OFFICIAL NAME : MEXICAN UNITED STATES
Federation of 32 STATES among them a Federal District : the capital
: Mexico City
It is a vast country of 1 967 180 km2 (780 000 square mi), between
two oceans : the Pacific at the West and the Atlantic and Gulf of
Mexico at the East. It is located between the 14th
and 32nd parallel of North latitude, meaning it is under the climatic
influences of the two big belts of the hemisphere boreal : the desert
Northern one, and the tropical Southern one. The tropic of cancer
cuts across Mexico in its middle. Mexico
is part of the North American continent.
It is the fifth largest country of the American continent for area
and the second largest for the length of coasts (9300 km).
Mexico has 4301 km (1947 miles) of border with
the USA, Guatemala and Belize : The border with the U.S is 3152
km long from the Monumento 258 in the North-east of Tijuana up to
the mouth of the Rio Bravo in the Gulf
The states that border the North of the country are : Baja California,
Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas. The border with Guatemala
is 956 km long and 193 km long with the Belize. (It doesn’t
include the 85 266 km of maritime limit in the Bay of Chetumal).
The Southern and Southeastern Border States of the country are :
Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche
and Quintana Roo. The distance
between the northeastern city, Tijuana and Cancun
(Quintana Roo) is 3500 km.
Its area is about one fourth the size of the United States.
Mexico is not only a border between two countries
but also a link between the developing South America and the opulent
It is a country of highlands with irregular relief, with half of
them located at more than 1500m of elevation.
of the country
It is the most diversified country of North America, with a lot
of transitions and contrasts. It is in Mexico that
you can find the most arid region of the continent : the desert
de Altar, in the State of Sonora,
which receives less than 100 mm of precipitations a year, and the
most rainy region : the basin of Grijalva at Usumacinte (North of
the equator) which receives more than 5m of precipitations a year.
It is a country in the heart of a complex puzzle generated by the
collision between the tectonic North American plaque and the plaque
of the Cocos, which makes the country exposed to seismic movements
(the one in September 1985 in Mexico City
is a good tragic example for the number of dead and destroyed houses).
Mexico is often compared to a cornucopia looking towards the
USA. It is divided in 6 regions :
mountains and deserts : it is a giant appendage on the Pacific
It consists of mountains, deserts, Saharan vegetation and some
forests of pines. It is not very populated; the Indian tribes
are located mainly in the Southern part (Yaquis,
Mayos, Séris, and Tarahumaras). The climate changes
from desert-like in altitude to sub-tropical by the sea. You can
find a lot of wild coves. The Indians are the Huichols
and Coras. There are three big cities: Mexicali, Hermosillo,
The Altiplano : It
is half desert with arid swamps.
The northern region, above 1800 m is a plateau parted between
pasturelands and desert areas. It lies between the cities of Chihuahua,
Durango and Zacatecas. It is
not very populated. It is rich in ores.
Eastern side and coastal plains of the Gulf
It is a region with big contrast because of the proximity of the
Sierra Madre Oriental that culminates between 3000 and 3500 m
and brings water to the fertile lands lying up to the shore of
the Atlantic Ocean. It is the coast of Mexican Gulf with the more
rain, where agriculture and stock farming are prosperous and it
is very populated. Spanish and indigenous mingled during the centuries
of conquests and colonization. In the region of Huasteca in Tabasco,
the tropical plains supply the cities in bananas, oranges, guanabana,
pineapples, coffee, cacao, vanilla or cinnamon and many other
tropical products; Stock farming is intensive : cows, zebus, pigs,
horses and poultry.
Anahuac plateau and Volcanic Sierra
It is the geographic border between North and Central America,
born from a geological phenomenon.
It goes from the North of Guadalajara
to the foothills of the Sierra of Oaxaca.
It is a populated plateau with many lakes and water bearing resources.
Many rivers cross it widthwise (Balsas, Lerma, Tula). The main
cities and industrial centers of Mexico, Guadalajara,
Toluca and Puebla
are located on this plateau, at an average altitude of 2000 m.
In the South, a big fence of volcanoes closes the plateau (Popocatépetl
« mountain that smokes » 5452 m, Iztaccihuatl «
the white woman » 5286 m, Malinche 4460 m , Pico de Orizaba
« Star-mountain » in náhuatl 5611 m, Nevado
de Toluca « sacred bat », 4680 m).
Southern Depression – Pacific
It is the Mixtec knot : The two Sierras Madre (Oriental and Occidental)
merge in the South and disappear to form the Tehuantepec Isthmus,
160 km across at its narrowest point (30m elevation). This mountainous
cordillera continues towards Guatemala with the high lands of Chiapas.
It is a poor region with a very undulating relief and tropical forests.
They grow coffee. There is an important Indian population.
The plateform of Yucatán
It is a limestone, homogenous plateau with low elevation and the
particularity of having a lot of « cenotes », natural
deep wells that retain fresh water and connect between them with
a network of underground rivers. Yucatán,
Maya land, was probably wooden before the Spanish arrived. Today,
there are only few trees. In the Southeast, grows the chicle tree.
Yucatán is more arid but
more exposed to the hurricanes of the Caribbean area. The flourishing
industry of sisal is also developed in Yucatán
but the competition with the artificial fibers leads this area towards
This diversity in the relief allows the practice of extreme sports
like climbing and alpinism.
There are few rivers compared to the surface of the country. After
Rio Bravo (called Rio Grande on USA side), the two main rivers are
the Balsas (840 km) and the Usumacinta. The first one goes down
the volcanic Cordillera towards the Pacific and the second one has
its spring in the highlands of Guatemala, crosses the Tehuantepec
Isthmus and flows into the Gulf
of Mexico. The uneven course of these 2 rivers doesn’t
allow inland navigation. The biggest lake is Chapala
lake close to Guadalajara.
Mexico owns many geologic natural resources : oil, silver, iron,
lead, copper, zinc, uranium, natural gas, diamond, amber, quartz,
onyx, opal, jade, or, etc.
Located at the crossing of 3 tectonic plates, Mexico
is known to be one of the most active seismic zones on the world.
You would remember the seism in Mexico
City in 1985 (8.1 on the Richter magnitude scale) with more
than 4000 victims. The volcanic activity is important too. Some
volcanoes are still active. The youngest volcano in Mexico,
the Paricutin (2800m), in Michoacán,
appeared only in 1943 in a field. For more information in case of
seism, log on to : www.ssn.unam.mx
(servicio sismologico nacional).
It is threatened because of an out of control demographic and industrial
growth. The urban pollution is the first cause of the asphyxia of
Mexico City, because of the 3 millions
of vehicles and the industrial centers. Its geographic location,
in a basin confines its polluted air, which threatens the health
of the inhabitants. Some measures, like the reduction of the circulation
of the vehicles, are taken but it is not sufficient. Mexico
City consumes two third of the national electricity. The uncontrolled
growth in the urban zones also concerns some cities close to the
USA border. Barely half the population has running water and sewers.
The efforts of the government are noticeable but are insufficient
in view of the extent of the ecological problem : wild urbanization,
damage of the soils leading to desertification, unconcerned industrialization,
wild rubbish dump, lack of water, emission of toxic gas are also
worrying the citizens. Some projects of infrastructures in Yucatán threaten the already fragile ecosystems (constructions in «
riviera maya »).
There are around 3 millions of inhabitants in the shantytown of
The 5000 km from North to South and the big differences of elevation
vary the climate, rather mercifully all year long.
The year is marked by two seasons : the dry season from November
to April and the humid season from May to October. But depending
on the region, the rain gauge can vary.
Regarding the altitude and latitude, there are 3 natural climatic
levels in Mexico : The humid tropical South and
the coasts (warm all year long ; an average of 25-28°C with
higher temperatures in Summer), the North (Baja California, Sonora
desert and state of Coahuila) : hot and arid climate, canicular
Summer and the volcanic center, rather moderate but with many thermal
variations. Mexico City, even located
at more than 2300 m of elevation has a nice climate with an average
of 15° C; for your information, in May (hottest month) the temperatures
vary from 12 to 26° C, and in January (Coldest month), the temperatures
vary from 6 to 19° C.
In Mexico, the seasons are not
as marked as in other countries in the world. In winter, the temperature
is lower everywhere but it snows only in some mountainous Northwestern
You could visit Mexico any time during the year,
the climates being quite different from an area to another one.
But I would recommend the dry season (from November to April) :
little rain and abundant sun. Don’t forget a sweater for the
evenings since 50% of the Mexican territory has an elevation above
if you can’t choose the season you will travel,
it is not a problem because even during the rain season (May to
October) it rains only for a short time during the evenings.
You could consult the chapter : climate (clima) of the
before leaving or while traveling.
The Caribbean coast is
exposed to hurricanes from August to October. You could follow the
evolution of the forecast about cyclones and hurricanes logging
on to: www.nhc.noaa.gov,
For 2012 estimation : Mexico counts about
114,975 000 millions inhabitants (estimation july 2012), which makes
it the 11th most populated country on the planet. The Mexican population
in the USA is estimated to be more than 12 million with 6 million
Between 1990 and 2010, the population was multiplied by 7.9 while
world population was multiplied only 3.7 for the same time period.
The rate of growth of the population, which was about 4% a year
in the eighties, is now about 1.086% (estimat. 2012). There are a little
less than 20 million homes in Mexico, meaning an
average of 5 persons per home. 10% of them count 8 persons or more
and 30%, at least 6 persons. This population is young : 45% of the
inhabitants are less than 20 year old and the ones under 30 represent
55,9% of the population.
The Mexican population is more and more urban :
The 123 biggest cities of the country (with more than 50 000 inhabitants)
comprise 68% of the total population. The Federal District (administrative
entity of Mexico City) counts by itself
8.8 million inhabitants. The metropolitan zone as a whole (meaning
the 16 delegations of the Federal District and the 27 adjacent municipalities
belonging to the state of Mexico) count about 23 million inhabitants
meaning more than 20% of the total population of Mexico.
Mexico City is the second biggest
city in the world behind Tokyo-Okohama. It increases by 1,000 people
In the opposite, there are scarcely populated regions
like South Baja California, with barely 450,000 inhabitants for
a surface of 73 475 km2. So, if the average density of the population
is about 50 inhabitants/km2, it is close to 6,000 inhabitants/km2
in Mexico City and barely 6 habitants/km2
in South Baja California.
life : Men 73,8 Women 79,6 years old (estimation 2012)
Birth rate : 18,1387
/ 1000 (estimation 2012)
: 4,9 / 1000 - Infant mortality rate : 16,77 deaths / 1000 live
births (estimation 2012).
There has been a big drop in mortality, fecundity
and growth rate in the past 30 years.
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