Mexico has been home to advanced civilizations - including the Olmec, Maya, Toltec and Aztec - for thousands of years. When Cortéz conquered Mexico in 1521, he destroyed a flourishing Aztec civilization.
A Mexican revolt in 1810 later led to a treaty signing in 1821, which marked the beginning of Mexican independence. Twenty-two years of chronic instability followed independence: the presidency changed hands 36 times.
In 1845, the U.S. Congress voted to annex Texas, leading to the Mexican-American War in which U.S. troops captured Mexico City. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), Mexico ceded Texas, California, Utah, Colorado and most of New Mexico and Arizona to the United States. The Maya rose up against their overlords in the late 1840s and almost succeeded in driving them off the Yucatán Peninsula. By 1862, Mexico was heavily in debt to Britain, France and Spain, who sent a joint force to Mexico to collect their debts. France decided to go one step further and colonize Mexico, sparking yet another war. In 1864, France invited the Austrian archduke, Maximilian of Habsburg, to become emperor of Mexico. His reign was bloodily ended by forces loyal to the country's former president, Benito Juárez.
Social discontent rocked the country during the 1960s and 1970s, especially with rising urbanization and unemployment. In 1994, Indians in Chiapas revolted, demanding economic and political reform and currency devaluation produced near economic collapse.
In 2000 in the freest and fairest national election since the Mexican Revolution, former Coca-Cola executive Vicente Fox won the presidency. The victory was the first time since the 1910 Mexican Revolution that an opposition candidate with the National Action Party (PAN) defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). In 2006, Fox was succeeded by another PAN candidate Felipe Calderon.
The typical school year runs from September to June. Education is compulsory from ages six through 14. Universities, colleges and technical institutes abound.
Elementary school is six years and secondary school is three years. After three years of secondary school, children must choose an area to focus on in high school.
Mexicans value education and consider it the key to a better future for their children. For this reason, the Mexican government has set out to improve school curricula and has made primary education free and compulsory.
However, in many cases, it is a struggle to get students enrolled. Indigenous children, for example, may not enroll because teachers do not speak their dialect and they are discriminated against by other, non-indigenous children.
The constitution states that everyone is free to profess their chosen religious belief and to practice its ceremonies and acts of worship. The constitution also provides for the separation of Church and State.
Mexicans of different religions have a generally amicable relationship; however, in certain southern areas, political, cultural and religious tensions continue to limit the free practice of religion within some communities.
The constitution bars members of the clergy from holding public office, advocating partisan political views, supporting political candidates, or opposing the laws or institutions of the State.
Religious instruction is prohibited in public schools; however, religious associations are free to maintain private schools, which receive no public funds. Primary level home schooling for religious reasons is not prohibited explicitly or supported by the law; however, to enter a secondary school, a child must have attended an accredited primary school. Home schooling is allowed at the secondary level once schooling at an accredited primary school has been completed.
Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, November 8, 2005, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51646.htm.
Holidays and Festivals
Mexicans treasure family and traditional values. Graciousness in conversation and other communication is highly regarded and relationships take precedence over other matters.
The arts have been an important part of Mexican life since the days of the ancient Indians. Mexico has produced a number of renowned architects, painters, composers and writers. Murals, such as those painted by Diego Rivera, are an important part of Mexico's history. Writers, such as Octavio Paz, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990, have also captured Mexican culture with beautiful poetry.
There are many types of folkloric music in Mexico. Following is a description of some of the most popular types of Mexican music.
A mariachi band is a group of five or more musicians dressed in traditional charro or Mexican cowboy costumes. The unique sound of the mariachi is created combining the sound of trumpets, violins and guitars with two Mexican traditional instruments, the vihuela and the guitarrón (two kinds of guitars).
Ranchera music is also popular. These "songs from the ranch" began during the Mexican Revolution and are about rural life, lost loves or social causes.
The marimba is an appreciated tradition in Mexico. This instrument is used to cheer up family and religious gatherings.
Sports and Games
Holy Week (Semana Santa), March or April: a large celebration from Palm Sunday to Easter
Independence Day, September 16: Commemorates Father Miguel Hidalgo's call for Mexico's independence from Spain in 1810.
All Souls Day, November 2: A festival to remember those who have died; considered by many Mexicans to be the most important festival of the year.
Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12: During this festival, Mexicans often make pilgrimages, sometimes walking for weeks from their homes to the main cathedral in Mexico City.
Christmas Day, December 25: Mexican children help make a nativity scene. The nativity is complete on Christmas Eve when the Baby Jesus is placed in the manger.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Mexico, followed by baseball. Jai alai, a type of handball, is also popular.
Traditional Mexican food comes from the indigenous Indians, and many dishes are made with corn, hot peppers, squash, rice, rabbit, armadillo and turkey.
Molé, a dish made with chocolate and red chili, is one of the most important dishes in Mexico, specially prepared for great celebrations. Mexican desserts were created during the Spanish viceroys' time; they are made to reflect popular feelings and have whimsical forms and names.
- 1 lb. boneless stewing pork, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 cups water
- 2 dried ancho chili peppers, stemmed and seeded
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 Tb. vegetable oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cups canned hominy, drained
- 3 cups pork stock or chicken stock
Bring to a boil the pork and salt in the water. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain liquid into a bowl. Place chilies in the reserved liquid soak for 20 minutes. Transfer the liquid and chilies to a blender. Add the garlic and oregano and purée until smooth. Set aside.
Heat oil and sauté the onion about 10 minutes. Add the puréed chili mixture, hominy and chicken or pork stock. Stir in the reserved pork. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until the pork is tender, about 30 to 60 minutes. Serves four.
Compassion in Mexico
Mexicans use informal phrases to greet friends. It is also common to see friends greet each other by kissing on the cheek. The dialects of Masahua and Zapoteco are spoken by some Compassion-assisted children in Mexico. Masahua is spoken in the state of Ares and Zapoteco is spoken in southeastern Oaxaca.
- Hola (Hi)
- ¿Cómo está? (How are you?)
- Me llamo ... (My name is ...)
- Gracias (Thanks)
- Jëikäto (Hi)
- Jaibüto? (How are you?)
- Inchungo ... (My name is ...)
- Poji (Thanks)
- Shital nülü (Hi)
- Shinü shoü? (How are you?)
- Naa layä ... (My name is ...)
- Stiüshepeli (Thanks)
Mexico Facts & Figures
Compassion's work in Mexico began in 1976. There are currently more than 20,500 children participating in 130 child development centers. Compassion partners with churches to help them provide Mexican children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Mexico.
|Capital||Mexico City||Washington, D.C.|
109,955,400 (July 2008 estimate)
|307,212,123 (July 2010 estimate)|
Spanish only 92.7%, Spanish and indigenous languages 5.7%, indigenous only 0.8%, unspecified 0.8% (2005)
Note: Indigenous languages include various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional languages
|English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7% (2000 census)|
|Religions||Roman Catholic 76.5%, Protestant 6.3% (Pentecostal 1.4%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.1%, other 3.8%), other 0.3%, unspecified 13.8%, none 3.1% (2000 census)||Christian 78.5% (Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%), Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)|
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.
|Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources||Urban: 100%
|Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities||Urban: 91%
|Climate||Varies from tropical to desert||Mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the Great Plains west of the Mississippi River and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are warmed occasionally in January and February by chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.|
|Percentage of population urbanized||76% (2006 estimate)||82% (2008 estimate)|
|Life expectancy||Male: 73.05 years
Female: 78.78 years
|Male: 75.65 years
Female: 80.69 years
|Under-5 mortality rate||35/1,000 (2006 estimate)||8/1,000 (2008 estimate)|
|GDP per capita||$12,400 (2007 estimate)||$46,000 (2009 estimate)|
|Monetary unit||Mexican peso (MXN)||U.S. dollar (USD)|
|Number of people living with HIV/AIDS||160,000 (2003 estimate)||1.2 million (2007 estimate)|
|Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day||3% (1995-2005 study)||Data not available|
Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2008; The State of the World's Children, 2008