESCO has honoured Mexico by designating a number of places World Heritage sites (World Heritage site), including El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, which is a major sanctuary for gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in Baja California (added to the list in 1993); a national park at Palenque (1987); the Paquimé ( Casas Grandes) and Calakmul archaeological sites (1998 and 2002, respectively); and several ecologically sensitive islands in the Gulf of California (2005).

Media and publishing
      Mexico City is one of the leading publishing centres for Spanish-language books and magazines. It also has a large number of daily newspapers, some of which are respected for their objectivity and relative independence. Although newspapers are guaranteed freedom of the press under the constitution and there is no official censorship, many have been traditionally muted in their criticism of the president and the military. There also are regional tabloids outside the capital, but they have little national impact.

      Mexico is a world leader in the production of Spanish-language television programming, videos, and other electronic media. Its television shows are syndicated throughout the hemisphere, and many of its entertainers are known internationally. Among the more popular local programs and exports are nightly telenovelas and variety shows. By the early 21st century Mexican companies, individuals, and government agencies accounted for a large and increasingly sophisticated share of Spanish-language Internet sites.

Ernst C. Griffin


Pre-Columbian Mexico
      It is assumed that the first inhabitants of Middle America (Middle American Indian) were early American Indians (Mesoamerican Indian), of Asian derivation, who migrated into the area at some time during the final stage of the Pleistocene Epoch. The date of their arrival in central Mexico remains speculative. The assertions of some archaeologists and linguists that early humans resided in Mexico some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, before developing technology for big-game hunting, are rejected by most scholars. More generally accepted claims for early settlers in Mexico pertain to a somewhat later period and to hunters of large herd animals such as the mammoth. Human artifacts and mammoth bones dated to approximately 9000 BC have been found together in the same geologic strata in the Valley of Mexico at Santa Isabel Ixtapan.

      With the increased dryness and change of fauna following the glacial retreat of the last Wisconsin substage (approximately 7500 BC), the inhabitants of Middle America were forced to turn from big-game hunting to other means of subsistence, such as the hunting of small game and the collecting of wild food plants. This mode of existence is best seen in the archaeological discoveries made in the Tehuacán Valley of Puebla.

      In the earlier El Riego (7000–5000 BC) and Coxcatlán (5000–3400 BC) phases of this sequence, the inhabitants of the Tehuacán Valley were probably seasonal nomads who divided their time between small hunting encampments and larger temporary villages, which were used as bases for collecting plants such as various grasses and maguey and cactus fruits. Corn (maize (corn); Zea mays), a wild grass, first came under cultivation at this time, probably as early as 5000 BC, and over the centuries farmers learned to produce hybrids to increase the size of the corn kernels. Avocados, chili peppers, amaranth, zapotes, tepary beans, and squashes were also primitive cultigens. During the Abejas phase (3400–2300 BC), use of cultivated plants increased at the expense of wild plants and, probably, at the expense of hunting. In addition, pumpkins and the common bean were introduced. Toward the end of the phase, more-permanent settlements seem to have developed as pit-house villages. Pottery was being produced as early as the Purron phase (2300–1500 BC).

Early, Middle, and Late Formative periods
      By 2000 BC some village communities in Middle America were sustained largely or wholly by agriculture. Most of these villages were located in southern Mesoamerica, but archaeological finds in Cerro Juanaquena, Chihuahua, not far from the present-day U.S. border, suggest early agricultural development in northern Mexico as well. During the Early Formative Period numerous edible plants were improved by hybridization and more-sophisticated cultivation techniques.

 The Middle Formative Period was a time of transition from simple agricultural village to more-complex societies organized around politico-religious capitals, possibly including densely populated towns. Although these and other societies must have built numerous structures of wood, reeds, and thatch—materials widely available in the surrounding forests—these have long since rotted away under the tropical sun. As a result, archaeologists have tended to focus on stone and earth-filled structures that have withstood the ravages of time. The first large stone-built ceremonial centres and the first monumental stone sculpture date from the Middle Formative Period, about 1000 BC in southern Veracruz and Tabasco. The sites in question are San Lorenzo and La Venta, both of which evolved from small farming villages to impressive urban centres. They are the two prime sites of Olmec art, which exhibited consummate control of both full round and bas-relief forms. The Olmec artists made great stone heads, altars, large mosaic masks, and stelae, and they also worked as lapidaries in exquisite jade figurines and other small objects. They often depicted human faces, although many of these had jaguar mouths and nostrils. Olmec stylistic influence reached to Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Valley of Mexico.

 The Late Formative Period saw the spread of complex societies throughout much of Middle America. Hieroglyphics and complex calendrical calculations appeared. These elements of civilization are first noted in association with the Tres Zapotes, Izapan, and early Oaxacan art styles. The true city or urban centre also came into being during this period. One of the earliest manifestations of densely settled city life occurred in the Valley of Mexico at Teotihuacán, which eventually covered an area of some 8 square miles (20 square km) and housed between 125,000 and 200,000 residents. The monumental ruins of the city, including the enormous Pyramid of the Sun and the 130-foot- (40-metre-) wide Avenue of the Dead, remain a focus of archaeological study and a major tourist draw.

Classic Period
 By the end of the Late Formative Period (100 BC–AD 300), polychrome ceramics, the use of the corbeled vault in temple construction, the foreshadowings of Classic Mayan (Maya) art, and the Initial Series calendrical system all were evident in the Maya Lowlands. These and other Middle American aesthetic and religious patterns crystallized in the Classic Period. During the Early Classic subperiod (AD 300–600), Tikal, Uaxactún (both in present-day Guatemala), and Copán (Honduras) all produced remarkable art and architecture. In the Late Classic subperiod, between AD 600 and 900, ceremonial centres in the Maya Lowlands proliferated, as did the carving and erection of the inscribed and dated stelae and monuments. Farming techniques became more sophisticated, abstract thinking soared, and Maya astronomers and mathematicians finished work on what was perhaps the world's most accurate calendar.

 After a spectacular run of several centuries, Middle America's classical world began to disintegrate, although the probable causes are a matter of debate among archaeologists. The city of Teotihuacán was burned about AD 750. Within the next few centuries the leading commercial, political, and religious power in the Valley of Mexico seems to have become the Toltec, peoples of Uto-Aztecan speech who invaded central Mexico from the north and who established their capital at Tula.

Post-Classic Period
      The Post-Classic Period was marked by the apparent breakup of the old Classic Period cultures, with their distinctive art and architectural styles. Although the Classic world was not as peaceful as earlier believed, during the Post-Classic Period fortifications and warlike themes in art attest to a more militaristic attitude throughout much of Middle America.

      In the Yucatán, Chichén Itzá appears to have lost its position of leadership about AD 1200. Thereafter, there seems to have been something of a Maya resurgence, with the Yucatecan capital being eventually established at the walled city of Mayapán. In the later Post-Classic Period the Aztecs reached out from their capital, Tenochtitlán (Mexico City), located where Mexico City now stands, to become the dominant force in Middle America. (For more-detailed treatment, see Maya; pre-Columbian civilizations: Mesoamerican civilization (pre-Columbian civilizations).)

Gordon R. Willey Michael C. Meyer Ed.

The rise of the Aztecs (Aztec)
      The word Azteca is derived from Aztlán (variously translated as “White Land,” “Land of White Herons,” or “Place of Herons”), where, according to Aztec tradition, their people originated, somewhere in the northwestern region of Mexico. The Aztecs are also known as Mexica or Tenochca. Tenoch, or Tenochca, was a legendary patriarch who gave his name to Tenochtitlán, the city founded by the Aztecs on an island in Lake Texcoco, in the Valley of Mexico. The name Mexica came to be applied not only to the ancient city of Tenochtitlán but also to the modern Mexican country and its inhabitants (Mexico, Mexicans).

      The language of the Aztecs was Nahuatl (Nahua (Nahuatl language)), part of the Uto-Aztecan (Uto-Aztecan languages) linguistic family that, at the time of the early explorations of America by Europeans, was influencing languages as far north as the Yellowstone River and as far south as Panama. Once the Aztecs achieved political ascendancy, Nahuatl became the lingua franca of an area almost as large as present-day Mexico.

      The empire the Aztecs established was equaled in the New World only by that of the Incas (Inca) of Peru, and the brilliance of their civilization is comparable to that of other great ancient cultures of America and the Old World. From their legendary land of Aztlán, the Aztecs came into contact with the highly developed Toltec civilization of central Mexico and its capital, Tula, a magnificent urban centre with pyramids, temples, public buildings, statuary, private residences, and ball courts. The appearance of the Aztecs is linked, however, not to the splendour of Tula and of the Toltec but to their decline. For reasons not fully known but having to do with internal social, political, and religious conflicts, a tremendous cultural catastrophe occurred at the beginning of the 12th century AD. The city of Tula was attacked and destroyed, as were other important Toltec centres. Tribes of hunters and gatherers took advantage of the situation and added to the chaos, traveling from the arid plateau of northern Mexico toward the fertile, heavily settled central zone. Among them were the Acolhua in the 1100s and, in the 1200s, the Chichimecs (Chichimec), who settled at Tenayuca; the Otomí, who took control of Xaltocan; the Tepanecs, who conquered Atzcapotzalco; and the Aztecs. Except for the Otomí, all were Nahuatl speakers.

      According to Aztec legend, from the beginning of the 12th century to the beginning of the 13th, the Aztecs wandered in search of a new place to settle. During that time a group of Chichimec, under the leadership of Xólotl, established a capital in Tenayuca and later in Texcoco. Xólotl's Chichimec joined forces with the remaining Toltec, who were firmly entrenched in Culhuacán. Apparently, this confederation led to a period of relative peace and cultural progress in the Valley of Mexico. During this time the Aztecs established a precarious home near the ruins of Tula, where they improved their agricultural methods and other technological knowledge. But their stay was temporary. Aztec tradition has it that the god Huitzilopochtli ordered them to leave again in search of a permanent home, which would be indicated by an eagle perched on a nopal cactus with a serpent in its beak.

      Their long pilgrimage ended in the year of “two house,” according to their calendar (AD 1325). On a small island in Lake Texcoco (Texcoco, Lake), elder members of the tribe spotted the eagle, the cactus, and the serpent. There they built a temple and, around it, the first dwellings of what was to become the powerful city of Tenochtitlán. Five centuries later the capital city's foundation story would be depicted and memorialized on Mexico's national flag.

      The swamp-surrounded island on which the Aztecs took refuge was so uninviting that none of the powers in the Valley of Mexico had claimed it. Tenochtitlán was thus located at the edge of the lands occupied by the valley's three powers: the Chichimec of Texcoco, the Toltec of Culhuacán, and the Tepanec of Atzcapotzalco. It was not long before the Aztecs used their strategic position to advantage by aiding the Tepanec in a war of expansion against the Toltec, the Chichimec, and other neighbouring peoples. And by 1428 the Aztecs' ruler, Itzcoatl (“Obsidian Snake”), and his chief adviser, Tlacaelel, led the Aztecs in conquering their old allies and overlords. Under a succession of ambitious kings in the 15th century, the Aztecs established a dominion that eventually stretched over most of present-day Mexico.

 The almost incredible story of a small wandering tribe that was able to build an empire in one century (from the beginning of the 14th century to the beginning of the 15th) can be largely explained by three main factors: Aztec religion, the economy of the Valley of Mexico, and Aztec sociopolitical organization.

 Aztec religion centred around the fierce sun (sun worship) god Huitzilopochtli. After battling his way across the sky each day, he returned to the bosom of the earth, his mother ( Coatlicue), where he renewed his strength in order to take up the fight against darkness. In order to guarantee human existence, the Aztecs, as “people of the sun,” had to nourish Huitzilopochtli with human blood. For them war was therefore a religious obligation that provided prisoners who could be sacrificed to the sun god. As their power grew, the Aztecs ritually murdered prisoners from all parts of what is now Mexico in Tenochtitlán, often by ripping their still-beating hearts from their chests. (See also pre-Columbian civilizations: Aztec religion (pre-Columbian civilizations).)

 The economic basis of the Aztec hegemony was the Valley of Mexico's agriculture, characterized for several centuries by irrigation systems and chinampas (chinampa), the misnamed “floating gardens” that were actually a raised-field system of agriculture. Rich soil from the bottom of a lake was piled up to form ridges between rows of ditches or canals. With the mild climate and ample water for irrigation, the chinampas yielded multiple harvests each year. The high productivity of the systems resulted in a heavy density of population in the Valley of Mexico and the development of large urban centres. In the early 16th century the population of the valley may have fluctuated around 2,000,000, with some cities approaching or exceeding 100,000. Because of this enormous concentration of population and economic resources, the Valley of Mexico became the key to power in the central part of the country.

      From very early times, another factor contributed to the strategic importance of the Valley of Mexico: a system of lakes (Texcoco, Chalco, Xochimilco, Xaltoca, and Zumpango) that were connected naturally and by means of artificial canals. Extensive water transportation on the lakes compensated for the lack of the wheel and of domesticated pack animals and, in no small measure, furthered the early economic and political unification of the valley.

      All these factors served as powerful stimuli to trade. Probably in keeping with an ancient tradition, the merchants (pochteca) of Aztec society were organized in powerful guilds, which even started wars on their own and sent trading expeditions as far as Central America. It was on the basis of the geographic data collected by their merchants, often wandering through hostile territory, that the Aztecs drew up maps not only for economic purposes but for military use as well.

      The third essential factor in Aztec imperialism was the empire's complex sociopolitical organization, the levels and functions of which were poorly understood by Spanish chroniclers (and continue to be debated among anthropologists). For example, the division of the tribe into calpulli (“big houses”), pseudo family units established in Tenochtitlán, has sometimes been interpreted as proof of an egalitarian organization. Yet, evidence of social stratification is indisputable. Aztec society has also been interpreted as “feudal.” This assertion is based on the existence of an Aztec hereditary nobility. Nevertheless, the relation of these noble groups to the Aztec kings, to the rest of society, and to land ownership was distinct from Old World feudalism, partly because the Aztec monarch's rule was more absolute. During the reign of Montezuma II, the ninth Aztec king (1502–20), Aztec officials produced codices that recorded the organization of the empire into provinces and the payment of tribute according to the production of each region. A gigantic political, military, and religious bureaucracy was built up, with governors, tax collectors, courts of justice, military garrisons, mail and messenger services, and other civil offices. Along with their feverish efforts at political organization, the Aztecs had the strength to subjugate their allies, Texcoco and Tacuba, and to undertake new campaigns as far south as Central America.

Angel Palerm Michael C. Meyer Ed.
      For fuller treatment of Maya, Aztec, and other Middle American civilizations, see pre-Columbian civilizations.

Conquest of Mexico
      Diego Velázquez (Velázquez de Cuéllar, Diego), governor of Cuba, laid the foundation for the conquest of Mexico. In 1517 and 1518 Velázquez sent out expeditions headed by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba and Juan de Grijalba (Grijalba, Juan de) that explored the coasts of Yucatán and the Gulf of Mexico. Velázquez commissioned Hernán Cortés (Cortés, Hernán, marqués del Valle de Oaxaca) to outfit an expedition to investigate their tales of great wealth in the area. Spending his own fortune and a goodly portion of Velázquez's, Cortés left Havana in November 1518, following a break in relations with Velázquez. Cortés landed in Mexico and then freed himself from Velázquez's overlordship by founding the city of Veracruz and establishing a town council (cabildo) that in turn empowered him to conquer Mexico in the name of Charles I (Charles V) of Spain. Meanwhile, rumours of ships as large as houses reached Tenochtitlán, and to them were added prophecies of the imminent return of the deity Quetzalcóatl.

 Divining that Mexico was a fabulously wealthy realm held together by sheer force and that the Aztec ruler Montezuma held him in superstitious awe, Cortés pushed into central Mexico with only about 500 European soldiers. Although the Aztecs soon learned that the Spaniards were not gods—and that the invaders and their horses could be decapitated in battle—their arrival spelled disaster for them and their god Huitzilopochtli. By Aug. 13, 1521, Cortés had taken the capital city of Tenochtitlán, the climax of a brutal two-year campaign. His success was the result of a combination of factors: Montezuma's initial suspicion that Cortés was a returning god; Cortés's abilities as a leader and diplomat; European arms—crossbows, muskets, steel swords, and body armour—and horses and dogs (which were all trained for battle); deadly European diseases against which the indigenous Americans had no immunity; and the aid of Cortés's interpreter-mistress, Marina (La Malinche). Another, especially important factor in the Spaniards' success was the hatred of conquered tribes for the Aztec overlords and Cortés's ability to attract these tribes as allies, meaning that thousands of Indian warriors joined the Spanish invasion. Without them the Spanish conquest would not have succeeded, at least not at that time. Moreover, Cortés's capture of Montezuma threw the Aztecs into disarray, at least until the king's violent death. Despite a heroic defense and the efforts of the last two Aztec kings, Cuitláhuac and Cuauhtémoc, Tenochtitlán was besieged and utterly destroyed. Over the island-city's still-smoldering ruins, the Spaniards began building a new capital with the erection of a Christian cathedral on the stones of Huitzilopochtli's temple. (See also Aztec; history of Latin America: Early Latin America (Latin America, history of).)

Marvin David Bernstein Michael C. Meyer Ed.

Expansion of Spanish rule
      After taking possession of the Aztec empire, the Spaniards quickly subjugated most of the other indigenous tribes in southern Mexico, and by 1525 Spanish rule had been extended as far south as Guatemala and Honduras. The only area in southern Mexico of effective indigenous resistance was Yucatán, inhabited by Maya societies. Francisco de Montejo undertook the conquest of this region in 1526, but, because of determined Maya resistance and unforgiving terrain, it was nearly 20 years before the Spaniards won control of the northern end of the peninsula. Some indigenous peoples in the interior remained independent for another century and a half.

      The occupation of northern Mexico, which was thinly populated and largely arid, proceeded more slowly than did that of central and southern Mexico. Spanish expansion in this area was motivated chiefly by the hope of discovering precious metals, the need for defense against nomadic indigenous raiders, and the desire to forestall incursions by the British and French.

      Between 1530 and 1536 Jalisco and other Pacific coast regions were conquered by Nuño de Guzmán. The Indians of Jalisco rebelled in 1541 but were suppressed after hard fighting in an episode known as the Mixton War. In order to complete the subjugation of the indigenous peoples, the Spaniards began to move into Zacatecas, where in 1546 they found immensely valuable silver mines. After similar discoveries in Guanajuato and San Luis Potosí, Spaniards occupied most of the north central region. Meanwhile, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Álvar), who had shipwrecked on the coast of Texas in 1528, spent eight years making his way across northern Mexico before reaching a Spanish settlement on the Pacific coast and had brought back stories of rich indigenous civilizations—El Dorado and the Seven Cities of Gold—that supposedly existed somewhere in the north. During the years 1540–42 Francisco Vázquez de Coronado (Coronado, Francisco Vázquez de) led an expedition to search for these mythical kingdoms, exploring as far as Kansas before turning back in disappointment. The effective occupation of northern Mexico occurred later in the century and involved prolonged fighting with nomadic Indians. Throughout much of the north, the first Spanish settlers were Franciscans and Jesuits who established missions. At the same time that exploration and settlement were bringing new areas under effective control, an administrative bureaucracy was being put into place. New Spain (New Spain, Viceroyalty of) was organized as a viceroyalty governed by a viceroy appointed by the king.

      Near the end of the 16th century, the northern frontier of New Spain in most areas was close to the present Mexican-U.S. boundary line. Within the area that is now the United States, a settlement had been made in Florida in 1565. In 1598 Juan de Oñate (Oñate, Juan de) began the conquest of New Mexico, though the Pueblo Indians of the region rebelled in 1680 and were not reconquered until 1694. The Pueblo Rebellion was by no means the only example of resistance. Whenever Spanish excesses were deemed oppressive by indigenous civil or religious leaders, rebellion could follow.

      Expansion on the northern frontier of New Spain was also motivated by rival European powers. When France established colonies in Louisiana, the Spanish crown countered with settlements in Texas. Similarly, when motivated by the possibility of a Russian threat on the Pacific coast, the Spaniards began colonies in Louisiana, Texas, and Upper California (the area corresponding to the U.S. state of California). Throughout the 18th century there were incessant boundary disputes between Spain, Britain, France, and subsequently the United States, and some territories changed hands several times. The northern boundary of New Spain remained largely indeterminate until the Adams-Onís Treaty (Transcontinental Treaty) of 1819, by which the United States acquired Florida but recognized Spanish sovereignty over Texas, New Mexico, and California.

Henry Bamford Parkes Michael C. Meyer Ed.

Colonial period, 1701–1821
      As colonial life gradually stabilized itself, more Spanish women emigrated to New Spain, accompanying their fathers and brothers, and greatly altered the social composition of colonial society. Spanish women, especially those who could bring a respectable dowry to marriage, were greatly sought. Although Spanish society, like other European societies, was patriarchal in its relegation of women, wives and daughters could inherit property. By the late colonial period several women could be found running businesses in the cities or administering rural property in New Spain.

      A fundamental shift in the governance of New Spain occurred as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession (Spanish Succession, War of the) (1701–13), when the house of Bourbon (Bourbon, House of) replaced the Habsburgs on the Spanish throne. The Bourbon kings were enlightened despots whose major interests lay in increasing economic returns, and they introduced many French practices and ideas into the overseas administration of the Spanish empire.

      Among the notable administrative reforms undertaken by Charles III in 1784 was the creation of 18 intendancies within which local governments were also reorganized. Headed by the intendancy of Mexico, each intendancy (intendente) (intendencia) was presided over by an intendente who was given considerable autonomy in increasing economic production within his sphere, developing useful arts and sciences, and bettering education and social conditions, all of the latter less for altruistic than for economic reasons.

      Fed by currents of Rationalism from England and Europe, the Enlightenment in Spain and Mexico spurred the spread of new scientific knowledge and, especially, its application to mining and agriculture. Mexico was also influenced by political liberalism when the American and French revolutions called into question the divine right of kings and by growing militarism when the British and Russians encroached on New Spain's colonial frontiers. Having strung a series of mission-forts across northern Mexico, authorities in Madrid and Mexico augmented the few regular Spanish troops that could be spared from the peninsula by fostering a local militia with special exemptions (fueros) granted to Creole (Mexican-born) officers. Thus, an explosive combination resulted from the almost simultaneous appearances of new ideas, guns, and administrative confusion between the old Habsburg and the new Bourbon bureaucracies.

      The turmoil of Napoleonic Europe was the immediate background of the move for Mexican independence. Napoleon I occupied Spain in 1808, imprisoned King Ferdinand VII, and placed his own brother, Joseph Bonaparte (Bonaparte, Joseph), on the Spanish throne. Rebelling, the Spanish resurrected their long-defunct Cortes (representative assembly) to govern in the absence of the legitimate king, and, with representation from the overseas realms, the Cortes in 1812 promulgated a liberal constitution in the king's name. The document provided for a constitutional monarch, popular suffrage, a representative government, and other features taken from the French and U.S. constitutions. But as Spain sent contradictory commands to Mexico, it stimulated rivalries and revolts. The viceregal establishment put down sporadic rebellions by those who professed loyalty to the imprisoned king but who demanded some form of self-government.

      The most important local revolt was sparked by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (Hidalgo y Costilla, Miguel), a parish priest in Dolores. On Sept. 16, 1810—the date now celebrated as Mexican Independence Day—Hidalgo issued the “Grito de Dolores” (Grito de Dolores) (“Cry of Dolores”), calling for the end of rule by Spanish peninsulars, for equality of races, and for redistribution of land.

      Warning that the Spaniards would deliver Mexico to the “godless” French, Hidalgo exhorted his followers to fight and die for the Mexican Virgin (Guadalupe, Our Lady of), Our Lady of Guadalupe (Guadalupe, Our Lady of). When Hidalgo left his tiny village, he marched with his followers into Guanajuato, a major colonial mining centre peopled by Spaniards and Creoles. There the leading citizens barricaded themselves in a public granary. Hidalgo captured the granary on September 28, but he quickly lost control of his rebel army, which massacred most of the Creole elite and pillaged the town.

      Reports of the chaos in Guanajuato fed the support for the viceroy's efforts to crush the rebellion, lest a full-scale caste war ensue. Royalist forces defeated Hidalgo at the Bridge of Calderón on Jan. 18, 1811, and captured him along with other major insurgent leaders on March 19. On July 31 Hidalgo was executed, ending the first of the political civil wars that were to wrack Mexico for three-fourths of a century.

      The Hidalgo cause was taken up by his associate José María Morelos y Pavón (Morelos, José María), another parish priest. With a small but disciplined rebel army he won control of substantial sections of southern Mexico. The constituent congresses, which Morelos called at Chilpancingo (Chilpancingo, Congress of) in 1813, issued at Apatzingán in 1814 formal declarations of independence and drafted republican constitutions for the areas under his military control.

      At about the same time, Napoleonic troops were withdrawing from Spain, and in 1814 Ferdinand VII returned from involuntary exile. One of his first acts was to nullify Spain's liberal 1812 constitution. Spanish troops, which were no longer needed to fight the French, were ordered to crush the Morelos revolution. Captured and defrocked, Morelos was shot as a heretic and a revolutionary on Dec. 22, 1815. Scattered but dwindling guerrilla bands kept alive the populist, republican, nationalist tradition of Hidalgo and Morelos.

      Mexican independence came about almost by accident when constitutionalists in Spain led a rebellion that, in 1820, forced Ferdinand VII to reinstate the liberal constitution of 1812. Conservatives in Mexico, alarmed that anticlerical liberals would threaten their religious, economic, and social privileges, saw independence from Spain as a method of sparing New Spain from such changes. They found a spokesman and able leader in Agustín de Iturbide (Iturbide, Agustín de), a first-generation Creole. Iturbide, who had served as a loyal royalist officer against Hidalgo and others, had been given command of royal troops with which he was to snuff out remnants of the republican movement, then headed by the future president Vicente Guerrero (Guerrero, Vicente).

      While ostensibly fighting Guerrero, however, Iturbide was in fact negotiating with him to join a new independence movement. In 1821 they issued the so-called Iguala Plan (Plan de Iguala), a conservative document declaring that Mexico was to be independent, that its religion was to be Roman Catholicism, and that its inhabitants were to be united, without distinction between Mexican and European. It stipulated further that Mexico would become a constitutional monarchy under Ferdinand VII, that he or some Spanish prince would occupy the throne in Mexico City, and that an interim junta would draw up regulations for the election of deputies to a congress that would write a constitution for the monarchy.

      United as the Army of the Three Guarantees (independence, union, preservation of Roman Catholicism), the combined troops of Iturbide and Guerrero gained control of most of Mexico by the time Juan O'Donojú, appointed Spanish captain general, arrived in the viceregal capital. Without money, provisions, or troops, O'Donojú felt himself compelled to sign the Treaty of Córdoba on Aug. 24, 1821. The treaty officially ended New Spain's dependence on Old Spain, renamed the nation the Mexican Empire, and declared that the congress was to elect an emperor if no suitable European prince could be found. In one of the ironies of history, a conservative Mexico had gained independence from a temporarily liberal Spain.

      Although the Spanish crown initially rejected O'Donojú's recognition of Mexican independence, the date now recognized as that of separation from Old Spain is in fact Aug. 24, 1821.

The Mexican Empire, 1821–23
      The first Mexican Empire spanned only a short transitional period during which Mexico became an independent republic. Independence from the former mother country had been the only glue which bound republicans and monarchists together, but, once that elusive goal had been achieved, the intrinsic animosity between the two came to dominate the body politic.

      Iturbide first became president of a council of regents, which convoked a congress to draw up a new constitution. Deputies to the congress represented the intendancies. When representatives from the Central American intendancies, part of the old viceroyalty of New Spain, declared that they did not wish to remain part of the Mexican Empire, they were allowed to withdraw and to organize their own governments.

 On the evening of May 18, 1822, military groups in Mexico City proclaimed Iturbide Emperor Agustín I, and on the next day a majority in congress ratified the “people's choice” and recommended that the monarchy be hereditary, not elective. Agustín I was crowned in a pompous ceremony on July 21. The empire was recognized by the United States on Dec. 12, 1822, when the Mexican minister was officially received in Washington, D.C. But even then Agustín's power and prestige were ebbing, and conflict soon developed between the military hero-emperor and the primarily civilian congress. On Oct. 31, 1822, the emperor dismissed congress and ruled through an appointed 45-man junta. The act, condemned by many as arbitrary, provided a pretext to revolt. Among the rebel leaders was General Antonio López de Santa Anna (Santa Anna, Antonio López de), who would dominate Mexico's political life for the next third of a century. In Veracruz, on Dec. 2, 1822, Santa Anna proclaimed that Mexico should become a republic, a position supported by many rebels and liberal leaders. Agustín was forced to reconvene congress and to abdicate. In 1824 he returned from European exile but was arrested and shot. This first epoch of independent Mexican national life foreshadowed many problems of the developing republic.

The early republic
      Until they adopted a republican constitution in 1824, the Mexican people had little or no previous experience in self-government. Their economy was precarious; mining, a mainstay in colonial times, had declined during the many years of fighting, and widespread anti-Spanish feelings had caused an exodus of Spaniards, depleting both the country's capital reserves and its pool of trained people. Political instability made borrowing abroad expensive, and nearly all public revenues had to come from customs receipts, which were pledged well in advance. As Mexico's national debt mounted, so did its problems, and it became trapped in a vicious, seemingly unbreakable cycle. Whenever public monies were insufficient to pay the army, its officers revolted, captured the government, and negotiated international loans. The high interest payments on such loans reduced available funds for education and other social and cultural improvements, which many Mexican leaders thought were urgent requirements.

      The constitution of 1824 set a number of democratic goals and provided for a federal republic, consisting of 19 states, four territories, and the Mexico City federal district. Indigenous peoples lost their special colonial status, and accompanying protections, as wards of the government. In many ways they were worse off during the 19th century than they had been under the paternalism of the Spanish crown. In addition, restrictive state legislation excluded the great mass of peasantry from the political process. Because chattel slavery had greatly declined in Mexico and was less widespread than elsewhere in the Americas, a decree abolishing it in 1829 was largely symbolic.

      Under various labels, two factions contended for control. The Centralists, who were generally conservative, favoured a strong central government in the viceregal tradition, a paid national army, and Roman Catholicism as the exclusive religion. Opposed to them were the Federalists, who favoured limited central government, local militia, and nearly autonomous states; they tended to be anticlerical and opposed the continuance of colonial fueros (fuero), which gave special status to ecclesiastics and the military and exempted them from various civil obligations.

      The pendulum of power swung back and forth between the two groups. In 1824 Guadalupe Victoria (Victoria, Guadalupe), a Federalist and a leader in the independence movement, was elected Mexico's first president. Centralists replaced Federalists in 1828. A Federalist revolt in 1829 put Vicente Guerrero (Guerrero, Vicente) in the presidential chair, but he was soon overthrown by the Centralists, who held power until 1832. In 1833 another change placed Federalists in power until 1836, when Centralists again regained control and held it for nearly a decade.

The age of Santa Anna: Texas and the Mexican-American War
      After the downfall of Iturbide, Mexican politics revolved for some time about the enigmatic personality of the charismatic Antonio López de Santa Anna, who seemingly had few fixed ideological or political beliefs. Allied with the Federalists, Santa Anna was first chosen president in 1833, but, rather than serve, he placed the liberal vice president, Valentín Gómez Farías (Gómez Farías, Valentín), at the head of the government until Farías and his group in 1834 attacked the privileges of the clergy. Then Santa Anna assumed his presidential post and nullified the anticlerical legislation. Before his political career ended he would be in and out of the presidency 10 more times.

 Santa Anna was president when difficulties over Texas first began to mount. Under favourable terms, some 30,000 U.S. immigrants had populated that previously desolate area. Fearful that their growing numbers posed a threat, the Mexican government in 1830 closed the border to further immigration and imposed on the Texans oppressive restrictions that contravened the Mexican constitution. When Santa Anna adopted a new constitution in 1836, and in the process eliminated all vestiges of states' rights, Texas declared itself an independent republic. Santa Anna quickly gathered an army to crush the revolt. He met with initial success when he trapped a small Texas garrison at the Alamo and totally eliminated it, but he was defeated and captured by Texas forces in April 1836. Though Mexico made no further efforts to reconquer Texas, it refused to recognize its independence.

      At that time a doctrine now known as Manifest Destiny was a driving sociopolitical force in the United States. It envisioned a United States that would extend from sea to shining sea and perhaps would ultimately encompass all of Mexico. The United States annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845, a move that Mexico saw as the first aggressive step and one which prompted a rupture in diplomatic relations. Santa Anna was overthrown for his apparent willingness to negotiate with the United States.

      Although the United States claimed that the southern boundary of Texas was the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte), the boundary had always been the Nueces River. Shortly after his election in March 1845, U.S. President James K. Polk (Polk, James K.) tried to secure an agreement on the Rio Grande boundary and to purchase California, but the Mexican (Mexican-American War) government refused to discuss either matter. Polk ordered U.S. troops to occupy the disputed territory between the rivers. When Mexican and U.S. patrols clashed in April 1846, Polk asserted that American blood had been shed on American soil—an outrage that he claimed required action. Less-warlike politicians, such as the Illinois congressman Abraham Lincoln, to no avail submitted resolutions asking Polk to point out the precise location of this outrage. Polk's congressional majority formally declared war on Mexico in April.

 Without major difficulty, U.S. troops captured New Mexico and Upper California. General Zachary Taylor (Taylor, Zachary) led the main U.S. force to quick victories in northeastern Mexico. At that juncture the government of Mexican president Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga was overthrown, and Santa Anna reemerged as president in September 1846. Almost immediately, Santa Anna mobilized Mexican forces and marched northward, boasting that the superior numbers and courage of his men meant that he would sign a peace treaty in Washington. Although Taylor and Santa Anna fought a close battle at Buena Vista (Buena Vista, Battle of), Santa Anna was beaten and forced to retreat on Feb. 23, 1847. Both sides sustained heavy losses.

      A change in U.S. strategy left Taylor holding ground in northern Mexico; it was decided that Mexico could be beaten only by capturing Mexico City, via Veracruz. General Winfield Scott (Scott, Winfield) was given command of the expedition. On April 18, 1847, he defeated Santa Anna in the critical battle at Cerro Gordo (Cerro Gordo, Battle of). Though Mexican resistance continued to be formidable, Scott captured Mexico City on Sept. 14, 1847. Santa Anna went into voluntary exile while a new Mexican government negotiated peace.

      Dated Feb. 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Guadalupe Hidalgo, Treaty of) formally ended hostility between the two countries. By its terms Mexico gave up its claims to Texas and ceded all of the territory now occupied by the U.S. states of Utah, Nevada, (Nevada) and California; most of New Mexico and Arizona; and parts of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Wyoming. It was a humiliating dismemberment of almost half of Mexico's national territory (albeit a loss of only about 1 percent of the country's population). The United States paid Mexico $15,000,000 and assumed $3,250,000 in claims held by U.S. citizens against Mexico. Mexican citizens who suddenly found themselves residing in an expanded United States were given the option of returning to Mexico or becoming U.S. citizens and were guaranteed that their property rights would be inviolably respected. Many would learn that the promises looked better on paper than in reality, and they often found themselves being treated as second-class citizens.

      After the war Santa Anna figured in one more major episode before the political scene changed. In 1853 conservatives seized power and invited him to become dictator. Among other things, on Dec. 16, 1853, Santa Anna decreed that the dictatorship should be prolonged indefinitely and that he should be addressed as “His Most Serene Highness.” To raise funds for an expanded army, he sold territory south of the Gila River to the United States for $10,000,000; this Gadsden Purchase, as it is now called, was the last significant boundary change of the Mexican Republic and included the southern portions of what are now the U.S. states of New Mexico and Arizona.

La Reforma
      Since independence a new generation of Mexicans had been born; appalled at the easy victory the United States had won, the more thoughtful among them felt that Mexico's survival as an independent country depended on fundamental reform. Among the new faces was Benito Juárez (Juárez, Benito), a Zapotec Indian educated as a middle-class liberal, who had moved to New Orleans and had discussed and planned Mexico's future with fellow expatriates. With no military force to implement their plans, they bided time until their opportunity came, in 1854, when Juan Álvarez (Álvarez, Juan), a surviving hero of independence, and Ignacio Comonfort, a political moderate, proclaimed a liberal rebellion against Santa Anna and forced him out of the presidency.

      Neither Álvarez, who served a short term as president, nor Comonfort, who succeeded him, had any clearly defined program. The role of the returned expatriates was to act as a brain trust to carry out La Reforma (Reforma, La) (“The Reform”). Its aims were to abolish remnants of colonialism by removing special ecclesiastical and military privileges; to separate church and state by secularizing education, marriages, and burials; to reduce the economic power of the church by forcing it to sell its properties; to foster an economic development that envisaged Mexico as a country of yeoman farmers and small industrialists; and, above all, to establish a single standard of legal justice.

 Juárez was made minister of justice. Among his first reforms was the so-called Ley Juárez (Nov. 23, 1855), which abolished fueros (special exemptions) and the use of special military and ecclesiastical courts in civil cases. The minister of finance, Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, sponsored the Ley Lerdo (June 25, 1856), which restricted the right of ecclesiastical and civil corporations to own lands by decreeing that church lands not directly used for religious purposes and lands held in common by indigenous communities (ejidos (ejido)) must be sold.

      The reformers called a convention to draft a new constitution, which would provide a legal base for the reform. It was promulgated on Feb. 12, 1857, but did not become effective until the following Sept. 16, the 47th anniversary of the “Grito de Dolores.” The constitution of 1857 prohibited slavery and abridgments of freedom of speech or press; it abolished special courts and prohibited civil and ecclesiastical corporations from owning property, except buildings in use; it eliminated monopolies; it prescribed that Mexico was to be a representative, democratic, republican country; and it defined the states and their responsibilities. This constitution, which remained in force until 1917, increased the power of the central executive.

      Neither the religious community nor the military accepted the 1857 constitution, and both inveighed against the reform, calling for retention of “religion and fueros.” The church excommunicated all civil officials who swore to support the constitution. When civil war erupted, Comonfort went into exile after his efforts at compromise failed; Juárez automatically succeeded him as constitutional president. The conservatives captured Mexico City and set up a competing regime. Juárez and his government moved to Veracruz, where they controlled the customs receipts.

      Foreign powers, rarely bashful about aggressively asserting their influence in Mexican affairs, became even more influential. On April 6, 1859, the United States recognized the Juárez government; President James Buchanan (Buchanan, James) permitted war matériel to be shipped to Juárez's forces. Americans were encouraged to serve the liberal cause as volunteers, but Spain and France generally favoured the conservatives, as did Great Britain.

      In July 1859 Juárez issued a series of decrees: all church property except buildings used for worship was to be confiscated without compensation; all marriages apart from civil marriages were declared annulled; the formal separation of church and state was proclaimed; cemeteries were declared public property, and burial fees were abolished. Moneys from the sale of confiscated church property, though less than anticipated, speeded the end of the civil war. On Dec. 22, 1860, the liberals won a critical battle, and, when the conservative president, Miguel Miramón (Miramón, Miguel), fled, the conservative cause collapsed. The victorious liberal army of about 25,000 men entered Mexico City on New Year's Day, 1861. On his return (January 11) Juárez was greeted by an enthusiastic populace who welcomed the end of the long and devastating civil war and the reestablishment of government under the constitution of 1857.

French intervention
      Exiled Mexican conservatives, who continued to intrigue, enlisted the help of a powerful ally, the French ruler Napoleon III, who wanted to create a Latin league that would include the Mediterranean lands and the former possessions of Spain and Portugal in the New World as well. (The term Latin America dates from this time and concept.) With its strategic position and its economic potential, Mexico seemed especially attractive to the Napoleonic imperial scheme. A French bastion in Mexico would check the Manifest Destiny of the United States and provide a base from which Central and South American protectorates could be added. The fact that the United States was engaged in the American Civil War (1861–65) was a determining element. In 1861 Napoleon III found it convenient to believe the Mexican conservatives' assertions that the masses of Mexican people would support his intervention to restore religion and establish a second monarchy in independent Mexico.

      Mexico's chaotic economic situation afforded Napoleon III the perfect opportunity to implement his scheme. The Juárez government had a huge foreign debt, and in 1861 it suspended all payments to Spain, Britain, and France. The three European powers prepared to send a punitive expedition to Mexico. The intervention was spearheaded by Spain, the forces of which landed at Veracruz on Dec. 14, 1861, and were followed soon after by French and British contingents. When the allies fell into dispute over the $15,000,000 French claim for payment of certain questionable bonds, both Spain and Great Britain disengaged from the joint venture.

      The French expeditionary force began its march toward Mexico City. When the Mexican army made a stand in the Battle of Puebla (Puebla, Battle of) on May 5, 1862—a victory recalled to this day in Cinco de Mayo celebrations—the French retreated to await reinforcements. Napoleon dispatched 30,000 more troops under the command of the French general Élie-Frédéric Forey. The Mexicans could not withstand French might, and on June 10, 1863, Forey rode as conqueror into Mexico City. The French rapidly secured much of central Mexico, forcing Juárez and his government to keep constantly on the move in the north.

 Napoleon III had already identified a pair of puppets to place on the Mexican throne: Maximilian of the house of Habsburg and his wife, Carlota, daughter of the king of Belgium. Assured of Napoleon's continued military support and the economic backing of the British, Maximilian and Carlota arrived in Veracruz on May 28, 1864, having passed through Rome to confer with the pope before they embarked. On June 12 Emperor Maximilian was welcomed in Mexico City.

      Maximilian attempted to follow a policy of national conciliation, hoping to unite Mexican factions and interests. But he proved too much a Habsburg to be an effective tool of Napoleon's schemes, too much a liberal to please the conservatives who had engineered his coronation, and too tainted by conservative sponsorship to win republican support. Maximilian was perhaps less naive than he has been pictured. Not fully convinced that a majority of Mexicans welcomed him as emperor nor sure that he should place full reliance on French troops, he tried to create a Mexican rural guard and a separate imperial army around a nucleus of Austrian and Belgian volunteers. His proposal to reduce the number of regular Mexican army generals to 18 brought early disillusionment to the army, a mainstay of conservatism, which had expected Maximilian to be a puppet. The Mexican officers became further irritated when, with Maximilian's approval, French officers outranked them.

      At the same time, clerical groups, eager to reap rewards for their efforts on the emperor's behalf, pressed him to reverse La Reforma. A papal nuncio from Rome arrived with a message asking that Maximilian revoke the controversial laws of La Reforma, establish Roman Catholicism as the exclusive religion, restore the religious orders, remove the church from its dependence on civil authorities, turn education over to ecclesiastics, and return properties confiscated and sold by the republicans. Replying that he, not outsiders, would decide such matters, Maximilian issued decrees establishing religious toleration, with Roman Catholicism favoured but still dependent on the state. He confirmed that the previous sales of church property under the laws of La Reforma were legal and that revenues the church had received from property Juárez had nationalized were to be ceded to the state. Thus, Maximilian's conservative support further dwindled because the clergy and their followers felt betrayed.

      In September 1864 Maximilian took what amounted to a guided tour of the cities that supported his empire. The warm welcomes he received from the people led him to conclude that a majority of Mexicans wanted peace and justice, which the activities of the republican guerrillas threatened. He therefore decreed on November 4 that, thenceforth, republicans would be considered bandits and brigands, subject to extreme penalties; this negated Maximilian's attempts to woo their supporters by inviting them into his council of state.

      In 1865 French troops chased Juárez to, but not over, the U.S. border. Believing that the Mexican president had left national territory and that republicanism had therefore collapsed, Maximilian on October 2 issued a strong decree, ordering that all guerrillas captured carrying arms should be shot within 24 hours; the same penalties were to apply to persons who hid them or otherwise helped them. Juárez had earlier issued a parallel decree (January 1862) against those who aided the French interventionists and imperialists.

      French troops, though effective in keeping republicans on the outskirts of major productive areas, were also costly. Napoleon's Mexican adventure came under heavy press and parliamentary fire in France as costs in men and money mounted without economic or political advantages to compensate for the expenditures. There was criticism from abroad as well; with its civil war ended, the United States began to assert its influence. William H. Seward (Seward, William H), the U.S. secretary of state, brought mounting diplomatic pressure on Napoleon to withdraw French troops; in February 1866 Napoleon agreed to clear foreign troops from Mexico by November 1867. A U.S. request to the Austrian government to stop enrollment of volunteers for the Mexican imperial army also brought an affirmative response.

      In liquidating his Mexican venture, Napoleon said that, since Maximilian had not carried out his part of the pact to bring peace and orderly government to Mexico, the French were relieved of their obligations for military and financial support. Stunned, Maximilian sought to have the decision reversed. The empress Carlota tried without success to persuade the French ruler to honour his solemn pledge. From Paris she traveled to Rome to plead with the pope; there she went mad and was taken to Belgium, where she lingered insane until her death in 1927. The French commander, Achille-François Bazaine (Bazaine, Achille (-François)), ordered to withdraw all French troops immediately, auctioned off military material not worth shipping to France—including horses and saddles—and destroyed large supplies of powder and projectiles rather than turn them over to Maximilian. In February 1867 Bazaine left Mexico City, and by March 12 his army of nearly 29,000 men had embarked.

      As French power withdrew, republican forces reconquered Mexico, and Maximilian was left with only a regiment of Austrian hussars, a battalion of infantry, and a small army of relatively untrained Mexican draftees. After first considering abdication, Maximilian decided to defend his imperial status and his honour as a Habsburg by making as strong a stand as possible, though planning, in the event of defeat, to negotiate an honourable exile. With these resolves he concentrated most of his troops—9,000 men—at Querétaro, a city loyal to the imperial cause. On May 5, 1867, the republican forces laid siege, initially with 32,000 men, later with an additional 10,000. By May 14 the starving imperialist force, reduced to about 5,000, had decided to withdraw and take a stand in the mountains. A disaffected imperial officer, in return for a promise that Maximilian be spared, placed republican soldiers, whom he passed off as relief troops, at strategic places in Querétaro. The siege ended the next day when Maximilian and his generals surrendered.

      Under Juárez's decrees of 1862, Maximilian and his two leading generals were court-martialed and sentenced to death by firing squad. President Juárez, aware that almost 50,000 Mexicans had lost their lives fighting the French, refused to be swayed by the petitions for mercy that poured in from foreign governments. He wanted to demonstrate that Mexico could act independently; that, as La Reforma contended, all men were equal under law; that foreign monarchical adventures in Mexico were futile; and that the honour of the Mexican dead would be redeemed. Maximilian and the generals were executed on June 19, 1867, terminating a bizarre interlude of Mexican history.

The restored republic
      When Juárez reentered Mexico City on July 15, 1867, his immediate task was to abate the rancors of civil war. The vindicated Juárez regime took few major reprisals—principal imperialists were fined, some were imprisoned for short terms, and a few were exiled. One of Juárez's first acts was to start rebuilding the shattered economy. In an era of goodwill engendered by the sympathy and aid the United States had extended to the Mexican cause, the claims of the two countries against each other were settled by peaceful arbitration. Diplomatic relations were gradually reestablished with Europe.

      In December 1867 Juárez was reelected president. Apart from trying to foster political tranquillity, his main aims were to improve public education and to put the economy on a sound footing. In part to outmaneuver the Roman Catholic Church, Juárez entrusted the development of a national educational system to Gabino Barreda, a follower of the French thinker Auguste Comte (Comte, Auguste), who had said that the human mind and society passed through three successive stages—religious, metaphysical, and positive. Known as positivists (Positivism), Barreda and his followers contended that La Reforma, by displacing the church and militarism, had done away with the earlier two stages and that Mexico was in the third, or positivist, stage. The public-education law for the Federal District, which was to serve as the national model, stressed the secular state as the inculcator of scientific ethical norms, with “Liberty, order, and progress” as the means, base, and product of the system.

      The chief architect of economic rehabilitation was Matías Romero, who had been Juárez's ambassador to the United States and who believed that Mexico's development was dependent on three basic elements: immigration, communication networks, and the exploitation of natural resources. In 1867 and '68 the government renewed concessions to British capitalists for the completion of the Veracruz–Mexico City railway and issued concessions for others; it authorized the opening of new roads and the extension of the telegraph system. Work was begun on reforming the tax systems and tariff schedules.

      The reelection of Juárez in 1871 was contested more heatedly than that of 1867 had been. Thereafter, despite formidable opposition in Congress, tariff reform was approved, as was Mexico's adoption of the metric system, which ended the chaotic colonial system of weights and measures. After a short illness, Juárez died suddenly on July 18, 1872, his death closing one era and opening another. Behind him lay Mexico's long colonial history and its partial survivals through the early 19th century. The notion of a Mexican monarchy had been forever buried with Maximilian. Under Juárez, Mexicans had begun to modernize the economy and some of the social institutions, to expand rail, road, and telegraph networks, and to develop secular education. These advances presaged even more dramatic change that was to occur during the last quarter of the 19th century.

      Juárez's death also brought temporary political peace. Without incident, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada (Lerdo de Tejada, Sebastián), the president of the Supreme Court, and next in line of succession, was sworn in as acting president on July 19. Congress immediately began to lavish posthumous honours on Juárez, who by his innate abilities and great strength of character had led his people through unprecedented travail. He remains a major figure in the history of Mexico.

      A national election placed Lerdo in the presidential chair in his own right on Nov. 16, 1872. The course Juárez had charted remained unchanged. On New Year's Day, 1873, the Veracruz–Mexico City railway was inaugurated. The archbishop of Mexico blessed the new line and in doing so signified a reduction in church-state tensions. Congress and the executive branch of government continued to dole out railway and telegraph concessions. To safeguard the country against future bloodshed, Congress on May 31 added specific laws from La Reforma to the constitution of 1857—church and state were explicitly declared independent of each other; freedom of religion was proclaimed; church acquisition of real estate was abolished; religious oaths were banned in civil courts; forced labour was forbidden; and personal liberty in respect to labour, education, and religion was declared inviolable. The degree to which La Reforma had triumphed was evidenced by the fact that no national movement developed against these additions to the organic laws. The Lerdo government in 1874 renewed diplomatic relations with France, Spain, and Prussia.

The age of Porfirio Díaz (Díaz, Porfirio)
      For 35 years, from 1876 until a political revolution unseated him in 1911, the personality of Porfirio Díaz (Díaz, Porfirio) dominated the history of his country. Like Juárez, Díaz was a poor Indian from Oaxaca, but he was of Mixtec rather than Zapotec heritage. Educated locally, he had chosen a military career and had become an outstanding general in the republican cause against the French intervention and empire. Although he vied for the presidency against Juárez in 1867 and again in 1871, their ideological differences were not great. When in 1875 Lerdo ran for reelection, Díaz led a successful revolt and assumed the presidency in November 1876.

      Díaz took the blueprint for Mexico's future that Juárez and Lerdo had elaborated and implemented it. After clearing out pockets of political resistance during his first term of office, he turned the presidency over to Manuel González (González, Manuel), a companion in arms. Díaz won the election again in 1884 and was regularly returned to that office through 1910. During his long regime he scrupulously kept democratic and constitutional forms intact, partly in the conviction that it was the president's duty to train the unready Mexican people to use them properly.

      Around him Díaz gathered many intellectuals (the científicos (científico)). They were positivists who stressed the need for rational planning and development. The emphasis was on economic development to assure social progress. How such development was to be achieved was translated into one of Díaz's political slogans, “Pan o palo” (“Bread or the stick”), meaning that acquiescence to official policies would ensure livelihood, even wealth, but failure to agree would bring sure reprisals—harassment, imprisonment, death. More significantly from a philosophical and practical point of view, liberty was dropped from the earlier positivist triad of liberty, order, and progress. It was the price the Mexican people were expected to pay for the benefits the científicos' policies would provide.

      Capital, though badly needed, could not be attracted until Mexico had tidied up its international and national fiscal affairs. Mexican finances were placed on a solid base, and a stable currency was established. With guarantees of political and social tranquillity, foreign investment was encouraged and obtained. European and U.S. funds built some 15,000 miles (24,000 km) of railways, provided electricity and streetcars for the cities, created industrial complexes, rehabilitated port facilities, and developed the mining of industrial metals. Early petroleum concessions to foreigners laid the groundwork for serious problems later, when world navies shifted from coal to oil and when automobiles were mass-produced.

      A complex mechanism in which all major and most minor decisions rested in the hands of the president evolved during the first two decades of the Díaz regime, or Porfiriato. The success of the practice rested on self-interest; Díaz made it worthwhile for everyone to support the system. For the most part, the small body of intellectuals was absorbed into the expanding bureaucracy or the subsidized press. The army and the church were made handmaidens of the regime rather than its adversaries; generals were encouraged to become entrepreneurs. While retaining the laws of La Reforma on the books, Díaz was purposely conciliatory toward the church and allowed it to regain some of its former economic power without letting it develop significant political influence.

      The regime also perfected instruments of repression and control, though for many years it used them sparingly. Wages remained embarrassingly low and working hours too long throughout the period, and urban workers enjoyed no rights that management was obliged to respect. The labourers on Mexico's large estates fared no better as most were landless and subject to the arbitrary authority of resident bosses (mayordomos). Education remained a near monopoly of elites in the larger cities. Troublesome elements such as the Yaqui Indians were inducted en masse and shipped as cheap labour to the sisal plantations of Yucatán or the tobacco fields of Oaxaca. Although technically elected by the local citizenry, governors were in effect personal appointees of the president. Their actions were monitored by jefes políticos (“political chiefs”), who reported directly to the president and on his authorization intervened in municipal and state affairs. An elite constabulary, the Rurales, like the Texas Rangers and Canadian Mounted Police, created a myth of ubiquity that eliminated the brigandage and banditry characteristic of the earlier 19th-century Mexican countryside. While pacification was welcomed, it was accompanied by fear and intimidation in rural areas as the Rurales seldom respected due process or civil liberties.

      In an era in which material success was highly regarded, Díaz's accomplishments were praised, but his popularity began to decline before the turn of the century. Prosperity had been preempted by a relatively small group, many of whom were foreigners. The Mexican economic and social elite self-consciously aped European (especially French) modes of dress, education, and even language. Between the affluent and the growing urban and rural proletariat there was an expanding middle-class body. Meanwhile, a new generation, which could recall none of the chaos of the days before Porfirio Díaz took charge, began to question the system. As criticism increased, so did repression. This unique confluence of circumstances midwived the great Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Precursors of revolution
      Mexicans began to question the country's apathetic acceptance of the Porfirian peace. The earliest and most vocal critics were Mexican radical groups, perhaps the most important of which called itself Regeneration. Its members were anarchists who adapted their dogmas to the Mexican scene. While always small in number and often ineffective in action, this group had great influence. Many of the reforms and programs it advocated were embodied in the Mexican constitution of 1917.

      The leader of the Regeneration group was Ricardo Flores Magón, who had been born in Oaxaca of an indigenous mother and a mestizo father and had been sent for further education to Mexico City, where he had turned to idealistic student activism. For leading a small demonstration against the reelection of Díaz in 1892, he was jailed for the first of many times. The group's movement took form in 1900, when Camilo Arriaga, a well-to-do engineer in San Luis Potosí, organized first a club and then a small party to restore the liberalism of Juárez. Arriaga called a national meeting of liberal clubs in 1901, and a short time later most of the small band were jailed, and their newspaper, Regeneración, which Flores Magón edited, was suppressed. After they served their prison sentences, the young radicals fled north to the United States and Canada, settling for a while in St. Louis, Mo., where they formally organized the Mexican Liberal Party. It was anarcho-syndicalist in orientation, dedicated to the overthrow of the Mexican government and the total renovation of Mexican society.

      In 1906 the Regeneration group published a comprehensive program in the form of a manifesto that had wide, if clandestine, circulation in Mexico. It advocated a one-term presidency, guarantees of civil liberties, breaking the hold of the Roman Catholic Church, vast expansion of free public education, and land reform. It asked that Mexican citizenship be a prerequisite to property ownership and that unused land be distributed to the landless. The manifesto proposed confiscation of the wealth that Díaz and the científicos had illegally acquired, the abolition of child labour, guaranteed minimum wages, and improved conditions for workers. In muted tones it criticized capitalism as a system of exploitation. The Regeneration group drew its main lines of thought from Mikhail Bakunin (Bakunin, Mikhail Aleksandrovich), a Russian revolutionary writer who believed that the power of any institution, including government, that exercised controls over individuals should be reduced.

      Many charges by the Regeneration and similar groups were borne out when Díaz's troops, in bloody fashion, broke strikes in the textile region of Veracruz and the copper-mining regions of the northwest state of Sonora. Several of these strikes had been fomented by Regeneration organizers at the same time that U.S. muckrakers (muckraker) were exposing the evils of corrupt government, big business, and other aspects of life in the United States and abroad. Possibly to refute their unfavourable reports, Díaz gave an interview in 1908 to an American reporter, James Creelman, that became a milestone in prerevolutionary history. To blunt charges of one-man rule, Díaz very carefully but clearly said that in his view the time had come for Mexico to advance toward democracy, that he would welcome an opposition party, that he would be most happy to sustain and guide the opposition party, and that to inaugurate a democratic government in Mexico he would forget himself. This fell like a bombshell in Mexico, where most readers failed to note that he had not specified a time. It was widely believed that this implied he would not run for the presidency in 1910. Mexican newspapers and independent publishers not only reprinted the interview but also began openly to speculate on the upcoming elections.

      Two main opposition groups soon emerged. One backed General Bernardo Reyes as vice presidential candidate over Díaz's handpicked candidate. Reyes forthrightly opposed científico theories and practices and, as governor of the progressive northern state of Nuevo León, had not only stimulated the modernization impulse but had also initiated a series of far-reaching reforms, including a workman's compensation law.

 The other opposition party, the Anti-Reelectionists, had been created largely through the efforts of Francisco I. Madero (Madero, Francisco), then a political unknown, whose efforts would subsequently elevate him to the highest place in the revolutionary pantheon as the “Apostle of Democracy.” Born into one of the richest families in Mexico, whose agricultural enterprises spread over much of northern Mexico, Madero was educated in the United States and France. In his own right he became an enlightened entrepreneur and amassed a considerable personal fortune.

      Madero concerned himself with Mexico's position in a rapidly changing world. Mexican food prices were rising, and rural and urban standards of living were dropping. He attributed Mexico's social inequities to the prolonged political dictatorship. He helped journalists to expose these matters and initially provided considerable early financial support to the Regeneration group, but he disassociated from them after about 1907 when it became clearer that they intended to destroy, not reform, the system.

      Madero, setting about to organize a national party to compete in the 1910 elections, published La sucesión presidencial en 1910 (1908; “The Presidential Succession in 1910”) as a campaign document, two-thirds of which dealt with the history of Mexico and the corrupting influences of absolute power and the rest with his program to revive the democracy that had atrophied for so long. Despite harassment, Madero carried on a vigorous and wearying campaign in the summer of 1909. During an interview with Díaz, he was surprised by the dictator's remoteness from current issues. On the other hand, Madero's campaign speeches were well received and a source of encouragement to the Anti-Reelectionists.

      On June 14 Madero was arrested and jailed and thus became the martyr and victim of the system he was trying peacefully to change. Since it was perfectly clear that Díaz was not going to permit free and honest elections, Madero and his followers decided that the only hope of improving Mexico was through armed revolt. On Oct. 4, 1910, the Chamber of Deputies, which had assembled as the electoral college, declared that Díaz had been reelected. On October 5 Madero managed to escape from San Luis Potosí, where he had first been jailed and subsequently had been confined under house arrest. He arrived on October 7 in San Antonio, Texas, where with aides he prepared and issued, as of the day of his escape, the Plan of San Luis Potosí, which proclaimed the principles of “effective suffrage, no reelection.” Madero declared that Díaz was illegally president of Mexico. Designating Sunday, November 20, as the day when citizens should take up arms against the Díaz government, Madero promised that a successful revolution would institute political reforms.

 But on November 20, the official birthday of the Mexican Revolution, no mass uprisings took place. Nevertheless, small bands of guerrillas, most of them in northern Mexico, kept the rebellion alive while Madero used his family fortune to supply them with arms from Texas. Under the leadership of Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa (Villa, Pancho), the northern rebels began to defeat Federalist forces, who held most of the strategic rail lines, especially those emanating from Ciudad Juárez (Juárez), on the U.S. border, where the Federalist troops had consolidated. Until the revolutionists laid siege to that city, no more than 2,500 armed men were engaged in the Madero revolution.

The Mexican Revolution and its aftermath, 1910–40
      The initial goal of the Mexican Revolution was simply the overthrow of the Díaz dictatorship, but that relatively simple political movement broadened into a major economic and social upheaval that presaged the fundamental character of Mexico's 20th-century experience. During the long struggle, the Mexican people developed a sense of identity and purpose, perhaps unmatched by any other Latin American republic. Many reforms had been established by 1940, when the goals of the revolution were institutionalized as guidelines for future Mexican policies. The violence of 1910 gave a clear start to the Mexican Revolution, but scholars disagree on an end point: as a convention many use the year 1920, but some end it with the 1917 constitution or events in the 1920s, and still others argue that the revolution slowly unravelled until 1940.

The military revolution
 On Feb. 14, 1911, Madero crossed into Mexico near Ciudad Juárez to head his forces. In the next few months the rebels learned how debilitated the Díaz army had become; led by aged generals, the Federalist troops lacked discipline, cohesion, unity of command, and effectiveness. Under these circumstances the revolution gained ground and momentum. The surrender of the Federal commander at Juárez at May 10 marked the beginning of the end. An agreement negotiated with the Díaz regime provided that Díaz would resign, that an interim president, Francisco León de la Barra, would call general elections, and that revolutionary forces would be discharged. On May 25 Díaz resigned and sailed for Paris. Several revolutionary bands, including that of Emiliano Zapata (Zapata, Emiliano), resisted the military demobilization previously agreed upon.

      Madero won the presidential election in October 1911, but his new government was able to withstand constant attacks from the right and left for only 15 months. A series of unsuccessful revolts culminated in a successful plot in Feb. 1913. From Feb. 9 to Feb. 18, 1913—known in Mexican history as the Decena Trágica (“Ten Tragic Days”)—downtown Mexico City was converted into a battle zone. Civilian casualties were high, and the fighting ended only after the commander of the government forces, Victoriano Huerta (Huerta, Victoriano), together with his troops, changed sides and joined the rebels. Madero and his vice president, José María Pino Suárez, were promptly arrested, enabling Huerta to seize the presidency for himself.

      Shortly thereafter, presumably on Huerta's orders, Madero and Pino Suárez were shot while being transferred from one prison to another. Their deaths rekindled revolutionary fires. In northern Mexico, Venustiano Carranza (Carranza, Venustiano), refusing to recognize Huerta as president, demanded that the office be elective, as specified in the constitution. He called his new movement the Constitutionalist Revolution. Former chieftains such as Villa made loose alliances with Carranza. The revolution had begun to fragment, and the fighting would last for many years.

      The new president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson (Wilson, Woodrow), was determined to oust Huerta and, on flimsy pretexts, landed U.S. troops at Veracruz (Veracruz incident) and occupied it (see Veracruz incident). All of the revolutionary leaders except Villa rejected this external intervention in a national struggle. The combined revolutionary forces unseated Huerta in 1914 but then split over who was to exercise presidential power. Zapata in Morelos and Villa in the north joined to fight the revolutionary groups under Carranza, the most important of which was headed by General Álvaro Obregón (Obregón, Álvaro). Obregón won a decisive victory over Villa at the Battle of Celaya (Celaya, Battle of) in April 1915 but failed to bring the civil war to an immediate end. Sporadic warfare continued until 1920, and less organized violence reappeared even after that time.

The constitution of 1917
      With most of central and southern Mexico under Constitutionalist control, Carranza in 1916 convoked a constituent congress in Querétaro to revise and update the constitution of 1857. In the course of fighting, the economic and social demands of the radical precursors had become common slogans as contending revolutionary bands bid for popular support. The constitution of 1917 incorporated the aspirations of those groups involved in the revolution. While Zapata's followers championed the cause of agrarian reform, others in the constitutional assembly pushed for the protection of urban labour. Several groups advocated widening the educational base by making primary school available to the Mexican masses, most of whom had never had the opportunity to learn to read and write.

      The constitution of 1917 specifically incorporated the major features of the 1824 and 1857 charters regarding territorial organization, civil liberties, democratic forms, and anticlerical and antimonopoly clauses. The constitution completely reversed the concept widely held in Mexico that government should take only a limited, passive role. It argued that the national government had an obligation to take an active role in promoting the social, economic, and cultural well-being of its citizens. Article 3 sketched a vast plan of secular, free, compulsory public education. Article 14 reaffirmed the sanctity of private property and contracts, but Article 27 interjected concepts of social utility and national benefit to limit the untrammeled use of private property. The most-important new concepts came in Articles 27 and 123. The former reasserted national ownership of subsoil resources and outlined alternative land-reform and agrarian programs. The latter, the Magna Carta of labour and social welfare, was set apart to highlight its importance; in addition to guaranteeing minimum wages and the right to organize and strike, it gave labour social status and destroyed the concept of it as an economic commodity to be bought at the lowest rates to maximize profits. Article 123 also outlined a comprehensive system of social security, including public health and welfare programs. Reflecting the nationalistic feelings of the revolutionaries, foreigners and foreign interests were placed under limitations.

      The constitution of 1917 set the goals toward which presidents were to work. As expected, Carranza was elected president and given de jure recognition by the United States. When Zapata was betrayed and killed in 1919, the last organized opposition to the Carranza-Obregón reorganization dissolved. Villa retired from active campaigning after his raids across the border, especially one in Columbus, N.M. (March 9, 1916), had failed to embroil the United States in conflict with Carranza. Ultimately, Villa was ambushed and killed by political enemies in 1923.

The northern dynasty: Obregón and Calles
      When Carranza failed to move toward immediate social reforms, General Obregón enlisted two other powerful northern Mexican chieftains, Plutarco Elías Calles (Calles, Plutarco Elías) and Adolfo de la Huerta (Huerta, Adolfo de la), to join him in an almost bloodless coup; together they formed the northern dynasty. Carranza was killed as he fled from Mexico City, and Obregón took office as president Dec. 1, 1920. The dynasty agreed that peace was needed to rehabilitate Mexico from the devastations of nearly a decade of civil upheaval. Using a combination of force and political incentives, Obregón placated many ambitious military leaders.

 Obregón began to implement the ideals set forth in the constitution. Administrative machinery was set up to distribute land to the landless and to restore communal holdings (ejidos) to villages. The government supported the Regional Confederation of Mexican Labour (Confederación Regional de Obreros Mexicanos; CROM). José Vasconcelos (Vasconcelos, José), who was named minister of education, was to implement the program of rural education. He sponsored a cultural program that brought Mexico worldwide fame and importance. Radical mural painters such as Diego Rivera (Rivera, Diego), José Clemente Orozco (Orozco, José Clemente), and David Alfaro Siqueiros (Siqueiros, David Alfaro), who were commissioned to portray Mexican and especially revolutionary history on public buildings, exalted the indigenous past. Frida Kahlo (Kahlo, Frida) expressed similar concerns in social and political arenas, but her paintings were less public. Novelists Martín Luis Guzmán (Guzmán, Martín Luis), Gregorio López y Fuentes (López y Fuentes, Gregorio), and Nellie Campobello used the written word to convey radical and revolutionary messages.

      At the end of his term, Obregón stepped aside for Calles. Calles's presidency followed the same general lines as had Obregón's. Land distribution was stepped up, an irrigation program was begun, and in 1925 renewed pressure was put on the petroleum companies to exchange for leases the titles they had obtained from Díaz. Problems with the church developed when Calles instituted vigorously anticlerical measures; in retaliation the church suspended all religious ceremonies and approved and possibly sponsored a rebellion in western Mexico known as the Cristeros. Mediation of the church-state controversy was unofficially accomplished by Dwight W. Morrow (Morrow, Dwight W), the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, whose sympathetic and skillful diplomacy also eased tensions between the two countries.

      In 1928 the presidential term was extended from four to six years, and the doctrine of “no reelection” was modified to mean “no successive reelection.” Obregón was the successful presidential candidate in 1928, but, as president-elect, he was assassinated by José de León Toral, a religious fanatic.

      With Calles legally barred from succeeding himself, a peculiarly Mexican political party was formed: the National Revolutionary Party (Institutional Revolutionary Party), which, after several incarnations, would eventually become the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Its monopoly on power would occasion major controversy in the years ahead. Formed under Calles's inspiration, it was initially a coalition of regional and local military bosses and labour and peasant leaders. To safeguard the gains of the revolution, Calles excluded the Roman Catholic Church and other possible reactionary elements. With Calles at its head, the official party governed in the name of the revolution. A congress, drawn from party ranks, named successive, short-term presidents to fill out the term to which Obregón had been elected.

      In the period 1928–34 a worldwide depression (see Great Depression) and increasing personal vested interests caused many of the older, now conservative revolutionaries, including Calles, to go slowly in implementing the reform mandates of the constitution. The ruling clique continued to be militantly anticlerical, but it withdrew support from CROM, which disintegrated. It also slowed the pace of land distribution and curtailed educational programs. On the positive side, the Calles years saw the beginnings of an irrigation and road-building program.

Resurgence under Cárdenas
      Within the revolutionary family, General Lázaro Cárdenas (Cárdenas, Lázaro) was a respected if not outstanding revolutionary. Having quietly and faithfully worked his way up the ladder of politico-military power during the Obregón and Calles years, he seemed a safe candidate in the 1934 elections. He was also acceptable to a powerful group within the party, which drafted a six-year plan incorporating extended revolutionary reforms.

      With his election to the presidency for a six-year term beginning in 1934, Cárdenas moved to the left in frank opposition to Calles's wishes. When the inevitable test of power came, Cárdenas won, pushed Calles into temporary exile, and renamed and reorganized the party. He gave four important groups special representation: peasants; labour; the military; and the so-called “popular sector,” which included, among others, bureaucrats and teachers. The four sectors agreed to support the slate of candidates the party designated. The local, state, and national representatives made party policy and ratified the president's choice of candidates.

      With massive popular support and with the power elites under control, Cárdenas tirelessly pushed toward revolutionary goals. He and his advisers elaborated the land-reform programs; using land expropriated from private owners, they created communal cooperatives and gave them ejido status. By the end of his term, about 40 percent of the rural working force was under the ejido program. Cárdenas also nationalized railways and placed them under the management of labour.

      Perhaps Cárdenas's single most spectacular action was the expropriation of foreign petroleum companies following a labour dispute in which unions demanded not only wage increases but also participation in what management considered its exclusive role. A series of court cases and special boards found in favour of the workers. When the companies refused to accept the decisions, Cárdenas on March 18, 1938, decreed expropriation of their holdings, thus nationalizing the petroleum industry. Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), then a small agency, was designated to administer the industry for the country. The British government, whose nationals had a far larger stake than U.S. firms, immediately broke diplomatic relations. After a short delay U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Roosevelt, Franklin D.) indicated that, if Mexico would make prompt and fair payments, he would not intervene diplomatically on behalf of the oil companies. This sympathetic reaction was based largely on the advice of the U.S. ambassador, Josephus Daniels (Daniels, Josephus), who as secretary of the navy had ordered the occupation of Veracruz in 1914 but who over the years had become a warm friend of the Mexican people.

      Mexicans consider March 18, 1938, as the anniversary of Mexican economic independence. Cárdenas had not only restored an important resource to national patrimony but also showed that national honour and dignity could not be flouted by foreign entrepreneurs, however powerful. After engaging in propaganda campaigns, boycotts, blacklists, and other forms of economic warfare, the oil companies eventually were forced to settle their claims on essentially Mexican terms. Removing a pretext for intervention, the Mexican government made certain that the companies received all of their payments on time.

      Once the initial bungling was over, Pemex developed the capacity to fuel the industrial revolution that marked Mexico's next epoch. No one realized at the time how important petroleum would become on the world political and economic scene in the decades ahead.

      General Manuel Ávila Camacho (Ávila Camacho, Manuel), whom Cárdenas supported, and General Juan Andreu Almazán fought a close and bitter contest for the presidency in 1940. When Almazán lost, he sought U.S. support for a revolution. But to emphasize the U.S. position toward Ávila Camacho and Mexico, Roosevelt sent Vice President Henry A. Wallace (Wallace, Henry A.) to attend the inauguration. When Cárdenas left the presidency in November 1940, a major chapter of the Mexican Revolution had closed.

      Ávila Camacho's domestic policy was conciliatory. While retaining earlier forms, he placated Roman Catholics by announcing, “I am a believer.” These words had political importance that transcended their immediate religious significance. They meant that the social programs of the Mexican Revolution would slow down after 1940. The overriding issues of the day, however, were diplomatic and economic; the Cárdenas resurgence had increased Mexico's self-respect but had left its economy in a depressed state. The economy would be tested during World War II.

World War II, 1941–45
      World War II brought profound changes to Mexico. Its basic economic structure was transformed, as to a lesser degree were its political, social, and cultural institutions. To offset wartime shortages, industrialization and urbanization were accelerated.

      Even before Mexico entered the war, it supplied vital raw materials to the United States. Mexico and the United States in November 1941 signed a general agreement that resolved most of their outstanding quarrels. The old problem of U.S. agrarian claims was settled, a reciprocal-trade treaty was outlined, and the Mexican peso was stabilized and supported to maintain a constant dollar ratio. The United States agreed to continue silver purchases at world prices and to provide long-term loans to buttress Mexico's economy. Separate agreements were reached on military aid, primarily to professionalize the Mexican army and its small air force. To that end, the military sector was dropped from the official party, eliminating the army as a separate bloc in politics.

      Mexico became an active belligerent in World War II in 1942 after Germany sank two of its tankers. The Mexican foreign secretary, Ezequiel Padilla, took the lead in urging other Latin American countries to support the Allies as well. A Mexican–North American joint defense committee planned cooperative operations to be carried out in case the Japanese attacked Mexico's west coast. Former president Lázaro Cárdenas served on the committee and became minister of defense when that post was created in 1944. A small Mexican air unit operated with the United States in the Philippines. But Mexico's major contribution to the war effort was the steady supply of raw materials for U.S. industry. It also contributed hundreds of thousands of temporary farmworkers (braceros) and railroad men under the Bracero Treaty, which was negotiated by the United States in 1942 to alleviate labour shortages occasioned by the military draft. (By the time the program was finally terminated in the 1960s, millions of Mexicans had participated.)

      If Mexico had only a minor impact on the outcome of the war, the war exerted a major impact on Mexico. With most of the free world producing war matériel, imports to Mexico became scarce or were unavailable. To fill this vacuum, Mexican light industry developed, almost exclusively with Mexican capital. As a result, the social revolution of the 1920s and '30s was replaced by an industrial revolution in the postwar years.

Mexico since 1945
Prosperity and repression under the PRI
      Mexico's population exploded at the end of World War II. The industrialism spawned by the war became a major element in the economy. The military increasingly faded into the background as arbiters of national policy, and Mexico had an unbroken line of civilian presidents, beginning with the election of Miguel Alemán (Alemán, Miguel) in 1946. With him the emphasis shifted from the Cárdenas approach—dividing Mexico's small agricultural land area among many persons—to the development of new resources. Massive hydraulic projects were undertaken to furnish electric power, open new lands, provide flood control, and become the nuclei of regional agricultural-industrial complexes. The nationalized oil industry became a major producer of natural gas and petrochemicals in an effort to meet burgeoning domestic needs. Economic integration was accomplished by the extension of railroad, highway, and airline networks to nearly all regions.

      Postwar Mexico was marked by a continuity of basic policies unprecedented in Mexican history and by the peaceful constitutional transfer of presidential power from one civilian regime to the next. President Alemán was the chief architect of new departures in the official party, including the change of its name from the Party of the Mexican Revolution to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional; PRI). Suffrage in Mexico doubled when President Adolfo Ruiz Cortines enfranchised women with a constitutional amendment in 1953, though they did not actually vote until 1958. Electoral reform laws broadened the political base, but opposition parties grew slowly as the PRI dominated the political power mechanisms of the state. As late as the 1980s, only the conservative National Action Party (Partido de Acción Popular; PAN) constituted any kind of a threat to the PRI. It was only a minor threat, however, with its strength limited to a few northern states. But by the 1990s PAN and the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Demócrata; PRD) had become significant political forces.

      Mexico experienced unprecedented prosperity during the half century following World War II, despite some notable periods of economic strain. Mexico's economic growth in the 1970s was financed with massive international loans. Government planners calculated easy repayment from projected oil revenues, including income from the huge reserves discovered in 1976 in Tabasco and Chiapas states. They were unable, however, to predict the world oil glut of the early 1980s and the sharp fall in oil prices. The Mexican government struggled increasingly to pay even the interest on its huge foreign debt.

      Other problems included high unemployment and underemployment, an unfavourable balance of trade, and an alarming inflation rate. Wealthy Mexicans reinvested their assets abroad because they lacked confidence in the economy. The Mexican peso declined rapidly in foreign-exchange markets. President José López Portillo (López Portillo, José), elected in 1976, nationalized the country's banks and imposed strict foreign-currency controls to achieve some economic stability. Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado (Madrid, Miguel de la), who was elected to succeed López in 1982, established a program of economic austerity that gradually restored international confidence in the Mexican economy.

      The country also endured its share of political violence. Mexico, like many other Latin American countries, was considered a U.S. ally in the Cold War. However, Mexican society embraced a wide political spectrum with a range of outspoken activists, including members of leftist political parties who believed the government had abandoned the ideals of the Mexican Revolution. At the other end of the political spectrum were reactionary forces in the military who viewed such dissension as a serious threat to national security. Within this tense climate, the country experienced numerous public protests, police crackdowns, and escalating violence—including the shooting of demonstrators just days before the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City—along with allegations of antigovernment plots and terrorism. The climate of fear degenerated into a “dirty war” from the 1960s through the 1980s, during which right-wing government forces were responsible for the “disappearance” of hundreds of peasant organizers, student activists, and other dissidents. Many were taken into custody merely on the suspicion of subversion and suffered human rights abuses including torture, imprisonment without trial, and extrajudicial execution. However, the fates of many were unknown until the 21st century, when the administration of President Vicente Fox (Fox, Vicente) released formerly secret government documents from the period.

      In September 1985 an earthquake killed thousands of people in Mexico City, and many blamed the federal government for the slow pace of reconstruction. Economic liberalization, narcotics traffic, and the flow of immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border were also major concerns. In the 1988 presidential election, which was allegedly marred by widespread fraud, de la Madrid was succeeded in 1988 by PRI candidate Carlos Salinas de Gortari (Salinas de Gortari, Carlos). Salinas's policies signaled a great departure from the ideals of the Mexican Revolution. He favoured neoliberal (free market-driven) trade policies, criticized labour unions and the ejido system of agriculture, and set aside much of the anticlericalism that had typified the revolution. In 1992 Salinas signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada. When it went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994, it had already fostered a wave of neoliberal trade and the opening of additional maquiladoras (maquiladora) (export-oriented manufacturing plants). But there was a price to pay for declaring the Mexican Revolution dead. That same day, a long-simmering rebellion erupted when the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional; EZLN), commonly called the Zapatistas, seized several towns in Chiapas state and demanded social justice for Mexico's impoverished indigenous peoples. More than 145 people died in the initial fighting. Over the following years, the Zapatistas found sympathy among large segments of the Mexican populace even as the government attempted to extinguish the rebellion with a mixture of military offensives and negotiations.

      After decades of one-party rule and numerous accusations of rigged election results, opposition parties made increasing calls for free and fair elections. In 1994, significant electoral reforms were finally enacted; however, that year was also marked by the assassination of the PRI presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, and of the PRI secretary-general, José Francisco Ruíz Massieu. (The brother of former president Salinas was imprisoned from 1995 to 2005 while being investigated for the latter's murder.) Colosio's campaign manager, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (Zedillo, Ernesto), was designated the new PRI candidate and went on to win the election.

Beyond single-party rule
      Zedillo struggled with economic and social issues. In late 1994 and 1995 Mexico reeled from the “tequila crisis,” which resulted from a rapid devaluation of the peso. The government instituted an economic austerity program—which was particularly detrimental for the poor—to secure billions of dollars in emergency loans from the United States and the International Monetary Fund, and the economy slowly began to improve. Zedillo continued to promote the neoliberal policies of his predecessor; however, the Mexican Congress resisted calls for the sale of Pemex. Zedillo broke with tradition by appointing a non-PRI cabinet member, by cooperating with opposition parties to enact electoral reforms, and by refusing to select his successor—insisting instead that the party choose its next presidential candidate. Many of Zedillos's reforms effectively loosened the PRI's grip on power, and in 1997 opposition parties won several seats in municipal, state, and national elections—including control of the Chamber of Deputies—while the leftist politician Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano became Mexico City's first elected mayor. In addition, the government's popularity declined after anti-Zapatista paramilitary groups massacred dozens of peasants in Chiapas.

      In 2000 the PAN candidate Vicente Fox Quesada (Fox, Vicente) was elected president. Fox's term (2000–06) marked the end of 71 years of PRI presidential rule, although his leadership suffered from divisions within PAN and from the party's failure to win a congressional majority in 2000 and in the 2003 midterm elections. Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive and state governor, continued to promote neoliberal economics while promising to fight corruption and drug trafficking. He also called for a human rights commission to report on abuses committed by the PRI government during Mexico's “dirty war” of the 1960s to '80s. Fox's efforts regarding the rebellion in Chiapas met with mixed results, although he named an indigenous rights coordinator and allowed a caravan of Zapatista delegates to meet with him in Mexico City. However, the Zapatistas charged that Fox failed to address the deepest inequalities and abuses—many of which, they believed, were linked with free-trade policies and were root causes of the rebellion.

      In the controversial 2006 presidential election, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (López Obrador, Andrés Manuel), the popular PRD governor of the Federal District, squared off as the candidate of a leftist coalition against the conservative PAN candidate, Felipe Calderón (Calderón, Felipe). Both López Obrador and Calderón initially claimed victory in the closely contested race, which was marred by evidence of irregularities and allegations of fraud. Massive protests (including the sustained occupation of central Mexico City) resulted from the declaration of Calderón as the winner; even after the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judicial Branch confirmed Calderón's election, López Obrador announced the formation of a parallel government, with himself as the “legitimate” president. Nonetheless, Calderón was inaugurated in December and took power. Moreover, in the 2006 election, PAN garnered the greatest number of seats in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, although it did not win an outright majority.

      As the 21st century unfolded, Mexico continued to struggle with socioeconomic inequalities and corruption as well as changes in world trade, including the consequences of NAFTA and fears that manufacturing jobs were being lost to China and other Asian countries. Although Pemex (and government coffers) benefited from soaring oil prices associated with U.S. consumption and wars in the Middle East, the future of the Mexican economy remained uncertain. Most observers agreed, however, that immigration and cross-border trade would continue to dominate U.S.-Mexico relations.

Howard F. Cline Michael C. Meyer Ed.

Presidents of Mexico from 1917
       Presidents of Mexico from 1917 Presidents of Mexico from 1917The table provides a chronological list of the presidents of Mexico from 1917.

Additional Reading

General works
Tim L. Merrill and Ramón Miró (eds.), Mexico: A Country Study, 4th ed. (1997), is a comprehensive overview. Among the many recent guidebooks are John Noble et al., Lonely Planet Mexico (2006); and Carissa Bluestone et al. (eds.), Fodor's 06 Mexico (2006). Travelers' impressions of Mexico are recorded in C.M. Mayo (ed.), Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion (2006); James O'Reilly and Larry Habegger (eds.), Travelers' Tales: Mexico, updated ed. (2001); Alice Adams, Mexico: Some Travels and Some Travelers There (1990); Alan Ryan (ed.), The Reader's Companion to Mexico (1995); and Tony Cohan, Mexican Days: Journeys into the Heart of Mexico (2006).

Geographical introductions to Mexico within its regional context are provided in Robert B. Kent, Latin America: Regions and People (2006); Brian W. Blouet and Olwyn M. Blouet, Latin America and the Caribbean: A Systematic and Regional Survey, 5th ed. (2006); and David L. Clawson, Latin America & the Caribbean: Lands and Peoples, 4th ed. (2006). Updated maps are compiled in Quimera, Guía de careterras: México Road Guide, 4th ed. (2006). Centuries of Mexican exploration and mapmaking are examined in Raymond B. Craib, Cartographic Mexico: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes (2004).

People and culture
Urban growth is examined in James B. Pick and Edgar W. Butler, Mexico Megacity (2000). Social conditions, inequality, and underdevelopment are considered in Susan Eckstein, The Poverty of Revolution: The State and the Urban Poor in Mexico (1977, reissued 1988); Wayne A. Cornelius, Politics and the Migrant Poor in Mexico City (1975); and Daniel C. Levy, Kathleen Bruhn, and Emilio Zebadúa, Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development, 2nd ed. (2006).Rural conditions are the subject of Paul Friedrich, Agrarian Revolt in a Mexican Village (1970, reprinted with an updated bibliography, 1977); George A. Collier, Fields of the Tzotzil: The Ecological Bases of Tradition in Highland Chiapas (1975); Steven E. Sanderson, Agrarian Populism and the Mexican State: The Struggle for Land in Sonora (1981); Billie R. Dewalt, Modernization in a Mexican Ejido: A Study in Economic Adaptation (1979); and P. Lamartine Yates, Mexico's Agricultural Dilemma (1981).Daily life and culture are critically examined by one of Mexico's foremost intellectuals in Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings (1985). Gender roles and family life are contemplated in Matthew C. Gutmann, The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City (1996, reissued with a new preface, 2007). Further perspectives on daily life are provided in Patrick Oster, The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People (1989, reissued with a new afterword, 2002); Jeffrey M. Pilcher (ed.), The Human Tradition in Mexico (2003); and Floyd Merrell, The Mexicans: A Sense of Culture (2003). A basic guide to cultural misunderstandings in business and travel settings is Ned Crouch, Mexicans & Americans: Cracking the Cultural Code (2004).

James B. Pick and Edgar W. Butler, The Mexico Handbook: Economic and Demographic Maps and Statistics (1994), is an economic overview. The history of the economy is discussed in D.A. Brading, Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763–1810 (1971); and Robert A. Potash, Mexican Government and Industrial Development in the Early Republic: The Banco de Avio (1983). Economic relations in the 1970s and '80s are analyzed in John K. Thompson, Inflation, Financial Markets, and Economic Development: The Experience of Mexico (1979); and Jorge I. Domínguez (ed.), Mexico's Political Economy (1982).The social and economic impact of relations with the United States is studied in George W. Grayson, The United States and Mexico: Patterns of Influence (1984); Lawrence A. Cardoso, Mexican Emigration to the United States, 1897–1931: Socioeconomic Patterns (1980); Peggy B. Musgrave (ed.), Mexico and the United States: Studies in Economic Interaction (1985); Douglas C. Bennett and Kenneth E. Sharpe, Transnational Corporations Versus the State: The Political Economy of the Mexican Auto Industry (1985); and Lawrence A. Herzog, Where North Meets South: Cities, Space, and Politics on the U.S.-Mexico Border (1990). Numerous controversies regarding NAFTA are treated in Sidney Weintraub (ed.), NAFTA's Impact on North America: The First Decade (2004); and Maxwell A. Cameron and Brian W. Tomlin, The Making of NAFTA: How the Deal Was Done (2000). The voices of farm and industrial workers are incorporated into the debate in Leslie Rockenbach, The Mexican-American Border: NAFTA and Global Linkages (2001); and David Bacon, The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (2004).

Broad surveys of administrative and political conditions include Kenneth F. Johnson, Mexican Democracy: A Critical View, 3rd ed. (1984); Daniel Levy and Gabriel Székely, Mexico: Paradoxes of Stability and Change, 2nd ed., rev. and updated (1987); and Judith Gentleman (ed.), Mexican Politics in Transition (1987). Political leadership is analyzed in Roderic A. Camp, Mexico's Leaders, Their Education & Recruitment (1980), and Mexican Political Biographies, 1935–1993, 3rd ed. (1995). A former president attempts to defend his policies and actions in Carlos Salinas de Gortari, México: The Policy and Politics of Modernization (2002; originally published in Spanish 2000).The development of the Mexican army is studied in David Ronfeldt (ed.), The Modern Mexican Military, a Reassessment (1984). Assessments of Mexican human rights practices and political openness are included in United States Dept. of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (annual); and Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report (annual). Among the critical analyses of U.S.-Mexican and U.S.–Latin American power relations are Ted Galen Carpenter, Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington's Futile War on Drugs in Latin America (2003).

Art and literature
Photographic collections include Mariana Yampolsky, The Edge of Time: Photographs of Mexico (1998); Juan Rulfo, Juan Rulfo's Mexico (2002); and Donna McMenamin, Traditional Mexican Style Exteriors (2003). Folk literature and folk art are discussed in Anthony John Campos (trans. and ed.), Mexican Folk Tales (1977); Carlos Espejel and F. Catalá Roca, Mexican Folk Ceramics, trans. from Spanish (1975), and Mexican Folk Crafts (1978; originally published in Spanish, 1977). Surveys of the visual arts include Justino Fernández, A Guide to Mexican Art: From Its Beginnings to the Present (1969; originally published in Spanish, 2nd ed., 1961); Shifra M. Goldman, Contemporary Mexican Painting in a Time of Change (1981, reissued 1995); Desmond Rochfort, Mexican Muralists: Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros (1993); and Marcus B. Burke, Mexican Art Masterpieces (1998).Intellectual, literary, and political events are interlaced in Maarten Van Delden, Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity (1998); and Raymond Leslie Williams, The Writings of Carlos Fuentes (1996). Walter M. Langford, The Mexican Novel Comes of Age (1971), reviews fiction. Life on the stage and screen are examined in Rodolfo Usigli, Mexico in the Theater (1976; originally published in Spanish, 1932), which covers pre-Columbian times to the 1920s; Carl J. Mora, Mexican Cinema: Reflections of a Society, 1896–2004, 3rd ed. (2005); and Jeffrey M. Pilcher, Cantinflas and the Chaos of Mexican Modernity (2002).

Comprehensive surveys include Michael C. Meyer, William L. Sherman, and Susan M. Deeds, The Course of Mexican History, 7th ed. (2003); Michael S. Werner (ed.), Encyclopedia of Mexico: History, Society & Culture, 2 vol. (1997); and Colin M. MacLachlan and William H. Beezley, El Gran Pueblo: A History of Greater Mexico, 3rd ed. (2004).The pre-Columbian history and archaeology of Mexico are surveyed in numerous texts, including Susan Toby Evans and David L. Webster (eds.), Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia (2001); Alfredo Lopez Austin and Leonardo López Luján, Mexico's Indigenous Past (2001; originally published in Spanish, 1996); Susan Schroeder, Stephanie Wood, and Robert Haskett (eds.), Indian Women of Early Mexico (1997); and Susan Toby Evans, Ancient Mexico & Central America: Archaeology and Culture History (2004).The first 35 years of Spanish rule in Mexico is the subject of Peggy K. Liss, Mexico Under Spain, 1521–1556: Society and the Origins of Nationality (1975, reissued 1984). Native American life during the colonial period is the topic of Charles Gibson, The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519–1810 (1964); and Nancy M. Farriss, Maya Society Under Colonial Rule: The Collective Enterprise of Survival (1984, reprinted with corrections, 1992). The controversial role of the Roman Catholic Church is assessed in William B. Taylor, Magistrates of the Sacred: Priests and Parishioners in Eighteenth-Century Mexico (1996). Studies of Mexican independence from Spain include Hugh M. Hamill, Jr., The Hidalgo Revolt: Prelude to Mexican Independence (1966, reprinted 1981); and Timothy E. Anna, The Fall of the Royal Government in Mexico City (1978).The difficult transition to nationhood is the subject of a valuable series of essays in Jaime E. Rodríguez O. (ed.), The Independence of Mexico and the Creation of the New Nation (1989). Barbara A. Tenenbaum, The Politics of Penury: Debts and Taxes in Mexico, 1821–1856 (1986), is an economic history of the age of Santa Anna; while Walter V. Scholes, Mexican Politics During the Juárez Regime, 1855–1872 (1957, reissued 1969), details the Mexico of Benito Juárez. The role of the Rurales during the Díaz regime is explored in Paul J. Vanderwood, Disorder and Progress: Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development, rev. and enlarged ed. (1992). Foreign capital in northern Mexico is the subject of Ramón Eduardo Ruiz, The People of Sonora and Yankee Capitalists (1988); and Mark Wasserman, Capitalists, Caciques, and Revolution: The Native Elite and Foreign Enterprise in Chihuahua, Mexico, 1854–1911 (1984).A useful bibliography for the revolution is W. Dirk Raat, The Mexican Revolution: An Annotated Guide to Recent Scholarship (1982). General studies of the period abound, but two of the most perceptive are John Mason Hart, Revolutionary Mexico: The Coming and Process of the Mexican Revolution (1987, reissued 1997); and Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution, 2 vol. (1986, reissued 1990). Ramón Eduardo Ruiz, The Great Rebellion: Mexico, 1905–1924 (1980), is a strong critique of the revolution. The revolution has also commanded the attention of biographers, including Stanley R. Ross, Francisco I. Madero: Apostle of Mexican Democracy (1955, reissued 1970); Michael C. Meyer, Huerta: A Political Portrait (1972); John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution (1969); William H. Beezley, Insurgent Governor: Abraham Gonzalez and the Mexican Revolution in Chihuahua (1973); and Friedrich Katz, The Life and Times of Pancho Villa (1998).The aftermath of the revolution is treated in Howard F. Cline, Mexico, Revolution to Evolution, 1940–1960 (1962, reprinted 1981); Susan Eckstein, The Poverty of Revolution: The State and the Urban Poor in Mexico (1977, reissued 1988); Alan Riding, Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans (1985, reprinted 2000); and Kevin J. Middlebrook, The Paradox of Revolution: Labor, the State, and Authoritarianism in Mexico (1995).The violence of the 1990s and early 21st century is examined in Neil Harvey, The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy (1998); and Tom Hayden (ed.), The Zapatista Reader (2002), with essays by Eduardo Galeano, Octavio Paz, and others. The Chiapas uprising is discussed by one of its leaders in Subcommandante Marcos, Our Word Is Our Weapon, trans. from Spanish, ed. by Juana Ponce de Léon (2001), and ¡Ya Basta! Ten Years of the Zapatista Uprising, trans. from Spanish, ed. by Ziga Vodovnki (2004).Ernst C. Griffin Michael C. Meyer Ed.

      city, seat (1837) of Audrain county, central Missouri, U.S. It is situated on the South Fork Salt River, 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Columbia. Founded (1836) by the Reverend Robert C. Mansfield and James H. Smith, it was named for a tavern sign reading “Mexico that-a-way.” Its commercial development was stimulated by the arrival (1858) of the railroad. Ulysses S. Grant was appointed a brigadier general of the Union Army while stationed there in 1861. Since the establishment of the Western Stove Lining Works (1887), the fireclay industry has been an economic mainstay. Agriculture (soybeans, corn [maize], livestock), the manufacture of magnetic wire, plastic optical products, pharmaceuticals, and refrigeration equipment, and the breeding of saddle horses on the surrounding bluegrass pastures are also important economically. The Audrain County Historical Society Museum Complex includes the American Saddlebred Horse Museum. The Missouri Military Academy was established in Mexico in 1889. Inc. 1857. Pop. (2000) 11,320; (2005 est.) 11,018.

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