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Government Palace
Popocatepetl Volcano
City of Guanajuato
Bellas Artes palace 

Did you know?

Tuesday the 13th (Martes Trece), not Friday the 13th, is an unlucky day in Mexico. On Tuesday, August 13, 1521 the Spaniards completed their conquest of the Aztec capital of Tenochitlán. Tuesday the 13th is also an unlucky day in Spain.

Fun Facts

There are more pyramids in Mexico than there are in Egypt.

Did you know?

Mexico is one of the world’s top oil producing countries.

Introduction and Background

MexicoThe United Mexican States, commonly referred to as Mexico, is a federal republic located in the southern portion of North America. Mexico is a country with rich cultural heritage and an abundance of natural resources. It is home to more Spanish speakers than any country in the world, and is also home to the largest Amerindian population in the world. Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, is the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the largest cities in the world.

Although Mexico has been populated by people for many thousands of years, the Olmec Civilization, which existed from around 1200 B.C. to 400 B.C., is generally regarded as Mexico’s first great civilization. The Mayan, Aztec and other smaller civilizations followed. When the Spanish conquistadors, led by Hernan Cortez, arrived in Mexico in 1519, the Aztecs ruled a vast empire from their capital city of Tenochtitlan, located where Mexico City now stands. From 1519-1521, the Spanish and their allies fought the Aztecs. Concurrently, an outbreak of smallpox in 1520 ravaged the indigenous population of Mexico, and left many Native Americans unable to defend themselves. By May 1521, the Aztecs had been defeated by the Spanish, their allies, and disease. It is estimated that as much as eighty percent of the Native American population in Mexico died from Smallpox and other diseases believed to have been brought to the New World by the Europeans.

The territory of Mexico was the crown jewel of Spain’s colonies worldwide until September 16, 1810, when Father Miguel de Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic Priest, declared Mexico’s independence from Spain. Mexico’s war for independence lasted until Spain recognized Mexico’s independence on September 27, 1821. For the next one hundred years, the Mexican people suffered through nearly constant fighting and several different governments. Moreover, a series of battles with separatists and U.S. forces in northern Mexico lead to a loss of much of Mexico’s northern territories. Mexico achieved relative peace after the end of the Mexican Civil War in 1920 and the Christero War in 1929.

Mexican migration and immigration to the United States

The first Mexicans to reside in the United States did not arrive as immigrants, but were instead the inhabitants of regions that had formerly been part of northern New Spain, and later Mexico. Many of these early Mexican Americans suffered the loss of their rights and title to their lands as a result of the transition of the northern Mexican territories to the United States.

During the nineteenth century, tens of thousands of Mexicans immigrated to the United States to work in the California gold fields, on the construction of railroads, in the steel mills, mines and in agriculture. By 1890, it is believed that as many as seventy-five thousand Mexicans had immigrated to the United States. During the Mexican Civil War (1910-1920), more than two hundred thousand Mexican refugees fled Mexico for the United States. From 1926 to 1929, the Catholic peasantry of Mexico fought the Marxist government during the Christero Revolution. The Mexican government killed and imprisoned many of the peasants and priests responsible for the revolution, and forced the migration of others to Mexico’s south and to the United States. Some five hundred thousand Mexicans fled to the United States during the Christero Revolution.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans returned to Mexico. However, domestic labor shortages during World War II led to the creation of the Bracero Program. From 1942 to 1964, the Bracero Program brought many Mexican guest workers to the United States, most to work in agriculture.

Since 1970, immigrants from Mexico account for nearly one-quarter of all immigrants to the U.S. Mexican immigration has increased markedly in recent years. Between 1990 and 2000, the Mexican population increased by 52.9%, and numbered more than 20.6 million in 2000.


 Hillside neighborhood in Pachuca de Soto, Hidalgo Surfers at Zicatela, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca Cascada Diamante

Mexico is located in the southern part of North America. Mexico shares land borders with the United States of America, Belize and Guatemala, and has extensive coast lines on the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Mexico is approximately three times the size of Texas, or about one-fifth the size of the United States.


Mexico is home to about 108 million people, which is equivalent to the combined populations of the United States’ five most populous states; California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois.

The Mexican population is overwhelmingly urban and only twenty-four percent of the population lives in rural areas. Mexico’s capital city, Mexico City, is home to nearly one-fifth of Mexico’s population.

Ethnic Composition

Football (Soccer) Fans Football (Soccer) Fans

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comparative US Ethnic Composition Ethnic composition in Mexico

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Did you know?

Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Almost one-third of the world’s Spanish speakers are Mexicans.


Mexico is the most populous Spanish speaking country and is also one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. Spanish is Mexico’s official language, but the Mexican government also recognizes sixty-six different Amerindian languages, most of which have several dialects. An estimated eight percent of the Mexican population speaks an Amerindian language. Yucatán Maya and the various Nahuatl dialects are the Amerindian languages with the most speakers.


The Mexican people are predominantly Roman Catholics; however, protestant churches have gained popularity in the last forty years. Roman Catholics account for more than seventy-five percent of the Mexican population and Protestants account for more than six percent. Small communities of Jews and Muslims also exist in Mexico.

Indigenous beliefs that existed in pre-Columbian times continue to play an important role in Mexican culture. Most notable is the Día de los Muertos celebration. Before the arrival of the Spanish, Día de los Muertos was a month-long Aztec celebration of death and the continuation of life. The Spaniards sought to eliminate the festival, but when their efforts failed, they chose instead to shorten it to one day by combining it with the Catholic All Soul’s Day holiday on November 2 of each year.


Bebidas (drinks)

  • Corona – Corona is one of the most popular beers in the world and was first brewed in Mexico in 1925.
  • Mezcal & Tequila – Mezcal and Tequila are liquors made from Mexico’s agave plants.
  • Aguas Frescas – Aguas frescas are popular juice drinks.
  • Horchata – Horchata is a popular rice-based drink that is often flavored with cinnamon, sugar, vanilla and citrus.

Comida (food)

Guacamole - Traditional Avocado Dip Guacamole - Traditional Avocado Dip

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  • Chocolate – Chocolate was first developed as a drink by the Mayans and was highly regarded in both the Mayan and Aztec civilizations of pre-Columbian Mexico. Chocolate was so important that the Mayans planted Cacao trees in their yards and drank chocolate during their marriage ceremonies. The Aztecs, who were unable to grow cacao where they lived, considered chocolate so valuable that they accepted cacao beans as currency when dealing with Mayan peoples.
  • Guacamole – Guacamole is made from avocados, tomatoes, onions, lime juice and salt. It is believed that guacamole was first made by the Aztecs.
  • Salsa – Salsas are sauces that are usually made from a base of red or green tomatoes mixed with spices and, oftentimes, chili peppers.
  • Tortillas - Tortillas are very thin round breads made from ground corn or flour. They have been a staple of the Mexican diet since long before the Spaniards set foot in the New World.

Popular Mexican dishes:

  • Burrito – Only found in northern Mexico, the burrito is a flour tortilla filled with meat. Burritos are more popular in the United States than they are in Mexico.
  • Enchilada – Enchiladas are tortillas stuffed with meat, cheese, or vegetables, and covered with a red chili sauce.
  • Huevos Rancheros – Huevos Rancheros is a breakfast dish that consists of fried eggs and fried corn tortillas covered in a sauce made from tomatoes and chili peppers.
  • Taco – A taco is a rolled corn tortilla filled with meat and salsa
  • Tostada – A tostada is a flat, fried tortilla typically covered with refried beans, meat, lettuce, onion, salsa and sour cream.
Wrestlers' masks. The popular sport of wrestling in Mexico is called lucha libre.

Wrestlers' masks. © Greg Rasmussen

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Games and Sport

  • Lucha Libre (Free Wrestling) – Lucha Libre is very similar to professional wrestling in the United States, although virtually all Mexican luchadores wear masks.



Monterrey Cultural Festival © Aron Cavaliu Monterrey Cultural Festival © Aron Cavaliu

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  • Mexico is famous for its paintings, most notably those created during the Mexican mural renaissance, by Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Frida Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo and others.


  • Leather – The art of crafting fine leather goods was brought to Mexico by the Spaniards; however, Native Americans added their own designs to leather goods, which has resulted in a uniquely Mexican handcraft.
  • Silversmithing – The artistry of Mexican silversmiths began hundreds of years ago when the Spaniards taught Native Americans to work with silver. Silversmiths in Mexico are well known for producing high quality jewelry, flatware and other silver goods.


  • Mariachi – Mariachi music comes from Guadalajara, Jalisco State. Well-known songs include La Bamba, Cielito Lindo, La Cucaracha and Jarabe Tapatio (the Mexican Hat Dance).
  • Norteño and TejanoNorteño and Tejano are musical forms created by Mexican Americans in Texas. Both forms have been heavily influenced by German and Czech polkas. The songs typically tell stories in the Corridos tradition, and the accordion, which is supported by guitars, figures prominently. Tejano is an offshoot of Norteño, and the influence of American country and rock & roll music can be heard in Tejano songs.
  • BandaBanda music is characterized by the use of brass wind instruments. Banda is a form that has been heavily influenced by polkas and European military music.


  • Charro Suit (traje de charro) – Charro suits are worn by mariachis. The charro suit is also the outfit traditionally worn by cowboys in Jalisco State.
  • Sarape – A sarape is a blanket-like textile with a hole in its center for the wearer’s head to pass through. Sarapes often have multiple colored bands.
  • Sombrero – A sombrero is a wide-brimmed hat worn in Mexico that shields the wearer’s head from the sun and rain. Sombreros inspired the American cowboy hat.

Words and language

  • o Aztec – Nahuatl word
  • o Cacao – Nahuatl word for “shell.”
  • o Chicle – Nahuatl word for “sticky stuff.”
  • o Chili or chile – Nahuatl word
  • o Chocolate - Nahuatl word
  • o Cigar – Mayan word for “smoke.”
  • o Cocoa or cacao – Nahuatl word
  • o Coyote – Nahuatl word
  • o Guacamole – Nahuatl word for “avocado sauce.”
  • o Mescal – Nahuatl word
  • o Mesquite – Nahuatl word
  • o Ocelot – Nahuatl word
  • o Peyote – Nahuatl word
  • o Shack – Nahuatl word for “thatched cabin.”
  • o Shark – Mayan word for “fish.”
  • o Tamale – Nahuatl word
  • o Tomato – Nahuatl word
Church in San Miguel Church in San Miguel

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Did you know?

In Mexico, as in Spain and other former Spanish colonies, December 28 is a day of trickery, much like April Fools’ Day is in the United States. It is called Día de los Santos Inocentes (Day of the Innocent Saints).

Philisophy, Religion and Tradition

  • Día de los Muertos – A celebration of death that takes place on the Catholic All Soul’s Day holiday. Día de los Muertos is a unique hybrid of Aztec spiritual beliefs and Catholic beliefs.

Immigrant Population Profile

Mexican Population in the U.S. Mexican Population in the U.S.

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Size of Population (Historic and Contemporary) within United States:

As of 2005, the United States of America was home to more than 26,784,268 Mexicans, of which 40.5% were foreign born. Mexicans account for nearly sixty-four percent of all Hispanics living in the U.S.

Historically, there have been many waves of Mexican immigration to the United States, as well as several periods of repatriation of Mexicans to Mexico. Much of this has been due to the long period of civil unrest in Mexico and greater economic opportunities in the United States. It is difficult to know the exact number of Mexicans living in the United States before 1970, as the U.S. Census did not specifically ask Hispanic persons their country of origin. However, since 1970, Mexican immigrants account for nearly one-quarter of all immigrants to the U.S. In recent years, Mexican immigration has increased markedly. Between 1990 and 2000, the Mexican population increased by 52.9%.

The extraordinary growth of the Hispanic population in the United States, and particularly in states like California and Texas, has already begun to change the cultural fabric of the United States. The impacts of this growth can be seen in many areas of American culture, including the media, cuisine, the Catholic Church, sports, labor and politics. The future growth of the Hispanic population will undoubtedly bring even greater changes to the United States.

Mexican Ethnic Distribution in the U.S. Mexican Ethnic Distribution in the U.S.

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Distribution of Population in United States:

Mexicans live throughout the United States, but the greatest concentrations live in California, the American southwest and the Midwest. As of 2000, 55.3% of the Mexican population lived in the West; 31.7% lived in the South; 10.7% in the Midwest; and 2.3% in the Northeast. 1 Furthermore, California, Texas, Illinois and Arizona were home to the largest Mexican populations, with each state’s population numbering over one million persons.

As of 2000, the three U.S. counties with the largest Mexican populations were Los Angeles County, CA (3,000,000), Harris County, TX (815,000) and Cook County, IL (786,000).

Communities on the West Coast (Historic and Contemporary):

California – home to 8,455,926 Mexicans according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

  • Significant Mexican populations exist throughout California, although the largest are found in the Southern California counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Riverside.
  • Los Angeles has long been home to the largest Mexican community in the United States. As early as 1930, Los Angeles was home to 100,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans. As of 2000, Los Angeles County was home to more than 3,000,000 Mexicans.
  • The counties surrounding Los Angeles are also home to significant populations of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. The cities of Santa Ana and Coachella have some of the highest percentages of Latinos in the State of California.
  • San Diego County and Imperial County, which border Mexico, are home to large populations of Mexicans. It is estimated that in the City of Calexico, as much as ninety percent of the population is Mexican.
  • Significant populations of Mexicans exist throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco’s Mission District is home to a large Hispanic population that is dominated by Mexicans. Oakland, Richmond, Vallejo and San Jose are also home to large Mexican populations.
  • California’s Central Valley contains many cities with large Mexican populations. Sacramento, Modesto, Bakersfield and Fresno are all home to large Mexican populations. The City of Parlier, located in Fresno County, boasts a population that is almost exclusively Hispanic.
  • Cities located on or near the central California coast, such as Santa Cruz, Monterey, Salinas, Watsonville, Hollister and Santa Barbara are also home to sizable Mexican populations.
  • Cities in northern California, such as Woodland and Yuba City are home to large Mexican populations.

Washington – home to 329,934 Mexicans according to 2000 U.S. Census.

  • o Although Mexicans live throughout the state, concentrations are highest in the rural areas of the eastern and central regions of the southern part of the state.

Oregon – home to 214,662 Mexicans according to 2000 U.S. Census.

  • o Mexicans live throughout Oregon, but the counties with the highest percentage of Mexicans are the rural counties of Malheur in sout

Contributions of Community to United States

  • Mexicans have made up the bulk of the agricultural work force in the western and southwestern United States since the late nineteenth century.
  • Mexican laborers have made significant contributions to many non-agricultural industries, including mining, railroad construction and general construction.
  • Large numbers of Mexicans have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since the First World War.

Immigration Timeline

Click on the dates to see event.

Important Dates and Festivals

  • Cinco de Mayo - May 5. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the United States than it is in Mexico. It commemorates the 1862 victory of the Mexicans over the French Army at the Battle of Puebla.
  • Independence Day - September 16. Independence Day celebrates the day in 1810 that Mexico declared independence from Spain. (Spain did not acknowledge Mexican independence until September 27, 1821.
  • Día de los Muertos / Day of the Dead (All Soul’s Day) - November 2. The Day of the Dead is a day to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have passed on

Notable Mexican Immigrants

  • Dolores del Río - Actor
  • Salma Hayek Jiménez – Actor
  • José Moreno Hernandez – NASA astronaut
  • Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán Merino (Ricardo Montalban) – Actor
  • Paul Rodriguez – Actor & Comedian
  • José Antonio Romualdo Pacheco, Jr. – Governor of California (1871)
  • Carlos Santana – Musician
  • Antonio “Anthony” Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn – Academy Award winning Actor

Notable Mexican Americans and Americans of Mexican Ancestry

  • Henry John "Hank" Aguirre – Baseball player (1955-1970)
  • Jessica Marie Alba – Actor
  • Tony Alva – Skateboarder & Entrepreneur
  • Paulie Ayala – Boxer
  • Albert V. Baez - Award-winning scientist (co-inventor of the X-ray reflection microscope and father of Joan Baez and Mimi Fariña).
  • Joan Chandos Baez - Musician
  • Xavier Becerra – Congressman from California’s 31st District (1993-present)
  • Linda Jean Córdova Carter - Actor
  • Richard E. Cavazos – U.S. Army Four Star General
  • César Estrada Chávez – Labor organizer
  • Dennis Chávez – Senator from New Mexico (1935-1962)
  • Henry Gabriel Cisneros – U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1993-1997)
  • Oscar De La Hoya - Boxer
  • Donna Elizabeth de Varona – Winner of two gold medals in swimming at 1964 Olympic Games
  • Edward Walter Furlong – Actor
  • Jeffrey Jason Garcia – Football player
  • Anthony Nomar Garciaparra – Baseball player
  • Roberto Garza – Football player
  • Jaime Luis Gómez – Musician (Black Eyed Peas)
  • Alberto Gonzales – U.S. Attorney General (2005-2007)
  • Henry Barbosa Gonzalez – Congressman from Texas’s 20th District (1963-1999)
  • Ricardo Alonso “Pancho” González – World champion tennis player
  • Scott Gomex – HHL hockey player
  • Sidney McNeill "Sid" Gutierrez – NASA astronaut
  • Johnny Allen “Jimi” Hendrix - Musician
  • Dolores C. Huerta – Labor organizer
  • Joseph Robert Kapp – Football player
  • Eva Longoria – Actor
  • George C. Lopez – Actor & Comedian
  • Nancy Lopez - Golfer
  • Manuel Lujan, Jr. – Congressman from New Mexico’s 1st District (1969-1989) & U.S. Secretary of the Interior (1989-1993)
  • Richard Anthony "Cheech" Marin – Actor & Comedian
  • Joseph Manuel Montoya – Senator from New Mexico (1964-1977)
  • Max Montoya – Football player
  • Michael Anthony Muñoz – Football player
  • Ellen Lauri Ochoa – NASA astronaut
  • Edward James Olmos - Actor
  • Solomon Porfirio Ortiz – Congressman from Texas’s 27th District
  • Miguel Antonio Otero – Governor of New Mexico territory (1897-1906)
  • Derek Parra – Speed skater, winner of gold medal at 2002 Olympic Games
  • Federico Fabian Peña – U.S. Secretary of Transportation (1993-1997) & U.S. Secretary of Energy (1997-1998)
  • James W. "Jim" Plunkett – Football player
  • William Blaine "Bill" Richardson III – Governor of New Mexico
  • Robert Anthony Rodriguez – Film Director
  • Antonio "Tony" Ramiro Romo – Football player
  • Linda Marie Ronstadt - Musician
  • Edward Ross (Ed) Roybal – Congressman from California’s 25th & 30th Districts
  • John T. Salazar – Congressman from Colorado’s 3rd District
  • Kenneth Lee Salazar – U.S. Senator from Colorado
  • Linda T. Sánchez – Congresswoman from California’s 39th District
  • Loretta Sánchez – Congresswoman from California’s 47th District
  • Ricardo S. Sánchez – U.S. Army Lieutenant General
  • Hilda L. Solis – Congresswoman from California’s 32nd District
  • Lee Buck Trevino - Golfer
  • Ricardo Steven Valenzuela “Ritchie Valens” – Musician
  • Fernando Javier Vargas - Boxer
  • Antonio Ramon Villaraigosa – Mayor of Los Angeles


Definitions are taken from Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary

Amerindian (American Indian)

A member of any of the aboriginal peoples of the western hemisphere except often the Eskimos.