Mexico, officially the United States of Mexico, is a huge country rich in cultural diversity where the past plays an important role in shaping the present day development. When discovered Mexico was home to 10 million people living in highly disciplined and organized societies. The native civilization became the foundation upon which the colonial empire was built. Mexico endured 300 years of colonial domination and has historically been exploited in one form or another by foreign powers ever since.
Ancient Mexico had one of the worlds most advanced civilizations which included complex systems of mathematics, time measurement, architecture, communication, farming and astrology. Due to its geographical location, shape and climate, Mexico has a wide variety of ecological characteristics that is unique worldwide. They have a wealth of different soil and plant species as well as being rich in mineral resources. Mexico has a rich history in music and art and their culture is a rich, complex blend of Native American, Spanish and American traditions.
The people of Mexico were developing art and cultures long before the Spanish thought of discovering the New World. Their cultures were far ahead of any European cultures at that time. Many different peoples with their own ethnic differences coexisted. They had a cultural identity, for instance, they cultivated corn, they had a singular structure of government, they used the 365 day calendar, they built pyramids, they used similar rituals and worshipped the same gods and goddesses of the sky, of nature, of fertility and of war.
The same concept of cosmic duality – the beginning and the end – appears in the religion and art of all early Mexican cultures. The strongest example of this shared belief is that they worshipped a feathered snake god, Quetzalcoatl. He was the god of ground and air. While there are many native cultures in Mexico, there are six that are considered to be the most influential. Each of these developed in a different time in the history of Mexico. They are the Olmecs, Teotihuacans, Toltecs, Mayans, Zapotec/Mixtec and the Aztecs. Mexicos first established culture was the Olmecs.
They were very advanced and were able to organize into groups and set up many cities and villages. Most of their people were skillful farmers. They were governed by rulers and priests and invented their own calendars, numbers and writing. They are very mysterious as little is know about where they came from or why they disappeared. The Teotihuacans built the largest ancient city, Teotihuacan (City of the Gods), ever found in the Americas. Their religious, political and economical influence covered a very widespread area. The Toltecs were mighty warriors and master craftsmen.
This culture is believed to have developed from the Teotihuacan culture. They built one of Mexicos most impressive cities and strongly influenced later Mayan and Aztec cultures. The Mayans controlled a huge empire. They created complex systems of mathematics and astrology and were skill traders. The Mayans were excellent artists, architects, farmers, mathematicians, and astronomers. Mayan mathematics included the discovery of the zero, the duration of the solar year, and a method of predicting solar eclipses. Their religious practices were complex and consisted of bloodletting from ears and tongues, human sacrifices, and dances.
Sorcerers and medicine men were both prophets and inflicters or healers of disease. They used magic formulas, chants, and prayers for healing methods. One of the most famous wonders the Mayans built was a pyramid at Chichen-Itza which served as a temple and an elaborate Mayan calendar. There were 365 steps marking off the days of the year. Twice a year, during the spring and fall equinox, the sun creates a picture of a giant snake going down the steps. Then suddenly their civilization vanished and their disappearance is a mystery to us.
Off all the indigenous cultures, the Mayans are considered to have been the most influential, every other early culture of Mexico is thought to have borrowed from them. The Zapotec and Mixtec cultures were master builders and artists who made great temples, burial chambers, pottery, and metal work. Eventually, the Mixtec culture conquered the Zapotecs. Remarkably, these two ancient cultures still survive today. The Aztec culture was very advanced in many ways. They were warlike people who had advanced warfare systems. They had advanced art, literature, writing and music.
They had a very complex structure in which there were lower, middle and upper class peoples. They had their own language and mathematical system. They used pictographs to communicate through writing. Their scholars were very intelligent as they created their own system of time, measurement and an accurate calendar. Their religion affected every part of their lives. They built huge temples, sculptures and practiced human sacrifice. The Aztecs might empire ended when the Spaniards came. While the Spanish may have changed forever the people of Mexico, some of the same Indian cultures that thrived long ago still can be found in Mexico today.
Mexican music, as well as art, has a rich and varied history. No other country has such a diversity of traditional musical styles. The mariachi is the most well-known music in Mexico. In the South of Mexico, the music centers around the marimba, which brings to mind the balmy weather of this region. Also, in Mexico the Corridos are very typical. These are ballads that recount stories and legends and are probably Mexicos most outstanding contribution to American folk music. Mexico has an incredible variety of traditional dances. There are dances to the gods as well as waltzes brought by the French and Spaniards.
Also, the two have blended together in a vibrant style so unique that it is now Mexicos own. The Jarabe Tapatio is considered the national dance. Most people know this dance as the Mexican Hat Dance. Of course, the best time to see and hear the dance and music of Mexico is at a fiesta. In the field of concert or art music, Mexican musicians led by Carlos Chavez have received positive recognition throughout the world. The National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico and the Ballet Folklorico also make outstanding contributions to Mexicos musical culture.
A rich tradition of painting and sculpture existed in Mexico before the Spaniards arrived. Artists of the colonial period produced works of art with great depth and purity. They combined earlier artistic styles with imported Spanish techniques to make great art. In the late colonial years artists showed only academic output in their art. Later artists produced powerful posters, lithographs and woodcuts of modern day scenes. Also, in later years the art of fresco painting and easel painting was revived. Mexican artist also produced a variety of beautiful products as weavers, potters, and silversmiths.
They are also known for their work in wood, glass and leather. In the area of performing arts, both theatrical and musical performances, especially opera, are popular in Mexican cities. The Mexican film industry produces more than 30 films each year. Also, the performing art of bullfighting is very popular and serves as a reminder of Mexicos Spanish past. Today, the population of Mexico numbers more than 90 million people. The Mexican population is made up of three main groups: the people of Spanish descent, the Indians, and the people of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry who are called Mestizos.
Of these groups, the Mestizos are by far the largest, making up about 60 % of the population, while the Indians make up about 30 %. The remainder of the population is divided among those of Spanish descent, Whites, and a small number of Black Africans. Other ethnic minorities include Mulattoes, who are of mixed Black and Spanish descent, and the Chinese. The population density is about 47 persons per square km. About 73% of Mexicans live in Urban areas, with a good majority of them in Mexico City. The official language is Spanish which is spoken by the majority of the population while 7% speak AmerIndian languages. 3 % of the population is Roman Catholic, and other religious minorities include Protestants and Jews. Since 1920, the population of Mexico has had a very high rate of growth.
From 1940 to the present time the population has grown from 19. 6 million to over 90 million. The topography of Mexico is very different and the climate reflects this fact. In general, the climate of Mexico varies with the altitude. Winds and cool ocean currents also affect the climate. Mexico is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer so the southern half is in the Torrid Zone. In Mexico there are hot, temperate and cool regions depending on the elevation of each region.
The three regions are the tierra caliente, tierra fria and tierra templada. In the tierra caliente (hot land) region weather is extremely humid and the average rainfall in these low coastal plains is 10 inches. In the tierra fria (cold land) region the weather is the coldest in the countrys highest elevations and the average rainfall is 18 inches. In the tierra templada (temperate land) region there is warm or temperate weather in this area of middle elevation. Also, the climate in the tierra templada is described as eternal spring as it rarely gets excessively hot or cold.
The rainy season in Mexico lasts from May to October, but most of Mexico lacks adequate rainfall. During summer and autumn both the east and west coasts can experience hurricanes. At any time of year you can find an area of Mexico with a perfect climate. Many parts of the central highlands and some coastal locations, have perfect weather all year round. Since World War II Mexico has had important economic development, which has benefited the upper and middle classes and had little effect on the lower classes which includes small farmers and laborers.
Income inequalities, inflation, and government control of labor all stressed the economy of Mexico. The railway system in Mexico was improved during World War II and an Inter-American Highway was opened. This resulted in more tourists visiting Mexico which led to an increase in the commercial value of the land. During the 1940s Mexico experienced an Economic Miracle after receiving a boost to the economy; the countrys foundation developed, and industrial manufacturing expanded, as well as agricultural production.
The country struggled against many problems like rapid population growth, large numbers of people moving to the urban areas from the countryside which meant less rural output, and a huge foreign debt. From 1952 to 1970 attempts were made to improve the conditions of the lower classes. The tax structure was reformed and large estates were confiscated and the land was redistributed, also, rural areas started to receive more educational opportunities. During this time Mexico made good use of its newly found oil reserves and through this the economy thrived and they started to have a growing economic influence.
Petroleum made up about three quarters of Mexicos exports at this time. In 1980 Mexico was plunged into a serious economic crisis due to the decline of the world oil market. Mexico had borrowed heavily against their oil reserves so when the prices of oil fell Mexico had a difficult time meeting their international debt obligations. Population increases and inflation led to food shortages and unemployment, foreign investment also dropped sharply. The government announced that they could not pay their debts and because of this the value of the Peso dropped enormously and the nations banks were taken over by the government.
In 1982 the government introduced harsh economic policies, tried to renegotiate some of their debt and they loosened the regulations of foreign investment. An earthquake in Mexico City in 1985 severely damaged the city, killing thousands of people, this was another setback for the Mexican economy. Economic reform continued with privatizing many national industries, clamping down on corrupt public offices and working on a trade agreement with the United States. In 1987 oil prices started to recover which made the economy look brighter. By 1990 Mexicos economic growth rate returned to earlier levels.
Mexicos petroleum reserves are one of its most valuable assets and this industry is operated by the government. Farming is slowly becoming more modern and Mexico produces a large variety of agricultural products including basic grains, sugarcane, citrus fruits, cotton, coffee, and tomatoes. Livestock raising and fishing are important sources of economic activity. Mexico is one of the worlds leading producers of many minerals, such as silver, fluorite, zinc, and mercury. Manufacturing includes iron and steel, motor vehicles, cement, refined petroleum and petrochemicals, processed food, electronic products, textiles and clothing.
Mexico is also known for its handicrafts, especially pottery, woven goods, and silverwork. Many foreign investors put their money into factories in Mexico to produce finished goods because they take advantage of the large, low cost labor force. Tourism is now Mexicos second greatest economic asset. Mexicos main trade partners are the United States, the European community and Japan. In 1994 Mexico joined Canada and the U. S in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has helped the Mexican economy grow. Mexico was the first Latin American member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
By 1996, some of Mexicos debt had been paid back and the economy was starting to recover. Inflation unemployment and interest rates are well below previous levels and the Peso exchange rate has stabilized. Another advantage to the Mexican economy is the fact that Mexico is one of the worlds most strategically positioned countries. It shares its northern border with the U. S and the southeast with Guatemala and Belize. On one coastline, Mexico faces the fast-growing markets of the Pacific Rim and on the other, Europe.
The countrys topography offers the international investor a wide range of locations. The recent economic stability in Mexico has shown it as an up and coming world economic power. Mexico reflects a shift from a primary-production economy, based on mining and agriculture, to a semi-industrialized nation. Today, the political system in Mexico is Federal Democratic. Mexico is a representative, democratic and federal republic governed by three branches of power: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. There are three levels of representative government: federal, state, and municipal.
The native cultures of Mexico each built a civilization, waged war, traveled and explored, leaving behind a fascinating historical legacy. The ruins of pyramids, palaces and temples witness to the highly developed cultures of ancient Mexico. A nation has developed where a variety of cultural traditions are still alive. Significant material progress marks Mexican development. Since World War II the countrys foundation has developed, industrial manufacturing sectors continue to expand, as well as the agricultural production. However, several problems have shaped the countrys last twenty years.
These include rapid population growth, massive internal migration from the country to the cities, a decline in rural output, a huge foreign debt, and high inflation. Mexico has been overshadowed by its neighbor to the north, the U. S. This has resulted in cultural borrowing, for example, American music, films, fashion, etc, are seen often now in Mexico. However, the people of Mexico still have a loyal nationalism and desire to protect the motherland from foreign economic and cultural domination. Recent economic stability has the people of Mexico attempting to become a world economic power in the future.