- AREA: 1,958,201 sq km (756,066 sq mi).
- POPULATION: 110 Million.
- CAPITAL: Mexico City, pop. 25-30 Million.
- RELIGION: 95% Roman Catholic.
- LANGUAGE: Spanish, Indian languages.
- LITERACY: 90%.
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: 72 years.
- INDUSTRY: petroleum, food processing, mining, textiles, motor vehicles, chemicals.
- EXPORT CROPS: coffee, cotton, fruits, vegetables.
- FOOD CROPS: corn, wheat, rice, beans.
Mexico’s declining birthrate promises some relief from the crushing pressure of its population, expected to exceed a hundred million by the year 2000. One-third of all Mexicans are younger than 15. The flood of illegal immigrants and drugs across the border taxes relations with the United States. During the 1980s Mexicans seeking work made more than 20 million illegal border crossings.
Tourism, along with petroleum revenues, is a leading earner of foreign exchange. About 90 percent of the more than six million visitors come from the United States and Canada. On the Yucatán Peninsula and elsewhere, restoration of ancient temple-pyramids and city complexes brings to light the sophistication of the Maya and Aztec civilizations.
The immediate cause of the war between Mexico and the United States was the U.S. annexation of Texas in December 1845; other factors included the existence of long-standing claims by U.S. citizens against Mexico and the American ambition to acquire California. In 1845 President Polk sent John Slidell to Mexico to purchase California and New Mexico. When the mission failed, Polk prepared for war, and in March 1846 Gen. Zachary Taylor occupied Point Isabel, on the Rio Grande. This was viewed as an act of aggression by the Mexicans, who claimed the Nueces River as the boundary, and Mexican troops crossed the Rio Grande and shelled (May 3) Fort Brown. Polk pronounced these actions an invasion of American soil, and the U.S. declared war on May 13, 1846. Meanwhile, Taylor had won victories at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma (May 8 and 9); he took Matamoros (May 18), Monterrey (Sept. 20-24), and Buena Vista (Feb. 1847). Gen. S.W. Kearney occupied Santa Fe (Aug. 1846) and advanced to find that California was already under American rule. In the final campaign of the war, Gen.Winfield Scott captured Veracruz (Mar. 1847), defeated Gen. Santa Anna at Cerro Gordo (April), and stormed Chapultepec. On Sept. 14, 1847, American troops entered Mexico City, where they remained until peace was restored. The Treaty of GUADALUPE HIDALGO (Feb. 2, 1848) ended the war. Mexico ceded two fifths of its territory to the U.S. and received an indemnity of $15 million.
Mexico is 95% Roman Catholic and much of this worship is centered on the Virgin of Guadalupe, another title for Mary. The Mexican Constitution guarantees religious freedom but it has its limitations, religious persecution and discrimination often take place.