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, country, North America

Mexico (mĕkˈsĭkō), Span. México or Méjico (both: māˈhēkō), officially United Mexican States, republic (2015 est. pop. 125,891,000), 753,665 sq mi (1,952,500 sq km), S North America. It borders on the United States in the north, on the Gulf of Mexico (including its arm, the Bay of Campeche) and the Caribbean Sea in the east, on Belize and Guatemala in the southeast, and on the Pacific Ocean in the south and west. Mexico is divided into 31 states and the Federal District, which includes most of the country's capital and largest city, Mexico City.

Land and People

Most of Mexico is highland or mountainous and less than 15% of the land is arable; about 25% of the country is forested. Most of the Yucatán peninsula and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the southeast is lowland, and there are low-lying strips of land along the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of California (which separates the Baja, or Lower, California peninsula from the rest of the country).

The heart of Mexico is made up of the Mexican Plateau (c.700 mi/1,130 km long and c.4,000–8,000 ft/1,220–2,440 m high), which is broken by mountain ranges and segmented by deep rifts. The plateau is fringed by two mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre Oriental (in the east) and the Sierra Madre Occidental (in the west), which converge just south of the plateau. Within the plateau are drainage basins, which have no outlet to the sea and which contain some of the country's major cities. The Laguna District, one of the drainage basins, was (1936) the scene of a major experiment in land reapportionment. In the north the plateau is arid except for irrigated areas and is used principally for raising livestock.

In the south the deserts yield to the broad, shallow lakes of a region, comprising the Valley of Mexico, known as the Anáhuac and famous for its rich cultural heritage. South of the Anáhuac, which includes Mexico City, is a chain of extinct volcanoes, including Citlaltépetl, or Orizaba (18,700 ft/5,700 m, the highest point in Mexico), Popocatépetl, and Iztaccíhuatl. To the south are jumbled masses of mountains and the Sierra Madre del Sur.

Among Mexico's few large rivers are the Rio Bravo del Norte, which forms the boundary with Texas, and its tributaries the Río Conchos and the Río Sabinas; the Río Yaqui, Río Fuerte, Río Mezquital, Río Grande de Santiago, and Río Balsas, which flow into the Pacific; and the Río Grijalva and Río Usumacinta, which flow into the Bay of Campeche. The climate of the country varies with the altitude, so that there are hot, temperate, and cool regions—tierra caliente (up to c.3,000 ft/1,220 m), tierra templada (c.3,000–c.6,000 ft/1,220–1,830 m), and tierra friá (above c.6,000 ft/1,830 m).

Mexico's 31 states are Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro de Arteaga, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán, and Zacatecas.

About 60% of the population are of mixed Spanish and indigenous descent, while about 30% are of purely indigenous ancestry, and 10% are of European descent. Spanish is the official language and various Mayan dialects, Nahuatl, and other indigenous languages are also spoken. Since 1920 the population of Mexico has had a very high rate of growth, almost entirely the result of natural increase; from 1940 to 2005 the population grew from less than 20 million to more than 100 million. However, declining fertility rates (from 7 children per woman in 1965 to slightly under 3 in 1998) are slowing population growth. More than 75% of the people are Roman Catholic and 6% are Protestant, but nearly 14% did not specify their religion in the census and the growing Protestant minority is believed to be much larger. The country has numerous universities, notably in Mexico City, Saltillo, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Puebla. Since precolonial times Mexican architects, painters, writers, and musicians have produced a rich cultural heritage (see Spanish colonial art and architecture, Mexican art and architecture, and Spanish-American literature).


From the mid-1940s through the 1970s, Mexico generally enjoyed considerable economic growth, especially in industry. However, in the 1980s the economy, heavily dependent on sales of petroleum, incurred large international debts as petroleum prices fell. In the early 1990s, debt relief, diversification and privatization of the economy, and foreign investment showed positive effects, and the growth rate returned to historic levels. A new crisis arose with the collapse of the peso in the mid-1990s, forcing the adoption of austerity measures. A strong export sector helped the country to recover in the late 1990s, but the economy again went into recession in 2001, in large part because of the economic downturn in the United States. The Mexican government plays a major role in planning the economy and owns and operates some basic industries (including petroleum, the government ownership of which is mandated by the constitution), but the number of state-owned enterprises has fallen substantially since the 1980s.

About 20% of the country's workers (including those largely outside the money economy) are engaged in farming, which is slowly becoming modernized. Because rainfall is inadequate outside the coastal regions, agriculture depends largely on extensive irrigation. Mexico produces a wide variety of agricultural products, including corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, sugar, and tomatoes. Agave species (see amaryllis) are widely grown, and are processed into the alcoholic beverages pulque, mescal, and tequila. Livestock raising, dairy farming, and fishing are also significant economic activities.

Mexico is among the world's leading producers of many minerals, including silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, and natural gas, and its petroleum reserves are one of its most valuable assets. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, petroleum constituted about three quarters of Mexico's exports. That figure fell drastically in the mid-1980s. The petroleum industry subsequently recovered substantially, but production began to drop in the mid-2000s. Diversification of industry since the 1980s has helped to keep Mexico's trade economy from becoming dependent once more on a single export.

Next to oil, the most important source of exports are the industrial assembly plants known as maquiladoras. Since the early 1980s there has been considerable foreign investment in the maquiladoras, which take advantage of a large, low-cost labor force to produce finished goods for export to the United States. These plants have increased Mexico's export production considerably. The economic importance of the maquiladoras, however, is exceeded by tourism. Favorite tourist centers include Acapulco, Cancún, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas, and Tijuana, as well as Mexico City itself and such highland centers as Guadalajara and Puebla. Remittances from Mexicans working, both legally and illegally, in the United States are also extremely important to the economy.

The principal industrial centers in Mexico are Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Juárez, Tijuana, Veracruz, Durango, León, Querétaro, Tampico, Mérida, and Puebla. Leading products include food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron and steel, refined petroleum and petrochemicals, textiles and clothing, motor vehicles, and consumer goods. The country is also known for its handicrafts, especially pottery, woven goods, and silverwork. Mexico's chief ports are Veracruz, Tampico, Coatzacoalcos, Mazatlán, and Ensenada.

The leading imports are machinery, steel mill products, electrical and electronic equipment, motor vehicle parts for assembly and repair, aircraft, and manufactured consumer goods. The main exports are manufactured goods, crude oil, petroleum products, silver, fruits, vegetables, coffee, and cotton. Until recently, the annual value of Mexico's imports was considerably higher than the value of its exports. The United States is by far the largest trade partner, followed by China, Japan, Canada, and the European Union nations.


Under the constitution of 1917 as amended, Mexico is a federal republic whose head of state and government is the president, directly elected to a nonrenewable six-year term and assisted by a cabinet. The bicameral National Congress is made up of the Senate, with 128 members serving six-year terms, and the Chamber of Deputies, with 500 members serving three-year terms. Ninety-six of the senators and 300 of the deputies are directly elected, while 32 of the senators and 200 of the deputies are chosen by a system of proportional representation.


To the Early Nineteenth Century

A number of great civilizations flourished in Mexico long before the arrival of Spanish conquistadores in the early 16th cent. The Olmec civilization was the earliest of these, reaching its high point between 800 and 400 B.C. The Maya civilization flourished between about A.D. 300 and 900, followed by the Toltec (900–1200) and the Aztec (1200–1519). Other notable civilizations of pre-Columbian Mexico are the Mixtec and the Zapotec.

The first Europeans to visit Mexico were Francisco Fernández de Córdoba in 1517 and Juan de Grijalva in 1518. The conquest was begun from Cuba in 1519 by Hernán Cortés, who with lieutenants such as Pedro de Alvarado managed to conquer the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán; to capture Montezuma, the Aztec ruler, and to bring down his empire; and to ward off Spanish rivals like Pánfilo de Narváez. In 1528 the first audiencia (royal court) was set up under Nuño de Guzmán, who later carried the conquest north to Nueva Galicia. The territory was constituted the viceroyalty of New Spain under Antonio de Mendoza in 1535.

Despite efforts by such men as Juan de Zumárraga to induce the indigenous population to accept European religious and social practices, the Spanish had difficulty establishing control, as is evidenced by such events as the Mixtón War (1541). Nonetheless, the small minority of Spanish succeeded in holding power over the rest of the population, and the society slowly developed three different status groupings—Spanish, native peoples, and mestizos (mixed Spanish and indigenous).

Although certain viceroys, including Luis de Velasco (both father and son), attempted to improve the material conditions of the indigenous peoples, there remained an unbridgeable gap in status between the wealthy, almost exclusively Spanish landowning class and the depressed laboring class on the land, in the mines, and in the small factories (chiefly the textile mills, called obrajes). The growth of an underprivileged mestizo class and the antagonism between those Spanish born in Spain (gachupines) and those born in America (criollos, or creoles) added to the stress.

The mercantilist system, under which manufacturing was largely forbidden in New Spain, drained the wealth of the country to Spain. Lesser officials often were corrupt and ignored the country's problems. At the same time, the Spanish succeeded in conquering new territory. Most of present-day Mexico and the former Spanish holdings in the present-day United States were occupied early. In the 16th cent. California was explored, but it was not until the middle and late 18th cent. that NE Mexico and Texas were occupied by Europeans in any large degree. Many of the administrative evils were ended by the reforms (especially that of 1786) of José de Gálvez, but discontentment with Spanish rule continued to grow among the creoles.


The establishment of the United States and the ideas of the French Revolution had considerable influence on Mexicans. The occupation (1808) of Spain by Napoleon I, who placed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne, opened the way for a revolt in Mexico. The priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla began the rebellion by issuing (Sept. 16, 1810) the Grito de Dolores [cry of Dolores], a revolutionary tract calling for racial equality and the redistribution of land. Armies, made up mostly of mestizos and natives and shunned by the creoles, sprang up under the command of Ignacio Allende, José María Morelos y Pavón, Vicente Guerrero, and Mariano Matamoros.

Hidalgo was at first successful, but lost (1811) the decisive battle of Calderón Bridge. By 1815, Morelos and Matamoros had been defeated, and Guerrero had been driven into the wilds. When the liberals came to power in Spain in 1820, the more conservative elements in Mexico (primarily the higher clergy and the creoles) sought independence as a means of maintaining the status quo. The royalist general Augustín de Iturbide negotiated with Guerrero, and they arrived (Feb., 1821) at the Plan of Iguala (see under Iguala), which called for an independent monarchy, equality for gachupines and creoles, and the maintenance of the privileged position of the church. Spain accepted Mexican independence in Sept., 1821, and a short-lived empire with Iturbide at its head was established (1822).

In 1823, the republican leaders Santa Anna and Guadalupe Victoria drove out Iturbide and a republic was set up with Guadalupe Victoria as its first president. Politics were dominated by groups formed around individuals (mostly army officers), each seeking his personal ends. There was a frequent turnover of governments, and the national budget usually ran a deficit. Guerrero, with the support of Santa Anna, became president in 1829, but was ousted in 1830 by Anastasio Bustamante. In 1832, the ambitious Santa Anna, who had a great influence over Mexican politics until 1855, toppled Bustamante and became president. Santa Anna fell from power after being captured during the Texas revolution (1836), but he served again as president from 1841 to 1844. Waste, corruption, and inefficiency were widespread at the time, as inequities in the social order went unchallenged.

The war with Texas led to an all-out war with the United States, the Mexican War (1846–48), which was ended by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, by which Mexico lost a large block of territory. After the war, Santa Anna returned to power as “perpetual dictator,” but he was overthrown (1855) by a revolution started (1854) at Ayutla. A group of reform-minded men came to the fore—Juan Álvarez, Ignacio Comonfort, Miguel and Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, and, especially, Benito Juárez—and drafted the liberal constitution of 1857, which secularized church property and reduced the privileges of the army.

Conservative opposition was bitter, and civil war ensued; Juárez led the liberals to victory in the War of Reform (1858–61). The conservatives then sought foreign aid and received it from Napoleon III of France, who had colonial ambitions. French intervention followed and led to a brief and ill-starred interlude of empire (1864–67) under Maximilian, a Hapsburg prince. With the end of French aid the empire collapsed and Juárez again ruled Mexico, but political disturbances prevented the accomplishment of his reform program. Porfirio Díaz led a successful armed revolt in 1876 and, except for the period from 1880 to 1884, firmly held the reins of power as president until 1911. It was a period of considerable economic growth, but social inequality was increased by the favoritism shown the great landowners and foreign investors; the indigenous population sank deeper into peonage. The democratic institutions remained only as a veneer for oligarchic rule.

The Revolution

In Nov., 1910, an idealistic liberal leader, Francisco I. Madero, began an armed revolt against Díaz, who had gone back on his word not to seek reelection in 1910. Madero was quickly successful, and in May, 1911, Díaz resigned and went into exile. Madero was elected president in Nov., 1911. Well-meaning but ineffectual, he was attacked by conservatives and revolutionaries alike and was harassed by U.S. ambassador Henry Lane Wilson. In Feb., 1913, Madero was overthrown by his general, Victoriano Huerta, and was murdered. President Huerta's regime was dictatorial and repressive, and revolts soon broke out under the leadership of Venustiano Carranza, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, and Emiliano Zapata.

In 1914, Huerta resigned, partly because of U.S. military intervention ordered by President Woodrow Wilson, and Carranza became president. Civil war broke out again in late 1914, but by the end of 1915 Carranza had established control over the country, although Villa and Zapata maintained opposition bands for a number of years. In 1916, Villa led a raid into the United States, which resulted in an unsuccessful U.S. expedition into Mexico. Carranza sponsored the constitution of 1917, which was similar to the 1857 constitution, but which in addition provided for the nationalization of mineral resources, for the restoration of communal lands to native peoples, for the separation of church and state, and for educational, agrarian, and labor reforms. However, most provisions of the constitution were not implemented, and in 1920 Carranza was deposed by General Álvaro Obregón, his former military chief, who was subsequently elected president.

Under the Obregón regime (1920–24) some land was redistributed and, under the leadership of José Vasconcelos, numerous schools were built. Obregón was succeeded by Plutarco Elías Calles, who continued the agrarian and educational programs, but who became embroiled in serious controversies with the United States over rights to petroleum and with the church over the separation of church and state. In some regions militant Catholic peasants, called Cristeros because of their rallying cry—Viva Cristo Rey! [long live Christ the King]—were in open revolt, and in the country as a whole from 1926 to 1929 church schools were closed and no church services were held. Both controversies subsided, partly because of the intervention of the U.S. ambassador, Dwight Morrow. Reelected in 1928, Obregón was assassinated before taking office.

Calles remained the most powerful person in Mexico during the administrations of Portes Gil (1928–30), Ortiz Rubio (1930–32), and Abelardo Rodríguez (1932–34). In 1929 he organized the National Revolutionary party (in 1938 renamed the Mexican Revolutionary party and in 1946 the Institutional Revolutionary party), the chief political party of 20th-century Mexico. Calles's hegemony ended, however, with the inauguration (1934) of Lázaro Cárdenas. Vigorous and idealistic, Cárdenas instituted reforms to improve the lot of the underprivileged. He redistributed much land under the ejido system and supported the Mexican labor movement, which had suffered a setback under Calles (see Lombardo Toledano, Vicente for more detail).

Railroads were nationalized, and foreign holdings, particularly in petroleum fields, were expropriated with compensation. Educational opportunities were increased and illiteracy reduced, medical facilities were extended, transport and communications were improved, and plans were drawn up for land reclamation and for hydroelectric and industrial projects. A settlement with the church was reached. The pace of reform slowed under Manuel Ávila Camacho, who became president in 1940. Relations with the United States improved. In World War II, Mexico declared war (1942) on the Axis powers; it made substantial contributions to the Allied cause and also received considerable U.S. economic aid.

Developments since 1945

Since World War II, Mexico has enjoyed considerable economic development, but most of the benefits have accrued to the middle and upper classes; the relative welfare of poorer persons (small farmers and laborers) has remained the same or deteriorated. Under President Miguel Alemán (1946–52) vast irrigation projects and hydroelectric plants were constructed, and industrialization advanced rapidly. The improvements made in Mexico's rail network during World War II and the opening of the Inter-American Highway after the war encouraged more U.S. tourists to visit Mexico and thus increased the commercial value of one of the country's greatest assets, the beauty of its land.

Under the moderate presidents Adolfo Ruiz Cortines (1952–58), Adolfo López Mateos (1958–64), and Gustavo Díaz Ordaz (1964–70), the government continued to play a dominant role in national affairs, and attempts were made to improve the conditions of the lower classes. The tax structure was reformed somewhat, some large estates were confiscated and the land redistributed, and educational opportunities in rural areas were increased. In foreign affairs, Mexico maintained friendly relations with the United States, ratifying treaties settling long-standing border disputes in the El Paso, Tex., region (1964, 1967) and calling (1965) for the United States to maintain the freshwater content of the Colorado River, whose waters are used for irrigation in Mexico. Unlike most other American nations, Mexico maintained continuous diplomatic relations with Communist Cuba, but it supported the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).

In 1970, Luis Echeverría Álvarez became president. He took steps toward reforming the government, but the first years of his term were marked by clashes between the left and right and attacks by guerrilas. He was succeeded by José López Portillo in 1976. In the 1970s, Mexico continued to expand its economy, borrowing significantly on the strength of its petroleum reserves. When oil prices fell sharply in the early 1980s, the country's ability to meet its international debt obligations was severely strained. Unemployment and inflation soared, private and foreign investment dropped sharply, and the population began migrating from rural areas into the cities and to the United States. The government of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, who was elected president in 1982, responded with economic austerity policies, a renegotiation of Mexico's international debt, and a loosening of direct foreign investment regulations.

The economic crisis, the austerity measures imposed in response, and the added economic blow of a major earthquake in Mexico City in 1985 all contributed to popular discontent with the Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI). Although the party's candidate Carlos Salinas de Gortari won the presidency in 1988, his margin of victory was extremely narrow and was marred by charges of fraud, which much later (2004) were acknowledged by de la Madrid Hurtado to be true. Salinas continued the economic reform begun in the early 1980s, encouraging foreign investment, privatizing many national industries, investigating corruption in public offices, and working toward increased trade with the United States. The illegal flow of immigrants and drugs across the border, however, remained a problem in Mexico's relations with the United States.

In 1992, Mexico, the United States, and Canada negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which erased many trade barriers and created a trading bloc of 370 million people. However, in 1994 a Mayan-based uprising in the southern state of Chiapas provided a reminder of the poverty in which many Mexicans still lived. After protracted negotiations, accords providing limited autonomy for the Indians of the region were agreed to in early 1996, but the accords were not acted on by the government until 2001, when a version that contained watered-down clauses on Indian autonomy and control of natural resources were enacted as constitutional reforms. Also in 1994, Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta, the PRI's presidential candidate, was assassinated for reasons that still remain unclear.

In Aug., 1994, in an election that was closely watched by international monitors to prevent fraud, the PRI's new candidate, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, won the presidency by a narrow but mainly unquestioned margin. Shortly after his inauguration in December, the government allowed the peso to float against the dollar; the peso plunged rapidly, investors backed out of Mexican markets, and the country was propelled into an economic crisis. In Feb., 1995, Mexico reached agreement with the United States on a $12.5 billion rescue plan, which provided U.S. funds to shore up Mexican banks while requiring Mexico to adopt stringent austerity measures and giving the United States a significant say in Mexican economic policies. Mexico was subsequently able to refinance the debt privately at a lower rate, and much of the loan was paid back in 1996, more than three years ahead of schedule. Ex-president Salinas was blamed for contributing to Mexico's economic crisis and was alleged to have been involved in misdeeds ranging from corruption to political assassinations.

In 1996 the PRI and the three main opposition parties signed an agreement designed to democratize the electoral process and further reduce the influence of the PRI. Although the PRI won the largest number of seats in the July, 1997, congressional elections, it did not have a majority and a four-party opposition coalition took control of the Chamber of Deputies. The two leading coalition partners were the conservative National Action party (PAN) and the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Early in 1998, Mexico and Norway joined with members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to set production limits on petroleum and thus bolster sagging world oil prices, which were having a devastating impact on Mexico's economy.

In the 2000 national elections, the PRI candidate, Francisco Labastida Ochoa, lost to the PAN candidate, Vicente Fox Quesada, a historic opposition victory that ended more than 70 years of PRI rule. The PRI and PAN each won two fifths of the seats in the lower house of the congress, but the PRI won nearly half the seats in the senate. Fox moved quickly to demilitarize the ongoing conflict in Chiapas and made concessions in order to win resumption of the negotiations, but he was unable to win passage of constitutional reforms in the form agreed to. Fox has had difficult relations with the congress, which has become more of an independent power within the government, and has been unable to rely on the support of members from his own party. The 2003 elections for the lower house, in which PAN lost more than 50 seats, did not improve this situation, and PAN suffered further losses in state elections in 2004 and 2005.

President Fox's hopes for close relations with the Bush administration (he had been friendly with Bush when the latter was governor of Texas) went unfulfilled after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, when the U.S. government refocused its attention on Al Qaeda and other foreign threats (see 9/11). As a result, Fox's desire to reach an agreement that would establish a less restrictive immigration policy that would benefit the many Mexicans working illegally in the United States seemed likely to be unrealized. Mexico also was adversely affected by the economic slowdown in the United States in 2001–2; some 240,000 jobs in the maquiladoras were lost as result.

In Apr., 2004, Mexico City's mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was arrested on charges of disobeying court orders in a land dispute, a move that was seen by many as a political attempt to bar the popular mayor from running in the 2006 presidential election. The arrest led to a protest march in the capital by perhaps as many as a million people. President Fox subsequently fired the federal attorney general, whose office had prosecuted López Obrador, and the charges were dropped in May, but the incident further damaged Fox's standing.

Illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States became a source of tension in Mexican-American relations in 2005. In the American Southwest governors publicly complained of the problem, and private American anti-immigration groups organized their own patrols along the border. U.S. President Bush failed to win passage of his proposed immigration overhaul bill, but in December the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure calling for building a new border fence with security cameras and for criminalizing illegal immigration. The House's move especially angered many Mexicans, and it was vigorously denounced by President Fox, but legislation calling for 700 mi (1,100 km) of additional fencing along the border was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Bush in Oct., 2006.

In the July, 2006, elections, the PAN candidate, Felipe Calderón, narrowly edged López Obrador, the Democratic Revolutionary party (PRD) candidate, winning by less than 0.6% of the vote; the PRI candidate placed third. López Obrador accused Calderón of winning by fraud, and sought to have the election court order a ballot-by-ballot recount. There was no clear evidence of fraud, however, and European Union monitors certified the election as free of irregularities. PAN also won the largest number of legislative seats, with the PRD placing second. A partial recount was ultimately ordered, but the resulting changes in the vote had no effect on the outcome. López Obrador's supporters mounted significant demonstrations beginning in July, but after the vote was finalized in September the protests petered out, despite the candidate's refusal to recognize Calderón's victory.

Calderón, who took office in December, moved forcefully in his first months in office against organized crime and drug cartels, using federal forces in operations involving seven states in an effort to combat crime and drug-related violence. Despite these moves, drug violence continued to be a increasingly significant problem in parts of Mexico, and the drug cartels expanded into other lucrative criminal areas including illegal mining, oil theft, and product piracy. Greater numbers of troops (some 45,000) were deployed by 2009 in an effort to quell the violence, most notably in Juárez, along the U.S. border, where some 8,000 troops and federal police sought to control drug gang warfare. Raids in the state of Michoacán in May, 2009, led to drug-related charges against 7 mayors and 20 other officials (though the mayors were related released).

Despite the government's measures, drug-related violence—concentrated mainly in the Mexican states bordering the United States—worsened in 2009–11, leading to as many as 70,000 drug-violence-related deaths by 2014, with an additional 22,000 people missing. Although the problem diminished in Juárez, drug-related has continued to plague the country. In 2013–14 there were clashes in Michoacán between drug traffickers and vigilante groups opposed to them, and the vigilantes had some successes against the dominant drug cartel there, but there also were conflicts with federal forces and between vigilante groups. By 2017, when the murder rate reached levels exceeding those in 2011 and the violence had become acute in parts of W Mexico, some 100,000 people were reported to have died in drug-related violence, and some 30,000 had been reported missing, with some estimates of the dead and missing much higher. High rates of drug-related violence continued in subsequent years.

There was severe flooding in Tabasco and parts of neighboring Chiapas in Sept.–Oct., 2007; more than 1 million people were affected. In Sept., 2007, the president won a significant legislative victory when the Mexican congress passed a tax reform bill, and an electoral reform package was passed in conjunction with the bill. An overhaul of the criminal justice system was enacted in Mar., 2008, but a proposed restructuring of the state-owned oil company, Pemex, was denounced by leftist legislators as creeping privatization, and they camped out in the chambers of Congress in protest. A modified version of the bill passed, however, in Oct., 2008.

In Apr., 2009, a new influenza strain, popularly known as swine flu, was first identified in Mexico, and Mexico and Mexico City closed schools and others facilities later in the month in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus, which initially seemed unusually virulent in adults. The measures, which were ended completely only by late May, ultimately succeeded, though the virus, which nonetheless spread worldwide, turned out to be no more deadly than normal strains. Congressional elections in July, 2010, were a victory for the PRI, which benefited from an economic downturn and secured a plurality in the lower house. A year later the PRI also scored some successes in state elections, though it lost control of several governorships it had long controlled; a leading gubernatorial candidate in Tamaulipas was assassinated by drug-gang hitmen a week before the vote.

In the July, 2012, elections the PRI presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, the former governor of Mexico state, won with 38% of the vote; López Obrador again placed second. López Obrador again challenged the result and called for a recount, and a recount of the ballots from more than half of the polling places was ordered. The PRI also led in the congressional results, but failed to win a majority. The new president subsequently moved to pass (2013–14) a number of reforms, including opening the oil industry to foreign investment and increasing competition in the telecommunications industry, with the support of the PRI and one or both of the other main parties.

The disappearance of 43 student-teachers in Guerrero state in Sept., 2014, led to weeks of sometimes violent protests in Mexico. The students, arrested by police in attempt to keep them from a protest, were turned over to and killed by a local gang; the incident exposed close connections between local politicians and police and gangs. Peña Nieto called for a number of reforms in response, including unifying local police forces at the state level and the deployment of additional federal police in Guerrero, Michoacán, and several other states. Congressional elections in July, 2015, were a victory for the PRI, which secured a plurality in the lower house. Almost a year later, however, the PRI lost control of several long-held state governorships, an outcome that was widely regarded as a vote against violence and corruption.

Beginning in 2016, relations with the United States became strained by the presidential campaign and then election of Donald Trump, who blamed Mexico as source of illegal immigration and job loss and threatened to scrap NAFTA, impose an import tariff, and build a wall along the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, and strained relations increased after Trump took office in 2017 and continued his denunciations of Mexico and Mexicans. In Sept., 2017, two major earthquakes struck the country, one with its epicenter off the Chiapas coast and the other in Puebla state. Several hundred people died in the quakes, and there was significant damage in Chiapas and Oaxaca states and in Puebla and Morales states and the Mexico City area.

In the July, 2018, elections López Obrador, now running as the candidate of a coalition led by his National Regeneration Movement (Morena), easily won election as president with 53% of the vote. The Morena-led coalition also won majorities in both houses of the Mexican congress, as voters rejected more established PRI and PAN parties. In Mar., 2019, the president won passage of a law establishing a national guard under civilian control. The force, created to control drug-related gang violence, was used to control the influx of Central American migrants after the United States threatened to impose tariffs in retaliation for those migrants reaching the United States. Mexico agreed to position extra security forces on its southern border to reduce the flow; Mexico had already deported some 50,000 migrants. At the same time, the number of migrants seeking asylum in Mexico increased.

In 2020, Mexico was especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic; it ranked among the nations with the highest total deaths due to the disease. Relatively good relations between the governments of López Obrador and U.S. president Trump soured beginning in Oct., 2020, when former Mexican defense minister and general Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested in the United States on drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges, leading to complaints from Mexican authorities. In November, U.S. charges were dropped and Cienfuegos returned to Mexico, and in Jan., 2021, after a brief investigation, the Mexican government said that there was no evidence that would lead it to pursue criminal charges against Cienfuegos. López Obrador accused the United States of fabricating the case.


A number of historical sources have been translated into English, notably the letters of Cortés and the account of the conquest by Bernal Díaz del Castillo. See also W. H. Prescott, The Conquest of Mexico (3 vol., 1843; many subsequent ed.); O. Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude (tr. 1962) and The Other Mexico (tr. 1972); J. W. Wilkie, The Mexican Revolution (2d ed. 1970); A. J. Hanna and K. A. Hanna, Napoleon III and Mexico (1971); N. Cheetham, A History of Mexico (1972); P. Calvert, Mexico (1973); N. Hamilton and T. Harding, Modern Mexico (1986); G. Philip, ed., The Mexican Economy (1988); R. E. Ruiz, Triumphs and Tragedy (1992); H. Thomas, Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés, and the Fall of Old Mexico (1994); A. Oppenheimer, Bordering on Chaos (1996); E. Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power (1997); J. Castañeda, Mañana Forever? Mexico and the Mexicans (2011).


, state, Mexico
Mexico, Span. México or Méjico, state (1990 pop. 9,815,795), 8,286 sq mi (21,461 sq km), S central Mexico. Toluca is the capital. The northern section of the state, containing most of the Valley of Mexico (part of the Anáhuac plateau), has broad, shallow lakes and is broken by low mountains. There are steeper mountains and valleys in the east, and the southern and western areas are dominated by the rugged volcanic belt extending across the center of the country. On the state's southeastern border are the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes. The principal river is the Lerma. Except on the south, the state encircles the Federal District, and most of the eastern part lies within the Mexico City metropolitan zone. Suburbs of Mexico City that lie within Mexico state include Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, a huge (more than 2 million) working-class city, and the major industrial centers of Naucalpan, Tlalnepantla, Ecatepec, Tultitlán, and Cuautitlán. The state is highly industrialized and is a leading producer of automobiles, paper, chemicals, textiles and clothing, other light manufactures, iron, and steel. Mining (gold, silver, lead, zinc), and agriculture (maguey, beans, and cereals) are other economic activities. Mexico is one of the country's most densely populated states.


, city, Mexico
Mexico or Mexico City, Span. Ciudad de México (Méjico), city (1990 pop. 8,236,960; 1991 met. area est. 20,899,000), central Mexico, capital and largest city of Mexico.

The Modern City

Mexico City forms the core of the Federal District and is the commercial, industrial, financial, political, and cultural center of the nation. Among its diverse and important manufactures are chemicals, petroleum, food products, textiles, automobiles, machinery, pharmaceuticals, and consumer items. Population has increased rapidly in a city that had already spread out into many residential sections called colonias. Iztapalapa and Gustavo A. Madero are the largest suburbs of the Federal District; Coyoacán is the oldest, with a palace built by Cortés. The metropolitan area of Mexico City is currently the largest in the world, but it suffers from severe overcrowding. There are many run-down neighborhoods without essential services and large areas inhabited by squatters; it is estimated that close to one third of the city's residents are without sewage facilities.

Geography and Environment

Mexico City is located near the southern end of the plateau of Anáhuac, at an altitude of c.7,800 ft (2,380 m). The horizons of the city are almost obscured by mountain barriers, and the peaks of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl are not far off. The climate is cool and dry. Much of Mexico City's surrounding valley is a lake basin with no outlet, and in the past during the rainy seasons, mountain runoff swelled the lakes.

From the time when the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán stood on an island in Lake Texcoco—now the heart of the metropolis—measures have been taken to protect the city and provide for expansion by draining Texcoco and the other lakes, Chalco and Xochimilco. In the 17th cent. the Spanish viceroys, notably Louis de Velasco, the younger, initiated important works. In 1900 a central canal was completed that reached to the headwaters of the Pánuco River. The Caracol [Span.,=snail], a 12-mi (19-km) spiral canal fed in turn by longitudinal canals begun in 1936, acts as an evaporating basin, from which valuable minerals are taken.

Drainage and artesian wells have lowered the water table so that the surface crust, formerly supported by subsoil water, can no longer sustain the city's heavier buildings, which are sinking some 4 to 12 in. (10.2–30 cm) a year. Some of Mexico's finest buildings have been damaged, among them the old cathedral (begun in 1553 on the site of an Aztec temple) and the Palace of Fine Arts. Modern office buildings have been shored up with pilings.

In addition to being built on soft subsoil, the city is located in a region of high seismic activity. Earthquakes in 1957, 1985, and 2017 caused substantial damage. Overcrowding has also become a major problem in Mexico City, and traffic concentrations, combined with the surrounding valley's atmospheric conditions and Popocatépetl's sulfur dioxide emissions, have resulted in heavy air pollution.

Measures have been taken to attack the pollution problem, and some progress has been made. Since 1989 automobiles have been required to stay off the roads one business day a week. The city's buses have been completely replaced, many major industries have had to convert to low-sulfur fuels, and the government closed the oil refinery.

Points of Interest

The city, with its local color and cultural attractions, is a focal point for tourists. The ruins of the Aztec Templo Mayor have been excavated, and many monuments of Spanish colonial architecture remain in spite of subsoil and seismic threats. The cathedral and the National Palace are on the great central square, the Plaza de la Constitución, where the streets of the old town crisscross in a rough grid. From the Plaza the great avenues span out to the far sections of the capital. Many colonial churches exist, notably on the Paseo de la Reforma, which cuts across the city to Chapultepec.

Public buildings of the 19th cent. have a ponderous grandeur that shows French influence, but the newly built edifices are starkly modern. Murals by the modern artists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros grace both older buildings and newer ones (e.g., the Palace of Fine Arts, the National Palace, and the National Preparatory School). The National Autonomous Univ. of Mexico, founded in the 16th cent., is housed in University City (opened 1952), built on a lava outcrop in the outskirts. Praised in its day for its modernist style, it is now joined by the even more dramatic National Center of the Arts. Opened in 1994, the complex houses the fine and performing arts schools and includes a library and performance spaces.

Among noted religious and recreational centers are Guadalupe Hidalgo and Xochimilco. In popular Chapultepec Park, a children's museum opened in 1993; the nearby national auditorium provides first-rank entertainment and the zoo has been completely redone. The Frida Kahlo Museum (Casa Azul), Diego Rivera Studio Museum, and Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum contain works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The Leon Trotsky Museum is Trotsky's former home and site of his assassination.


The city has been the metropolis of Mexico since before New Spain was created. It is built on the ruins of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán, which was begun by the Aztecs c.1345 and razed by Hernán Cortes in 1521. During the colonial period Mexico City served as the capital of the viceroyalty of New Spain and was for a time the cultural and social center of North and South America. It was taken in 1847 by Winfield Scott's American army, after an inland march from Veracruz in the Mexican War. The French army captured Mexico City in 1863, and Emperor Maximilian, crowned in 1864, did much to beautify it before it was recaptured by Mexicans under Benito Juárez. In the years of revolution after 1910 it was a magnet for divergent insurrectionary forces. Perhaps the most spectacular incidents were the occupations (1914–15) by Francisco Villa and Emiliano Zapata. The summer Olympic games were held in Mexico City in 1968.


, city, United States
Mexico, city (1990 pop. 11,290), seat of Audrain co., central Mo., in a farm area; inc. 1857. Prefabricated homes, firebrick, trailers, and ceramic tile are manufactured, and there are livestock markets and horse stables. Wheat, corn, and soybeans are grown. A saddle horse museum, the county historical society museum, and Missouri Military Academy are also in the city.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Méjico, Estados Unidos Mexicanos).

Mexico is a state in the southwestern part of North America, bounded by the USA on the north, by Guatemala and Belize on the southeast, by the Pacific Ocean on the west and south, and by the Atlantic Ocean on the east. Area, 1,972,500 sq km, with islands accounting for about 5,400 sq km. Population, 52.6 million (1972, estimate). The capital is Mexico City. Administratively, Mexico is divided into 29 states, a federal district, and two territories (see Table 1).

Table 1. Administrative divisions of Mexico
 Area (sq km)Population (1970)A dministrative center
Federal District States .....1,5006,874,200Mexico City
Aguascalientes .....5,600338,100Aguascalientes
Baja California .....70,100870,400Mexicali
Campeche .....56,100251 ,500Campeche
Chiapas .....73,9001,569,000Tuxtla Gutierrez
Chihuahua .....247,1001,612,500Chihuahua
Coahuila .....151,6001,114,900Saltillo
Colima .....5,500241,100Colima
Durango .....119,600939,200Durango
Guanajuato .....30,6002,270,400Guanajuato
Guerrero .....63,8001,597,400Chilpancingo
Hidalgo .....21,0001,193,800Pachuca
Jalisco .....80,1003,296,600Guadalajara
México .....21,5003,833,200Toluca
Michoacán .....59,9002,324,200Morelia
Morelos .....4,900616,100Cuernavaca
Nayarit .....27,600544,000Tepic
Nuevo Léon .....64,6001,694,700Monterrey
Oaxaca .....95,4002,015,400Oaxaca
Puebla .....33,9002,508,200Puebla
Querétaro .....1 1,800485,500Queretaro
San Luis Potosi .....62,8001,282,000San Luis Potosí
Sinaloa .....58,1001,266,500Culiacan
Sonora .....184,9001,098,700Hermosillo
Tabasco .....24,700768,400Villa Hermosa
Tamaulipas .....79,8001,456,800Ciudad Victoria
Tlaxcala .....3,900420,600Tlaxcala
Veracruz .....72,8003,815,400Jalapa
Yucatan .....43,400758,300Merida
Zacatecas Territories .....75,000951,500Zacatecas
Baja California del Sur .....73,700128,000La Paz
Quintana Roo .....42,00088,100Chetumal

Mexico is a federal republic; the present constitution was adopted on Feb. 5, 1917. The head of state and government is the president, who is popularly elected for a six-year term (presidential and parliamentary elections are held at the same time). The president has broad powers, including the right to initiate legislation. He appoints and dismisses high officials and the governors of the states, federal district, and territories, and he promulgates laws and is the commander in chief of the armed forces.

The highest legislative body is the bicameral parliament, called the National Congress, consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The members of the Chamber of Deputies are popularly elected for a three-year term. The Senate is composed of two senators from each state and the federal district popularly elected for a six-year term. All citizens who have reached the age of 18 may vote. In the 1973 elections the ruling Party of Institutional Revolution won an absolute majority (189) of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies; the party holds all 60 seats in the Senate. Other parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies include the Party of National Action (25 seats), the Popular Socialist Party (ten seats), and the Authentic Party of the Mexican Revolution (six seats). The government, headed by the president, consists of ministers, an attorney general, and the heads of four departments.

Each state has its own constitution and a unicameral congress, the Legislative Assembly, whose members are elected for two or four years; executive bodies, headed by a governor popularly elected for a six-year term; and courts. Under the federal constitution the states may not secede from the federation. The agencies of self-government in the cities are municipal councils, consisting of a chairman and councillors, popularly elected for a two-year term.

The judicial system includes federal courts (the Supreme Court, district and circuit courts) and state courts. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over disputes between the states and the central government and disputes between states that affect the federation. The judicial system in the states consists of supreme courts, courts of the first instance, and municipal courts.


Mexico is situated in the southern part of the North American Cordilleras and partly in the Central American Cordilleras. Its coasts are generally low-lying with some lagoons. In the west the Gulf of California separates the mainland from Lower, or Baja, California.

Terrain. Most of Mexico is occupied by a high plateau, the Meseta Central, rimmed by coastal lowlands. To the northwest lies the hilly peninsula of Lower California, to the south, the mountainous region of Chiapas and the Sierra Madre del Sur, and to the southeast, the low-lying Yucatán Peninsula. The Meseta Central, with elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 m, is composed of numerous wide, flat sedimentary basins (bolsons) and several, mostly short, mountain ranges. The edges of the plateau have been uplifted, forming high ranges with steep outer and gentle inner slopes: the Sierra Madre Oriental (elevation 4,054 m), the Sierra Madre Occidental (3,150 m), and the Transverse Volcanic Axis with the active volcanoes Orizaba (5,700 m), Popocatépetl (5,452 m), and Colima (3,846 m). Lower California is composed of massifs with average elevations of 800 to 1,000 m, rising to 3,078 m. The southern part of the country is separated from the Meseta Central by the Balsas Basin, to the south of which lies the mountainous region known as the Sierra Madre del Sur with ranges reaching 3,000 m. On the Isthmus of Tehuantepec the mountains descend to 300 m, and the coastal lowland of the Gulf of Mexico extends further inland, occupying almost the entire Yucatán Peninsula. In the south the Chiapas volcanic massif and the Sierra Madre del Sur (3,703 m) are a continuation of the mountain uplifts.

Geological structure and mineral resources. Most of Mexico lies within the folded zone of the North American Cordilleras. The eastern coast and the Yucatán Peninsula are part of a young platform with a Paleozoic basement covered with a mantle of Mesozoic, Paleogene, and Neocene-Anthropogene deposits forming gently sloping depressions and uplifts. Some uplifts contain deposits of petroleum and natural gas. The structure of the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental includes crystalline and metamorphic rocks of the Upper Precambrian and Paleozoic (forming large massifs), Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks, and thick volcanic strata, all of which are folded. There are numerous granite intrusions of the Cretaceous and Paleogene. The Sierra Madre Oriental consists of a system of folded Jurassic and Cretaceous limestones without volcanic strata. There are small outcrops of crystalline Paleozoic rock in inliers surrounded by younger deposits. The Meseta Central is covered with a lava-tuff mantle of the Oligocene and Miocene. Along the Transverse Volcanic Axis that forms the southern boundary of the Meseta Central there stretches a latitudinal zone of large fractures with active volcanoes, such as the Paricutin volcano, which appeared in 1943. The folded structures of the Cordilleras were formed during the Alpine period of folding at the end of the Cretaceous and the beginning of the Paleogene. Numerous more recent depressions and grabens were filled with Molasse during the Neocene-Anthropogene periods. The southern part of Lower California, composed of Paleogene and Neocene deposits, is part of the young (Neocene) folded rim of the Pacific Ocean.

Mexico has deposits of petroleum and natural gas and deposits of ores of nonferrous metals, associated with magmatism and volcanic activity of the Neocene and Paleogene. Petroleum deposits form a large petroleum and natural gas basin. Deposits of nonferrous metal ores, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, mercury, arsenic and antimony, cadmium, bismuth, tin, tungsten, and gold, are found in the Meseta Central, the Sierra Madre Occidental and Oriental, and the Sierra Madre del Sur. The deposits of lead, silver, and zinc, associated with Mesozoic limestones, and the copper deposits have a high mineral content. In the northeast there are deposits of coal, iron and uranium ores, and sulfur.

Climate. Mexico has a tropical climate, with the exception of the north, where the climate is subtropical. Throughout the country the climate varies greatly depending on the relief. From the east and south come moist tropical air masses bringing abundant rainfall to the windward mountain slopes. As a result of winds blowing from the central part of North America the northwest has a dry continental climate. The average January temperature varies from 10°C in the northwest to 25°C in the south. In the northern part of the Meseta Central cold air masses may cause temperatures to fall to −20°C. The average July temperature ranges from 15°C in the upland plains sections of the Meseta Central to 30°C on the coast of the Gulf of California. The annual precipitation ranges from 100–200 mm in the north and on leeward slopes in the south to 2,000–3,000 mm on the southern windward slopes.

Rivers and lakes. The river network is dense in the southeast and sparse in the northwest. In some interior regions of the arid Meseta Central and in the Yucatán Peninsula, which consists of limestone, there is no surface runoff. In the southeast the rivers are short and deep, especially during the summer, with swift currents. They are a potential source of hydroelectric power. In the northwest the rivers are longer but shallower; because of the arid climate the discharge decreases in the lower reaches. The rivers in the northwest are used for irrigation, and their regimen is determined by the irregular precipitation. The country’s largest rivers are the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte), forming part of the border with the USA, and its tributary the Conchos; the Lerma, called the Rio Grande de Santiago in its lower course, upon leaving Lake Chapala; the Balsas; and the Grijalva-Usumacinta river system. The largest lake is Chapala.

Soil. Sierozems and primitive desert soils predominate in the northwest. Mountain gray-cinammonic soils, cinnamonic soils, red savanna soils, and mountain-forest brown soils are found in the mountainous regions, and gray-cinnamonic, red-cinnamonic, red savanna soils, and swamp soils occur in the lowlands.

Flora. The flora of Mexico is diverse and rich in species; of the some 12,000 species of higher plants, two-thirds are endemic. In the northern, and greater, part of the Meseta Central there are semideserts and deserts with their characteristic xerophytic flora and shrubs of the family Mimosaceae. The vegetation of the southern part of the plateau and the coastal lowlands rimming it is mostly of the savanna type, consisting of a grass cover and thickets of thorny shrubs. In the mountains surrounding the plateau there are hardwood and mixed forests of oak, hornbeam, linden, pine, and fir. In the south and southeast grow primarily tropical forests—moist evergreen forests on the eastern slopes, dry, predominantly coniferous forests on the western slopes, and deciduous forests in the foothills.

Fauna. Mexican wildlife includes Nearctic fauna in the north-west and on the Meseta Central and Neotropical fauna in the south and in the lowlands south of the Tropic of Cancer. The semideserts and deserts are inhabited by rodents (shrews) and coyotes. Black bears, raccoons, lynxes, and pumas are found in the mountains, and deer, anteaters, and porcupines in the savannas. Animals of the southern tropical forests include two species of monkeys, tapirs, and jaguars. The largest national parks are Canon del Rio Blanco, Cumbres de Monterrey, La Malinche, Nevado de Toluca, Sierra de San Pedro Martir, and Pico de Tancitaro.

Natural regions. The mountains and lowlands of southern Mexico form a narrow strip of land between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The region has a varied terrain, a moist tropical climate, and extensive evergreen tropical forests. The Yucatán Peninsula is a low-lying plateau with karst formations, a poorly developed river network, and shrub and forest tropical vegetation. The Meseta Central consists of a mountainous folded region in the west and south and a plateau in the northeast; it has a mountain tropical and subtropical climate. The plateau supports semidesert and desert flora, and forests and meadows cover the mountain slopes. Lowlands are found along the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California. The lowland along the Gulf of Mexico is flat and, in places, swampy. It has a hot climate that is moderately humid in the north and very humid in the south and supports shrub and forest vegetation. The narrow strip of lowland along the Gulf of California has a predominantly arid climate and is occupied mostly by deserts. Lower California is a narrow band of granite ranges alternating with coastal low-lands. It has a dry subtropical and tropical climate. There are deserts and semideserts, and the mountain slopes are covered with sparse forests of oak and pine.


Vivo, J. A. Geografiia Meksiki. Moscow, 1951. (Translated from Spanish.)
Garfias, V., and T. Chapin. Geologiia Meksiki. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from Spanish.)
G. M. IGNAT’EV and M. V. MURATOV (geological structure and minerals)

Mexicans constitute the basic population of Mexico, and there are 3 million Indians, including Aztecs, Mayas, Tzeltals, Tzotzils, Huastecs, Totonacs, Mixes, Otomi, Mixtecs, Mazahuas, Mazatecs, Chinantecs, and Tarasco. The indigenous Indian groups have to some extent preserved their languages and cultural identity, and some have established ethnic territories. Mexico also has emigrants from Europe (Spanish, Basques, Germans, French, Italians), Guatemala, and other countries of North and South America. The official language is Spanish, and the dominant religion is Catholicism, professed by 96 percent of the population, including many Indians. The official calendar is the Gregorian.

Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world and the third most populous country in the Americas after the USA and Brazil. The population has grown from 12.6 million persons in 1895 (first census), to 14.3 million in 1921 and 26.3 million in 1956. Since the early 1950’s the annual growth rate has exceeded 3 percent, one of the highest in the world. In 1970 the labor force totaled 13 million persons, of which 10.3 million were men. Agriculture accounts for 40 percent of the work force (as compared to 80 percent at the turn of the century), industry for 23 percent (including 16.7 percent in manufacturing), and services for 32 percent. Every year tens of thousands of Mexican farm laborers (braceros) travel to the USA in search of work. In 1970 some 20 percent of the population earned 58.5 percent of the national income, and the average annual income of 60 percent of the inhabitants was less than $200. The average population density was 26 persons per sq km in 1971, with more than two-thirds of the population concentrated in the Meseta Central. In the Federal District, occupying less than 0.1 percent of the country’s territory, lives 16 percent of the population (as compared to 9 percent in 1940). There has also been a rapid population increase in the irrigated regions in the north. Vast expanses of desert, semidesert, and tropical forest are sparsely populated.

Urban dwellers accounted for about 60 percent of the population in 1970. Official statistics classify as cities settlements with more than 2,500 inhabitants. The population increase in the cities is three to four times greater than that of rural areas because of the migration of peasants to the cities, chiefly the large industrial centers. Between 1940 and 1970 the number of large cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants increased from six to 47; about 23 percent of the population lives in these cities. Large cities are developing in the irrigated farming regions and in the extreme north. Approximately half of the rural population lives in 11,000 settlements with 500 to 2,500 inhabitants. The largest cities are Mexico City, with 7,006,000 inhabitants in 1970 (including suburbs, 8,541,000), Guadalajara, Monterrey, León, and Ciudad Juárez.

Before the 16th century. The territory of present-day Mexico has been inhabited since the Upper Paleolithic (20,000 to 15,000 years B.C.). In the middle of the first millennium B.C. a “middle culture” began to evolve in Central and southern Mexico, characterized by transition to a settled way of life and the development of agriculture, handicrafts, art, and religion. The Indian tribes of the Rio Grande and Colorado basins reached this stage of development in the fourth to seventh centures A.D.; they had a clan social structure with matriarchal elements. In the first centuries of the Common Era the northwestern part of Central America was inhabited by Mayan tribes. In time the center of Mayan culture shifted to the Yucatán Peninsula, where by the tenth century a number of city-states arose and attained a high degree of civilization—Chichén Itzá, Mayapan, and Uxmal. Among the Mayas’ neighbors were the Olmecs, Zapotecs, and Totonacs. The culture of the Toltecs, who left behind them large cities with immense structures and sculpture, flourished in central Mexico during the second half of the first millennium A.D. The Toltec civilization was destroyed at the beginning of the second millennium by the warlike Nahua tribes, among whom were the Aztecs, who founded Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City) and in the 15th century subjugated all of central Mexico. The Aztec economy was based on agriculture, although handicrafts, construction techniques, and pictorial art were also well developed. The Aztecs had a writing system. In the 15th and early 16th centuries they were undergoing a gradual transition to a class society.

The colonial period (16th to early 19th centuries). In the course of conquering the Americas a Spanish expedition reached the coast of Mexico in 1517, and in 1519 a band of conquistadores led by H. Cortés was sent out from Cuba to subjugate the country. Led by Cuauhtémoc, the Indians stubbornly resisted the Spanish invaders, but in 1521 their capital, Tenochtitlán, was captured. By the end of the 16th century the Spanish had destroyed the indigenous civilizations and had essentially completed the conquest of Mexico, incorporating it within the viceroyalty of New Spain, created in 1535. The overwhelming majority of the indigenous people were deprived of their land and were enserfed by the colonial authorities, the landowners, and the Catholic Church. Under the encomienda system, Indians and land were distributed among the Spanish. Unbearable toil, cruel treatment by the colonialists, and hunger and disease decimated the Indians. At the beginning of the Spanish conquest there were about 25 million Indians, and by 1605 there were only slightly more than 1 million. The Indians also had to perform heavy labor service and pay a head tax, and many of them gradually became hereditary debt slaves, or peons. The system of debt slavery was also used in the mines and handicraft enterprises. With the extermination of a large part of the Indian population and an insufficient labor force, Negro slaves were imported from Africa. From the mid-1530’s the most important branch of the colonial economy was the mining of precious metals.

The Spanish authorities hindered the development of manufacturing, did not permit the cultivation of many kinds of crops, established a state monopoly on the sale of salt, gunpowder, and tobacco products, and prohibited trade with other countries. Spain’s economic policy, discrimination, and the lack of political rights aroused dissatisfaction among artisans, the urban poor, and small and middle landowners. Also opposed to the colonial regime were some of the Creole landowners (descendants of Spanish colonists), merchants, and the owners of mines and industrial enterprises. The resistance of various strata of the Mexican population to the colonialists was manifested in the struggle against Spanish domination and especially in numerous uprisings. The largest popular uprisings occurred in Mexico City in 1624 and 1692, and Indian uprisings broke out in Oaxaca in 1660, in Yucatán in 1761, and in Michoacán in 1767.

The growth of the economy and the use of hired labor facilitated the formation of capitalist relations, which helped strengthen the position of the nascent bourgeoisie. The mixing of various ethnic groups (Europeans, Indians, and Negroes) in the course of colonization was accompanied by linguistic and religious amalgamation. Of great importance were the development of economic ties, the formation of a domestic market, and the awakening of national consciousness. Under the influence of these factors the preconditions for the formation of a Mexican nation emerged in the early 19th century.

The War for Independence and the establishment of an independent state (1810–24). In the early 19th century the dissatisfaction of various social strata with the colonial regime grew into a strong liberation movement, becoming part of the War for Independence of the Spanish-American Colonies (1810–26). On Sept. 16, 1810, a popular uprising led by the priest M. Hidalgo broke out in the village of Dolores, soon engulfing a large part of the country. Understanding the socioeconomic needs of various strata of the population, Hidalgo took steps to abolish slavery, racial discrimination, feudal obligations, and the monopoly on the sale of tobacco, gunpowder, and other products. Regarding the antifeudal nature of the movement as a threat to their class interests, most of the Creole landowners, merchants, officials, and army officers sided with the colonialists. In early 1811 the revolutionary army was defeated, and Hidalgo was captured and executed. The liberation struggle continued under the leadership of J. M. Morelos, on whose initiative a national congress convened in 1813 in Chilpancingo and adopted a declaration of independence. Nevertheless, the colonialists succeeded in crushing the main forces of the insurgents, and Morelos was executed.

The Revolution of 1820–23 in Spain and the success of patriots in the Spanish colonies in South America caused a new upsurge in the national liberation movement. Attempting to preserve the status quo, the large landowners and merchants, higher clergy, and military-bureaucratic elite, led by A. Iturbide, advocated separation from Spain. The promise of independence offered in their program assured them of the support of the broad masses. Iturbide’s army occupied Mexico City, where on Sept. 28, 1821, Mexico’s independence was proclaimed. In May 1822, Iturbide proclaimed himself emperor, but as early as March 1823 his empire collapsed because of the opposition of the advocates of a republican system. In October 1824 the congress adopted a constitution establishing a republic, depriving the church of its control over public education, abolishing the head tax, and declaring the equality of all citizens before the law and freedom of the press.

From independence to 1917.THE MEXICAN PEOPLE’S STRUGGLE AGAINST THE FORCES OF REACTION AND THE EXPANSION OF THE USA (SECOND QUARTER OF THE 19TH CENTURY). The liberation of Mexico from colonial oppression facilitated the country’s economic growth and its entry into the world economy. Mexico became an object for the economic expansion of foreign capital. During the mid-1820’s three British companies were established in Mexico, and by the mid-19th century British entrepreneurs controlled almost the entire mining industry and many textile firms and mints. North American and French capital also began to enter various branches of the economy. The level of Mexico’s industrial development remained low; although there were dozens of factories by the mid-1840’s, the principal form of capitalist production remained the handicraft workshop. Precapitalist forms of exploitation continued to predominate in agriculture, and the country found itself in financial difficulties.

During the 1830’s the owners of large estates, the higher clergy, and the reactionary military leaders, in an attempt to keep their privileges and preserve the basic socioeconomic institutions of the colonial period, banded together to form the Conservative Party. In opposition to the conservatives the liberal elements advocated strengthening the republic along federalist lines, demanded that the privileges of the church and the army be restricted, and called for political and economic reforms. The fierce struggle for power among contending factions and military cliques created an unstable political situation. In 1833, A. Santa Anna came to power, and the next year he abolished the 1824 constitution and established a dictatorship.

The USA, which aimed to seize Mexican territory, took advantage of the unstable internal political situation. Having begun to colonize Texas in the early 1820’s, the USA instigated a revolt by the Texas colonists, who in 1835 proclaimed the secession of Texas from Mexico and declared its “independence.” In 1845 the USA annexed Texas, and in 1846 it began a war with Mexico. The Mexican people heroically resisted the invaders, but US military and economic superiority and the antipatriotic conciliatory policy of Mexico’s ruling classes resulted in Mexico’s defeat. Under the predatory treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, Mexico lost more than half its territory with some of its richest natural resources. Increasingly frequent peasant uprisings and riots of the urban poor during the late 1840’s and early 1850’s caused the reactionary landowners, higher clergy, military leaders, and big foreign bourgeoisie to reestablish the military dictatorship of Santa Anna in 1853. Under an agreement known as the Gadsden Purchase, Santa Anna sold to the USA an additional 120,000 sq km of Mexican territory for $10 million.

THE BOURGEOIS REVOLUTION AND CIVIL WAR OF 1854–60; THE ANGLO-FRENCH-SPANISH INTERVENTION OF 1861–67. Santa Anna’s antinational policy outraged broad strata of the population and hastened the onset of revolution. The liberals persistently demanded reforms secularizing the Catholic Church’s property and abolishing the privileges enjoyed by the clergy and army. Their program served the interests of capitalist development. In 1854 a revolt broke out in southern Mexico and quickly engulfed most of the country. Soon it grew into a revolution actively supported by peasants, artisans, urban poor, petite and middle bourgeoisie, and the intelligentsia. In 1855, Santa Anna’s dictatorship collapsed, and the liberal government of I. Comonfort came to power.

In 1856 the Mexican Congress passed a number of anticlerical laws, and in 1857 it adopted a new constitution which dealt a blow to feudal vestiges and strengthened the basic achievements of the bourgeois revolution. Striving to prevent implementation of the constitution, the forces of the conservative-clerical reaction rebelled and overthrew the Comonfort government at the end of 1857. Led by the provisional president of the republic, B. Juarez, the liberals defended the constitution, drawing their support from the popular masses. A civil war broke out. In July 1859 the Juarez government promulgated the “reform laws,” providing for the nationalization of church property, the separation of church and state, civil marriage, and other changes. The promulgation of these laws only intensified the armed conflict, which ended in the complete victory of the liberals.

At the end of 1861 and the beginning of 1862, Great Britain, France, and Spain came to the aid of the Mexican reactionaries through armed intervention. The French interventionists captured the capital and several other important centers, proclaiming Mexico an empire ruled by the Austrian archduke Maximilian. The Mexican people waged a heroic national liberation struggle against the occupation forces. In March 1867 the interventionists, who had suffered great losses, were compelled to leave Mexico, and within a few months the republicans defeated Maximilian’s troops.

THE CLERICAL-LANDOWNER DICTATORSHIP OF P. DIAZ. After the death of Juárez in 1872 and the presidency of Lerdo de Tejada (1872–76), the clerical-landowner dictatorship of P. Diaz was established, reflecting the interests of the most reactionary elements of Mexican society. The constitution and civil liberties were abolished de facto, and the Congress lost its power. The dictatorship was supported by the army, the police, and the bureaucracy and ruled despotically and by force. In the country-side such vestiges of feudalism as peonage survived. Mass expropriation of peasant land was carried out under the pretext of fixing boundaries and developing wasteland. There was a sharp increase in the influx of foreign, chiefly North American, capital. In 1911 only 30 percent the country’s national resources were controlled by Mexican capital; 43 percent belonged to the USA, and the rest to other foreign states. Economic development was determined, for the most part, by the interests of foreign capitalists, who owned most of the railroads, plants, factories, mines, and banks and controlled foreign trade and to some extent agriculture. The preservation of feudal vestiges and the dominance of foreign capital retarded the development of capitalism and the growth of a national bourgeoisie and proletariat. In the early 20th century Mexico experienced a revolutionary upsurge, stimulated by the growing antifeudal and anti-imperialist movement. The revolutionary upsurge embraced peasants, the small working class, the petite urban bourgeoisie, and some members of the middle bourgeoisie and the “bourgeoisified” landowners associated with them.

THE BOURGEOIS-DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION OF 1910–17. The bourgeois-democratic revolution that broke out in November 1910 was directed against feudal vestiges, the dictatorship of clerical-landowner reactionaries, and the dominance of foreign imperialism. It resulted in the collapse of the Diaz regime in May 1911. Led by F. Madero, the bourgeoisie and liberal landowners came to power. In February 1913, with the active support of US imperialist circles, a counterrevolutionary coup was carried out, resulting in the establishment of the dictatorship of V. Huerta. A mass peasant movement emerged under the leadership of F. Villa and E. Zapata, and Huerta was also opposed by the national bourgeoisie and liberal landowners, headed by V. Carranza. Taking advantage of the critical situation, the USA occupied Veracruz in April 1914, but the growth of the anti-imperialist movement compelled the interventionists to leave Mexico.

After the collapse of the Huerta regime in July 1914, an armed struggle began between the bourgeois-landowner bloc led by Carranza and the revolutionary peasantry headed by Villa and Zapata. The peasants advocated the abolition of the great landed estates, seizure of land owned by landlords, and the establishment of a system free of oppression and exploitation. The bourgeoisie, however, feared that the main issue of the revolution—power—might not be resolved in its favor, and its leaders, headed by Carranza, drew up a plan to defeat the peasant forces. In March 1916, US troops again invaded Mexico, but strong resistance by the people compelled the interventionists to withdraw in early 1917. On Feb. 5, 1917, a constitution, progressive for the era, was promulgated, culminating the 1910–17 revolution.

Mexico between 1918 and 1945. The revolution weakened the position of the owners of great landed estates and the church, limited the penetration of foreign capital, facilitated the development of capitalist relations, and brought progressive changes, such as labor legislation and agrarian reform. A law adopted in 1915 and article 27 of the 1917 constitution provided for the partial dividing up of the great landed estates and the distribution of their lands among the peasants.

Under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, the Mexican people intensified their struggle to implement the changes provided for in the 1917 constitution, the peasants’ and workers’ movement was strengthened, and the working classes began to unite and organize. The Regional Confederation of Mexican Labor was formed in 1918, but it was taken over by trade union reformists. Founded in 1919, the Mexican Communist Party (MCP) helped organize the General Confederation of Labor in 1921 (which subsequently fell under the influence of anarcho-syndicalists), the Anti-Imperialist League of the Americas in 1924, the National Peasant League in 1926, and the Mexican Unitary Trade Union Confederation in 1929. In the 1920’s, under pressure from the masses, the ruling circles serving the interests of the national bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisified landowners pursued a policy, albeit inconsistently, with certain progressive tendencies. More active implementation of agrarian reforms, anticlerical measures, attempts to restrict the role of foreign capital, efforts by the bourgeois-landowner governments of Obregon (1920–24) and Calles (1924–28) to pursue an independent foreign policy in order to ensure more favorable conditions for the development of capitalism and the strengthening of the bourgeois system—all were in the national interest. In 1924, Mexico was the first country in the Americas to establish diplomatic relations with the USSR.

Dissatisfied with the government’s policy, the forces of reaction, supported by foreign imperialists, frequently instigated armed uprisings and resorted to terror, for example, the Huerta revolt in 1923, the uprising inspired by the Catholic Church in 1926, the revolt of Generals Gomez and Serrano in 1927, the assassination of President Obregon by an agent of the clerical faction in 1928, and the “revolt of the 44 generals” in 1929. With the support of the masses these outbreaks were crushed. Under pressure from reactionary circles and foreign companies and alarmed by the growth of the workers’ and peasants’ movement, the governments of Calles and his successors sharply altered their political course in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Making important concessions to the forces of reaction, these governments retarded agrarian reform (the number of land holdings not subject to expropriation was increased), compromised with the church, reviewed the agreements on petroleum concessions affecting the interests of American monopolies, and initiated a wave of repressions against the mass movement. Progressive organizations were persecuted and their leaders arrested or assassinated. In 1929 the MCP was banned, and in 1930 the Mexican government broke diplomatic relations with the USSR.

The reactionary policy of the ruling circles and the sudden deterioration of the workers’ living conditions caused by the worldwide economic crisis of 1929–33 gave impetus to the revolutionary movement in the early 1930’s by provoking strikes, demonstrations, and peasant disturbances. During the economic crisis and the depression that followed, a large part of the petite and middle bourgeoisie, dissatisfied with the government’s policies, called for the changes prescribed in the 1917 constitution. The upsurge in the mass movement in 1934 brought to power L. Cárdenas y Río, a member of the radical wing of the National Revolutionary Party (NRP), founded in 1929. The Cárdenas government (1934—40) carried out important antifeudal and anti-imperialist changes that in many respects corresponded to the interests of the masses without going beyond the bounds of bourgeois democratic reform. Reviving agrarian reforms, the Cárdenas government distributed about 18 million hectares (ha) of land among the peasants, twice as much as had been distributed during the previous 20 years, thereby dealing a severe blow to the system of large landed estates. Cárdenas struggled against reactionary intrigues and restored democratic liberties. The MCP was legalized, and a number of trade union organizations united in 1936 to form the Confederation of Mexican Workers. The ruling NRP was reorganized as the Mexican Revolutionary Party (PRM). The country’s railroads, many of them owned by American and British capital, were partially nationalized in 1937. The next year enterprises belonging to British and American oil companies were nationalized, strengthening the state-capitalist sector of the economy. A campaign was launched to eliminate illiteracy, schools were built, and more teachers were trained.

At the outset of World War II the government proclaimed Mexico’s neutrality. As the sphere of military operations expanded and the threat of fascist aggression increased, Mexico emphasized its solidarity with the anti-Hitler coalition. After the USA entered the war in December 1941, Mexico broke diplomatic relations with Germany, Italy, and Japan, and in May 1942 it declared war on them. In November 1942 diplomatic relations were restored between Mexico and the USSR.

The government of Á vila Camacho (1940-46) departed some-what from the policy of its predecessor. The pace of agrarian reform slowed down: between 1941 and 1945 only 5 million ha were transferred to the peasants. Reactionary elements and organizations enjoyed comparatively greater freedom of action. The PRM was renamed the Party of Institutional Revolution (PRI). The reforms of the second half of the 1930’s, the reduction of imports of industrial commodities, and the increased demand for Mexican goods during the war contributed to the development of the national economy. Taking advantage of wartime conditions, the USA monopolized almost all of Mexico’s foreign trade, obtaining concessions from the government that later strengthened US imperialism’s economic position in Mexico.

Since World War II. During the postwar years economic growth continued, facilitated by state financing and loans in various branches of the economy and by measures to protect new branches of industry. However, the principal benefits of Mexico’s economic development were enjoyed by the ruling classes, particularly those members of the bourgeoisie who during the war and especially under M. Aleman’s administration (1946–1952), which welcomed foreign capital investments, coordinated their activity more closely with the interests of foreign monopolistic companies, chiefly American. In 1957–59, 5 percent of the total number of families received 36 percent of the national income and 56 percent of the families accounted for only 19 percent of the income. Despite some increase in production, the situation in the countryside had changed little, inasmuch as the land that had been distributed among the peasants after 1915 during the agrarian reform was either poor or completely unsuitable for farming.

Under these circumstances class conflicts were exacerbated and the struggle between the forces of democracy and reaction intensified. Many strikes broke out in 1950. The toiling masses and some members of the petite and middle bourgeoisie protested more vigorously against the oppression of foreign monopolies and of the Mexican big bourgeoisie associated with them. The growing anti-imperialist sentiments to some extent influenced the policies of the Aleman government. In February 1952 it was compelled to break off negotiations over a military agreement with the USA.

With the coming to power of President A. Ruiz Cortines (1952–58) measures were taken to combat corruption. In 1953 women were granted equal political rights. Mexico began to show greater independence in international affairs. In 1956 the government again rejected a US proposal for a military agreement. In 1958 it opposed the establishment of contacts between the Organization of American States (OAS) and the North Atlantic bloc. Nevertheless, on various important international issues the Cortines government tended to follow US policy.

In 1957 the Mexican economy entered a period of temporary stagnation, causing increased unemployment, rising prices, and a decline in real wages. Class conflicts intensified anew and an extensive strike movement developed. A major strike of railroad workers occurred in late 1958 and early 1959. There were large peasant demonstrations in which land was seized. The ruling circles openly suppressed the demonstrations of the masses. In 1959–60 progressive organizations were persecuted, and many prominent leaders of the MCP and national trade union and democratic leaders were jailed.

The National Liberation Movement, organized in 1961, later disintegrated, and the Independent Peasant Center was formed, with a membership of about 500,000. Under pressure from the pro-American reactionary forces that were growing stronger, the government of López Mateos (1958–64) in several instances compromised with them. However, under the influence of the Cuban Revolution, the growing anti-imperialist sentiments, and the demands of the national bourgeoisie, the government nationalized electric power plants in 1960, adopted a law in 1961 providing for the Mexicanization of the mining industry by buying up 51 percent of the shares, and refused to support the USA and the OAS against revolutionary Cuba in 1962 or to break diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1964. Attempting to decrease economic dependence on the USA, the Mexican government established closer trade relations with France, the Federal Republic of Germany, and other European capitalist countries.

President G. Díaz Ordaz (1964–70) sought to strengthen the state sector of the economy, while also expanding private capitalist enterprises. However, the rising cost of living, the restrictions on democratic liberties, and the country’s growing dependence on foreign monopolies provoked dissatisfaction among the masses. In 1968 the discontent erupted in mass demonstrations.

The government of L. Echeverría, which came to power in 1970, attempted to improve the situation by adopting a new agrarian reform law (1971), a new electoral law (1972), and a law encouraging Mexican capital investments and regulating those by foreigners (1973). It allocated funds for housing construction for workers and established a five-day workweek for civil servants. At the same time it tightened control over the activities of trade unions and peasant and student organizations. The Echeverría government became more active in foreign affairs in order to decrease Mexico’s trade and economic dependence on the USA. Mexico’s foreign trade ties were expanded with Western Europe, Japan, and a number of Latin-American countries, and steps were taken to develop relations with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Mexico established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1972 and with the German Democratic Republic and Rumania in 1973. In the presidential elections of July 1976, J. López Portillo, a member of the ruling Party of Institutional Revolution (PRI), was elected president.


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M. S. AL’PEROVICH (prior to 1945) and DM. GOLUBEV (since 1945)

Political parties. The ruling Party of Institutional Revolution (PRI, Partido Revolucionario Institucional), also known as the Party of Constitutional Revolution, was founded in 1929; from 1929 to 1938 it was called the National Revolutionary Party, and from 1938 to 1946, the Mexican Revolutionary Party. It reflects the interests of the national bourgeoisie and declares its goal to be reformism and “peaceful political and social change in the country.” The Party of National Action (Partido de Action Nacional), founded in 1939, is backed by the big financial and commercial bourgeoisie and by landowners and the clergy—forces closely linked with US monopolies.

The Authentic Party of the Mexican Revolution (Partido Auténtico de Revolución Mexicana) was founded in 1957 by participants in the Mexican Revolution of 1910–17. The National Union of Sinarquists (Unión Nacional Sinarquista), founded in 1937, is a reactionary organization with a pro-fascist orientation (data on its membership are not available). The Popular Socialist Party (Partido Popular Socialista) was founded in 1948; prior to October 1960 it was called the Popular Party. It includes members of the urban and rural petite bourgeoisie, artisans, democratic intelligentsia, and some workers and peasants. The Mexican Communist Party (MCP, Partido Comunista Mexicano) was founded in 1919.

Trade unions and other public organizations. In 1973 the trade unions had a total membership of more than 4 million. The largest trade union associations are the Confederation of Mexican Workers, founded in 1936, which has some 2 million members and belongs to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; the General Union of Mexican Workers and Farmers, founded in 1949, which has a membership of 300,000 and belongs to the World Federation of Trade Unions; the Regional Confederation of Mexican Labor, founded in 1918, with 120,000 members; the Federation of Unions of Civil Servants, founded in 1938, with a membership of 800,000; the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Farmers, founded in 1918, with 120,000 members; the General Confederation of Workers, founded in 1921, with a membership of 18,000; the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers, founded in 1954, with 10,000 members; the Congress of Labor, founded in 1966, comprising 26 trade unions; and the Independent Farmers Center, founded in 1963, with 500,000 members. Among other important organizations are the National Union of Mexican Women, the Women’s Coordinating Committee for the Defense of the Motherland, the Workers’ University, the Permanent Committee for Solidarity with Chile, the Movement in Defense of Peace, and the Mexico-USSR Institute of Cultural Ties.


General characteristics. Economically, Mexico is one of the most advanced countries in Latin America. During World War II it supplied the USA with raw materials, foodstuffs, and labor, and its manufacturing industry expanded. Since the war there has been a relatively high rate of growth of industrial production (averaging 6 to 7 percent annually) resulting from the agrarian and other measures taken by the government that expanded the domestic market, the state’s active role in the economy, the implementation of large-scale hydraulic engineering projects, and the opening up of desert, semidesert, and tropical regions. The state capitalist sector includes railroad transportation and communications, the electric power industry, the petroleum, natural gas, and oil-refining industries, and a number of metallurgical and petrochemical enterprises. It accounts for 50 percent of all capital investments. Nacional Financiera, a goverment financial and credit institution established in 1934, plays an important part in developing the state sector. The state-run petroleum company Pemex controls the extraction, processing, transportation, and sale of petroleum, natural gas, and petroleum products throughout the country. Among the developing countries Mexico is notable for its relatively advanced manufacturing industry and commercial farming, its diversified exports, and its large-scale land reclamation projects. In the world capitalist economy in 1971, Mexico ranked first in the production of henequen (sisal hemp) and fourth in the mining of silver, after Canada, the USA, and Peru. Mexico is among the ten leading producers and exporters of zinc, lead, sulfur, mercury (holding third place after Spain and Italy), sugar, cotton, and coffee.

On the basis of the agrarian reform law, peasants and communes (ejidos) were granted 69 million ha of land between 1915 and 1969. The Mexican economy is heavily dependent on the world market for raw materials. The foreign debt of Mexico’s state sector totaled $4 billion in late 1972. Foreign capital continues to hold a strong position in the economy, although foreign investments are limited by law to 49 percent of a company’s shares. Between 1960 and 1970 foreign investments increased from $1.4 billion to $2.8 billion, and US capital represented three-fourths of these investments. In late 1971 direct private foreign capital investments totaled $2.775 billion, of which manufacturing accounted for 75.6 percent, commerce for 16.7 percent, mining for 5.5 percent, agriculture for 0.3 percent, communications for 0.3 percent, and other branches for 1.6 percent.

In the early 1970’s Mexico accounted for 0.9 percent of industrial production in the capitalist world, as compared to 0.3 percent in 1938. The gross national product totaled about $23.9 billion in 1971. In 1972 manufacturing accounted for 23.6 percent of the gross domestic product; mining for 4 percent; the electric power industry for 1.4 percent; agriculture, lumbering, hunting, and fishing for 9.8 percent; transportation and communications for 2.6 percent; construction for 5.3 percent; and commerce for 32.3 percent. In agriculture the average growth

Table 2. Output of principal industrial products
1 metal content 21951
Electric power (billion kW-hr) ..........4.410.834.4
Petroleum (million tons) ..........10.414.223
Natural gas (billion cu m) ..........1.89.718.7
Silver (tons) ..........1,5281,3851,081
Lead1 (tons) ..........238,000191,000158,600
Zinc1 (tons) ..........224,000244,000267,000
Copper1 (tons) ..........62,00060,00078,000
Iron ore1 (tons) ..........286,000521,0003,069,000
Sulfur (tons) ..........12.00021,302,000964,000
Cast iron and sponge iron (tons) ..........227,000784,0002,672,000
Steel (tons) ..........390,0001,474,0004,351,000
Cement (tons) ..........1,479,0003,089,0008,748,000
Sulfuric acid (tons) ..........43,000249,0001,518,000
Passenger automobiles ..........1000024,800168,200
Sugar (million tons) ..........

rate has been 1.5 to 2 times below that of industry. Mexico’s economic development has been accompanied by greater concentration of capital. In 1965 some 0.3 percent of the enterprises accounted for 46 percent of capital investments in industry and of the value of industrial production; 4.3 percent of the commercial enterprises accounted for 73 percent of the volume of trade; and 0.5 percent of the farms accounted for about one-third of the value of agricultural output. The economically developed regions are concentrated in 10 percent of the country’s territory—in the Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey conurbations, irrigated farming regions, and cities bordering on the USA. The average per capita income in the Federal District (the most highly developed area) and the states of Lower (Baja) California, Nuevo León, Sonora, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Coahuila (together accounting for 30 percent of Mexico’s population) is five times that of the least developed central and southern states, with 44 percent of the population.

Industry. Industrial production, particularly in the light and food-processing industries, is dominated by small, often semicottage, enterprises. Large enterprises prevail in heavy industry. The most important industries, oil refining, petrochemicals, and nonferrous metallurgy, use local raw materials. With the exception of petroleum and natural gas, the extractive industry has been developing more slowly than the manufacturing industry.

The principal centers of the petroleum, natural gas, and oilrefining industry are on the Gulf of Mexico, and the mining and metallurgical regions are in the northern part of the Meseta Central. Manufacturing enterprises are concentrated in the large cities. In 1966 the Federal District and the states of Jalisco and Nuevo León accounted for half of the country’s manufacturing enterprises, 65 percent of the capital investments in the manufacturing industry, and 70 percent of the value of its output.

EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY. The petroleum and natural gas industry occupies a very important place in the economy. In 1970 petroleum and natural gas accounted for 93 percent of Mexico’s fuel and power (petroleum for 55 percent and natural gas for 38 percent). The principal centers of the petroleum and natural gas industry are near Tampico and Poza Rica de Hidalgo, although the petroleum and gas regions in the southeast, where offshore oil drilling is being developed, are becoming more important. The coal industry is of secondary importance. Hard coal is mined (1.5 million tons in 1971) chiefly in Sabinas for the coke by-products industry. As a result of the Mexicanization of the mining industry since the early 1960’s, the proportion of foreign companies has been reduced from 75 percent to 10 percent. The mining of heavy, nonferrous metal ores is concentrated in the Meseta Central, where there are many rich deposits of highquality ore. The principal iron-ore deposit is at Cerro de Mercado in the Durango region. High-quality native sulfur, mined in the Tehuantepec Isthmus, has become an important export; it is shipped from the port of Coatzacoalcos. Also exported are fluorspar (about 1 million tons annually), antimony, and graphite. Nonferrous metal ores, including silver, gold, mercury, copper, zinc, and lead, are mined in northern and central Mexico.

POWER ENGINEERING. In 1971 the rated capacity of electric power plants was 8 million kilowatts (kW), of which 42 percent was produced by hydroelectric power plants. The capacity of the first stage of the huge Malpaso Hydroelectric Power Plant in the southeast is 720,000 kW, and that of the Infiernillo Hydroelectric Power Plant in the Balsas basin, one of the largest mountain hydroelectric plants, is 627,000 kW.

MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY. The principal oil refineries and petrochemical plants are located in the petroleum and natural gas producing regions and in Mexico City and Salamanca. The capacity of the country’s six oil refineries was 31.2 million tons in 1973, and the output of petroleum products exceeded 23 million tons, of which about half was mazut and diesel fuel and 40 percent was gasoline and other light petroleum products. The petrochemical industry produces synthetic fibers (116,300 tons in 1972) and mineral fertilizers (500,000 tons).

Non-ferrous metallurgy plants are located in regions where mixed ores are mined and in Mexico City (electrolytic copper) and Veracruz (aluminum). In 1972, 59,600 tons of refined copper were smelted, 39,500 tons of aluminum, 161,300 tons of refined lead, and 87,400 tons of zinc. The chief ferrous metallurgy enterprises are in Monterrey and Monclova and around Mexico City. In 1972, 3.3 million tons of rolled steel were produced. In 1974 the large Las Truchac mining and metallurgical complex was under construction in the Balsas basin. The principal automotive-assembly enterprises are in Mexico City, Toluca, and Puebla, producing 62,200 passenger cars, trucks, and buses in 1972. A state-owned machine-building center has been built at Irolo (Ciudad Sahagun), with plants producing diesel engines, railroad cars, and textile equipment. The radio and electronics industry is developing; 436,600 television sets were produced in 1972. The largest cement plants are located near Mexico City. Textile enterprises are concentrated in the Puebla-Orizaba-Cordoba region and in Mexico City and Guadalajara. In 1969, 230,000 tons of fabrics were produced, of which 70 percent was cotton cloth. Mexico City is an important center of the garment industry. There are large food-processing industries in the capital and Guadalajara (using raw materials from the Pacific states) and in the irrigated regions. Sugar refineries are found mainly near the sugarcane plantations in the piedmont areas of the states of Morelos, Sinaloa, Veracruz, and Tamaulipas. Handicraft production, chiefly weaving and artistic crafts, are widespread, particularly in the Indian regions in the central and southern states. (See Table 2 for the output of major industrial products.)

Agriculture. The farm output basically satisfies the population’s needs for foodstuffs and agricultural raw materials and provides about two-fifths of the value of exports. Along with concentration of land (particularly on the livestock-raising farms in the northern states), there is a high degree of land parcellation primarily in the land-hungry peasant communes (ejidos) and Indian settlements. According to the 1960 census, there are 169 million ha of agricultural land, of which 103 million ha are privately owned (13,200 farms own about 93 million ha), 33 million ha are owned by 20,000 ejidos, and 9 million ha are owned by Indian settlements. Communal land may be inherited. Leasing and seizure of communal lands and the use of hired labor in the communes are becoming more frequent. Capitalism has spread especially rapidly in the irrigated regions, where 3,600 farms, each covering more than 100 ha, own 23 percent of the irrigated land. About 2 million peasants are landless agricultural laborers.

In 1960 there were 24 million ha of arable land and 79 million ha of pasture, chiefly natural grasslands. Because of frequent drought, wide-spread erosion (11.5 million ha), and a low level of agricultural technology, the harvested area does not exceed two-thirds of the arable land, especially in regions of subsistence and slash-and-burn agriculture. In 1971 the harvested area reached 16 million ha, of which 3.1 million ha were in irrigation districts, organizational units within the system of water use management. Although irrigated land totaled about 4 million ha (1971), it yields no less than one-third and in some years more than half the value of the total crop output. Prior to 1969 more than 400 reservoirs had been constructed with a total capacity of 85 billion cu m. The largest irrigation districts are the lower reaches of the Colorado, Rio Bravo, and Fuerte rivers and the regions around Culiacan and Torreon (La Laguna). Groundwater is being used for irrigation on a larger scale. Since 1947 the river basins in the tropical regions (Papaloapan, Grijalva-Usumacinta, Balsas) are being reclaimed for agricultural use. Here, swamps and forests are giving way to plantations producing perennial tropical crops and rice.

Between 1930 and 1971 the number of tractors increased from 4,500 to 95,000. Mechanization and use of chemicals have been introduced most extensively in the irrigation districts and on the capitalist plantations. Although crop cultivation dominates agriculture, animal husbandry is becoming increasingly important. Crop cultivation and livestock raising are found in separate parts of the country; there is extensive cattle raising in the desert and semidesert regions. Crop cultivation includes food crops, raised primarily for the domestic market, and commercial, primarily industrial, crops, such as cotton, coffee, sugarcane, and henequen.

Corn is Mexico’s principal food crop and the staple of much of the population. It is grown primarily in nonirrigated land up to an elevation of 3,000 m. Wheat is raised on irrigated land, chiefly in the northern states along the Pacific and in the large Bajio farming region in central Mexico, near Leon. Rice is a traditional crop in the state of Morelos and in the newly reclaimed coastal regions, where sorghum is also becoming an important crop. In cereal cultivation new acclimatized seeds have been introduced, resulting in higher yields of wheat and, to a lesser extent, corn.

Cotton production is concentrated in the irrigation districts of the northwest, along the lower reaches of the Rio Bravo, and the old cotton-growing region of La Laguna. The importance of sugarcane, grown in the coastal regions, increased after the USA ceased to import Cuban sugar. Coffee is raised chiefly in the southern mountain regions and in the Soconusco region on fertile volcanic soils. About 90 percent of the world output of henequen is grown on the karst plain along the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Other important exports include tomatoes, peanuts, early vegetables, citrus fruits, pineapples, and a number of other tropical and subtropical crops. Enterprises engaged in the primary processing of plantation output are frequently controlled by foreign companies and the owners of capitalist farms. (See Table 3 for the sown area and yield of the major crops.)

In 1972 livestock numbered 25.8 million cattle, 5.5 million sheep, and 12.3 million hogs. Every year hundreds of thousands of cattle are herded into the USA to be fattened and slaughtered (934,000 head in 1970). Cattle intended for sale in Mexico City are fattened on mountain pastures in the state of Veracruz. Dairy farming is expanding around major centers, and large poultry farms have been established. Sheep raising is widespread in the mountains of the Meseta Central. Techniques of livestock raising are poorly developed, and most cattle are of an inferior Creole breed.

FORESTRY. The largest forests are found in the Sierra Madre Occidental (coniferous species) and on the southeastern plains. In 1970 lumber production totaled 5.5 million cu m, with the states of Durango and Chihuahua accounting for half the output. The production of tropical hardwood for the paper-and-pulp industry is increasing. The industry can no longer obtain raw material in the inhabited areas, where the forests have been almost completely cut down. In the northern part of the Meseta Central wild hard-fiber plants, such as lechugilla and sacaton, are gathered.

FISHING. About two-thirds of the annual fish catch of 300,000 to 400,000 tons comes from the waters off the coast of the northern Pacific states. The main fishing ports and fish canneries are found here. Shrimp and oysters are caught in the southeast.

Transportation. The country has 24,000 km of railroad tracks, of which 19,900 km were in operation in 1972. Motor vehicle transport is rapidly becoming important for long as well as short distances. About 75 percent of the country’s 82,000 km of highways are all-weather roads. There were 2.2 million vehicles in 1972, including 1.5 million passenger cars. The total length of pipelines is 11,000 km. Most important are the pipelines connecting the petroleum and natural gas refineries with the urban centers in the Meseta Central and the Minatitlan-Salina Cruz pipeline, which supplies petroleum products to the Pacific states.

With the development of air transport many regions are no longer isolated. Air routes (102,000 km) connect all the states and major cities. The principal airports are at Mexico City, Veracruz, Merida, and Monterrey. Maritime transport handles 54 percent of exports and 31 percent of imports. Mexico’s merchant marine fleet consists of 216 ships with a total capacity of 417,000 gross registered tons. In 1971 the cargo turnover of the country’s ports was 20 million tons loaded and 15.5 million tons unloaded, including coastal hauls of 9.6 million tons. In 1971 the most important seaports in terms of cargo turnover were Tampico (8.1 million tons), Veracruz (3.3 million tons), Coatzacoalcos, Salina Cruz, and Guaymas.

Foreign trade. Mexico has a deficit in its balance of trade. In 1972 exports were valued at $1,821.4 million, and imports at $2,952.1 million. The chief exports are cotton, coffee, sulfur, sugar, livestock, minerals and metals, and manufactured goods.

Table 3. Sown area and harvest of principal crops
 Area (hectares)Yield (tons)
Corn .........5,035,0007,419,0007,000,0004,057,0009,041,0008,036,000
Beans .........1,117,0001 ,722,0001 ,700,000365,000925,000890,000
Wheat .........750,000723,000655,000823,0002,216,0001,782,000
Rice (unhulled) .........95,000150,000155,000183,000402,000408,000
Cotton (fiber) .........878,000403,000500,000362,000312,000379,000
Coffee .........203,000355,000380,00085,000183,900222,000
Sugarcane .........236,000546,000560,00012,795,00033,550,00034,000,000
Henequen .........150,000185,000185,000103,000141,000145,000

In 1972 agricultural products and livestock accounted for 39.5 percent of exports, mineral products for 6 percent, manufactured goods for 50.7 percent, and other commodities for 3.8 percent. There has been an increase in the export of manufactured products, particularly to the Latin American countries. Machinery, equipment, and transportation account for 40.8 percent of imports, industrial raw materials for 39.2 percent, and consumer goods for 6.6 percent. The principal trading partners are the USA (accounting for 70 percent of exports and 60 percent of imports), the Latin American countries (8.9 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively), the European Economic Community (5.0 percent and 16.1 percent), and Japan (4.7 percent and 3.9 percent). Foreign trade with Western European countries, Latin America, and Japan is expanding.

Mexico is a member of the Latin American Free Trade Association. The National Foreign Trade Bank, special state-run and mixed associations, and joint trade commissions with various countries have been established to promote foreign trade. There has been a gradual expansion of foreign trade with the socialist countries. Of great importance for Mexico’s economy is foreign tourism, the income from which reached $730.4 million in 1972. In 1971 Mexico was visited by 2.5 million tourists, excluding short-term visitors to the border towns.

The monetary unit is the peso. According to the exchange rate of the State Bank of the USSR, on Mar. 1, 1974, 100 pesos equaled 5 rubles and 97 kopeks.

Economic regions. The Central Region, comprising the Federal District and the states of Mexico, Puebla, Queretaro, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Morelos, and Tlaxcala, covers 129,000 sq km and has a population of 18.2 million (1970). The chief industrial centers and most of the population are concentrated in the mountain areas. Agriculture is dominated by small farms, and there is considerable migration from the rural areas to the cities.

The Gulf Coastal Region, encompassing Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Tabasco has an area of 177,000 sq km and a population of 6 million (1970). Its well-developed petroleum and natural gas industry provides Mexico’s fuel and energy. Irrigated agriculture prevails in the north, and plantations growing coffee and other tropical crops are found in the south. The state sector, which includes the petroleum and natural gas industry and hydroengineering projects, plays a major role in the region’s economy. The leading city is Veracruz.

The Northern Region, comprising Nuevo León, Coahuila, Chihuahua, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Durango, and Aguascalientes, covers 726,000 sq km and has a population of 7.9 million (1970). Mining and metallurgy and extensive livestock raising are the basis of its economy, which is closely linked with that of the USA. The leading city is Monterrey.

The North Pacific Coastal Region, including the states of Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, and Baja California, and the territory of Baja California del Sur, occupies 414,000 sq km and has 3.9 million inhabitants (1970). Irrigated agriculture predominates; it is Mexico’s fastest growing region. The principal center is Mexicali.

The Central Pacific Region, comprising the Jalisco, Michoacán, and Colima, covers an area of 145,000 sq km and has a population of 5.9 million (1970). Farming for local markets and export and lumbering are the mainstay of the economy. The largest city is Guadalajara.

The South Pacific Region, comprising Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, has an area of 233,000 sq km and 5.2 million inhabitants (1970), most of them Indians. It is a poorly developed region of slash-and-burn agriculture with some plantations.

The Yucatán Region, including the states of Yucatán and Campeche and the territory of Quintana Roo, covers an area of 141,000 sq km and has 1.1 million inhabitants (1970). The economy rests on the production of a single crop, henequen. The principal city is Mérida.


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Bassols Batalla, A. Geografia económica de México. Mexico City, 1970.
Ramos Girault, M. Problemas y posibilidades económicas de México, 1971–1980. México City, 1969.

Mexico’s armed forces consist of an army, an air force, a navy, and a national guard. In 1973 the total strength was about 72,000 men, excluding the national guard. The supreme commander in chief is the president, who exercises control through the presidential staff. Overall direction is entrusted to the minister of national defense, the general staff, and the commanders of the various branches of the armed forces. The army is recruited on the basis of universal conscription; the draft age ranges from 18 to 20 years, and the period of active duty is 18 months. The army of about 54,000 men consists of 50 infantry battalions, 18 cavalry regiments, three artillery regiments, and special forces units. Weapons are mostly of American manufacture. The air force, with some 6,000 men, is organized into several air groups, with more than 300 combat and auxiliary aircraft and helicopters (ten squadrons). The navy of about 12,000 men has 40 ships (20 patrol boats and cutters and 20 minesweepers), a naval air group (four squadrons of airplanes and several helicopters), and marines. There are naval bases at Tampico, Veracruz, Acapulco, and Manzanillo.

Medicine and public health. According to data provided by the World Health Organization, Mexico’s birth rate in 1970 was 43.4 per 1,000 inhabitants, the mortality rate was 9.9 per 1,000 inhabitants, and the infant mortality rate was 68.5 per 1,000 live births. The average life span was 62.4 years.

Infectious and parasitic diseases predominate. Mexico’s public health agencies have been successful in combating certain diseases: smallpox and yellow fever have been eradicated, and the incidence and mortality rate of malaria have been decreased. Mass vaccinations have significantly reduced the incidence of polio. However, other infectious diseases are widespread, including dysentery (amebic and bacillary), typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, epidemic hepatitis, scarlet fever, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, and brucellosis. All forms of tuberculosis are especially common in the northern and southeastern states and in the Federal District. Leprosy occurs in the subtropical zone in the western part of the country and in the state of Yucatán. Trachoma and contagious conjunctivitis are widespread throughout Mexico. Chagas’ disease has been recorded in the state of México and along the Pacific coast, up to elevations of 1,500 m, primarily in rural areas. Cutaneous leishmaniasis occurs along the eastern coast, and visceral leishmaniasis is endemic in the Balsas basin. There are three centers of oncocercosis: two in Chiapas and one in Oaxaca, in the upper Pijijiapan Valley; the disease is encountered primarily among Indians. There is a high incidence, especially among the rural population, of intestinal helminthiases, including ascariasis, enterobiasis, trichocephaliasis, and strongyloidiasis.

Among noninfectious diseases the most frequently encountered are diabetes, endemic goiter, cardiovascular diseases, and malignant tumors. Nutrition is an important problem. According to the National Institute of Nutrition, in 1970, 55 percent of the population was in a state of unstable nutritive equilibrium, where the slightest additional stress on the body caused clinical symptoms of malnutrition.

Medical services are primarily provided by the state. The fees of state medical institutions depend on family income. Various occupational groups, for example, servicemen, railroad workers, and employees of Pemex, the state-run petroleum company, as well as the indigent, receive free medical care. Approximately 20 percent of the population, both workers and civil servants, are covered by health insurance. Those who can afford to pay consult private practitioners.

In 1968, Mexico had 3,055 hospitals with 86,100 beds (two per 1,000 inhabitants). There are sanitation and antiepidemic organizations, 939 maternity and child-care centers, and 780 public health laboratories. In 1970 there were 39,100 physicians, or one for every 1,300 inhabitants, 5,100 dentists, and about 50,000 medical assistants. Physicians are trained at four university medical faculties and 16 medical schools. In 1970, public health programs accounted for 5.7 percent of the total state budget. Popular resorts include the seaside climatic health resort of Acapulco, one of the best on the American continent, and the health resorts of Cuernavaca, Orizaba, and Veracruz.


Veterinary services. Bacterial diseases predominate among all animals, with the exception of birds. Infectious diseases in which the causative agent is transmitted by alimentary means are encountered most frequently. Among quarantine diseases, anthrax, rabies, hog cholera, Newcastle’s disease, and glanders were recorded in 1970. Anthrax occurs most frequently in cattle, goats, and sheep and less often in horses and pigs. Rabies, transmitted by bats, is common among cattle, dogs, and wild animals. Brucellosis is encountered, with the incidence of infection reaching 50 percent in some regions, as well as tuberculosis. Parasitic diseases include helminthiasis, protozoosis and ectoparasitosis. Problems connected with animal husbandry are studied by the Ministry of Agriculture. There is also a National Council of Animal Husbandry, which coordinates the activity of all scientific institutions. The chief centers for veterinary research are the Institute of Veterinary Sciences, established under a special UN fund, and the National Center for Livestock Research. There are eight veterinary schools. In 1972 there were 7,000 veterinarians, belonging to the National College of Veterinarians.

Education is controlled by federal, state, and municipal authorities. In addition to state educational institutions, there are schools, for the most part secondary schools, which have been established by private individuals or nongovernmental organizations with the permission of the authorities. Religious organizations are not permitted to operate elementary, secondary, or pedagogical schools, but the church continues to exert an influence on the upbringing of children and youth. A primary goal has been the eradication of illiteracy, especially among the Indians. A campaign to eradicate illiteracy, begun in 1944, had reduced the number of illiterates to 24 percent of the population by 1970.

There are kindergartens for children from four to six years of age; in 1969 they had an enrollment of 429,100, or about 8–9 percent of the total number of children in that age group. The six-year primary school is universal, compulsory, and free, but in 1968 some 29 percent of the children between six and 15 years of age were not attending primary schools. The dropout rate is high. In 1969 the first grade of all the primary schools had an enrollment of 2.4 million pupils, but the sixth grade had an enrollment of 692,000; thus about three-fourths of those who had entered primary school in 1963 had dropped out before completion, usually because of family poverty. In rural areas, one-room schoolhouses offering three or four years of instruction predominate. In 1971 more than 9.6 million pupils were enrolled in primary schools.

Secondary schools have a five-year course of study consisting of two cycles of three and two years. The first cycle provides general or technical intermediate training, and the second cycle prepares pupils either for the university or for the National Polytechnic Institute. Less than 20 percent of adolescents between 12 and 18 years of age attend secondary schools. In 1968 general intermediate secondary schools had an enrollment of 758,800 students, and technical intermediate schools had an enrollment of 110,300 students; 189,000 students were receiving training in preparation for the university, and 43,800 were enrolled in technical programs leading to the National Polytechnic Institute. In 1968 teacher training schools had an enrollment of 44,500, and industrial, agricultural, and art schools (open to graduates of the six-year school) enrolled 25,300.

Mexico has 38 higher educational institutions, with an enrollment of 188,000 students in 1969. Among the largest are the National Autonomous University, founded in 1551, the National Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1936, in Mexico City, and the Universities of Guadalajara, Morelia, and Puebla.

There are 26 libraries, of which the largest is the National Library in Mexico City, founded in 1833 and containing more than 800,000 volumes. Among the country’s 30 museums are the Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of Anthropology, the National Historical Museum, the Museum of Mexican Flora and Fauna, and the San Carlos Gallery of Painting and Sculpture, all in Mexico City.


Natural and technical sciences. Before the 16th century the Mayas had the most advanced scientific knowledge among the peoples of Mexico. They employed a number system based on twenty, a positional system of calculation, and the concept of zero and used a counting device similar to the abacus in making complex calculations. The Mayas created a solar calendar and a system of counting the years that was adopted by the Toltecs, Aztecs, and other peoples of Mexico. They were able to compute accurately the length of the solar year and the lunar month and predict solar and lunar eclipses. They constructed special buildings for astronomical observations and knew of the existence of the planets. In medicine their most notable achievements were in diagnostics, surgery, and pharmacology. Narcotics were used during complicated operations, and more than 400 types of plants were used in various treatments. Spain’s colonization of Mexico did irreparable damage to the indigenous Indian cultures.

During the colonial period (16th to early 19th centuries) the natural sciences were developed by scholars from Europe, chiefly Spanish. Many lived in Mexico for extended periods and made a considerable contribution to the study of its natural features and thus are considered representatives of Mexican natural science. The colonial expeditions of A. Mendoza, N. de Guzmán, and P. de León laid the foundation for Mexican geographical and botanical studies. During the first half of the 16th century the first higher educational institutions were founded: the School of Santa Cruz in 1536 and the University of Mexico City in 1551. N. Monardes and J. Cárdenas studied the Indian people’s medicine and pharmacology, and F. Hernández, M. de la Cruz, and J. Badiano described Mexico’s flora and fauna. With the expansion of mining, methods for extracting metal from ore were developed. In the early 17th century natural science declined, in part because of Spain’s political and economic stagnation. The most important figure in Mexican science at the end of the 17th century was the royal cosmographer, C. de Sigüenza y Góngora, the author of works on astronomy, geography, geodesy, cartography, and the history of the Mayas and the Aztecs and an exponent of the ideas of Kepler, Galileo, and Descartes.

Scientific activity revived during the second half of the 18th century, with the expansion of the economy and the growth of science in Spain and the rise of capitalist relations in Mexico. Educational and scientific institutions founded at this time included the Royal School of Surgery (1768) and the Botanical Gardens (1788). In 1792 the brothers F. and J. de Elhuyar founded the Royal School of Mines, where research was conducted in mining, mineralogy, and chemistry; A. M. del Rio worked here and in 1801 discovered vanadium, which he called erthronium. There were advances in geographical, astronomical-geodesic, botanical, and medical research. Prominent scientists included the naturalist J. A. Alzate and J. I. Bartolache, a mathematician and physician and the publisher of the first medical journal in the Americas. Both were members of the Paris Academy of Sciences. At the turn of the 19th century A. von Humboldt worked in Mexico and brought the nascent science of Mexico within the sphere of international natural science.

The struggle for independence and the emergence of a national industry contributed to the development of science in the 19th century. The Museum of Mexican Flora and Fauna was organized in 1822; a catalog of the plants of Mexico, The Botanical Tables, was compiled by J. Cervantes in 1825; and crop diseases were studied. Medical research was relatively advanced: R. Lucio studied leprosy, I. Alvarado investigated yellow fever, and P. Escobedo, M. Jimenez, and F. de Oca developed surgery. In 1890 a physiological laboratory was organized under the direction of F. Altamirano. In 1858, G. Cubas’ Historical and Geographical Atlas of the Republic of Mexico was published; a map of minerals was compiled in 1889, and a seismic map of Mexico appeared in 1892. In 1878 the National Astronomical Observatory was founded under the direction of F. D. Covarrubias, where in the late 19th and early 20th centuries star maps and photographic star catalogs were prepared. The Institute of Geology was founded in 1891.

In the early 20th century, and particularly after the bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1910–17, the pace of scientific development quickened. Research in physics, mathematics, and technology expanded, and new, specialized scientific centers were organized. Biology, medicine, and geology continued to be the foremost fields of research.

Biological research is conducted at the Institute of Biology, the Research Center of the Polytechnic Institute, and the National Institute of Cardiology and includes bacteriology, helminthology, hydrobiology, entomology, physiology, biochemistry, genetics, and the biology of cacti. Leading scientists include I. Ochoterena, R. Llamas, M. Martínez, G. Ramos, U. Gonzalez, and M. V. Ortega. Studies on the transmission of nerve impulses and the physiology of the central nervous system and heart have been published by A. Rosenblueth, working with N. Wiener, one of the founders of cybernetics. Major contributions to medical research have been made by I. Chavez and A. Rosenblueth in cardiology, R. Cicero and G. Errijon in dermatology, I. Ochoterena and J. L. Torroella in ophthalmology, I. G. Guzmán in hematology, C. Robles in neurosurgery, and M. J. González and D. Alarcón in tuberculosis. High-yielding wheat varieties have been developed in Mexico; their widespread use in developing countries has helped bring about the “green revolution” (N. E. Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize, 1970).

In earth sciences important work is being done on the geology of petroleum and natural gas and in prospecting for uranium ore. The construction of seaports has stimulated study of the hydrogeology and geomorphology of the seacoast. Reclamation of the river basins in the southeast necessitated comprehensive studies of the tropical areas and evaluation of renewable natural resources in the region. The Mexican scientists F. Cárdenas Moreno, A. N. Gándara, and S. Prieto and the Americans D. Struik and S. Lefschetz founded a national school of mathematics in Mexico, and in 1942 the Institute of Mathematics was organized. Research in theoretical and experimental physics is carried out primarily at the Institute of Physics, founded in 1938, and the Research Center of the Polytechnic Institute, and astrophysical research is conducted at the Institute of Astrophysics at Tonantzintla, founded in 1942. In 1970 the Center for Nuclear Research opened, equipped with a research reactor, an accelerator, and a computer center. Research in chemistry (chiefly organic chemistry, biochemistry, and radiochemistry) is conducted at the Institute of Chemistry, founded in 1941, and at industrial laboratories.

Work is being done in industrial electronics and semiconductors, industrial cybernetics and communications theory, applied chemistry, petrochemistry, metallurgy, and the technology of paper production. Hydroelectric construction and the creation of large irrigation systems, especially in the northwest, have stimulated research. By 1965, Mexico had planned and built more than 60 dams.


Social sciences.PHILOSOPHY. Philosophical ideas during the colonial period were strongly influenced by medieval European ideology, primarily Scholasticism. A. de la Vera Cruz was the author of the first original Mexican philosophical works. In the late 16th and 17th centuries European humanist ideas were introduced by C. de Sigiienza y Góngora. During the second half of the 18th century the influence of the new European philosophy, in particular Cartesianism, was reflected in the work of such Mexican philosophers as B. Díaz de Gamarra. During the War for Independence the revolutionary and materialist ideas of the French philosophers Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Diderot spread throughout the country.

The conflict between Scholasticism, represented by C. de Jesús Munguía, and rationalist and materialist ideas continued in the first half of the 19th century. The latter became the basis of the sociopolitical doctrines of the national bourgeoisie. A prominent representative of materialist philosophy was I. Ramirez, sometimes called the Mexican Voltaire.

After the bourgeois revolution of 1854–60 positivist ideas were disseminated. G. Barreda attempted to interpret the history of Mexico in accordance with A. Comte’s theory of social evolution. In 1877, Barreda’s students founded the Methodophile Association for Developing and Disseminating the Ideas of Positivism. The principal antagonist of materialist philosophy and positivism in the second half of the 19th century was the Catholic philosophy of G. García and R. Noriega. Positivism became the dominant doctrine at the turn of the 20th century, and materialism based on the natural sciences was introduced. F. Hernández and E. O. Aragon, who approached the positivism of H. Spencer on a number of questions, sought to interpret the principal scientific discoveries of the 19th century on the basis of E. Haeckel’s materialist monism and the evolutionary theory of C. Darwin. The first major studies on the history of philosophical ideas in Mexico were written by A. Rivera and E. V. Tellez. Marxist ideas began to gain a wide following in the 1870’s.

Positivism, which had run its course, gave way to intuitionism, neo-Kantianism, and existentialism in the early 20th century. Thomism also became more influential. The best-known Mexican idealist philosophers of the first half of the 20th century were A. Caso, who upheld the ideas of E. Boutroux and H. Bergson, and J. Vasconcelos, who, influenced by religious mysticism, created the doctrine of “aesthetic monism” the views of S. Ramos were similar to those of the Spanish philosopher J. Ortega y Gasset. The presidency of L. Cárdenas y del Rio created a relatively favorable climate for the dissemination of socialist ideas, in which the Workers’ University, established in 1936, played a large part.

After World War II various trends of bourgeois philosophy continued to flourish, including neo-Scholasticism, neo-Kantianism (F. Larroyo), and the teachings of Ortega. Studies on the history of Mexican philosophical thought occupy an important place among the works of contemporary Mexican philosophers. In 1963 the Thirteenth International Philosophical Congress was held in Mexico. Mexican Marxists are concentrating on problems of the country’s social development, the revolutionary movement of the working class, and the national liberation struggle. Prominent Marxist philosophers include E. de Gortari and A. S. Vazquez.

There are faculties of philosophy at several universities. In addition to a philosophy faculty, the National Autonomous University has the Institute of Philosophical Research. The leading philosophical journals are Filosofia y Letras (since 1941) and Dianoia (since 1955).


HISTORY. Mexican historical scholarship originated in the last third of the 18th century, with the appearance of the works of the Jesuits F. J. Alegre, A. Cavo, and F. J. Clavijero, who had a high regard for the ancient Indian cultures. History was studied by several men of the Enlightenment in Mexico, including J. I. Bartolache, J. A. Alzate, and B. Díaz de Gamarra. During the first half of the 19th century the bourgeois-liberal historians C. M. Bustamante, L. de Zavala, and J. M. L. Mora published works describing the War for Independence of 1810–24 from a patriotic standpoint. The conservative L. Alamán idealized the colonial regime and condemned the liberation movement. The ideas of Alamán and his followers E. Castillo Negrete and F. de Paula de Arrangoir were attacked at the turn of the 20th century by exponents of the radical trend—V. Riva Palacio, J. Zárate, I. M. Altamirano, A. Rivera, and J. García. F. Bulnes and E. Rabasa defended the reactionary dictatorship of P. Díaz.

The bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1910–17 stimulated interest in historical problems. A number of research institutions and learned societies were founded in the 1920’s and 1930’s: the National Academy of History and Geography (1925), the Mexican Academy of History (1940), and local historical, archaeological, ethnographic, and other museums. Source materials were published on a larger scale. Intensification of the political and ideological struggle showed more clearly the contradictory conceptions of Mexico’s history. The historical writings of the 1920’s and 1930’s were dominated by the traditional conservative-clerical trend influenced by the views of Alamán. Among the historians of this school were A. Gibaja y Patrón, T. Esquivel Obregón, A. M. Carreño, R. García Granadas, and M. Cuevas. The democratic and anti-imperialist movement during L. Cárdenas’ presidency stimulated historical research in the 1940’s; scholarly and professional standards were raised. The Mexican Historical Society, established in 1943, was reorganized as the Association for the Study of the History of Mexico in 1946; the Mexican Society for the Study of History was founded in 1949. During the 1940’s and 1950’s a number of local centers and societies were founded. In the 1950’s and 1960’s many documents on the revolution of 1910–17 were published.

After World War II historical scholarship became more profound and analytical. Despite the tenacity of openly reactionary views (“neo-Alamánism” and the works of J. Bravo Ugarte and J. Vera Estañol), the conservative-clerical trend on the whole declined. The democratic trend in historical writing developed the best traditions of the liberal historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some representatives of the democratic trend approached a materialist view of history, and such historians as A. Cué Cánovas, L. Chávez Orozco, and A. Teja Zabre were interested in socioeconomic processes. The bourgeois-liberal “objective” school, headed by D. Cosío Villegas, became more influential. Among its adherents were S. Zavala, J. Miranda, M. Carrera Stampa, and C. Bosch García. Outstanding works on the Mexican revolution of 1910–17 were published by R. Blanco Moheno, J. Silva Herzog, J. Romero Flores, and M. González Ramírez.

Important centers for studying history and collecting historical documents are the National Museum of History (founded in 1822), the National Archives (1823), the National Library (1833), and El Colegio de México (1940). The National Autonomous University maintains the Institute of Historical Research (founded in 1945), the Institute of Social Research, and the National School of Political and Social Sciences. In 1953 the National Institute for the Study of the History of the Mexican Revolution was founded. There are local research centers in Guadalajara, Monterrey, Chihuahua, Puebla, Morelia, and other cities. Historical material is published in the Historia Mexicana (since 1951), Revista Mexicana de Sociología (since 1939), Revista Mexicana de Ciencia Política (since 1955), Historia y Sociedad (since 1965), and the annual Estudios de Historia Moderna y Contemporánea (since 1965).


ECONOMICS. The beginnings of Mexican economic thought date from the first quarter of the 19th century, when the country won its independence, but the most fruitful developments have come during the 20th century. During the early decades of the 20th century many Mexican economists concentrated on the struggle against the domination of foreign monopolies (primarily North American), the elimination of feudal vestiges, and the acceleration of economic development.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s three principal trends emerged in Mexican economic thought. Representatives of the first trend, notably L. Solis, D. Ibarra, V. L. Urquidi, and D. López Rosado, elaborated the official economic doctrine of the ruling Party of Institutional Revolution. They are strongly influenced by Keynesianism and contemporary bourgeois theories of economic growth, and they subscribe to the theory of Latin American development, or desarrollismo (from Spanish desarrollo, “development”). The advocates of desarrollismo assert that the successful development of the Mexican economy is possible through the attraction of foreign capital, some expansion of the state capitalist sector, economic planning, and support of the mixed sector of the economy within the framework of capitalist means of production.

The second, or liberal-democratic, trend is represented by economists whose studies to some extent reveal the shortcomings of the country’s economic development. In their recommendations, however, they do not go beyond partial reforms that do not touch the foundations of the capitalist system. These economists devote much attention to agrarian problems. For E. Padilla Aragón, Flores de la Peña, and A. Bonilla the solution lies in improved agricultural technology, irrigation projects, and similar measures. Other liberal-democratic economists, such as R. Stavenhagen, C. Cárdenas, and M. Gomez Aguilera, believe that Mexico’s economic problems can be solved only by abolishing the large estates, limiting the influx of foreign capital, and developing the state sector. Their works reveal the inconsistency of the official national-reformist doctrine.

Of great importance is the third, or progressive, trend. Its exponents advocate Mexico’s economic independence from American monopolies and a higher living standard for the masses, and they show the necessity of profound economic changes. Among the foremost progressive economists are J. Luis Seseña, R. Ramírez Gómez, A. Aguilar Monteverde, and F. Carmona. These economists employ Marxist methodology, although not always consistently, in their work. Much important work has been done in recent decades on the history of Mexico’s economic development and economic thought by J. Silva Herzog, A. Cue Cánovas, and J. Reyes Eroles.

Centers of economic research include the economic faculties of the universities, the National Polytechnic Institute (founded in 1936), the Institute of Technology and Higher Education of Monterrey (1943), the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (1946), the Institute of Economic Research of the National Autonomous University, and two centers for economic studies at the University of Nuevo León.

The most important periodicals are Revista de Economía (since 1937), Trimestre Económico (since 1934), Examen de la situatión económica de México (since 1925), Revista de Estadística (since 1938), Comercio Exterior de México (since 1951), Bibliografía Económica de México (since 1955), Problemas del Desarrollo (since 1970).


Scientific institutions. To plan and coordinate scientific research, the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, an advisory body under the president, was created in 1956, and the National Council for Science and Technology was established in 1970. The government supervises space research, nuclear power projects, and work on water supply, petrochemistry, health services, and transportation. Research projects are financed by the government, the private sector, and various international and foreign foundations and organizations (primarily American). The government contributes more than 90 percent of the cost of scientific research. In the early 1970’s research expenditures were less than 0.5 percent of the gross national product; in 1968 they accounted for 0.2 percent of the gross national product, or 283.2 million pesos, of which 52 percent was allocated for the state-run research institutes, 35 percent for the research institutes attached to higher educational institutions, and 13 percent for the research institutes of academies, private companies, and independent scientific organizations.

By the early 1970’s Mexico had more than 200 research institutions, more than half of which were devoted to the exact and natural sciences and only 10 percent to technology and agriculture. More than 6,000 scientists and engineers worked in these institutions, some 3,000 of them on a full-time basis; of the permanent staff, 37 percent were in the exact and natural sciences, 31 percent in socioeconomic fields, 20 percent in medicine, 10 percent in engineering, and 2 percent in agriculture. A large proportion of the scientists working in Mexico are foreigners or graduates of foreign, usually American, universities. Emphasis is placed on research in the exact, natural, and socioeconomic sciences. Applied sciences, especially in industry and agriculture, are poorly developed, so that Mexico must import advanced technology from other countries, primarily the USA. In 1968 the cost of repaying debts arising from technical “assistance” was three times the budgetary allocation for research projects.

The leading government research organizations are the Research Complex of the National Energy Commission (founded in 1956), which in 1973 comprised 15 laboratories and the Center for Nuclear Research; the Research Center of the National Commission for Space Exploration (1962), which has a rocket launching site and one of the largest ionospheric stations in Latin America (it also conducts observations of artificial earth satellites); the National Research Institute of Agriculture (1960); the Mexican Research Institute for Resources; the research institute attached to the Central Office of Geography and Meteorology; the National Institute of Cardiology (1944); the National Institute of Hygiene (1904); the National Center for Scientific and Technical Documentation (1950), which coordinates the work of the information services in Latin America; and the research institutions of the large state companies, such as Pemex, Sintex, and Altos Hornos de Mexico. The government also sponsors the National Academy of Science (formerly the Antonio Alzate Society, founded in 1884), the Academy of Juridical Sciences (1889), the Mexican Academy of History (1940), the National Academy of History and Geography (1925), the Mexican Academy of Languages, and the National Academy of Medicine (1864). The academies’ contribution to scientific research is negligible.

Among the most important research institutes affiliated with higher educational institutions are the Research Center of the National Autonomous University in Mexico City, comprising more than 20 institutes in 1973, including a computer center and institutes of biology, geography, geology, geophysics, mathematics, physics, chemistry, applied sciences, and Mayan studies; the Research Center of the National Polytechnic Institute, comprising more than ten institutes, including the Research Institute of Biology in Santo Tomás, the largest in Latin America, and the National Computer Center; the Research Center of the Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Monterrey; and the research institutes at the Universities of Veracruz, Nuevo León, and Puebla. The largest independent research institution is the Mexican Institute of Technological Studies, founded in 1950, where research is conducted by contract with the government and private companies. Among international research organizations are the Pan-American Institute of Chemistry, the Regional Computer Center, and the Regional Information Center on Problems of Pathological Anatomy.

In 1973, Mexico had more than 100 learned societies, the oldest of which were the societies of geography and statistics (founded in 1833), natural history (1868), astronomy (1902), geology (1904), geography and meteorology (1915), and biology (1921). As of 1973, Mexico was a member of more than 30 international organizations and supported scientific ties with many countries. In 1968 an agreement on cultural and scientific exchanges was concluded between the USSR and Mexico.



Gortari, E. de. La ciencia en la historia de Mexico. Mexico City-Buenos Aires, 1963. (Fondo de cultura economica.)
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Ocaranza, F. Historia de la medicina en Mexico. Mexico City, 1934.
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Istoriia filosofii, vols. 4–5. Moscow, 1959–61.
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Larroyo, F. La filosofía americana. Mexico City, 1958.
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Larroyo, F., and E. Escobar. Historia de las doctrinas filosóficas en Latinoamérica. Mexico City, 1968.
Istoriografiia novogo vremeni stran Evropy i Ameriki. Moscow, 1967. Pages 617–19.
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Ramírez Gómez, R. Tendencias de la economía mexicana. Mexico City, 1962.
Flores, E. Tratado de economía agricola, 3rd ed. Mexico City-Buenos Aires, 1964.
Cue Cánovas, A. Historia social y económica de México. 3rd ed. Mexico City, 1969.
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Silva Herzog, J. El pensamiento económico social y político de México, 1810–1964. Mexico City, 1967.
Aguilar Monteverde, A. Dialéctica de la economía mexicana. Mexico City, 1968.

In 1976 some 1600 periodical publications were issued in Mexico, of which 200 were daily newspapers with a total circulation of about 5 million. One of the most influential daily newspapers is El National, a government paper founded in 1929, with a circulation of 60,000. Novedades, established in 1936, has a circulation of 123,000. It also has an evening edition, Diario de la Tarde, with a circulation of 71,000, and an English-language edition, The News, founded in 1950, with a circulation of 24,000. Other important newspapers include La Prensa, founded in 1928, with a circulation of about 183,000; the extreme rightist El Sol de Mexico, published since 1965 (morning edition, 130,-000 copies; evening edition, 76,000); Excelsior, founded in 1917, with a circulation of more than 150,000; Ultimas Noticias de Excelsior, published since 1936, with a circulation of 47,000; El Universal, founded in 1916, with a circulation of 165,000; and ElDia, issued since 1962, with a circulation of about 65,000. The principal journals are Polémica, issued once every two months since 1969, the theoretical organ of the Party of Institutional Revolution; La Nación, a political weekly founded in 1941; Siempre, an illustrated weekly published since 1953, with a circulation of 90,000; and the quarterly Socialismo, the scholarly and theoretical organ of the MCP. Information agencies include Informex, a joint-stock company founded in 1960; Amex, a joint-stock company founded in 1968, and Notimex, a government news agency founded in 1968.

The Central Communications Board, a government agency, controls the country’s radio and television broadcasting. There are more than 574 radio stations, the most important of which are Radio Cadena Nacional and Radio Programas de Mexico.

Television was inaugurated in 1950. There are 83 television companies, the largest of which are Telesistema Mexicana and Televisión Independiente de Mexico. The government owns one of the six channels.


Before the Spanish conquest a literature existed in the languages of the indigenous peoples, who used a hieroglyphic writing system. After the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, Mexican literature was written in Spanish. Despite persecution, Indian culture continued to exist in the oral tradition, affecting the subsequent development of literature. The first works in Spanish were written by the conquistadores, notably, Letters to the Kings of Spain (1519–26) by H. Cortés (1485–1547), the leader of the Spanish expedition, and the True History of the Conquest of New Spain (1568) by B. Díaz del Castillo (born in 1492 or 1498; died in 1568 or 1581). The eminent Spanish humanist B. de Las Casas (1474–1566) defend the rights of the Mexican Indians.

In the early 17th century the first Mexican artistic literary work appeared, the narrative poem The Grandeur of Mexico (1604) by B. de Balbuena (1568–1627). Poetry, which became the leading genre in Mexican literature during the 17th century, developed in the tradition of Spanish baroque. The works of the outstanding poet and playwright Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651–95) show the influence of Góngora y Argote but have a distinctive Mexican quality. Alongside the “learned” poetry, there developed an oral folk poetry that became more satirical in the late 18th century, when the protest against the Spanish colonial regime gathered momentum in all spheres of the country’s political and intellectual life. The growing national consciousness was expressed in the narrative poem Rural Mexico (1781) by R. Landívar (1731–93) and the Ancient History of Mexico ( 1780–81) by F. Clavijero( 1731–87).

The struggle for independence from 1810 to 1824 gave rise to publicistic writings and patriotic poetry in the spirit of revolutionary classicism, represented by the poems of A. Quintana Roo (1787–1851), the author of the national anthem, “The Sixteenth of September.” At the height of the war against Spain, the first Mexican novel, The Itching Parrot (part 1, 1816), was published by J. J. Fernández de Lizardi, satirizing colonial society.

The first literary movement in independent Mexico was romanticism, represented by the poetry of M. Acuña (1849–73) and G. Prieto (1818–97). The first historical novels also contained elements of romanticism. Everyday life in independent Mexico was portrayed by M. Payno (1810–94) in his novel The Devil’s Escapades (1845–46) and L. Inclan (1816–75) in Astucia (1866). These works and The Magic Lantern (1871–92), a series of novels by J. T. de Cuellar (1830–94), are written in the costumbrismo style, out of which realism gradually evolved. Nevertheless, many novels, including those written by I. M. Altamirano (1834–93), preserved the spirit of romanticism. Altamirano, an important public and literary figure, encouraged the emancipation of Mexican literature from European influences.

The last decades of the 19th century saw the rise of modernismo in Mexican poetry (as in other Spanish-American literature), which sought to blend French symbolism and Parnassianism with distinctive national themes. The leading modernista poets were M. J. Othon (1858–1906), M. Gutiérrez Nájera (1859–95), S. Diaz Miron (1835–1928), and A. Nervo (1870–1919).

At the end of 19th century, during the Díaz dictatorship, realistic tendencies appeared in Mexican prose. The novels of R. Delgado and J. López Portillo y Rojas and the works of F. Gamboa (1864—1939), an adherent of naturalism, critically depicted the contradictions and evils in the country’s social and political life. Sharp social criticism also marked Tomochic (1892) by H. Frías (1870–1925), a documentary account of the suppression of a peasant uprising, and the short stories of A. del Campo (1868–1908), who wrote under the pseudonym Micros.

Mexican literature reached a new stage during the bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1910–17, a momentous event in the country’s history. M. Azuela (1873–1952), the author of The Underdogs (1916), a novel depicting the spontaneous peasant movement, initiated the “novel of the revolution.” This genre represented an innovative artistic trend, which for the first time presented a mass movement, the image of a struggling people, and the sharp social clashes during the prerevolutionary and postrevolutionary periods. Among the outstanding “novels of the revolution” are The Eagle and the Serpent (1928) and The Shadow of the Caudillo (1929) by M. L. Guzman (born 1887); The Military Encampment (1931), Earth (1932), and My General (1934) by G. López y Fuentes (1897–1966); My Horse, My Dog, and My Rifle (1936) and The Futile Life of Pito Perez (1938) by J. R. Romero; and the works of R. Munoz (born 1899) and N. Campobello (born 1909). The works of the progressive Mexican writer J. Mancisidor (1895–1956), noted for his novels Rose of the Winds (1941), Frontier by the Sea (1953), and Dawn Over the Abyss (1955), are also associated with this trend. R. Usigli (born 1905) critically depicted the country’s social life in his plays.

Among the most important Mexican poets of the 20th century are R. López Velarde (1888–1921), E. González Martínez (1871–1952), and C. Pellicer (born 1899). Their intensely lyrical poetry conveys through imagery the moral qualities of the Mexican people and national life. The poets of the Estridentistas and Contemporaneos groups followed various avant-garde trends. The idea of national self-expression and self-assertion, which dominated literature in the 1920’s and 1930’s, was developed by the philosopher J. Vasconcelos (1882–1959), the poet and author of philosophical essays A. Reyes (1889–1959), and, later, by the poet O. Paz (born 1914).

A resurgence in Mexican prose began in the mid-1950’s. Deepening their study of national life, contemporary novelists are revealing universal human problems and are finding new ways of expression. This phase of Mexican prose was inaugurated with the novel The Edge of the Storm (1947) by A. Yáñez (born 1904). Other outstanding works include the novels Pedro Páramo (1955) by J. Rulfo (born 1918), Where the Air Is Clear (1958) and The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962) by C. Fuentes (born 1928), Prayer in Darkness (1962) by Rosario Castellanos (born 1925), and the novels of S. Galindo (born 1926). Literary criticism has been developed by J. L. Martinez, A. Castro Leal, and E. Carballo.


Meksikanskii realisticheskii roman XX v. Moscow, 1960.
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Peña Gonzalez, C. Historia de la literatura mexicana. Mexico City, 1966.
Langford, W. M. The Mexican Novel Comes of Age. London [1971].

Before the 16th century a number of Indian cultures developed on the territory of present-day Mexico. Architecture flourished in the first millennium B.C., first represented by Olmec culture along the Gulf of Mexico and later reaching its zenith with the transition to a class society. Religious and cultural centers and cities were built. Among the cities in central Mexico were Teotihuacán, El Tajín (Totonac culture), Cholula and Tollán (Toltec), and Tenochtitlán (Aztec); to the south the city of Monte Albán was built by the Zapotecs and Mixtecs and Mitla by the Mixtecs. Cities of southern Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula included Bonampak, Palenque, Yaxchilán, Mayapán, Uxmal, and Chichén Itzá, all built by the Mayas. The ancient cities, built according to a geometric layout, had immense stepped pyramid temples (one side of the base of a pyramid at Cholula was 440 m), buildings with “false arches,” and courts for ritual games.

The art of the second millennium B.C. was represented by statuettes and figured vessels of “archaic” cultures; from the first millennium B.C. art gradually assumed the attributes of the culture of an early slaveholding society. In depictions of ancient Mexican deities symbolic motifs are fused with anthropomorphic figures and fantastic images. The idea of the duality of life and death and a sense of the permanence of the state are reflected in the stone sculpture of the Toltecs and Aztecs and in the reliefs decorating the walls and structures of the Mayas. The figurines of the peoples of ancient Mexico are more realistic. Wall paintings on polished plaster using earthen pigments were found at Bonampak and other centers, and jewelry-making was a well-developed craft among the Mixtecs. Articles of feathers and decorated pottery for everyday use were also made.

The conquest of Mexico by the Spanish resulted in the extinction of the indigenous cultures of the Indian states. However, the artistic traditions of the Indians, preserved primarily in folk applied art, influenced colonial art, and the synthesis of the two cultures determined the subsequent flowering of Mexican national art.

During the colonial period, lasting from the 16th to the early 19th century, architecture and urban construction flourished. Buildings were erected on Spanish models, but they also incorporated original features. New cities were built with a rectangular network of streets in accordance with the Law for the Indies (the name given to the Spanish colonies in America). In the center was a main square with a richly decorated cathedral, governor’s palace, and town hall. Residential quarters consisted of one- or two-storied houses of the Spanish type, with an inner courtyard (patio) surrounded by a gallery. The capital, Mexico City, was built according to these principles on the site of the destroyed Tenochtitlán.

The early Spanish civic buildings, for example, the Cortes Palace at Cuernavaca (1530–33), and the landowners’ houses resembled fortresses despite the profuse ornamentation on the portals and window frames, fancifully combining Gothic, plateresque, and Mudejar motifs. Many strongly fortified monasteries had been built by the mid-16th century (Cholula, Zacatlan). The churches of the monasteries were single-nave Gothic structures with open “Indian chapels.” A break with Gothic traditions may be seen in the architecture of the large urban cathedrals of the second half of the 16th and early 17th centuries, with their three naves, cylindrical vaults, cupolas, and two high towers, for example, the cathedrals of Puebla (1555–1649) and Mexico City (1563–1667). The Renaissance, poorly represented in Mexican architecture, gave way to the baroque. Initially baroque architecture tended toward massive forms, for example, the cathedral at Morelia (1640–1705) and the National Palace in Mexico City (1692–99), but it evolved into the extravagant “ultra-baroque” style of the 18th century.

The leading architectural school was the Mexico City school, which influenced building throughout the northern part of the country. It was characterized by magnificent stone carvings on facades, incorporating elements from many styles, by Indian decorative motifs, and by the transformation of order forms into designs. Outstanding examples include the church of La Profesa (1714–20) and the Sagrario Metropolitano (1749–68) in Mexico City and the Church of Santa Mónica in Guadalajara (1720–33). The Puebla school made extensive use of polychrome ceramic and stucco decoration on facades, exemplified in the Casa de Alfeñique in Puebla (c. 1760–90) and the Church of Santa Maria de Ocotlán near Tlaxcala (c. 1745–60). The folk art of the Indians lent the Mexican baroque much of its originality. By the end of the 18th century classical tendencies appeared in Mexican architecture, such as the buildings of M. Tolsá.

The art of the early colonial period is represented by monastery murals, mostly white on black but sometimes including patches of other colors, painted with ancient Indian techniques. Easel painting of the second half of the 16th century and the 17th century imitated European trends and schools; its foremost representatives were the masters of the Juárez and de Echave families. The portraiture of the 18th century, more independent of European styles, combined precise description with a formal decorative quality (M. Cabrera). Aside from a few notable 17th-century statues, sculpture developed essentially as part of the decoration of church facades and interiors and ornate retablos, ornamental altarpieces. At the turn of the 19th century Mexican painting and sculpture were influenced by European classicism.

During the 19th century the architecture of Mexico developed slowly, and most buildings were designed in traditional styles. The leading architects were Spanish, Italian, and French, and the training of local architects began only during the second half of the 19th century. In the capital, late classicism predominated but was supplanted at the turn of the 20th century by ornate eclecticism (Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City, 1904—34; architect, A. Boari) and art nouveau. During the second half of the 19th and the early 20th centuries major construction projects were undertaken, primarily in Mexico City, where new main thoroughfares were laid out and suburbs were built. At the end of the 19th century new types of buildings appeared, and metal, concrete, and reinforced concrete were introduced.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, many buildings in the capital were constructed in the “colonial” and neoclassical styles. The foremost representative of neoclassicism was C. Obregón Santacilla, who designed many administrative buildings, banks, and hotels in Mexico City. The first functionalist school in the Americas arose in Mexico in the mid-1920’s, headed by J. Villagrán García, who designed hospitals, stadiums, and schools in Mexico City. Under his influence a number of architects, notably, J. Legarreta, J. O’Gorman, and E. Yáñez, adopted the functionalist style in the 1930’s in designing houses for workers, trade union centers, and schools. The work of the functionalists influenced the subsequent development of Mexican architecture, although it was unpopular with bourgeois clients and did not become widespread.

The dominant trend in contemporary Mexican architecture, whose foremost representative is M. Pani, seeks to develop national artistic traditions and to integrate architecture and the pictorial arts. The huge ensemble of University City in Mexico City, built between 1949 and 1954 under the direction of C. Lazo and with the participation of more than 100 architects, embodied many of the best features of mid-20th century Mexican architecture: skillful layout and spatial composition, use of various levels of relief, striking combination of artificial and natural materials, synthesis of architecture and monumental-decorative art, and expressive decoration. The revival of historical traditions by C. Lazo, A. Arai, and D. Rivera provoked a somewhat belated interest in the style of L. Mies van der Rohe, in organic architecture (L. Baragán, J. O’Gorman), and in the use of the principles of abstract sculpture in architecture, as exemplified by the work of M. Goeritz, who designed the towers at the entrance to Satellite City in Mexico City.

Not only Mexican but also world architecture in the mid-20th century has been influenced by the work of F. Candela, the builder of reinforced-concrete shells (primarily saddle-shaped), with which he has carried out the most complex compositional ideas. In the 1950’s and 1960’s there has been a proliferation of multistoried residential and public buildings employing earth-quake-proof designs. New residential districts with parks and satellite cities have been built in Mexico City. Stadiums were built for the 1968 Olympics, notably, the Aztec Stadium by P. Ramírez Vázquez and the Sports Palace by Candela; Ramírez Vázquez has also designed a number of museums. Major industrial centers (Guadalajara, Monterrey) and resorts (Cuernavaca, Acapulco) have expanded greatly, and such new cities as Ciudad Pemex and Santa Fe have arisen. Small historical cities have been rebuilt as tourist attractions.

During the 19th century Mexican art gradually emancipated itself from the stagnant traditions of the colonial period and became more open to the influence of European art. At the same time interest in national subjects and folk heroes revived. Graphic artists and painters who came to Mexico were attracted by its exotic scenery and its national types, costumes, and rituals. Such local masters as J. A. Arrieta who was influenced by folk art, also depicted scenes from the daily life of the people. Both foreign and native-born artists evolved the costumbrismo style, typical of all 19th-century Latin American art. In the mid-19th century satirical engravings and lithographs appeared (G. V. Gaona), and portraiture developed, achieving a direct, somewhat naïve representation (J. M. Estrada, H. Bustos). Folk art included retablos paintings on tin, in which religious subjects were depicted in a realistic setting. During the second half of the 19th century national, predominantly historical, themes began to appear in academic sculpture (M. Noreña) and painting (J. Cordero, J. Obregón). The landscapes of J. M. Velasco were distinguished for their treatment of light and air.

At the turn of the 20th century Mexican painting was influenced by such new European currents as art nouveau and impressionism. At the same time G. Murillo and S. Herran called for a revival of Mexican art and the creation of a national contemporary style, and J. G. Posada founded revolutionary-democratic satirical graphic art, firmly linked with folk traditions. The Mexican revolution of 1910–17 and the rise of the communist movement inspired D. Rivera, J. C. Orozco, D. Siqueiros, and other masters to create murals on national-democratic revolutionary subjects, addressed to the broad masses. Initially employing pre-Hispanic fresco techniques, they began to paint with synthetic pigments in the 1930’s. In progressive artistic circles a new type of artist was developing, who saw art as political struggle and associated his work with the Mexican Communist Party. On Siqueiros’ initiative the Revolutionary Syndicate of Technical Workers, Painters, and Sculptors was organized in 1922. That year Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros began painting murals in the National Preparatory School in Mexico City and later in other cities. Rivera’s epic murals recreate the motifs and techniques of ancient Mexican art, at the same time showing his assimilation of the traditions of the Italian Renaissance. Although the figures are strongly modeled, the murals have a two-dimensional, ornamental composition. Orozco’s works are highly expressive and tend toward abstract, symbolic forms. Siqueiros’ dramatic and dynamic murals employ striking spatial effects. During the 1950’s and 1960’s mural painting was dominated by works that were integrated with new architectural structures. Important examples include the decorative mosaics of O’Gorman and J. Chavez Morado, the mosaic reliefs of Siqueiros, and the murals of Rivera and O’Gorman. Architecture, sculpture, and painting are fused in Siqueiros’ monumental-decorative Polyforum, built in Mexico City in 1971.

Since the 1930’s modernist easel and mural painting, notably that of R. Tamayo, has also flourished. The late 1930’s saw the development of Mexican graphic art, particularly line engraving and lithography, addressed to the masses and conveying a political message. The artists belonging to the Taller de Gráfica Popular created antifascist and anti-imperialist works that occupy an important place in international realistic art in the mid-20th century. The foremost representatives of this group included L. Méndez, P. O’Higgins, A. Beltrán, and A. García Bustos. Contemporary Mexican sculpture is not as highly developed as painting or graphic art. It has a predilection for abstract forms (G. Cueto) and derives its inspiration from ancient Mexican plastic art (C. Bracho, F. Zúñiga). The most expressive sculpture is associated with architecture (R. Arenas Betancourt, F. Zúñiga). Mexico’s folk art blends Indian and Spanish artistic traditions, both techniques and styles, and varies from one region to another and even from village to village.


Fryd, N. Grafika Meksiki. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from Czech.)
Iskusstvo Meksiki ot drevnikh vremen do nashikh dnei: Katalog vystavki. Leningrad, 1961.
Kinzhalov, R. V. Iskusstvo drevnei Ameriki. Moscow, 1962.
Zhadova, L. Monumental’naia zhivopis’ Meksiki. Moscow, 1965.
Polevoi, V. M. Iskusstvo stran Latinskoi Ameriki. Moscow, 1967.
Kirichenko, E. I. Tri veka iskusstva Latinskoi Ameriki. Moscow, 1972.
Angulo Iñiguez, D. Historia del arte hispanoamericano, vols. 1–3. Barcelona-Buenos Aires, 1945–56.
Fernandez, J. Arte moderno y contempordneo de Mexico. Mexico City, 1952.
Obrégon Santacilla, C. Cincuenta años de arquitectura mexicana. Mexico City, 1952.
Veinte sighs de arte mexicano. Mexico City, 1956.
Covarrubias, M. Indian Art of Mexico and Central America. New York, 1957.
La pintura mural de la Revolucion mexicana. Mexico City, 1960.
Historia general del arte mexicano, vols. 1–6. Mexico City-Buenos Aires, 1963–69.
V. M. POLEVOI and A. A. STRIGALEV (architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries)

Music occupied an important place in the daily life and artistic activity of Mexico’s indigenous population, particularly among the ancient Aztecs. A number of cities had schools where music was taught. Songs were sung during religious and cult rituals, and often work was accompanied by singing and music. Certain dances and pantomimes may be described as “dramatized actions.” Musical instruments included various types of drums, rattles, bells, xylophones, and seashells with holes. The Aztecs’ music was based on a pentatonic scale. The melodic monotony of vocal music contrasted with the rich rhythms of instrumental music, employing a well-developed system of rhythmic polyphony.

Indian music, influenced by Spanish and Creole music, continues to flourish throughout most of the country. Creole music adopted the harmonic and rhythmic structure, as well as the traditional forms, of Spanish songs, but it has its distinct character and color, which distinguish it from Spanish music. The most widespread Creole dance songs are the son, jarabe, huapango, and habanera, and popular songs include the canción and the corrido. The traditional folk instrument is the guitar, of which there are two types—the guitarrón and jaranita. The violin and harp (without pedals) are also popular. Trumpets are frequently added to instrumental ensembles accompanying dances during holidays.

Professional music was introduced in the early 16th century. In 1523 the monk P. de Gante founded the first music school at Texcoco, where Indians were instructed in sacred music. In 1527 a music school was opened in Mexico City. During the 16th and 17th centuries sacred music flourished, serving as a means of converting the Indians to Christianity. In the 18th century sacred music declined; and most secular music was confined to music-making in private homes. Operas by Italian composers were staged in the capital and other major cities beginning in the early 19th century. The composer and conductor M. Elizaga founded the country’s first music academy in Mexico City in 1825 and a symphony orchestra in 1826. A conservatory was established in 1866 and reorganized as the National Conservatory in 1877.

Notable composers of the middle and late 19th century include C. Paniagua, A. Ortega, and M. Morales. They wrote primarily operas, strongly influenced by European, especially Italian, operatic art. A number of composers of the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, notably, R. Castro, R. Tello, J. Carrillo, and J. Rolón, continued to write music based on European models. M. Ponce was the first Mexican composer to use folk music in his compositions. A national school of composers was founded by S. Revueltas and C. Chávez in the first half of the 20th century. The composers M. B. Jiménez and P. Moncayo and the musicologists V. T. Mendoza and O. Mayer Serra made an important contribution to Mexican musical culture. Prominent contemporary musical figures include the composers L. Sandi, D. Ayala, B. Galindo, and R. Halffter, the conductor L. Herrera de la Fuente, the violinist H. Szeryng, the pianists C. Barajas and M. T. Castrillón, the guitarist A. Bribiesca, the singer J. Araya, and the folk singer E. Casanovas. Mexico City is the site of the National Symphony Orchestra, the University Symphony Orchestra, the National Opera, and the Higher Music School of the National Autonomous University. Several provincial cities also have symphony orchestras. The many vocal and instrumental folk music groups are very popular. The leading music journal is Nuestra musica.


Pichugin, P. “Sil’vestre Revuel’tas i meksikanskii fol’klor.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1961, no. 5.
Pichugin, P. “Pesni meksikanskoi revoliutsiii.” Ibid., 1963, no. 11.
Campos, R. El folklore y la música mexicana. Mexico City, 1928.
Mayer-Serra, O. Panorama de la música mexicana. Mexico City, 1941.
Mendoza, V. T. Panorama de la música tradicional de México. Mexico City, 1956.
Mendoza, V. T. La canción mexicana. Mexico City, 1961.
Stevenson, R. Music in Aztec and Inca Territory. Los Angeles, 1968.

Mexico’s choreographic art is based on folk dances, which combine the ancient dances of the indigenous Indian population with the traditions of Spanish dancers. Contemporary stage dancing began to develop in the 1930’s under the influence of American modern dance. Through the fusion of folk and modern dance distinctive national forms arose. In 1947 the composer C. Chávez organized the Academy of Mexican Dance, headed by A. Merida and G. Bravo, at the National Institute of Fine Arts. The Ballet of Fine Arts, a company financed by the government, existed from 1947 to 1963. In 1947 the National Ballet was created by Bravo and J. Lavalle. Outstanding groups include the Modern Ballet of the Academy of Mexican Dance (choreographer B. Genkel) and the Independent Ballet Company, founded in 1966. The programs presented by these companies are usually based on modern dance. The Ballet Folklórico, founded in 1952, incorporates folk dances in its repertoire (choreographer, A. Hernandez); in 1965 the company toured the USSR. In 1968 the Ballet Folklórico was renamed the Ballet of Five Continents, and since 1971 it has been called the Ballet Folklárico Internacional. Annual dance competitions have been held in Mexico City since 1966. In 1971 the Academy of Mexican Dance formed a group that performs dances from various parts of the country.

Interest in European ballet arose only during the 1950’s. The Concert Ballet performed between 1952 and 1968; in the early 1970’s it was renamed the Classical Ballet. Its repertoire includes classical works, ballets by contemporary foreign choreographers, and ballets by the Mexican choreographers N. Happee and N. Contreras.


Mexico’s theatrical art has its origin in ancient Indian religious and cult rituals. A theater called the House of Comedies was founded in Mexico City in 1597. After the country’s colonization by the Spanish in the 16th century, missionaries presented plays on religious subjects during holidays to disseminate Catholicism among the Indians. In 1670 the first permanent public theater, the Coliseo, was opened in Mexico City. During the 18th century the Nuevo Coliseo was built (1735), and permanent theaters were established in Guadalajara (1758), Veracruz (1787), and other cities. Only works by Spanish authors were staged, and Spanish actors performed. After the struggle for independence in the 19th century the Mexican theater gradually freed itself from Spanish influence and assumed national traits. The Teatro del Palenque de los Gallos, the first theater for the common people, was opened in 1823. Actors for the national theater were trained in the drama department of the National Conservatory (from 1877), at the Liceo Mexico, founded in 1867, and at the Conservatory of Music and Declamation, founded in 1875.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910–17 stimulated interest in the national culture and folklore. Mexican theaters began to stage plays by prominent Mexican dramatists of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, including M. E. Gorostiza, F. Gamboa, J. J. Rueda, J. J. Gamboa, and M. Dávalos. The company founded in 1917 by the actress and director V. Fabregas propagandized the works of Mexican playwrights, notably, V. M. Diez Barroso, X. Villaurrutia, and R. Usigli. The Union of Dramatists, established in 1923, contributed to the creation of a national theater. A movement to revitalize the theater arose in the late 1920’s, and several progressive “experimental” companies were organized, among them Ulysses, Orientation, and Teatro de Ahora. The National Institute of Fine Arts, established in Mexico City in 1946, sponsors a school for actors and directors. Since the early 1950’s the university theater movement has broadened its activities.

The principal theaters of Mexico City are the Jiménez Rueda, Hidalgo, Xola, Reforma, Insurgentes, Children’s Theater, Guignol Puppet Theater, and National Outdoor Theater. Their repertoire includes plays by the national playwrights M. E. Gorostiza, R. Usigli, E. Carballido, S. Magaña, and L. G. Basurto and the classics of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Shakespeare, N. V. Gogol, and A. P. Chekhov. Among the leading theatrical figures are M. Douglas, I. López Tarso, D. del Rio, J. Galvez, M. T. Montoya, I. Retes, R. Llamas, Soler, and J. Saki Sano. The main theater magazine is El teatro en México, and the National Theatrical Museum has been established.


Magaña-Esquivel, A., and R. S. Lamb. Breve historia del teatro mexicano. Mexico City, 1958.
Maria y Campos, A de. Informe sobre el teatro social (XIX-XX). Mexico City, 1959.
Magaña-Esquivel, A. El teatro, contrapunto. Mexico City [1970].

The first Mexican newsreels were shot during the late 1890’s, and the first feature film was made in 1905. Between 1910 and 1920 most of the films produced were short comedies and melo-dramas. With the expansion of Hollywood in the 1920’s Mexican film production sharply declined, but the appearance of sound films in the 1930’s brought a revival. Numerous commercial musical films were made with popular singers. An important event for Mexican film-makers was the work of Soviet cinematographers headed by the director S. M. Eisenstein, who made a film about Mexico in 1931–32.

The motion pictures made by the directors E. Gómez Muriel, C. Navarro, C. Urueta, J. Bastillo Oro, M. Contreras Torres, and M. Zacarías in the 1930’s and 1940’s portrayed social conflicts, revolutionary events in Mexican history, and the life of the common people. The director E. Fernández won international acclaim for his progressive motion pictures of high artistic quality. Among his best films are Maria Candelaria (1944), The Pearl (1947), Rio Escondido (1948), and A Village Girl (1949; released in the Soviet Union as A Mexican Girl). Outstanding films made between the 1950’s and early 1970’s include Roots (1955, directed by B. Alazraki), The Wetbacks (1955, directed by A. Galindo), a film trilogy about the national hero Pancho Villa directed by I. Rodríguez, Yew Tree (1956, also directed by I. Rodríguez), Pedro Páramo (1966, directed by C. Velo), Villa’s Partisan Girl (1967, directed by M. Morayta), Valentin From the Sierra (1967, directed by R. Cardona), and Emiliano Zapata (1970, directed by F. Cazals).

Leading figures in Mexican cinematography include the actresses M. Felix and D. del Rio, the actors I. López Tarso and A. de Cordova, and the cameraman G. Figueroa. As of 1972, more than 70 feature films were produced annually, and there were some 2,000 movie theaters.


Michel’, M. “Panorama meksikanskogo kino.” In the collection Meksika. Moscow, 1968.
Galindo, A. Una radiografia histórica del cine mexicano. Mexico City, 1968.
Ayala Blanco, J. Aventura del cine mexicano. Mexico City [1968]. [16–44–1; updated]



a state in central Mexico. Area, 21,500 sq km. Population, 3.8 million (1970). The administrative center is Toluca. Most of the area is mountainous, with elevations reaching 4,373 m. Agriculture is dominated by small-scale farming. The principal crops are corn, beans, and, in the Lerma Valley, vegetables, oil-seed plants, and fruit. There is dairy farming and sheep raising near Toluca. The state accounts for about one-seventh of the capacity of Mexico’s electric power plants, 13 percent of the people employed in manufacturing, and 15 percent of the value of the manufacturing industry’s output. The leading industrial cities are Toluca, Cuautitlan, and Tlalnepantla, which form a conurbation.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: United Mexican States

Capital city: Mexico City

Internet country code: .mx

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

National anthem: “Mexicanos, al grito de Guerra” (Mexi­cans, at the cry of war - first line of chorus), lyrics by Francisco González Bocanegra, music by Jaime Nunó

Geographical description: Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the United States and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the United States

Total area: 761,600 sq. mi. (1,972,500 sq. km.)

Climate: Varies from tropical to desert

Nationality: noun: Mexican(s); adjective: Mexican

Population: 108,700,891 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%

Languages spoken: Spanish, various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional indigenous languages

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%

Legal Holidays:

Anniversary of the RevolutionNov 20
Battle of PueblaMay 5
Birthday of Benito JuarezMar 21
Christmas DayDec 25
Constitution DayFeb 5
Dia de la RazaOct 12
Dia de los Fieles DifuntosNov 2
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Holy ThursdayApr 21, 2011; Apr 5, 2012; Mar 28, 2013; Apr 17, 2014; Apr 2, 2015; Mar 24, 2016; Apr 13, 2017; Mar 29, 2018; Apr 18, 2019; Apr 9, 2020; Apr 1, 2021; Apr 14, 2022; Apr 6, 2023
Independence DaySep 16
Labor DayMay 1
New Year's DayJan 1
Our Lady of GuadelupeDec 12
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


1. a republic in North America, on the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific: early Mexican history includes the Maya, Toltec, and Aztec civilizations; conquered by the Spanish between 1519 and 1525 and achieved independence in 1821; lost Texas to the US in 1836 and California and New Mexico in 1848. It is generally mountainous with three ranges of the Sierra Madre (east, west, and south) and a large central plateau. Official language: Spanish. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: peso. Capital: Mexico City. Pop.: 104 931 000 (2004 est.). Area: 1 967 183 sq. km (761 530 sq. miles)
2. a state of Mexico, on the central plateau surrounding Mexico City, which is not administratively part of the state. Capital: Toluca. Pop.: 13 096 686 (2000). Area: 21 460 sq. km (8287 sq. miles)
3. Gulf of. an arm of the Atlantic, bordered by the US, Cuba, and Mexico: linked with the Atlantic by the Straits of Florida and with the Caribbean by the Yucat?n Channel. Area: about 1 600 000 sq. km (618 000 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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