Mexico: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government of the country Mexico.

MEXICO

NITTY GRITTY

Location--The north and widest end of the Central American isthmus. Neighbors are: the U.S. to the north; Guatemala and British Honduras to the southeast; Gulf of Mexico to the east; Pacific Ocean to the west and south.

How Created--At the time of the Spanish conquest, Mexico was home to 700 tribal groups, speaking over 100 different languages and dialects. The center of Aztec power lay in Tenochtitlan, now occupied by Mexico City. Exploration and conquest began in 1517, directed from Cuba by Spanish governor Diego Velasquez. The 3rd and definitive expedition to Mexico, under the leadership of the Spanish adventurer Hernan Cortes, arrived in the Yucatan peninsula in 1519. Moving north along the coast, Cortes founded Veracruz. Then, playing upon existing dissension within the Aztec Empire, he captured and destroyed Tenochtitlan and executed the Aztec chiefs.

Dominated for 3 centuries by Spain in its political, religious, cultural, and economic spheres, Mexico at last gained its freedom in 1821 following 10 years of agitation and guerrilla warfare by the peasants. Not until the Creoles joined the movement, under the leadership of Augustin de Iturbide, was independence achieved, on September 27, 1821. Iturbide seized power in 1822, proclaiming himself Emperor Agustin I, but the empire lasted less than a year. The entire monarchical system was overthrown, and Mexico sought a republican form of government.

Size--761,600 sq. mi. (1,972,547 sq. km.).

Population--59 million: mestizo, 55%; Indian, 29%; white, 15%; other, 1%. 96.2% Roman Catholic, 1.8% Protestant, 2% other religion or none.

Who Rules--Mexico is a Federal republic with a President and bicameral legislature. The chief executive is strong, with considerable power centralized in his office. The President's term lasts 6 years, and he cannot be reelected.

Who REALLY Rules--The U.S. exercises considerable direct influence in Mexican affairs. In addition to having extensive financial investments in Mexico, the U.S. is very interested in seeing a stable, cooperative, and noncommunist neighbor. Problems regarding the shared border have generally been resolved in favor of the U.S.

Most power within Mexico resides in the group of industrialists and businessmen who control the principal means of wealth: commerce, banking, manufacturing. The dominant political party, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary party), once the champion of revolutionary aims, has become institutionalized over the years. It is increasingly influenced by conservative elements: those opposing further land reform or restructuring of the society.

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