Source: National Institute of Statistics,
Geography and Informatics

Geographic Highlights

Location and area

Mexico forms part of North America, together with Canada and the United States of America; it is in the western hemisphere, west of the Greenwich meridian. In terms of geographical coordinates, the country's territory lies between meridians 118 27' 24" W along the coast of Baja California on the Pacific Coast, and 86 42' 36" W on the easternmost part, along Isla Mujeres in the Caribbean Sea; and between parallels 32 43' 06" N on the northern border with the United States and 14 32' 27" N to the south at the mouth of the Suchiate River on the border with Guatemala.

The country covers an area of 1,964,375 km², of which 1,959,248 km² are on the mainland and 5,127 km² are islands; it is the fourteenth-largest country in the world.

Mexico shares a 3,152 km border with the United States to the north, and a total border of 1,149 km with Guatemala and Belize to the south-east; its continental coastline spans 11,122 km, making it the second- longest in the Americas after Canada.

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The country's territory is very irregular and is characterized by mountains, plains, valleys and plateaus. The highest mountains in the country are its main volcanoes, the highest being the Pico de Orizaba with an altitude of 5,610 metres above sea level.

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Natural resources

Due to its geographical location, shape, climate, orography and geology, Mexico has a wide variety of unique ecological characteristics; they include a wealth of different soils, and a diversity of flora and plant communities that feature practically all those known throughout the world.

Some parts of the country contain almost no vegetation, as is the case in the most arid desert zones and in areas that are covered in snow all year. Conversely, there are lush rain forests where the vegetation reaches a height of 40 metres in areas with over 4,000 mm of annual rainfall. Between these two extremes, a large variety of shrub communities exist, forming extensive, varied bushland, grassland, conifer and holm oak forests in almost all mountain systems, palm groves and jungles with varying degrees of foliage life, highly developed mangroves in the southern parts of both coasts, and pioneer plant communities in coastal dune areas, among many others.

As regards non-renewable resources, the country's petroleum and silver reserves deserve special mention. At the outset of 1998 oil reserves stood at 60 trillion barrels, and Mexico is the world's foremost silver producer; output reached 2,701,329 kilograms in 1997.

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Mexico's latitude and topography account for its highly varied range of climates, which vary from warm, with annual mean temperatures above 78.8F (26C), to cold, with annual mean temperatures under 50F (10C). However, annual mean temperatures range between 50F (10C) and 78.8F (26C) in 93% of the country's territory, 23% of which has a warm-subhumid climate, 28% is dry, 21% is very dry and 21% is temperate-subhumid.

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Political Organization

In accordance with its Political Constitution, Mexico is a representative, democratic and federal republic governed by three branches of power: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. The country is made up of 32 political-administrative entities (31 free, sovereign states, and the Federal District, the seat of the Executive, which is also where the nation's capital is located). The President of Mexico for the six-year term from 1994 to 2000 is Dr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Len.

1.Aguascalientes 2.Baja California 3.Baja California Sur 4.Campeche 5.Coahuila 6.Colima 7.Chiapas 8.Chihuahua 9.Distrito Federal 10.Durango 11.Estado de México 12.Guanajuato 13.Guerrero 14.Hidalgo 15.Jalisco 16.Michoacán 17.Morelos 18.Nayarit 19.Nuevo León 20.Oaxaca 21.Puebla 22.Querétaro 23.Quintana Roo 24.San Luis Potosí 25.Sinaloa 26.Sonora 27.Tabasco 28.Tamaulipas 29.Tlaxcala 30.Veracruz 31.Yucatán 32.Zacatecas

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Total growth and population

According to the results of the 1997 National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID 1997), in October of this year the Mexican population reached a total of 93.7 million inhabitants, confirming its position as the eleventh most populous country in the world. Considering these figures, the country's annual demographic growth rate during the 1995-1997 period was approximately 1.4%, showing a continued decrease in the growth rate. If this rate persists, the Mexican population will double in 49.9 years.

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Population by age and gender

By age, the Mexican population is still young, despite the downward trend in the relative size of the youngest age groups. Thus, in 1997, the proportion of people under 15 years of age was 34.9%, whereas in 1970, it was 46.2%. Similary, the median age in 1997 was 22 years compared to 16 years in 1970. On the other hand, the proportion of individuals 65 years and older is still lower, accounting for approximately 4.9% in 1997. Nevertheless, this figure is greater than that of 1970 when it was 3.7%.

In regard to gender, there is an almost balanced situation, as men accounted for 48.7% of the population in 1997, vis-a-vis women who represented 51.3% of the total population. Nevertheless, in the age groups, differences are reflected both in a greater number of male births and male deaths, as well as in terms of gender and age in international migration. In this context, it is important to underscore that there are more young males than young females, contrary to the situation in older age groups.

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Geographic distribution

The nation's population density in 1997 was 48 people per square kilometre. Nevertheless, the population density in the 32 states of the union varies considerably, ranging from very low rates in the states of Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Sonora, Campeche, Durango and Coahuila, which each have less than 15 inhabitants per square kilometre, to high densities in the Federal District and the State of Mexico where there are 5,587 and 571 inhabitants per square kilometre, respectively. This diversity is derived from the significant differences both in population and in the surface area of the states.

The population is concentrated in large urban centres and is also scattered in smaller towns. In the first case, metropolitan cities such as Mexico, Guadalajara and Monterrey make up 2% of the national territory, yet house 25% of the total population of the country. At the other extreme, a little more than one-fourth of the population lives in rural areas that have less than 2,500 inhabitants; in 1990, this was the case for over 95% of all towns .

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Basic services

Acording to ENADID 97, Mexico registered 21 million households, of which 78.2% have drainage, 88.1% have running water and 94.5% have electricity.

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In 1997, 10.6% of the population over 15 years of age was illiterate and 92.2% of the 6-14 year-old population attended school. During the 1997-1998 school year, 3.3 million children were enrolled at the pre-primary level, 14.6 million at the primary level, 4.9 million at the secondary level, 2.6 million at high school level and 1.5 million at higher levels of education.

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Health care

In 1997, Mexico had 115.9 doctors, 181.9 nurses and 80.5 hospital beds per 100,000 inhabitants.

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Roman Catholicism is the faith of more than 90 percent of the people. Mexico's long tradition of official anticlericalism ended in 1991 with the passage of constitutional changes granting legal status to religious institutions and allowing parochial schools. Protestants represent a small but growing minority in Mexico.

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The prevailing and official language is Spanish, which is spoken by the great majority of the population. Indigenous languages number about 13, with many different dialects, the chief of which is Nahuatl (see American Indian Languages), or Aztec. Other major dialects include Maya, spoken in the Yucatán Peninsula, and Otomí, common in central Mexico. Successive governments have instituted educational programs to teach Spanish to all Indigenous members of the population.

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Economic activity

Mexico's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) totalled 402.5 billion dollars in 1997, making it the eleventh-largest worldwide. During that year the shares of the main economic sectors in the GDP were the following: 6.1% farming and livestock; 28.3% the industrial sector, of which manufacturing accounts for 76.5%; and 65.6% services, 32.2% of which consists of commerce, restaurants and hotels. Crude oil production equalled three billion barrels a day.

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Labour force

According to the National Employment Survey, in 1997 Mexico's economically active population totalled 38,344,658, that is, 56.6% of a total working-age population of 67,702,002.

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Communication Infrastructure

In 1997, Mexico had a total of 253,339 km of paved and hard-top roads, 26,623 km of railroads, 54 international and 29 domestic airports, and 153 harbours. 9.254 million telephone lines were also in service.

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The National Flag

The meaning of the colours of the Mexican flag are:
Green: Hope. Fertility of the soil.
White: Purity.
Red: For the blood shed during Independence.

According to legend, as the Aztecs searched for their promised land, they were told by their god Huitzilopochtli that when they found an eagle devouring a serpent in a nopal cactus tree, they were to settle down in that place and found Tenochtitlan, what is today Mexico City.

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