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Mexico's population has greatly increased since World War II, but the distribution of wealth remains imbalanced. Due to negligible legislative assistance, the poor are generally unable to improve their socio-economic status. The state of Chiapas exemplifies the problems caused by financial imbalance. In 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army rose up to challenge discrimination against Chiapas’ poor.
Although their rebellion was unsuccessful, the Zapatistas continue to fight against imbalanced land ownership and power distribution, with little success. Further complicating the already problematic social division is the ever-growing problem of drug trafficking, which has contributed to political and police corruption and helped widen the gap between the elite and the underprivileged.
In recent years, the building of foreign-owned factories and plants (maquiladoras) in some of Mexico’s rural areas has helped draw the population away from Mexico City and redistribute some of the country’s wealth. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994 increased Mexico's financial ties to the United States and Canada, but the Mexican economy remains fragile. Despite its problems, the Mexican economy, with its growing industrial base, abundant natural resources and variety of service industries, remains important to Latin America.
Despite the political and social changes that have occurred over the centuries, evidence of past cultures and events are apparent everywhere in Mexico. Many of Mexico’s rural areas are still inhabited by indigenous people whose lifestyles are quite similar to those of their ancestors. In addition, many pre-Columbian ruins still exist throughout Mexico, including the ancient city of Teotihuacán and the Mayan pyramids at Chichén Itzá and Tulum. Reminders of the colonial past are evident in the architecture of towns like Taxco and Querétaro.
Today, tourism is a major contributor to the Mexican economy. People flock to Mexico from all over the world to sample the country’s cultural diversity, bask in the lush tropical settings and take advantage of relatively low prices. U.S. tourists constitute the majority of visitors to the country. In the past, tourists traveled mainly to Mexico City and the surrounding colonial towns of the Mesa Central; unfortunately, the capital city’s reputation has suffered due to social and environmental problems, notably high levels of air pollution and crime. Tourists still flock to the beaches of the world-famous resorts in Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Mazatlán, Cancún and Puerto Escondido.
Facts & Figures
- The three colors of Mexico’s flag hold deep significance for the country and its citizens: green represents hope and victory, white stands for the purity of Mexican ideals and red brings to mind the blood shed by the nation’s heroes.
- The flag’s dramatic emblem is based on the legend of how the Mexicas (or Aztecs) traveled from Aztlán to find the place where they could establish their empire. The god Huitzilopochtli advised them that a sign—an eagle devouring a serpent atop a Nopal cactus—would appear to them at the exact spot where they should begin construction. On a small island in the middle of a lake, the Mexicas came upon the scene exactly as Huitzilopochtli had described it. They immediately settled there and founded the city of Tenochtitlán, which is now Mexico City, the country’s capital.
- Mexico is the third-largest country in Latin America after Brazil and Argentina.
- At the beginning of the 21st century, Mexico's population surpassed 100 million.
- Mexico has the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world.
- With almost 25 million residents, Mexico City is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world.
- Mexico has the world’s second-highest number of Catholics after Brazil.
- At nearly 2,000 miles, the border between Mexico and the United States is the second-longest in the world, after the border between the United States and Canada.
- Mexicans comprise the largest group of legal immigrants in the United States.
- Mexico is located in an area known as the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” This region, one of Earth’s most dynamic tectonic areas, is characterized by active volcanoes and frequent seismic activity. The highest point in the country, Citlaltépetl (also called Orizaba) and the active volcano Popocatépetl are among the many volcanic peaks in Mexico. The Great Ball Court at Chichén Itzá Mexico, which was used for ritualistic sports by the ancient Mayans, is the largest such court the world, measuring 166 by 68 meters (545 by 232 feet). The game, which involved elements similar to those of soccer and basketball, was played by two teams whose number varied according to region.
- Tequila, a liquor for which Mexico is famous, is made from the native blue agave plant. Named after the city where it originated, Tequila is primarily manufactured near Jalisco, which is 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Guadalajara.
- Mexico is the world’s leading producer of silver. An area called the Silver Belt—which encompasses Guanajuato and Zacatecas in the Mesa Central, Chihuahua in the Mesa del Norte and San Luis Potosi farther east—saw significant mining activity during the colonial period.
- Mexico hosted the Summer Olympics in 1968 and the FIFA World Cup soccer championship in 1970 and 1986.
- The Mexico City Arena—one of the largest bullfighting arenas in the world—seats 50,000. Another 35 arenas are located throughout the country.
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In September 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week.
En septiembre de 1968, el Congreso le autorizÃ³ al presidente Lyndon B. Johnson que proclamara la Semana Nacional de la Herencia Hispana.