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May 2005

Mexico, Reference Map, 1993

Mexico, Reference Map, 1993

Mexico is bordered by the North Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and Guatemala on the southern end and the United States on the northern end. Today Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second most-populous country in Latin America after Portuguese-speaking Brazil. According to some estimates, the population of the area around Mexico City is about 20 million, which would make it the largest concentration of population in the world. Cities next to the United States -- such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez -- and cities in the interior -- such as Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Puebla -- have undergone sharp rises in population.

Highly advanced cultures, including those of the Olmecs, Mayas, Toltecs, and Aztecs, existed long before the Spanish conquest. Hernando Cortes conquered Mexico during the period 1519-21 and founded a Spanish colony that lasted nearly 300 years. Independence from Spain was proclaimed by Father Miguel Hidalgo on September 16, 1810; this launched a war for independence. An 1821 treaty recognized Mexican independence from Spain and called for a constitutional monarchy. The planned monarchy failed; a republic was proclaimed in December 1822 and established in 1824.

Mexico is a mix of terrain with rugged mountains, low coastal plains, high plateaus and desert. Likewise, the climate varies from tropical to desert and can include hurricanes on the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean coasts, tsunamis along the Pacific coast, volcanoes and destructive earthquakes in the center and south.

Smithsonian Institution map of Volcanoes of Mexico and Central America.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 1/2001

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