75 Vintage Photos of Life in 75 Vintage Photos of Life in Mexico during the 1950s during the 1950s

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. The capital is not only a primate city, with a population of approximately 21 million, but also one of the world’s largest cities. 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 world’s six cradles of civilization. In particular, the Mesoamerican region was home to many interconnected civilizations; including the Olmec, Maya, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, and Purepecha. Last were the Aztecs, who dominated the region in the century before European contact. In 1521, the Spanish Empire and its indigenous allies conquered the Aztec Empire from its capital Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, establishing the colony of New Spain. The image of Mexico’s prehispanic indigenous cultures has played a crucial role in the formation of a distinct Mexican identity from the colonial era onward, symbolized by the post-independence national flag with Aztec eagle. Over the three centuries after the conquest, the Spanish state and the Catholic Church, both of which were controlled by the Spanish crown, played important, intertwined institutional roles, expanding the colonial territory, enforcing Christianity, and spreading the Spanish language throughout. Spanish rule incorporated Native peoples of Mesoamerica into colonial order, initially maintaining the existing indigenous social and economic structures. Spanish rule recognized indigenous elites as nobles and they served as mediators between their communities and the Spanish ruling structures. Northern Mexico was outside of Mesoamerica; it was sparsely populated and the indigenous peoples were resistant to conquest. The huge and diverse indigenous populations, designated “Indians” (indios) under Spanish rule, were at the bottom of the legal system of racial hierarchy, with the small population of white, European Spaniards (españoles) at the top, and the small population of mixed-race castas in the middle. The discovery outside of the zone of settled indigenous populations of rich deposits of silver in Zacatecas and Guanajuato in the 1540s saw the expansion of the Spanish Empire northward, with population growth as wealth was extracted. Wealth coming from Asia and the New World flowed through the ports of Acapulco and Veracruz into Europe, which contributed to Spain’s status as a major world power for the next centuries, and brought about a price revolution in Western Europe. The colonial order came to an end in the early nineteenth century with the War of Independence against Spain, started in 1810 in the context of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, and successfully concluded in 1821 with the alliance of mixed-race insurgents under Vicente Guerrero and previously royalist creole elites led by Agustín de Iturbide.

Mexico’s early history as an independent nation state was marked by political and socioeconomic upheaval. Liberal and conservative factions constantly changed the form of government, which transitioned many times between short-lived monarchies and republics. 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 after defeat 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 Catholic Church. Conservatives reacted with the war of Reform, who invited France to invade the country and install Maximilian Habsburg as emperor, against the Republican resistance led by liberal President Benito Juárez. With the end of the American Civil War and France’s withdrawal of its army for the war with Prussia, the US-backed republicans recovered the country and overthrew the emperor. The last decades of the 19th century were dominated by the dictatorship of war hero, Porfirio Díaz, who sought to modernize Mexico and restore order. The Porfiriato era (1876-1910) led to great social unrest and ended with the outbreak of the decade-long Mexican civil war (Mexican Revolution). This conflict had profound changes in Mexican society, including the proclamation of the 1917 Constitution, which remains in effect to this day.

The remaining Revolutionary generals ruled as a succession of presidents until the assassination of Alvaro Obregón in 1928, which led to the formation of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) the following year. The PRI governed Mexico for 70 years, first under a set of paternalistic developmental policies of considerable economic success, such as president Lázaro Cárdenas’ socially-oriented nationalization efforts. During World War II Mexico also played an important role for the U.S. war effort, contributing to economic growth. However, over decades the PRI rule devolved into a series of violent repressions (such as the Tlatelolco Massacre in the dawn of the 1968 Olimpic Games), electoral frauds (such as the 1988 election) and moved the country to a more US-aligned neoliberal economic policy during the late 20th century. This was cristalized with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, which caused a major indigenous rebellion in the state of Chiapas. PRI lost the presidency for the first time in 2000, against the conservative party (PAN).

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, which violently compete for the US drug 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)


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