Mexico is a Latin American country just south of the United States. It lies north of Belize and Guatemala. The Pacific Ocean is on the west, and the Gulf of Mexico is on the east. The Rio Grande river forms most of the boundary, or dividing line, between Mexico and the United States. Mexico City is the capital and largest city of Mexico.
Most of northern Mexico is dry. A plain lies along the western coast of northern and central Mexico. The plain has many river valleys with good farmland. Farther inland, a range of mountains called the Sierra Madre Occidental runs along the plain.
On the northeastern coast, along the Gulf of Mexico, is another coastal plain. In the north, the plain is covered with forests of low bushes and trees. In the south, the plain has rich farmland. Inland along this plain runs a mountain range called the Sierra Madre Oriental.
Between the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain ranges lies a wide, flatter highland called the Plateau <<pla TOH>> of Mexico. The plateau covers most of Mexico. Most of Mexico’s people live in the southern part of the plateau. The largest cities are also there.
South of the Plateau of Mexico are more mountains, including the Sierra Madre del Sur along Mexico’s southwestern coast. Some of the mountains are volcanoes.
In southeastern Mexico is the Yucatán Peninsula. A peninsula is an area of land almost surrounded by water. The Yucatán Peninsula is surrounded on three sides by the Gulf of Mexico. The peninsula is a low limestone plain with no rivers. However, many underground channels, or narrow waterways, have formed there. In some places, the roofs of these channels fell in, and deep pits formed. The ancient Maya Indians once used the pits as holy wells.
Along the northwestern coast of Mexico is another peninsula. It is called the Peninsula of Lower California. This long, narrow peninsula is mostly covered by desert.
Most of Mexico’s people are mestizos, people of mixed European and American Indian backgrounds. Their European ancestors were mostly Spanish people who came to what is now Mexico beginning in the 1500′s. Their Indian ancestors already lived in the area when the Spaniards arrived. Some people whose ancestors came from Africa or Asia also live in Mexico.
Mexicans who speak an Indian language, wear Indian clothes, and live in an Indian village are thought of as Indians. This is true even if they are actually mestizo or white.
The way of life in Mexico has come from a mixture of American Indian and Spanish traditions. However, during the 1900′s, life in its larger cities has become much like life in the United States.
The number of people living in Mexico has grown very fast. As a result, many cities do not have enough houses or enough clean drinking water for all their people. In addition, there are not enough jobs.
Resources and products
Mexico makes money from its factories, farms, and mines and from people from other countries who visit Mexico. Products made in Mexico include cars, cement, chemicals, clothing, foods, and steel. Only a small part of Mexico’s land is good for farming. However, Mexican farmers grow many crops. The main crops include beans, chili peppers, corn, oranges, sugar cane, tomatoes, and wheat. More land is used to grow corn than for any other crop.
Mexico is the world’s leading producer of silver. The country also mines large amounts of copper, gold, iron ore, lead, salt, and sulfur. The production of oil, an energy source, is also important.
Hundreds of years ago, the Indians of Mexico built large, beautiful cities. They invented a calendar and a counting system and used a form of writing. Some Indian groups built huge pyramids and stone temples for worship. The last Indian empire in Mexico—the Aztec—was taken over by Spanish warriors in 1521. For the next 300 years, Spain ruled Mexico. The Spaniards took many riches from Mexico. The Indians were poor, and many were forced to work for the Spaniards. But the Spaniards also made many good changes in farming, government, and business.
Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821. In the 1840′s, a war between the United States and Mexico ended with Mexico losing land to the United States. This land included present-day California, Nevada, and Utah. Beginning in the early 1900′s, the Mexican government took over many large farms and divided them among poor farmers. The government built many schools, hospitals, and homes. Since the mid-1900′s, many more factories have been built, and cities have grown very quickly. But many people are still poor. Every year, many Mexicans move to the United States and other countries.