Mexico officially the United Mexican States is a federal republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost two million square kilometres (over 760,000 sq mi), Mexico is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent nation in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million, it is the eleventh most populous and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second most populous country in Latin America. Mexico is a federation comprising thirty-one states and a Federal District, its capital and largest city.
Mexican culture reflects the complexity of the country's history through the blending of indigenous cultures and the culture of Spain, imparted during Spain's 300-year colonization of Mexico. Exogenous cultural elements have been incorporated into Mexican culture as time has passed.
The Porfirian era (el Porfiriato), in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, was marked by economic progress and peace. After four decades of civil unrest and war, Mexico saw the development of philosophy and the arts, promoted by President Díaz himself. Since that time, as accentuated during the Mexican Revolution, cultural identity has had its foundation in the mestizaje, of which the indigenous (i.e. Amerindian) element is the core. In light of the various ethnicities that formed the Mexican people, José Vasconcelos in his publication La Raza Cósmica (The Cosmic Race) (1925) defined Mexico to be the melting pot of all races (thus extending the definition of themestizo) not only biologically but culturally as well.
The Secretary of Communications and Transport of Mexico proposed a high-speed rail link that will transport its passengers from Mexico City to Guadalajara, Jalisco. The train, which will travel at 300 kilometers per hour, will allow passengers to travel from Mexico City to Guadalajara in just 2 hours. The whole project was projected to cost 240 billion pesos, or about 25 billion US$ and is being paid for jointly by the Mexican government and the local private sector including the wealthiest man in the world, Mexico's billionaire business tycoon Carlos Slim. The government of the state of Yucatán is also funding the construction of a high speed line connecting the cities of Cozumel to Mérida and Chichen Itza and Cancún.
Mexico has 233 airports with paved runways; of these, 35 carry 97% of the passenger traffic. The Mexico City International Airport remains the largest in Latin America and the 44th largest in the world transporting 21 million passengers a year.
Mexico has been traditionally among the most visited countries in the world according to the World Tourism Organization and it is the most visited country in the Americas, after the United States. The most notable attractions are the Meso-American ruins, cultural festivals, colonial cities, nature reserves and the beach resorts. The nation's temperate climate and unique culture – a fusion of the European and the Meso-American – make Mexico an attractive destination. The peak tourism seasons in the country are during December and the mid-Summer, with brief surges during the week before Easter and Spring break, when many of the beach resort sites become popular destinations for college students from the United States.
The coastlines of Mexico harbor many stretches of beaches that are frequented by sun bathers and other visitors. On the Yucatán peninsula, one of the most popular beach destinations is the resort town of Cancún, especially among university students during spring break. Just offshore is the beach island of Isla Mujeres, and to the east is the Isla Holbox. To the south of Cancun is the coastal strip called Riviera Maya which includes the beach town of Playa del Carmen and the ecological parks of Xcaret and Xel-Há. A day trip to the south of Cancún is the historic port of Tulum. In addition to its beaches, the town of Tulum is notable for its cliff-side Mayan ruins.
On the Pacific coast is the notable tourist destination of Acapulco. Once the destination for the rich and famous, the beaches have become crowded and the shores are now home to many multi-story hotels and vendors. Acapulco is home to renowned cliff divers: trained divers who leap from the side of a vertical cliff into the surf below.
At the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula is the resort town of Cabo San Lucas, a town noted for its beaches and marlin fishing. Further north along the Sea of Cortés is the Bahía de La Concepción, another beach town known for its sports fishing. Closer to the United States border is the weekend draw of San Felipe, Baja California.
The Tropic of Cancer effectively divides the country into temperate and tropical zones. Land north of the twenty-fourth parallel experiences cooler temperatures during the winter months. South of the twenty-fourth parallel, temperatures are fairly constant year round and vary solely as a function of elevation. This gives Mexico one of the world's most diverse weather systems.
Areas south of the 24th parallel with elevations up to 1,000 m (3,281 ft) (the southern parts of both coastal plains as well as the Yucatán Peninsula), have a yearly median temperature between 24 to 28 °C (75.2 to 82.4 °F). Temperatures here remain high throughout the year, with only a 5 °C (9 °F) difference between winter and summer median temperatures. Both Mexican coasts, except for the south coast of the Bay of Campeche and northern Baja, are also vulnerable to serious hurricanes during the summer and fall. Although low-lying areas north of the 24th parallel are hot and humid during the summer, they generally have lower yearly temperature averages (from 20 to 24 °C or 68.0 to 75.2 °F) because of more moderate conditions during the winter.
Many large cities in Mexico are located in the Valley of Mexico or in adjacent valleys with altitudes generally above 2,000 m (6,562 ft). This gives them a year-round temperate climate with yearly temperature averages (from 16 to 18 °C or 60.8 to 64.4 °F) and cool nighttime temperatures throughout the year.
Many parts of Mexico, particularly the north, have a dry climate with sporadic rainfall while parts of the tropical lowlands in the south average more than 2,000 mm (78.7 in) of annual precipitation. For example, many cities in the north like Monterrey, Hermosillo, and Mexicali experience temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) or more in summer. In the Sonoran Desert temperatures reach 50 °C (122 °F) or more.
Education in Mexico has a long history. The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico was founded by royal decree in 1551, a few months after the University of San Carlos in Lima. By comparison, Harvard College, the oldest in Anglo-America, was founded in 1636. Education in Mexico was until relatively recently largely confined to elite males and under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico.
The Mexican state has been directly involved in education since the nineteenth century, promoting secular education. Control of education was a source of ongoing conflict between the Mexican state and the Roman Catholic Church, which since the colonial era had exclusive charge of education. The mid nineteenth-century Liberal Reform separated church and state, which had a direct impact on education. President Benito Juárez sought the expansion of public schools. During the lengthy tenure of president Porfirio Díaz, the expansion of education became a priority under a cabinet-level post held by Justo Sierra; Sierra also served President Francisco I. Madero in the early years of the Mexican Revolution.
The 1917 Constitution strengthened the Mexican state's power in education, undermining the power of the Roman Catholic Church to shape the educational development of Mexicans. During presidency of Álvaro Obregón in the early 1920s, his Minister of Public Education José Vasconcelos implemented a massive expansion of access to public, secular education. This work was built on and expanded in the administration of Plutarco Elías Calles by Moisés Sáenz. In the 1930s, the Mexican government under Lázaro Cárdenas mandated socialist education in Mexico and there was considerable push back from the Roman Catholic Church as an institution. Socialist education was repealed during the 1940s, with the administration of Manuel Ávila Camacho. A number of private universities have opened since the mid-twentieth century.
Education in Mexico is currently regulated by the Secretariat of Public Education (Spanish: Secretaría de Educación Pública) (SEP). Education standards are set by this Ministry at all levels except in "autonomous" universities chartered by the government (e.g.,Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). Accreditation of private schools is accomplished by a mandatory approval and registration with this institution. Religious instruction is prohibited in public schools; however, religious associations are free to maintain private schools, which receive no public funds. Proof of Mexican citizenship is required to attend public schools for free.
In the same fashion as other education systems, education has identifiable stages: Primary School, Junior High School, High School, Higher education, and Postgraduate education.
Mexican cuisine is known for its intense and varied flavors, colorful decoration, and variety of spices. Most of today's Mexican food is based on pre-Columbian traditions, including Aztec and Maya, combined with culinary trends introduced by Spanish colonists.
The conquistadores eventually combined their imported diet of rice, beef, pork, chicken, wine, garlic and onions with the native pre-Columbian food, including maize, tomato, vanilla, avocado, guava, papaya, pineapple, chili pepper, beans, squash, sweet potato, peanut, and turkey. Mexican food varies by region, because of local climate and geography and ethnic differences among the indigenous inhabitants and because these different populations were influenced by the Spaniards in varying degrees. The north of Mexico is known for its beef, goat and ostrich production and meat dishes, in particular the well-known Arrachera cut.
Central Mexico's cuisine is largely made up of influences from the rest of the countries, but also has its authentics, such as barbacoa, pozole, menudo, tamales, and carnitas. Southeastern Mexico, on the other hand, is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes. The cuisine of Southeastern Mexico also has quite a bit of Caribbean influence, given its geographical location. Veal is common in the Yucatan. Seafood is commonly prepared in the states that border the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, the latter having a famous reputation for its fish dishes, in particular à la veracruzana.
In modern times, other cuisines of the world have become very popular in Mexico, thus adopting a Mexican fusion. For example, sushi in Mexico is often made with a variety of sauces based on mango or tamarind, and very often served with serrano-chili-blended soy sauce, or complemented with vinegar, habanero and chipotle peppers.
The most internationally recognized dishes include chocolate, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tamales and mole among others. Regional dishes include mole poblano,chiles en nogada and chalupas from Puebla; cabrito and machaca from Monterrey, cochinita pibil from Yucatán, Tlayudas from Oaxaca, as well as barbacoa, chilaquiles, milanesas, and many others.
The country has the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world with almost a third of all Spanish native speakers.
Mexico is home to a large number of indigenous languages, spoken by some 5.4% of the population – 1.2% of the population are monolingual speakers of an indigenous language. The indigenous languages with most speakers are Nahuatl, spoken by approximately 1.45 million people, Yukatek Maya spoken by some 750,000 people and the Mixtec and Zapotec languages each spoken by more than 400,000 people.
The National Institute of Indigenous Languages INALI recognizes 68 linguistic groups and some 364 different specific varieties of indigenous languages. Since the promulgation of the Law of Indigenous Linguistic Rights in 2003, these languages have had status as national languages, with equal validity with Spanish in all the areas and contexts in which they are spoken.
In addition to the indigenous languages, other minority languages are spoken by immigrant populations, such as the 80,000 German-speaking Mennonites in Mexico, and 5,000 the Chipilo dialect of the Venetian language spoken in Chipilo, Puebla.