What You Need to Know About Mexico

Learn the geography of this North American country

Mexican flag stuck into the map of Mexico
The flag of Mexico.

Jeffrey Coolidge / Photodisc / Getty Images

Mexico, officially called the United Mexican States, is a country located in North America south of the United States and north of Belize and Guatemala. It has coastline along the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, and it is considered the 13th largest country in the world based on area.

Mexico is also the 11th most populous country in the world. It is a regional power for Latin America with an economy that is strongly tied to that of the United States.

Fast Facts: Mexico

  • Official Name: United Mexican States
  • Capital: Mexico City (Ciudad de Mexico)
  • Population: 125,959,205 (2018)
  • Official Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Mexican pesos (MXN)
  • Form of Government: Federal presidential republic
  • Climate: Varies from tropical to desert
  • Total Area: 758,449 square miles (1,964,375 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Volcan Pico de Orizaba at 18,491 feet (5,636 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Laguna Salada at -33 feet (-10 meters)

History of Mexico

The earliest settlements in Mexico were those of the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec. These groups developed highly complex cultures prior to any European influence. From 1519–1521, Hernan Cortes took over Mexico and founded a colony belonging to Spain that lasted for almost 300 years.

On September 16, 1810, Mexico proclaimed its independence from Spain after Miguel Hidalgo formed the country's declaration of independence, "Viva Mexico!" However, independence did not come until 1821 after years of war. In that year, Spain and Mexico signed a treaty ending the war for independence.

The treaty also laid out plans for a constitutional monarchy. The monarchy failed, and, in 1824, the independent republic of Mexico was established.

During the later part of the 19th century, Mexico underwent several presidential elections and fell into a period of social and economic problems. These problems led to a revolution that lasted from 1910–1920.

In 1917, Mexico established a new constitution, and in 1929 the Institutional Revolutionary Party rose and controlled politics in the country until 2000. Since 1920 though, Mexico has undergone a variety of reforms in the agriculture, political, and social sectors that allowed it to grow into what it is today.

Following World War II, Mexico's government focused primarily on economic growth, and, in the 1970s, the country became a large producer of petroleum. In the 1980s though, falling oil prices caused Mexico's economy to decline, and, as a result, it entered into several agreements with the U.S.

In 1994, Mexico joined the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the U.S. and Canada, and, in 1996, it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Government of Mexico

Today, Mexico is considered a federal republic, with a chief of state and a head of government making up its executive branch of government. It should be noted, however, that both of these positions are filled by the president.

Mexico's legislative branch is comprised of a bicameral National Congress which consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court of Justice.

Mexico is divided into 31 states and one federal district (Mexico City) for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Mexico

Mexico currently has a free market economy that has mixed modern industry and agriculture. Its economy is still growing, and there is a large inequality in the distribution of income.

Mexico's largest trading partners are the U.S. and Canada due to NAFTA. The largest industrial products that are exported from Mexico include food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron and steel, petroleum, mining, textiles, clothing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, and tourism. The main agricultural products of Mexico are corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes, beef, poultry, dairy, and wood products.

Geography and Climate of Mexico

Mexico has a highly varied topography that consists of rugged mountains with high elevations, deserts, high plateaus, and low coastal plains. For example, its highest point is at 18,700 feet (5,700 m) while its lowest is -33 feet (-10 m).

Mexico's climate is also variable, but it is mainly tropical or desert. Its capital, Mexico City, has its highest average temperature in April at 80 degrees (26˚C) and its lowest in January at 42.4 degrees (5.8˚C).

More Facts About Mexico

  • The main ethnic groups in Mexico are Indigenous-Spanish (Mestizo) 60%, Indigenous 30%, and Caucasian 9%.
  • The official language in Mexico is Spanish.
  • Mexico's literacy rate is 91.4%.
  • The largest city in Mexico is Mexico City, followed by Ecatepec, Guadalajara, Puebla, Nezahualcóyotl, and Monterrey. (It's important to note, however, that Ecatepec and Nezahualcóyotl are also suburbs of Mexico City.)

Which U.S. States Border Mexico?

Mexico shares its northern border with the United States, with the Texas-Mexico border formed by the Rio Grande. In total, Mexico borders four states in the southwestern U.S.: Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.


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Briney, Amanda. "What You Need to Know About Mexico." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/geography-of-mexico-1435215. Briney, Amanda. (2021, February 16). What You Need to Know About Mexico. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/geography-of-mexico-1435215 Briney, Amanda. "What You Need to Know About Mexico." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/geography-of-mexico-1435215 (accessed May 29, 2023).