Mexico is the largest and most populous country in Central America. The predominantly mountainous country between the Atlantic and Pacific is dominated by the Mexican highlands and its peripheral mountains. Huge volcanic cones tower over it in the south.
Mexico has a subtropical (northern areas) to tropical climate with pronounced levels of altitude due to large differences in relief.
The very unevenly distributed, predominantly urban population of Mexico consists largely of mestizos. In addition, members of many Indian peoples live scattered across the country.
As one of the 19 countries starting with M according to COUNTRYAAH, Mexico is a developed emerging country with a diversified industry, which primarily processes the country’s rich mineral resources and agricultural raw materials, but also with great social differences.
The history of the country is shaped by several high Indian cultures that were destroyed by the Spanish conquerors.
Mexico is more than five times the size of the Federal Republic of Germany. It lies between the Gulf of Mexico (Atlantic) in the east and the Pacific in the west. From the border with the United States in the north to the borders with Belize and Guatemala in the southeast, the country stretches for more than 3000 km. The narrowest point on the Central American land bridge, the isthmus of Tehúantepec, on the other hand, measures only 216 km (Fig. 1).
The state capital is Mexico City.
In Mexico there are lowlands only along the coasts, with the coastal plain in the east being significantly wider than that on the Pacific in the west. By far the largest part of the mountainous country is higher than 1000 m. From the border with the USA to the isthmus of Tehúantepec, the Mexican highlands gradually rise from about 1000 to 2000 m and narrow in a wedge shape. The highland plateau, the continuation of the North American Cordilleras, is bordered by mighty peripheral mountains that drop steeply to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific. The Sierra Madre Occidental, which rises up to 3150 m, runs along the western edge ,an inhospitable mountain range cut by deep canons Beyond the Gulf of California, the more than 1000 km long, narrow, mountainous Baja California peninsula forms the continuation of the California coastal cordillera in the USA.
As the eastern fringes, the Sierra Madre Oriental rises more than 4000 m from the Gulf of Mexico. It is a continuation of the Rocky Mountains and, like them, branches out into several mountain ranges.
The central highlands of Mexico, the Meseta Central, located between the mountain ranges , is dominated by short ridges that divide the plateau into many, e.g. Subdivide the basin without drainage.
In the south of Mexico the highlands and their outskirts are arched by theCordillera Volcánica limited. It belongs to the earthquake and volcanic zone that runs through the entire double continent and is dominated by still active volcanoes. Here, with the 5452 m high Popocatépetl and the even higher Citlaltépetl, lie the highest mountains in Mexico, both volcanoes.
Beyond the volcanic bar rises the mountainous country of Chiapas, which runs east to the flat, karstified Yucatán peninsula that extends far into the Gulf. Geologically, however, both belong to Central America. The longest river in Mexico is the Rio Grande del Norte, which has its source in the USA and is over 3000 km long . It forms the border with the USA over a stretch of almost 2000 km to the Gulf of Mexico.
As a result of the considerable north-south extent and relief differences, Mexico lies in different climatic zones: In the subtropical north, a continental, dry climate with high annual and daily temperature fluctuations dominates (Fig. 3). Summers are hot with daytime temperatures of up to 40 °C, and in many places this time of year also receives the most rainfall. In winter, however, the average temperatures are moderate at 14 °C. The not infrequently blowing Nortes, strong winds from the north, can lead to significant temperature drops.
In the tropical south of the Tropic of Capricorn, Mexico is hot and humid all year round, with only slight fluctuations in the monthly average temperatures, and high rainfall of up to 4000 mm in places.
However, the actual temperatures and vegetation depend on the altitude. In the tropical mountainous country, four levels of altitude can be distinguished:
- In the hot zone (Tierra caliente) up to approx. 800 m altitude, the mean annual temperature is around 25 °C.
- In the warm temperate zone (Tierra templada) up to around 1700 m altitude, it is still between 17 and 23 C ° with slight seasonal fluctuations.
- In the cool zone (Tierra fria) up to the vegetation limit at about 4000 m altitude it sinks to 13 °C.
- In the snow region (Tierra helada) from an altitude of 4700 m, the annual mean temperature barely reaches 10 °C.
The vegetation of Mexico is extraordinarily diverse: on the precipitous slopes of the Cordilleras there are dense rain and cloud forests, which in the higher elevations change first into mixed forests and then into coniferous forests.
The northern parts of the central highlands have thorn bush vegetation and succulent formations with cacti, agaves and yucca. Further south, the character of the vegetation gradually changes into savannas with short grass corridors.
The wet savannahs dominate the coastal plains in front of the foothills.
Important data about the country
|Population density:||54 residents / km²|
|Growth of population:||1.5% annually|
|Life expectancy:||74 years|
|Form of government:||presidential Federal Republic|
|Population groups:||Mestizo 60%, Indians 30%, Whites 9%|
|Languages:||Spanish 98%, Indian languages, including Náhuatl (Aztec) and 25 Mayan languages 7.5%|
|Religions:||Catholics 90%, Protestants 5%|
|Climate:||subtropical dry in the north, otherwise tropical humid with rainy season in summer, in Yucatán humid all year round, average temperatures in Mexico City in January
12 °C, in June 19 °C
|Land use:||Pasture land 38.7%, arable land
12.8%, forest 23.8%
|Main export goods:||Petroleum, petroleum products, sugar, non-ferrous metals, cotton, textiles, chemical products, machines|
|Gross domestic product:||US $ 626,080 million (2003)|
(share of GDP, 2003)
|Industry 26%, agriculture 4%, services 70%|
|Gross National Product:||US $ 6,230 / residents (2003)|
Today Mexico is one of the economically strongest emerging economies in Latin America (Fig. 4). Nevertheless, the country is the largest debtor country in Latin America after Brazil. This had already led to national bankruptcy in the 1980’s and to a deep economic crisis in the mid-1990’s. By reprivatising the large state industrial companies and increasing foreign investments, the Mexican government has since tried to stabilize the country’s economy with varying degrees of success.
Mining and industry
Mexico is rich in natural resources, including T. have not yet been developed.
The focus of the highly developed mining industry is on oil and gas production. Mexico occupies top positions in the world in the extraction of these raw materials and achieves a not inconsiderable part of its foreign exchange income with their exports. The major oil and gas fields are mainly on the Gulf Coast.
In addition, around 45 different metal ores and minerals are mined. Mexico is a world leader in the extraction and processing of some of these raw materials (e.g. silver, zinc, manganese, antimony, bismuth, lead, graphite). Mexico is one of the most industrially advanced countries in the region.
The industry is diversified and mainly processes domestic raw materials, including those from agriculture.
The majority of the companies are concentrated in a few locations in the highlands around Mexico City, Puebla and Guadalajara.
The industry located along the border with the USA is also important. US corporations in particular use the low wage level in Mexico to maximize profits.
About half of the country’s area can be used for agriculture. In the northern areas, however, arable farming is often only possible with artificial irrigation.
In agriculture, small and medium-sized farms predominate, which are not very efficient, and sometimes only operate for self-sufficiency.
Growing maize, beans, wheat, fruit and vegetables is therefore not sufficient for self-sufficiency, so that basic foodstuffs have to be imported.
In contrast, the cultivation of coffee, cotton, tropical fruits and tobacco is strongly export-oriented.
Beekeeping is important in animal husbandry. Mexico is one of the world’s largest honey producers.
Tourism is a growth branch of the economy. The seaside resorts on the Atlantic and Pacific and the large number of archaeological sites with evidence of ancient Indian civilizations have become main attractions.
On the territory of Mexico, especially in central and southern Mexico, the flourished long before the Christian era to the 16th century in Amerindian civilizations:
The high culture of the Olmecs with the cult center La Venta on the isthmus of Tehúantepec brought about 1100 BC. A highly developed sculpture and rich small art.
The Mayan culture reached its heyday between 300 and 900. The jungle on the Yucatán Peninsula contains the remains of magnificent Mayan cities that had up to ten thousand residents, e.g. Chichén Itzá and Uxmal. The Mayans had mathematical and astronomical knowledge. Their calendar was even more precise than the Gregorian calendar, and an observatory has been preserved in Chichén Itzá. Huge step pyramids and palaces, which are by no means all excavated, are reminiscent of Mayan culture.
The culture of Teotihuacán with its huge pyramids is a particular highlight. The city of Teotihuacàn is located 48 km north of Mexico at an altitude of 2300 m. It became 200 BC. Founded by an unknown people and had around 150,000 residents around AD 600. The city was laid out like a chessboard. The pyramid of the sun, the most impressive creation of ancient Mexican culture, probably once rose up to 75 m. Palaces and houses with magnificent relief decorations have also been preserved. The city, the remains of which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was abandoned by its residents in the 8th century for unknown reasons.
As one of the last peoples, the Aztecs founded the city of Tenochtitlán on the site of today’s capital in 1370, which became the capital of the Aztec Empire. For centuries the Aztecs ruled a powerful empire that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific coast. It was strengthened internally and externally by central jurisdiction, by a developed administration and with the help of a standing army. The Aztecs, who were at the forefront of handicrafts, developed pictorial writing, had a calendar based on astronomical observations, and built pyramids crowned by temples. The Aztec state was subjugated by the Spanish conqueror H. CORTEZ in 1519–1521 and its capital was destroyed. Mexico City was created in their place.