Country Profile


Formal Name: United Mexican States (Estados

Unidos Mexicans).

Short Form: Mexico.

Term for Citizen(s): Mexican(s).

Capital: Mexico City (called Mééxico
or Ciudad de Mééxico in country).

Date of Independence: September 16, 1810
(from Spain).

National Holidays: May 5, commemorating
the victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla; September 16, Independence




Size: 1,972,550 square kilometers--third
largest nation in Latin America (after Brazil and Argentina).

Topography: Various massive mountain ranges
including Sierra Madre Occidental in west, Sierra Madre Oriental in east,

Cordillera Neovolcáánica in center, and Sierra Madre del

Sur in south; lowlands largely along coasts and in Yucatan Peninsula. Interior
of country high plateau. Frequent seismic activity.

Drainage: Few navigable rivers. Most rivers
short and run from mountain ranges to coast.

Climate: Great variations owing to considerable
north-south extension and variations in altitude. Most of the country has
two seasons: wet (June-September) and dry (October-April). Generally low
rainfall in interior and north. Abundant rainfall along east coast, in
south, and in Yucatan Peninsula.


Population: Estimated population of 94.8
million persons in mid-1996. Annual rate of growth 1.96 percent.

Language: Spanish official language, spoken
by nearly all. About 8 percent of population speaks an indigenous language;
most of these people speak Spanish as second language. Knowledge of English
increasing rapidly, especially among business people, the middle class,
returned emigrants, and the young.

Ethnic Groups: Predominantly mestizo society
(60 percent); 30 percent indigenous; 9 percent European; 1 percent other.

Education and Literacy: Secretariat of

Public Education has overall responsibility for all levels of education
system. Compulsory education to age sixteen; public education free. Government
distributes free textbooks and workbooks to all primary schools. Official
literacy rate in 1990 was 88 percent.

Health and Welfare: Health care personnel
and facilities generally concentrated in urban areas; care in rural areas
confined to understaffed clinics operated mostly by medical graduate students.

Life expectancy in 1996 estimated at seventy-three years. Infant mortality
twenty-six per 1,000 live births. Leading causes of death infections, parasitic
diseases, and respiratory and circulatory system failures.

Religion: About 90 percent of population

Roman Catholic, according to 1990 census. Protestants (about 6 percent)
ranked second. Number of Protestants has increased dramatically since 1960s,
especially in southern states.



Overview: From a colonial economy based
largely on mining, especially silver, in the twentieth century, the economy
has diversified to include strong agriculture, petroleum, and industry
sectors. Strong growth from 1940-80 interrupted by series of economic crises,
caused in part by massive overborrowing. 1980s marked by inflation and
lowering standard of living. Austerity measures and introduction of free-market
policies led to a period of growth from 1990-94. Membership in North American

Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993 led to hopes of continued economic
growth. However, growing trade deficit and overvalued exchange rate in

1994 financed by sale of short-term bonds and foreign- exchange reserves.

Series of political shocks and devaluation of new peso in late 1994 caused
investor panic. Inflation soared, and massive foreign intervention was
required to stabilize situation. Although overall economy remains fundamentally
strong, lack of confidence makes short-term prospects for strong growth

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): Estimated
at US$370 billion in 1994; approximately US$4,100 per capita.

Currency and Exchange Rate: Relatively
stable throughout most of twentieth century, the peso (Mex$) began to depreciate
rapidly during economic crisis of 1980s. In January 1993, peso replaced
by new peso (NMex$) at rate of NMex$1 = Mex$1,000. Exchange rate in January

1993, US$1 = NMex$3.1; rate in April 1997, US$1 = NMex$7.9.

Agriculture: Contributed 8.1 percent of

GDP in 1994. Main crops for domestic consumption corn, beans, wheat, and
rice. Leading agricultural exports coffee, cotton, vegetables, fruit, livestock,
and tobacco.

Industry: Mining, manufacturing, and construction
contributed 28 percent of GDP in 1994. Industrialization increased rapidly
after 1940. By 1990 large and diversified industrial base located largely
in industrial triangle of Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara. Most
industrial goods produced, including automobiles, consumer goods, steel,
and petrochemicals. World's sixth largest producer of petroleum and major
producer of nonfuel minerals.

Energy: More than 120 billion kilowatt-hours
produced in 1993, about 75 percent from thermal (mostly oil-burning) plants,

20 percent from hydroelectric, and the rest from nuclear or geothermal
plants. One nuclear plant with two reactors at Laguna Verde in Veracruz

State. Huge petroleum deposits discovered in Gulf of Mexico in 1970s. In

1995 sixth-largest producer of oil and had eighth-largest proven reserves.

Exports: US$60.8 billion in 1994. Manufactured
exports include processed food products, textiles, chemicals, machinery,
and steel. Other important export items are metals and minerals, livestock,
fish, and agricultural products. Major exports to United States are petroleum,
automotive engines, silver, shrimp, coffee, and winter vegetables.

Imports: US$79.4 billion in 1994. Main
imports are metal-working machines, steel-mill products, agricultural machines,
chemicals, and capital goods. Leading imports from United States include
motor vehicle parts, automatic