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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 Day.
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 unlikely.
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 rapidl
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