Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico covers 1,972,550 square kilometers (761,610 sq mi), making it the world’s 13th-largest country by area; with approximately 126,014,024 inhabitants, it is the 10th-most-populous country and has the most Spanish-speakers. Mexico is organized as a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, its capital and largest metropolis. Other major urban areas include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, and León.
Pre-Columbian Mexico traces its origins to 8,000 BCE and is identified as one of the six cradles of civilization; it was home to many advanced Mesoamerican civilizations, most notably the Maya and the Aztecs. Over two years of warfare (1519-1521), Hernán Cortés and thousands of indigenous allies conquered the Aztec Empire. Cortés founded Mexico City on the ruins of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, establishing the Kingdom of New Spain within the Spanish Empire. The Catholic Church played an important role in spreading Christianity and the Spanish language, while also preserving some indigenous elements. Native populations were subjugated and heavily exploited to mine rich deposits of precious metals, which contributed to Spain’s status as a major world power for the next three centuries, and to a massive influx of wealth and a price revolution in Western Europe. Over time, a distinct Mexican identity formed, based on a fusion of European and indigenous customs; this contributed to the successful Mexican War of Independence against Spain between 1810 and 1821.
Mexico’s early history as an independent nation state was marked by political and socioeconomic upheaval, with liberal and conservative factions constantly changing the form of government. The country was invaded by two foreign powers during the 19th century: first, after the Texas Revolution by American settlers, which led to the Mexican–American War and huge territorial losses to the United States in 1848. Liberal reforms were enshrined in the Constitution of 1857, which sought to integrate indigenous communities and curtail the power of the military and the church, granting religious freedom for the first time. This triggered an internal war of Reform and intervention by France, during which conservatives installed Maximilian Habsburg as emperor against the Republican resistance led by Benito Juárez. The last decades of the 19th century were marked by the dictatorship of President Porfirio Díaz, who sought to modernize Mexico and restore order. The Porfiriato era ended in 1910 with the decade-long Mexican civil war (Mexican Revolution), which killed approximately 10% of the population and after which the victorious Constitutionalist faction drafted an even more socially-oriented 1917 Constitution, which remains in effect to this day. The revolutionary generals ruled as a succession of presidents until the assassination of Alvaro Obregón in 1928. This led to the formation of the Institutional Revolutionary Party the following year, which pseudo-democratically governed Mexico until 2000; first under a paternalistic center-left model of considerable economic success, which transitioned into a more US-aligned neoliberal model since the 1980s.
Mexico is a developing country, ranking 74th on the Human Development Index, but has the world’s 15th-largest economy by nominal GDP and the 11th-largest by PPP, with the United States being its largest economic partner. Its large economy and population, global cultural influence, and steady democratization make Mexico a regional and middle power; it is often identified as an emerging power but is considered a newly industrialized state by several analysts. However, the country continues to struggle with social inequality, poverty and extensive crime. It ranks poorly on the Global Peace Index, due in large part to ongoing conflict between the government and drug trafficking syndicates, violently competing for the US market and trade routes. This “drug war” has led to over 120,000 deaths since 2006.
Mexico ranks first in the Americas and seventh in the world for the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, ranking fifth in natural biodiversity. Mexico’s rich cultural and biological heritage, as well as varied climate and geography, makes it a major tourist destination: as of 2018, it was the sixth most-visited country in the world, with 39 million international arrivals. Mexico is a member of United Nations, the G20, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the Organization of American States, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and the Organization of Ibero-American States. (Wikipedia)
Below are some rare and fascinating color photographs that capture street scenes of Mexico from between the 1950s and 1960s.