The United Mexican States or Mexico (Spanish: Estados Unidos Mexicanos or México; regarding the use of the variant spelling Méjico, see section The name below) is a country located in North America, bordered to the north by the United States, to the south-east by Guatemala and Belize, to the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It is the northernmost and third largest country in Latin America.
Main article: History of Mexico
For almost 3,000 years, Mexico was the site of several advanced Amerindian civilizations, the Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Olmec, the Maya and the Aztecs. The arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century, and their defeat of the Aztecs in 1521, marked the beginning of the 300 year-long colonial period of Mexico as New Spain.
In September 15, 1810, the independence from Spain was declared, by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in the small town of Dolores, causing a long war that eventually led to independence in 1821 and the creation of the First Mexican Empire. After independence, the Central American countries, with the exception of Chiapas, decided not to join the Empire of Iturbide. After the Empire fell to republican forces lead by Antonio López de Santa Anna, the first Republic was formed with Guadalupe Victoria as its first President. In 1833 Santa Anna became president of Mexico and allowed ranchers from the United States to settle in Texas. These ranchers sought independence from the Mexican government to form the Republic of Texas which lead to the famous battle at the Alamo between the Mexican army and the American immigrants. Texas obtained independence in 1836 which further reduced the territorial area of the fledgling Republic. In the 1840s, the country was invaded by the United States which resulted in massive territorial losses, including Alta California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico (see Mexican-American War). In the 1860s the country again suffered a military occupation, this time by France, seeking to establish the Hapsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian of Austria as Emperor of Mexico, with support from the Catholic clergy and conservative Creoles. This Second Mexican Empire was fought off by then president of the Republic, the Zapotec Indian Benito Juárez, with diplomatic and logistical support from the United States and the military savvy of General Porfirio Díaz, also of part Amerindian heritage. General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French Army (the most powerful of the world at the time) on a May 5th (or Cinco de Mayo, in Spanish) but lost the war, and Napoleon, Emperor of France, imposed Maximillian as Emperor of Mexico from 1864 to 1867.
After Juárez's death, 30 years of undemocratic rule by that same Porfirio Díaz led to the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Revolutionary forces defeated the federal army, but were left with internal struggles, leaving the country in conflict for two more decades. At the end of the revolution the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) controlled the country until the end of the 20th century, where the PRI's 70-year rule was terminated via a peaceful election.
main article: States of Mexico
Mexico is divided into 31 states (estados) and the Mexican Federal District (Distrito Federal). The Mexico City Metropolitan Area, which includes the Federal District and adjacent parts of México State, is one of the most populous cities in the world.
main article: Geography of Mexico
Situated in the southwestern part of mainland North America and roughly triangular in shape, Mexico stretches more than 3000 km (1,850 miles) from northwest to southeast. Its width is varied, from more than 2000 km (1,200 miles) in the north and less than 220 km (135 miles) at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the south. Mexico borders two major bodies of water, the Pacific Ocean (with the Sea of Cortés between the mainland and the Baja California peninsula) to the west and on the east the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea that lead to the Atlantic Ocean. Here are found coastal plains, whereas central Mexico consists of high plateaus and rugged mountains, including volcanoes, the highest of which is the Pico de Orizaba at 5,610 m.
The terrain and climate vary from deserts in the north to tropical rain forest in the south. Mexico's major rivers include the Río Bravo (known in the US as the Rio Grande), the Río Grijalva, the Río Balsas, the Río Pánuco, and the Río Yaqui.
main article: Economy of Mexico
Mexico has a free-market economy with a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private sector. The number of state-owned enterprises in Mexico has fallen from more than 1,000 in 1982 to fewer than 200 in 1999. The administration of President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León continued a policy of privatizing and expanding competition in sea ports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity, natural gas distribution, and airports which was initiated by his predecessors Miguel de la Madrid and Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
A strong export sector helped to cushion the economy's decline in 1995 and led the recovery in 1996–1999. Private consumption became the leading driver of growth, accompanied by increased employment and higher wages. Mexico still needs to overcome many structural problems as it strives to modernize its economy and raise living standards. Income distribution is very unequal, with the top 20% of income earners accounting for 55% of income.
Following 6.9% growth in 2000, real GDP fell 0.3% in 2001, with the US slowdown the principal cause. Positive developments in 2001 included a drop in inflation to 6.5%, a sharp fall in interest rates, and a strong peso that appreciated 5% against the US dollar. Trade with the US and Canada has tripled since NAFTA was implemented in 1994. Mexico is pursuing additional trade agreements with most countries in Latin America and has signed a free trade deal with the European Union, putting more than 90% of trade under free trade agreements and lessening its dependence on the US. A similar deal with Japan has been recently signed (September 2004).
main article: Demographics of Mexico
Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second most populous country in Latin America (after Portuguese-speaking Brazil). Some 60% of the population is of a mixed Amerindian-European ethnicity known as mestizo, with 30% being Amerindian and 9% of European descent. Nominally, the country is predominantly Roman Catholic (89%), with 6% adhering to various Protestant faiths and the remaining 5% either adhering to other smaller religions or remaining unaffiliated.
main article: Culture of Mexico
Mexico is named after its capital city, whose name comes from the Aztec city Mexico-Tenochtitlan that preceded it. The Mexi part of the name is from Mexitli, the name of a war god, whose name was derived from metztli (the moon) and xictli (navel) and thus mean "navel (probably implying 'child') of the moon". So, Mexico is the home of the people of Mexitli (the Mexicas), co meaning "place" and ca meaning "people".
When the Spaniards encountered this people and transcribed their language, they naturally did so according to the spelling rules of the Castilian language of the time. The Nahuatl language had a /ʃ/ sound (like English "shop"), and this sound was written x in Spanish (e.g. Ximénez); consequently, the letter x was used to write down words like Mexitli.
Over the centuries, the pronunciation of Spanish changed. Words like Ximénez, exercicio, xabón and perplexo started to be pronounced with a /x/ (this phonetic symbol represents the sound in the word "loch"). The /ʒ/ sound (as in "vision") represented by the letter j (usually g before e or i) also started to be pronounced this way. The coalescence of the two phonemes into a single new one encouraged scholars to use the same letter for the sound, regardless of its origin (Spanish scholars have always tried to keep the orthography of their language faithful to the spoken tongue). It was j/g that was chosen. So, modern Spanish has ejercicio, ejército, jabón, perplejo, etc. Another example is the old spelling of Don Quixote which is now Don Quijote. The old pronunciation is maintained in French "Quichotte", and the English form maintains the spelling while reading it with its English value.
Proper nouns and their derivatives are optionally allowed to break this rule. Thus, although xabón is now incorrect and archaic, and, alongside many millions of people called "Jiménez", there also are plenty called "Giménez" or "Ximénez" — a matter of personal choice and tradition.
In Mexico, it has become almost a matter of national pride to maintain the otherwise archaic x spelling in the name of the country. It is regarded as more authentic and less jarring to the reader's eye. Mexicans have tended to demand that other Spanish-speakers use this spelling, rather than following the general rule, and the demand has largely been respected. The Real Academia Española states that both spellings are correct, and most dictionaries and guides recommend México first, and present Méjico as a variant. Today, even outside of the country, the likelihood of coming across México instead of Méjico is anything from 10-to-1 (Spain), to about 280-to-1 (Costa Rica). Also in the placenames "Oaxaca" and "Texas", the x is pronounced as /x/. However in "Xochimilco", it sounds as an s.
A cultural side-effect of the fact that Mexicans use México and Spaniards sometimes use Méjico is the occasional boiling-over of negative sentiment towards the old colonial oppressor. The mere act of using the j spelling is interpreted by some as a form of colonial aggression. On the other hand, some Peninsular scholars (such as Ramón Menéndez Pidal) prefer to apply the general spelling rule, arguing that the spelling with an x could encourage non-Mexicans to mispronounce México/Méjico as /'meksiko/.
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