Officially known as los Estados Unidos Mexicanosnote , Mexico is a North American countrynote and home of Speedy Gonzales, Bumblebee Man, Salma Hayek and Guillermo del Toro. The country which Salvador Dalí finds more surreal than his paintings, Mexico can stir up more emotion in three syllables than can be wrought from a Wangst filled Romantic Plot Tumor. Whether it's love or hate depends entirely on the person.
- See Mexican Media for a list of Mexican artists, Mexican creators, and works originating in Mexico.
Works about Mexico and Mexicans:
- The Book of Life
- Born in East L.A.
- A Day Without a Mexican
- A Fistful of Dollars
- A Fistful of Dynamite
- Forza Horizon 5
- El Mariachi
- The Mask of Zorro
- The Mexican
- Narcos: Mexico
- Once Upon a Time in Mexico
- The Professionals
- ¡Three Amigos!
- The Three Caballeros: The third present Donald opens is about this country.
- Traffic (2000)
- The Wild Bunch
- Speedy Gonzales cartoons; both ones with Sylvester the cat and those with Daffy Duck
- Cartel Land
Commonly associated tropes:
- Banana Republic
- Gratuitous Mariachi Band
- Gratuitous Spanish
- The Illegal
- Lazy Mexican
- Magnificent Moustaches of Mexico
- Masked Luchador
- Mexican Standoff
- Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales
- Mexico Called; They Want Texas Back
- Our Alebrijes Are Different
- Run for the Border
- Soap Opera
- Sombrero Equals Mexican
- South of the Border
- Spaghetti Western
- The Free and Sovereign States of Mexico
- Mexican Food
- Mexican Media
- Mexican Politics
- The Mexican Revolution
- Mexican-American War
- Mexicans with Machine Guns
- Mexico City
- Native American and First Nations Media
- Pre-Columbian Civilizations (Mayas and Aztecs)
- School of Salamancanote
- Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire
- Spanish Conquest of the Maya
- Spanish Conquest of the Philippinesnote
Mexico's almost as racially diverse as Brazil, but in different ways. For one thing, there are proportionally far fewer Afro-Mexicans than Afro-Brazilians. About 1-2% of Mexicans claim significant African ancestry, as compared to 5-10% of Brazilians (at a minimum—Black-White pardos are probably a majority in Brazil). This is largely because most of Mexico was deemed to be poorly suited to plantation agriculture during the era of Spanish rule,note so while plenty of African slaves ended up in the Spanish Americas, they tended not to be brought to Mexico (they tended to go to Cuba, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela instead). That being said, Mexico does have the distinction of being the first country in Spanish-speaking America to have a head of state of provable recent sub-Saharan African descent in the form of the country's second president, Vicente Guerrero (after whom the state of Guerreronote is named).
On the other hand, Mexico has a much larger population of Indigenous/Amerindian people, and by and large the indigenous languages and cultures of Mexico are healthier and more secure than the ones in Brazil (there are exceptions in both directions, of course). As much as 40% of Mexicans are of essentially Indigenous stock, although only about half of those self-identify as Indigenous (the rest identify as Mestizo) and only half of those who self-identify actually speak an Indigenous language natively. That last group (native speakers of Indigenous languages) still comes out to nearly 12 million people (compared to about 817,000 Indigenous Brazilians).
Also, the mixed-race Mestizo majority in Mexico has a large component of Indigenous ancestry, which tends to get larger as you move south (i.e. Mestizos in northern Mexico tend to look a bit more White, while ones in southern Mexico tend to look more Indigenous). In certain regions (particularly Central Mexico), there's also a difference by elevation: Historically, Indigenous peoples tended to be more predominant in the country's mountainous rural areas, while Whites clustered in the cities and towns in the valleys, and there is thus an ancestry gradient as you go further uphill. By contrast, the proportion of Indigenous ancestry in mixed-race Brazilians is smaller and tends to be more consistent across the country.
Mexicans tend to range all over on the political spectrum, but seem to favor a strong government to take care of social policies. Due to the Philippines having been technically under New Spain, Mexicans also tend to have fairly close cultural ties with Filipinos. (The main practical effect of placing the Philippines under New Spain was that for over 200 years, trade between Europe and the Philippines was legally required to be funneled through Mexico, specifically the ports of Acapulco for the Pacific leg and Veracruz for the Atlantic leg. The long trading relationship created cultural ties.)
As per Hispanic custom, Mexicans have two family names or surnames: the first is the paternal one, and the second is the mother's. Because children only get the first family name of either parent only the father's name is passed on through successive generations. Also you can have more than one given name (think middle initial)... sometimes even three. And sometimes you even get single family names made of multiple family names. Example: former president Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León. Women don't lose their maiden name when marrying, but traditionally added the husband's family name to their own,; this has no legal value however.
Mexican humor is largely formulaic and simplistic. For example shows and stand-up comedians mostly resort to tried and true jokes Older Than Radio. Comedy may rely on pure slapstick ("El Chavo"). Humor featuring social/political commentary is largely limited to printed media and the internet (Television rarely touches this stuff). The most characteristic type of humor is the "albur" (pronounced "al-BOOR") which consists in heavily sexual wordplay and double entendre; many people in the country already have the double entendres memorized, especially censors. Since it's practically the only aspect of national humor with any hint of subtleness, the albur serves as the foremost justification that Mexicans have in believing themselves the most ingenious and good natured nation ever.
If they make fun of others, rest assured they have developed a level of self deprecating humor Woody Allen would admire (before knocking himself for it). Since making fun of people based on their race, their gender, or their handicaps isn't considered as politically incorrect as it is in the US or the UK it may seem that Mexican comedy can be crass. But it's precisely because of their greater disregard towards political correctness that limits in Hollywood's depiction of Mexicans are rather set by Chicanos than by actual Mexicans. Another phenomenon is Malinchismo: a very old and widespread tendency to show any unjustified preference, however slight, for foreign over national stuff (the name comes from thei historical character of La Malinche).
And then there's the odd element of Mexican culture based around "macho". This is a hard-to-define term, but call it Testosterone Poisoning on a national scale. Your average Mexican man would rather get his ass kicked than be considered feminine in any way, shape, or form. This is why there are so many films about castration, ranging from serious films to wacky comedies (the latter including the anti-classic La Garanon, "The Stud").
In The MediaGenerally there are only a few stock Mexicans:
- The hopeful illegal immigrant looking for the American dream,
- The greasy illegal immigrant looking to lower property values
- The downtrodden villager who can't defend himself,
- The Spicy Latina with a whole lotta attitude and a big butt
- The tattooed drug dealer, the logical progression of the desperado,
- And the gang banger/kidnapper.
Mexico itself is usually shown either as a dusty, dilapidated small town, an urban slum of a deathtrap, or a beautiful tropical resort hotel. Also, don't drink the water (more money is made if you drink the Tequila!). Due to its spiciness (see below) and perceived hygiene conditions, Mexican cuisine is often portrayed as inducing to extreme bowel movements. But it's one of the best in the world.
Tourism is an important source of revenue, regularly ranking among Mexico's top 5 moneymakers. Important touristic places include the clichéd to Mexicans but impressing to foreigners Channels of Xochimilco, sort of the Mexican version of Venice but with cheaper prices and more colorful boats. Oh and the Mayan pyramids such as Chichen Itzá, shorter than the Egyptian ones but featuring nigh unbelievable architectural progress.
Also, but don't expect any tour to take you there, you can find astoundingly poor mountain villages with Indigenous Mexicans, almost starving to death and forgotten to the world. The slum village you seem in the movies can be found almost exactly as pictured in several places of the country.
Mexico used to be a very usual film location for local and American Western movies. Other works filmed on location in Mexico include the original Predator and Spectre. They also filmed The Movie of DragonBall Z in Mexico City and Durango. Considering how insanely popular the anime was (and still is) in Mexico, hooray! Or Not!. However, the recent wave of scandalous crime and violence has affected Mexico's reputation as a viable location for Hollywood films.
On The Media
Due to the relative backwardness of Mexico, broadcast commercial television is still the dominant medium in the country. There are two major broadcast networks: Televisa and Azteca, both private and suspect of being colluded in a duopoly cartel that decides what is or isn't shown on open air TV in the country, which would also explain why so many politicians bow to these companies' whims. Leaving this aside, there are also a few public cultural channels like Once TV and Canal 22, providing documentaries and cultural programming for those who do not have cable tv (and the latter channel earning several international accolades).
Most of you should know the cheesy "Telenovelas", Lucha Libre and masked luchadores like El Santo or Blue Demon, and perhaps even El Chavo del ocho and that creepy Santa Claus movie MST3K riffed once. But there has been more stuff that, due to Creator Provincialism , might never see the light of day outside from Mexico, like lots and lots of old movies and sketch series made between the 40's and 70's. Like the rest of the world, cable and some commercial broadcast programming material consists heavily of imported American TV and films. Some films and TV series, however, have been very popular in other countries, most notably, El Chavo del Ocho and El Chapulín Colorado.
Most newspapers in Mexico have been unprofitable for decades even before the internet, and only a handful of papers (mostly those who enjoy national distribution or have a very large market) survive on their own. Mexico used to have a considerable comic book industry in The '40s and '50s but due to prolonged decay comics nowadays are almost an underground movement. Even the most successful are often unable to reach a true national distribution, be it on magazines or newspapers. There are, however, a few comics that in spite of being very old still keep their fandoms, old and new, and some have become embedded in the national culture, like Kalimán, La Familia Burrón and Memin Pinguin (the latter being responsible for a minor diplomatic incident due to African-American groups viewing it as racist, see above for Mexican attitudes towards political correctness).
Traditional and cellular telephone services are quite inefficient and charge some of the highest service rates in the world. This in part due to the fact that most traditional phone land lines are serviced by a company called Telmex, property of Carlos Slim, formerly the richest man on the planet (and still in the top three or four), whose company enjoys a monopoly grant from the government. This has been changing as cable companies are entering the traditional phone services at a lower rate than Telmex, and recent laws allow people to switch companies without having to change phone numbers. In 2015, Iusacell and Nextel decided to mere together to create AT&T Mexico, which will be a competitor to other cellular phone companies like Telcel and Movistar. On the flip side, however, Mexican ISPs are pretty much net-neutral and don't really care much about how you use your internet connection; you can torrent freely without getting a warning, they won't inject advertisements into your everyday browsing, you always get the same performance regardless of whether you're doing media streaming, large downloads or online gaming, and the only ISP that meters your bandwidth is Izzi and it's only one out of many different ISPs such as Telmex, Cablevisión, Axtel, Totalplay or Megacable.
The pop music industry is quite influential in the Spanish-speaking world but it's very hampered because Mexico is a haven of copyright piracy. Local music that plays harder than soft rock was actively ostracized by mainstream media for decades, specially after the fiasco caused by the "Rock y Ruedas sobre Avándaro", in which the government had to step in due to a sudden Moral Panic. Another factor that stifled the genre preferences was Siempre en Domingo, a musical variety show displayed on Sundays, which, with a few exceptions, was more a showcase of the presenter's favourite artists rather than a real musical variety show. The breaking point of rock music in Mexico was NAFTA in 1994, which brought a massive, sudden influx of foreign music into Mexico that actually caused moral panic during the 90s as millions of distraught parents found their sons listening to hard rock, metal and other kinds of music that were well around level 9 in the aforementioned music hardness scale. Then the internet brought all the music in MP3 format the early P2P networks had to offer, and by 2005 rock music was already widely accepted in Mexico. As of 2016, some radio stations have begun occasionally playing hard rock, nobody will bat an eye if they see your phone full of heavy-ish metal, many top name bands like Iron Maiden have begun to routinely perform in Mexico, and the popularity, convenience and low cost of media streaming has led many people to forego piracy (both online and physical) and turn to legal services like Spotify or iTunes.
The film industry used to be the sixth in the country in terms of exports and it's also a victim of the widespread piracy in Mexico. Mexican film making reached its Golden Age roughly from 1935 until 1960. In the 70's however the government introduced its own brand of Executive Meddling via financing schemes that ended up virtually ruining local film making for more than a decade. In spite of this, a few good films were made during this period, but they only got very limited commercial release. An alleged renaissance has been improving the quality, encouraging the rise of new talent like screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki, directors Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu and actors such as Diego Luna, Demián Bichir and Gael García Bernal. Despite all this recovery, the film industry still depends heavily on government subsidies and only releases between 50 and 100 films a year.
Video games had it better to some degree than other forms of media in Mexico, thanks in large part to NAFTA's enaction in 1994 taking place when the game industry was still not quite as mature as today. Like rock music, their arrival caused widespread moral panic as many parents saw their children ripping the spinal cord from their opponents in Mortal Kombat and happily causing massive chaos in the early Grand Theft Auto releases; obviously, because there is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, this moral panic just ended up backfiring and making video games even more popular. As the generation that got to play the first video games aged and started having children of their own, video games started gaining increasingly more acceptance in the country, and nowadays they're no longer "those weird games today's kids play" anymore but instead just another form of entertainment. Piracy played a very big role in the popularity of video games by making bootlegged consoles readily available, especially with the first PlayStation, whose games didn't lose much build quality by account of being easily reproducible CDs that, unlike Nintendo's game cartridges, didn't require any assembly — you just needed a modded console to unlock a whole new world of games that could cost as low as $30 pesos per disc (about 2.50 US dollars). On top of that, arcade machines got quite popular in the country, with one of the most famous games being The King of Fighters — the archetypal kid who snuck away from school or spent the tortillas' change on his local SNK arcade was actually one of the main reasons why this saga became so popular in Mexico, enough to motivate SNK to create an entire Mexican fighter team. Sega, however, never sold any of their consoles in Mexico, at least not until 1993 (And even then, Sega was unable to gain any success against Nintendo in the Mexican gaming market like they did in Brazil); as such, don't expect a Mexican to understand references to Sonic the Hedgehog (At least until with the success of the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie in Mexican theaters and it's sequel where Sonic would become mainstream in Mexico, not on the same massively huge level as the Super Mario Bros. IP, but more than enough to ensure the Hedgehog's stay in the country) or any other video game series from Sega. Like music, video game piracy has dropped noticeably since 2010 thanks to Gabe Newell's incredible bargains on PC games and the relative ease of acquiring cheap computer parts thanks to the NAFTA as well.
Cable access and satellite TV in Mexico, like rock music and video games, basically took off after 1994 thanks to the NAFTA, which allowed private TV operators to import foreign TV programming. Prior to that it was still technically possible to watch foreign TV, but for that you required a huge satellite dish, some very expensive decoding equipment, and on top of that you had to learn at least English in order to understand untranslated, uncaptioned foreign programs. Satellite TV later came around 1997-1998, when DirecTV started operations in Mexico, later followed by Televisa's own service SKY. While its impact on Mexican culture was initially limited since few people were initially capable of affording it, cable and satellite TV eventually managed to create some cultural impact in part by showing off how Mexican broadcasting media content regulations did not apply to paid TV and capitalizing on the moral panic caused by the new foreign shows that suddenly arrived in the country. Paid TV is how Mexico got to know and love shows like South Park, Pimp My Ride, Beakman's World (which aired initially on Warner Channel and later on Once TV while Bill Nye the Science Guy was never even aired), Jackass, Digimon Adventure, Malcolm in the Middle, the old Discovery Kids that was initially more focused on 9-12 year olds instead of toddlers, and the fondly remembered TV channel Locomotion / Animax which, despite being unpopular, never failed to surprise its viewers with its assortment that covered everything from South Park to Serial Experiments Lain.
Mexican Food, certainly not Tex-Mex
The cuisine is world-renowned for being colorful, intense, spicy, greasy, and fiery hot (on par with Korean, Thai, South Indian, and Southwestern Chinese cuisines). Mexicans absolutely love chili peppers: you can find at least 10 varieties at any supermarket, it's present in pretty much every single dish, you can even buy candy made with dried chili, and any Mexican who can't stand them is automatically called a pansy. Most of the traditional dishes are a mix of traditional prehispanic and medieval Spanish food, with wide regional and familial variation. For example, pozole is a common dish across Mexico, but the only constant is that it's a thick soup or thin stew made with hominy (nixtamalized corn), an indigenous ingredient, usually with a broth made from chicken, beef, or pork plus onions (all Spanish imports). Beyond that, it varies immensely: Usually (but not always) the meat to make the broth is included, but everything else is extremely varable. From family to family and state to state, you'll indigenous Mexican sweet corn, beans, tomatoes, and chili peppers might be thrown in, as might Spanish radish, lettuce, or cabbage, all flavored with an assortment of herbs and spices (including both the likes of the indigenous epazote and the Spanish imports cilantro and oregano).
Other traditional foods are enchiladas, sincronizadas, chilaquiles, chiles rellenos, tamales, and other foods that are local and to each state of the country. Even those might have wild variations; for instance, in most of the country an "enchilada" is a tortilla rolled around a filling and then baked in a chile sauce, but in San Luis Potosí an "enchilada potosina" is actually a taco made with a corn tortilla lightly fried/toasted in chorizo fat and filled with chorizo, potatoes, and refried beans and topped with white cheese and salsa.
There are some exceptions, though: if you roll around the streets, chances are you'll find some stalls in the sidewalks selling tacos al pastor, which can be best described as "Mexican döner kebab" but frequently made of spiced pork, brought by a wave of Lebanese immigrants. And of course, there's the fair share of weirdo dishes, such as huitlacoche (fungus that grows on corn), chapulines (fried grasshoppers) and escamoles (fried ant larvae). Note that most average Mexicans will also squeam at these.
And for the record: Taco Bell is not a Mexican company, though the recent opening of a few nearby has caused us great amusement. Their food is certainly absolutely not Mexican. And the taco bell Chihuahua? It was considered a culinary delicacy by the Aztecs. In general, Tex-Mex food is considered by many native Mexicans to be a blasphemous rip-off of Mexican food, hence shunned by most of the country's population. note
Useful Tip: Do NOT tell a Mexican guest that you are taking him to a "Mexican Restaurant" unless you are 100% sure it is not actually Tex-Mex. Take him anywhere else: Thai, Korean, even American Food (yes, there is such a thing... vaguely) is better on the off chance that the Mexican restaurant is actually Tex-Mex. (Then again, globalization probably means it's going to be staffed by Chinese cooks anyway.) If you do, the consequences will be dire... amused Take Thats, noting how the food is slightly (or hugely) off. Or feigned indignation, that is if any is registered. Honestly, take out a Mexican to dinner and you likely won't get any complaints: Free Food!
In case you can't tell, there also is a bit of an ongoing sore spot with the "Mexican-ness" of Mexican immigrants to the United States. While they're cut from the same cloth and are, in theory, "on the same side", Mexicans tend to dislike Latinos living in the U.S. for being "traitors" who: left their country (even if forced by necessity), are forsaking their heritage to become like the ever loathed "gringo" (just like Mexicans in Mexico), and in general "aren't mexican" (see Tex-Mex food). To be fair, polls usually show a lot of Mexicans willing to leave their country if they had the chance (in fact, Mexico has the highest emigration rate of any country in the world). Chicanos for their part, (particularly those born in the States) tend to view Mexicans as snobby, stuck up, and generally all too proud with very little to be proud of. Generally, considering that most Mexicans place a high importance on personal relationships in general, this is ignored in families and constitutes one of the reasons why remesas (money orders) are sent by immigrants to families back home and ties are maintained despite the distance — to the point that entire towns live exclusively off money sent from abroad, and money orders are Mexico's second largest income after oil imports. Chicanos or "Pochos" in all honesty deserve their own Useful Notes page, but for now their search for an "identity" that doesn't compromise heritage and nationality is an ongoing issue for them as with other immigrant groups.
An (not so) abridged history:
Before it was colonized, it was home of and originator to some of the Precursors for the Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations. Expect them all to be lumped together when the Adventurer Archaeologist investigates ruins in search of treasure. But Mexicans don't care about those silly brown people. Well, not unless they're hot and/or there's a curse involved.
It was conquered by Spain, those people in the funny metal Conquistador hats who looked for cities of gold (or means to get gold, they weren't picky), headed by Hernán Cortés, who struck alliances with several of the native nations with the help of his Indigenous adviser and concubine La Malinche. It's hard to judge the natives who allied with Cortés, though. They had lived under the iron fist of the Mexica, who frequently forced to pay tributes to them... in the form of men, women and children, who would most of the time be used as human sacrifice, but who also had the option of being eaten ritualistically. Moctezuma, the Emperor of the Mexica/Aztecs, tried to regale Cortés with gold, so he would leave, but only instigated greed. Eventually the Spaniards and their indigenous allies came to blows with the Aztecs, having no shortage of numbers and knowledge of the terrain (those two points obviously thanks to the natives), better technology, horses, and most importantly, plagues. (The plagues were actually unintentional, but handy at first, if inconvenient afterwards because they affected enemies and allies alike). Cortés and his men were able to win against the Aztec empire by manipulating the Aztec's unwilling subjects into an alliance. Fun and profit were had by all. And by all, we mean Cortés, his soldiers, and his main native allies, those of Tlaxcala and Texcoco. Everyone else was either forcibly converted (although considering the documented human sacrifice and cannibalism, conversion probably wasn't a bad thing for everyone involved) and enslaved in the Hacienda system (think Plantation) or killed. Even some of his native allies got sort of shafted, also being forcibly converted and becoming second class citizens below Spaniards.
Many things happened in the Colonial period, but for some reason the next 300 years are mostly ignored until "La Independencia!" Lots of shooting and fighting, wherein the royalists eventually gained the upper hand. Agustín de Iturbide, formerly a royalist, came up with a plan, independent from both insurgents and royalists, and successfully rallied all opposing parties behind him. It was during this time that Iturbide designed the first Mexican flag, based on Aztec mythology, which evolved and was later ratified by him into the basis of the flag we know today. After 11 years of bloody war, he, in 7 months, achieved Independence, in a practically bloodless campaign, ending in 1821.
The Plan of Iguala under which Iturbide had led his army called for Mexico to become an independent Catholic constitutional monarchy with a Spanish prince on the throne. This was a compromise position that achieved the goals of both the liberal revolutionaries (who wanted independence and a constitution) and the more conservative elements in the country (who were still devoted to God and the King). A Mexican Congress had thus written a constitution for Mexico establishing it as the Mexican Empire, with a strong executive Emperor who was nevertheless checked by a an elected legislature and an independent judiciary. (And, of course, with the Roman Catholic Church as the state religion.)note This constitution was sent back to Spain with the intent that Ferdinand VII, the King of Spain, would accept the office of Emperor of Mexico and hold Mexico in personal union with Spain in perpetuity—though they also left the door open for one of his brothers or cousins to take the job in case Ferdinand didn't want to take it himself. This, they thought, was a good enough Plan B.
But they did not count on Ferdinand VII being an idiotic absolutist ideologue with his head up his ass. When this Imperial Mexican constitution arrived in Spain, Ferdinand VII declined the offer of a Mexican crown because he (1) refused to recognize the independence of Mexico, and (2) he refused to be bound by any kind of constitution. Since Ferdinand was (again) an absolutist, his antipathy to a constitution wasn't exactly unexpected (though it was disappointing, given that the Emperor had been given extensive real powers in part to head off this concern). Meanwhile, his refusal to accept Mexican independence was seen as sheer head-in-the-sand lunacy—there was no way that Spain could regain control of Mexico after 1821 without help from either Britain or France, and neither power was interested (Britain because Mexican independence was good for British merchants, while keeping Mexico Spanish was bad for British merchants; meanwhile, France was studiously avoiding entanglements in other countries' business in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars). But whatever—the Mexicans still had Plan B: Put some other Spanish Bourbon (or heck, a Sicilian Bourbon or a French Bourbon) on their new throne.
But Ferdinand had thrown up a massive roadblock to this: He forbade all members of the Spanish House of Bourbon (which included not only his immediate family but also his cousins, the Kings of the Two Sicilies and their family) from accepting the Imperial throne of Mexico, on pain of losing their Spanish succession rightsnote and general ostracism from the Spanish royal family. OK, the Mexicans thought, so the Spanish and Sicilian/Neapolitan Bourbons are off-limits—well, we can shop it to the French Bourbons, or barring that the Habsburgs. They've got a legitimate claim to be "Spanish princes" and have plenty of spare princes. Admittedly, most of those are small children, but hey, there's this one junior French Bourbon, Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans. He's a grown-up, and he's a liberal constitutional monarchist who'd be happy just to have a throne, let alone one that actually gives him some executive power. Plus his absolutist mainline French Bourbon cousin just had this kid Henri, so it's not like he's ever going to become King of France. Surely we can approach this Louis Philippe guy with no repercussions...
Alas, Ferdinand made it painfully clear that if Louis Philippe or any of his other French Bourbon or more distant Habsburg cousins were offered the Mexican crown and accepted, he would find some way to make life hell for them.note As a result, the Mexicans found no takers for their offer of a crown even after shopping it around the courts of Europe. Their Plan B was dead, and there was no Plan C.
Finding itself an empire without an Emperor, Mexico floundered a bit. After some heming and hawing (and a minor insurrection), the Congress ultimately decided to elect Iturbide himself the Emperor. However, he clashed with the Congress, who believed it had full sovereignty of the nation. Iturbide chose to abdicate after seeing another war was brewing. After, he exiled himself, but was executed when he decided to return after discovering a plan by several Catholic nations to rein Mexico back into Spanish power. Then Guadalupe Victoria became the first presidente. His Meaningful Name and very Gender-Blender Name is not an accident, as he picked it himself. Vicente Guerrero, former hero of Independence, followed... by rebelling after losing the election and forcibly being sworn in as President. This was mostly the doing of the York Freemasonry, of which he was leader. This act would be the first, but definitely not the last, in México's long, long tradition of presidents coming into power by way of force and bloodshed.
At some moment in 1838, France—whose monarch by this time was none other than the aforementioned Louis Philippe—invades Mexico as payback because a baker's shop was destroyed in the fighting... among another things. Want to know the name of the war? "The Pastry War".
After this, comes the Texan conflict at which point Mexicans become Red Shirts to attack The Alamo. By the way, don't bring this up in the company of polite Mexicans unless you want to hear an earful about how the US supported Texas' independence only to annex it and use it as a casus belli once Mexico attacked. Bring it up in the company of impolite Mexicans and, well... let's just say they can hold a grudge for centuries (just ask Spain). Worth noting is how Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón (try to say that without stopping to breath), mostly known as Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna or just Santa Anna, went from Independence hero to eleven times president/dictator to national traitor, first class, due to the loss of the war and secession of almost half of their land to the victorious United States. It's because of his merry-go-round presidencies that Mexicans, to this day, distrust re-election on principle note . Funnily enough, though Mexican's distrust their government as a rule, they always believe the history that said government wrote for them, and thus, hate Santa Anna with a passion, even though he is in fact not responsible, either for the loss of Texas or for the loss of half of México's territory (which came 10 years later, so don't mix the two conflicts, please). Santa Anna got cocky in Texas and was surprised as his 700-man force was resting. Decimated, Santa Anna was soon captured, and forced to sign a document wherein he ordered Mexican forces to withdraw. See, Santa Anna had split his army in 3, and the other two groups combined were over 2000 strong, better trained, equipped and much more than a match for Houston's forces. General Urrea, third in command (who became second in command after Santa Anna's capture) wanted to attack the Texans, but Vicente Filisola, promoted to first in command, failed to use his advantage and eventually chose to obey Santa Anna even if he, as a captured man, no longer had any political power. In fact, though Mexico withdrew, the opinion in México for the next 10 years was that Texas was still its territory, and that eventually they'll send forces to bring it back in... it didn't quite happen like that. Santa Anna went on to tour the U.S, meet the president, and surprisingly, being hailed as a hero by minorities such as blacks because of México's novel approach to slavery, namely, abolishing it. Oh, and he also was partly responsible for the creation of chewing gum.
Then came the Mexican-American war, which, in México, is characterized as an unjust conflict of a more powerful nation bullying a far weaker and less established one. Following a shady event at the border, and the U.S annexation of Texas (which México still regarded as its territory), war was declared. The problem, however, was that Mexico was politically fractured. On one side were the Conservadores, who believed that México's culture laid with its Hispanic roots (like its language, religion, some customs) and that many mechanisms that worked well in Colonial Mexico should be maintained. Some wanted a return to monarchy, since a frankly still largely uneducated nation like México couldn't really trust its population to elect the most convenient ruler. They also were a bit justified in thinking that a republic led to instability every election, civil war and bloodshed (because up to that point, and still in the near future, it had, and it would.) On the other side were the Liberales, mostly Freemasons, who disliked the Catholic Church, and believed México should eschew its Hispanic roots and try to emulate its northern neighbor to a T in everything it could. What is important is recognizing that, although the faulty education system didn't educate us with this belief, there usually never are good guys vs. bad guys situations, and neither of these groups could fit squarely into either category. There were also moderate liberals, who advocated a more reserved liberal agenda, recognizing how ingrained Catholicism and Hispanic culture was in México.
In the midst of this, Santa Anna, who was exiled, came in touch with the U.S. invaders. He promised them that, if they let him through their blockade, he would use his fame and reputation to make México give up without a fight, and resign half of his territory over to the U.S. Santa Anna went back on his word, and, upon reaching the capital, quickly became president again, organized the Mexican forces and rose armies to defend. However, the inner political turmoil, and conservatives vs liberals openly fighting as the war was waging on, made the situation unsustainable. The brave Mexican defenders were not getting any resources and rapidly began fighting an uphill, doomed battle. One famed regiment of U.S. forces, made up of 200 Irishmen and other assorted nationalities, defected from the U.S. and fought for México, as "El Batallón de San Patricio". They are remembered as heroes even today in México. Despite the brave efforts of its inhabitants, México lost. Santa Anna escaped south, planning on continuing resisting, but was intercepted by the U.S. and exiled. It was an interim president, José Manuel de la Peña y Peña, that signed the infamous Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which saw the U.S. annexing over half of the Mexican territory. Santa Anna is thus, though an unashamed egomaniac, innocent of this loss of territory, not that most modern Mexicans know that. For them, him being unable to win the war is enough to condemn the man.
The waters did not calm down after that. Liberals won, politically. Their reform laws saw the church and the military losing their privilege (this, however, conveniently did not apply to the political class). Many church-owned and operated establishments, such as schools and orphanages were extricated from them. The church losing its political power was a worldwide trend, however, in México, it was wildly antidemocratic, as most of the population was, and still is, feverishly Catholic. Then president Ignacio Comonfort was not as comfortable as his name suggests. He got a mixed cabinet of both liberals and conservatives and then self-coup d' état'ed. As it turns out, both groups engaged in mature and constructive debate for the betterment of the country via nasty war. This was called the Reform War. Benito Juárez gained the presidency after Comonfort was forced to step down (he wasn't elected, but he became acting president in such a crisis, as President of the Supreme Justice Court). He then fled the capital, declaring he had Emergency Powers and that the government would be wherever he was. In the capital though, two other presidents arose. The interim president and the newly-elected Conservador president, Miguel Miramón. Miramón fought as a child during the defense of the Chapultepec Castle in the Mexican-American war, and was truly a military ace. Under his command, los conservadores started gaining the upper hand, until Juárez was forced to fortify his position in Veracruz. Meanwhile, the U.S. government couldn't decide on whose presidency it would recognize. It dictated terms, wherein México would give the U.S. perpetual rights to use the narrower part of México as a canal for commerce (what would end up happening with the Canal of Panamá). The conservadores couldn't compromise, but Juárez and the liberals did. After Juárez' representatives signed the McLane-Ocampo treaty, which is fairly unknown but constitutes a violation by the president of national sovereignty, the U.S. agreed to back Juárez's government, and it essentially won the war for the liberals. This, in turn, convinced the defeated conservadores to fight fire with fire. If the liberals had U.S. backing, then they would secure European support for their side.
Because of the already mentioned conflict the Mexican economy was in the red, so the Juarist government decided to suspend the foreign debt. This wasn't of the liking of Spain (to whom Mexico owed the most), the British Empire (to whom Mexico owed a little less), and France (to whom Mexico owed the least), so they decided to send ships and soldiers to demand their money. When they arrived in the port of Veracruz, President Benito Juárez arranged a treaty promising that payment would be made... but not at the moment. Britain and Spain decided it was okay after having their ambassadors taken to a particularly underdeveloped area and realizing that they were shitting them not with "no freakin' dinero" and retired, but France moved inside the country as they planned to invade anyway... again.
Napoleon the Third decided that it needed a French protectorate to stop the growth of influence of the United States, and believed that Mexico was the perfect place for his plans. He also spoke of preserving the Latin race, which the French considered themselves as, in face of the Anglo-Saxons. Many of the Conservadores actually went to France to arrange this, as previously stated. The crown was offered to Maximilian, younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria note which made him brother in law of famous Sissy. One memorable event in between is when the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, led by Ignacio Zaragoza, beat their awesome croissants in "El Cinco de Mayo", and now Mexico got another holiday out of it (they kind of kicked their tacos around for a few years after that, but shh). This holiday is notable for being probably the sole honest-to-God pride of your country events in the whole history of Mexico, losing the war or not it was simply unbelievable for the French or the Mexicans themselves that this paradise of coups d'etat defeated motherfucking France in a serious battle, sort of that short nerd in your classroom beating to a pulp the tall jock with all the chicks... only to have the whole football team handing his ass later, yeah, but still; "The weapons of Mexico have been covered in glory" indeed.
The second Mexican empire lasted just three years. The Imperial forces succeeded in controlling much of Mexico, and Maximilian was an extremely enlightened monarch who supported workers' rights and even sought to build alliances with native tribes, but his progressive reforms alienated the conservatives who brought him to power and his increasingly heavy-handed governance of Mexico, which included summary executions that surpassed those of the preceding juntas, alienated what little support he had among the Mexican population. The only reason his reign lasted as long as it did was because the U.S. was too busy with its Civil War. Once that whole nasty business was settled (more or less), the U.S. resumed their backing of the liberals and Juárez, whilst the French, facing the impending doom of the Franco-Prussian war, withdrew their support of Maximilian in turn, who decided to remain and fight, until he was defeated, summarily executed along with Miguel Miramón and General Mejía, and Conservadores everywhere shot.
The Liberales may have won the Civil War, but many political fights happened inside the victorious party as everybody wanted to be president. President Juárez, still clinging to his Emergency powers went for reelection, again. Causing war hero Porfirio Díaz to rebel... and fail at it. Better luck next time! But, as good national heroes always do, Juárez died just in time (in 1872, merely one year after his reelection) to avoid going the way of Santa Ana into Infamy. In fact, Juárez won only his last election (during which he was president with emergency powers) and for 15 years, that is, until his death, he never let go of the presidency (but good luck trying to bust the myth on Juárez). Mexican "heroes" tend to end that way. (Harvey Dent was right about that). He was succeeded by the next in line for the job, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada (Sebastián, not Miguel, as both brothers were very important in the Liberal party), then after his time was up he also tried to postulate himself for reelection. Porfirio Díaz rebelled again... and won, won so hard that he got to rule Mexico for the next 30 years. He first ruled for 4 years or so, then put his compadre (godsib) Manuel González on the presidency, but his presidency sucked ass and Díaz decided to reelect himself (after all, where did it say people could get reelected in different president terms?). The hypocrisy of rebelling against a president for trying to rewrite the constitution to get reelected, then doing so for thirty years himself, was probably not lost on him, as he actually exalted the character and justified the actions of Juárez, to justify his own by proxy.
Depending who you ask things were "relatively" dull under Porfirio Díaz's mostly enlightened "Presidency" until 1910 and "La Revolución!" (For some reason, Americans really dig this part of Mexican history. As a Mexican school kid, all this troper can say is any civil war with more than three factions is a headache to keep track of (not complaining about the holiday, though). This is where you'll see "Bandidos" and outlaws, charismatic rebels like Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata leading the peasants against the centre, small Mexican towns in need of rescue by Mighty Whitey, and quite a few westerns... (southerns?). Due to moral ambiguity being more common in portrayals of the Mexican Revolution, the Spaghetti Western likes to set its stories in the context of the Mexican Revolution (and thus also half a century later than many "classical" Westerns set around the 1860s)
La Revolución as a whole, though, is largely misunderstood. Yes, it was sparked by overall good guy Francisco I. Madero's political ideals (and his wanting to be president, too) contrasting with the Porfirian regime. But Díaz resigned and vacated office mere months after the revolution started. The real conflict came around when Madero, now president, was betrayed by a very obvious traitor called Victoriano Huerta, who was, in fact, aided by the U.S. ambassador in México Henry Lane Wilson—who, confusingly, was completely opposed to Woodrow Wilson, the incoming U.S. President at the time (1912-13) and a known supporter of Madero's reforming efforts.note Madero was killed, and became a martyr behind which Villa and Carranza rallied. They defeated Huerta, and all the heroes of the revolution immediately started establishing a peaceful and benevolent... wait, they actually killed each other, until only Álvaro Obregón remained. Like most Revolutions even "conventional" narratives have heros turn villains, betrayals and surprising twists, underdogs winning battles, underdogs losing battles, the constant threat of US intervention (and it sometimes actually meddling in some form) and ultimately a "betrayal" of the Revolution itself by those who were supposed to espouse it. If you want a more in-depth account accessible to English speakers, Mike Duncan covered the Mexican Revolution in his Revolutions Podcast. Weirdly there is a "Monument to the Revolution" in Mexico City which somehow manages to honor people at the same time who killed each other and would have viewed the other as either a dangerous radical, a stooge for the US or a traitor to the cause - or all three at the same time - all the while actually being a repurposed remnant of a plan initiated by Díaz to build a fancy new complex to house the Mexican Congress. (The monument was originally supposed to be the dome and rotunda of the new Mexican Capitol building.)
Once La Revolución ends, Mexico had some nice, long 70 years of
dictatorship democracy bordering on Banana Republic under the PRI, founded by the people who won the Revolution. Thing is, while it was a single-party system, the presidents only served for six years apiece (originally 4 years, but Lázaro Cárdenas expanded the term), giving the illusion of change. Some were visionaries, a few went insane. The last one that tried to get reelected (some people never learn), Álvaro Obregón, Carranza's BFF (who got his arm blown off by Villa himself) was murdered by a Catholic fanatic... so the next one who succeeded him, Plutarco Elías Calles A.K.A. "El Jefe (Máximo de la Revolución)" just decided that ruling from the shadows was way safer and more profitable, until Cárdenas exiled him. Cárdenas went on to become Mexico's most popular president by instituting the largest agrarian reform to date. He also nationalized a lot of the nation's immense natural resources, including the oil wealth thus creating Pemex, the national petroleum company.
During World War II, Germany sank two Mexican oil tankers, so in response war was declared (and it has been the only time Mexico fought on foreign soil). They sent the (American-trained and commanded) Escuadrón 201 to do combat, reconnaissance and supply interception against Japanese forces in the Philippines, as well as about 300 electricians, mechanics, and radio operators.
Much bloodshed happens. Two massacres, the Tlatelolco massacre and the Jueves de Corpus massacre were indications that the regime was slowly starting to go to oblivion. 10 days after the Tlatelolco massacre, Mexico had the Olympic games! It basically got to be an opportunity to whitewash the massacre, especially after Smith and Carlos raised their fists. Two years later, Mexico had her first World Cup tournament, and the president got a huge jeer from angry spectators because of his poor administration (not to mention killing more than 200 students). After these things, you'd think Mexico would have at least some decent government right? Enter José López Portillo, A.K.A. the guy who caused 3 devaluations. His best friend Arturo "El Negro" Durazo got to be police chief and he'd end up in jail after discovering the extreme corruption his employees got on and the incredible wealth he received (he even built himself a palace on Ixtapa known as "El Partenón"!). After this, president Miguel de la Madrid got to be the boss. On September 19, 1985, Mexico suffered the most devastating earthquake in its history. And what did the president do? Hide in his house of course! Mexicans basically had to scrub the rubble by themselves and it gained De la Madrid some very loud jeering during the 1986 World Cup opening ceremony, just like the last time.
Even though Mexico during the 70's and 80's in particular did accept quite a lot of people fleeing dictatorships from countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and Argentina, the PRI's constant recourse to electoral fraud and outright violence (especially the "Dirty War" against leftist dissidents) showed that, in many ways, Mexico was not that different to the more overtly dictatorial and dysfunctional states elsewhere in the Americas.
This "dictatorship that looks like a democracy" thing starts really fading away in 1994, when Ernesto Zedillo finally eases back on the President's grip over the country (not mentioning his predecessor, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, being one of the most hated presidents in Mexican history due to the financial crisis that ensued because of his actions and winning a very controversial election), and finally ends in 2000, when Vicente Fox wins and the ruling party is replaced.
Due a combination of the government ignoring them, poverty, and America's lax weapon laws, and the high profit of selling drugs, the Gangs and Cholos became organized, resourceful, and very violent, despite the fact that they were (and still are) in plain sight, recruiting young people because they're led to believe that, Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!, even gaining control of certain Cities and lots of small towns. Daily shootings are reported on places like Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, and most people there can claim to know someone on the Drug's Business, but no one does anything, since it is, for the most part, useless. To make things worse, denouncing narcos to anyone but the army is a guarantee for a horrible fate for you and your family if you are (and you will be) discovered, or more simply, because being in "El Negocio" (The Business) is not seen as a bad thing. Hell, you can hear songs (narcocorridos, "drug trafficker runs") describing a Cruel and Unusual Death and the life of a gangster on parties, taxis, karaokes and bars. The drug subculture became ingrained in lots of states, and many teenagers aspire to enter in the business world or escape from Mexico (legally or otherwise).
It must be noted, however, that though consumption has been increasing there still aren't a lot of consumers in Mexico; the main profit still comes from the American consumers, though now traffickers are starting to fight over who owns the local market. The drug cartels use violence within Mexico against each other for control of the land routes, and against the Mexican government because it is against them. In turn, the Mexican government fights against them because they're undermining national security, society, sovereignty... and because America puts pressure on them.
Nowadays, Mexico is mostly democratic, and slightly less pessimistic about being doomed to live in a Crapsack Gangsterland. It's kind of a work in progress, really. Check out Mexican Politics for more.
Cities and other places of interest
Mexico is a rather big country (you could fit a good chunk of Europe in there, actually) so it has a lot of cities of all sizes and colors, each very different from the last.
The country's capital, and the first Mexican city most foreigners can name (if it's not Cancún, or maybe Acapulco). A downright massive city, with a population of 16 million people in the city proper alone (and 25 million if you count the metropolitan area). It was founded upon the ruins of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire, built on a small lake island they expanded artificially. The city then continued to grow over the lake, which is now gone. Sadly, earthquakes are pretty common in the region, and since the ground is essentially a former lakebed, it shifts violently and makes buildings on it collapse especially easily.
Despite this, the city is ever bustling. It is probably the most diverse and cosmopolitan place in the country, and it contains both the best and the worst the country has to offer: from the fanciest neighborhoods and most prestigious cultural and scientific institutions, to the most wretched and dangerous slums.
Mexico City natives (the most common term for them being Chilangos) are often seen as very different from other Mexicans. They like to describe other places in Mexico as backwards, rural parishes where the most interesting thing you can do is herd cattle, while everyone else say they are snobby yet trashy freaks that are rude to everyone and eat their quesadillas without any cheese in them. (Yes, really. In Mexico City, quesadillas, literary named after the word queso, Spanish for cheese, are not necessarily made with cheese, much to the confusion of other Mexicans.) But indeed, they are Mexico's main hub for entertainment, economy, and pop culture, so they do influence the rest of the country a lot.
Although there's a lot of diversity of opinions and morals (as you'd expect from such a big city), Mexico City in general leans more towards the political left than most other Mexican entities (it is one of the very few places in Mexico where abortion and same-sex marriage are 100% legal. Supposedly, those are legal across the country, but outside Mexico City they require a long and expensive appeal process).
Despite its flaws, it's still a worthwhile tourist destination, since it houses a whole bunch of theaters, museums, a park larger than Central Park (that has a zoo and a goddamn castle), and many, many beautiful and unique neighborhoods. Just be sure to ask for cheese on your quesadilla (seriously, it's in the freaking name...).
Not to be confused with the city in California (that one is spelled with a single 'r'). Located in the Northern state of Nuevo León, they are famous for their bustling industry, their merciless desert heat, and for being the Northern Mexican city ("Norteños", as they are called in Spanish, are Mexico's CrossFitters: They won't miss a chance to remind you they're from el Norte). Regiomontanos (the term for people from Monterrey) can be best described as Mexican Texans: Loud, conservative dudes that wear cowboy hats and boots, and love barbecues (indeed, if a Norteño invites you to a carne asada, their version of a barbecue, you better go: their cattle yields amazing beef and everyone treats grilling as Serious Business).
Monterrey hosts the country's largest building, as well as the HQs of several nation-wide companies, like Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma (one of Mexico's largest breweries). It also earned some infamy as a hotbed of drug violence, but that has not stopped it from becoming an economic powerhouse for Mexico. Despite the pummeling desert heat, Monterrey is a hotbed for some of the largest Rock and EDM concerts in the country.
Regiomontano culture is very recognizable across the country. Being in the north, they use a lot of English loanwords (they call trucks, usually called "camiones" or "camionetas" elsewhere, "trocas"), they love agricultural references (the city stands at the foot of a mountain that looks like a saddle, and they embrace it fully), and they drink a lot of light beer (to combat the extreme heat, since the lower alcohol content lets them drink more of them to stay cool without getting too drunk).
The capital of the state of Jalisco. Jalisco itself is notable for being the birthplace of two famously Mexican things: Tequila and Mariachis. Guadalajara was formerly seen as a counterpart of sorts to Mexico City: Less crowded, more quiet, much more conservative. Of course, this is less and less the case with every passing year. Although more conservative ideals are still sort of common, Guadalajara is growing fast and it is starting to shun its more traditional way of thinking. It is often seen as the up and coming capital of the tech and digital arts industry in Mexico, much like Silicon Valley in the U.S. (although some recent problems with planning and infrastructure may dampen the progress). It's also the home of Salsa Valentina, by some measures the most popular hot sauce in Mexico (the blob on the iconic bottle is a map of Jalisco).
It's most famous landmark is probably La Minerva, a large statue of the Roman goddess Minerva crowning a fountain downtown. It's also well known for being a short drive's way from several picturesque towns that specialize in specific traditional crafts and artisanal practices (and a little ways further, there's the town of Tequila. Try to guess what artisanal discipline they specialize in).
Puebla can be found after a 2 to 3 hours by car from Mexico City. Across the country, Poblanos (the term for people from Puebla) are best known for one thing: being insufferable jerks that drive in a very aggressive way. Their unofficial(rather unflattering) denomination is "Pipope", an abbreviation of "Pinches Pobres Pendejos" (roughly translated from Spanish as Poor F*cking D*ckheads). Despite their poor reputation, Poblanos have several things going for them. The city they live in is downright gorgeous. Their city has a long, rich history, and houses beautiful architecture. They boast some of the most delicious cuisine in Mexico (Mole Poblano, a complex, spicy-and-chocolatey sauce hails from here), and they also have some stunning views. (Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, two large volcanoes, are visible from this city. In theory, they would be visible from Mexico City too, but they are often obscured by the copious amounts of smog, so the most common, clearer views of the volcanoes are those from Puebla.)
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel is a particularly interesting town. It's rather small, by Mexican standards (it's population is merely 120-140 thousand people, riding the limit between a small town and a proper city). However, it is a very popular tourism spot, specially for foreigners. In fact, its popularity may be in part because of the foreigners: San Miguel has a significant population of American, Canadian, and European expats. Most of these expats were elderly retirees, at first: People looking forward to live out their golden years in a nice, picturesque Mexican town where they could make the most out of their saved-up dollars through the convenient exchange rate.
Then, some of them got bored and opened up a few businesses like galleries, hotels, stores, restaurants, and bars. Some others convinced their families, specially their younger and hipper grandchildren, to come over. All of this resulted in San Miguel becoming very cosmopolitan and affluent, without losing its quaint charm (or at least, not losing all of it). San Miguel has become a very attractive destination because it retains much of the charm of a quaint, traditional Mexican town, while also having a lot of the conveniences and amenities (supermarkets, movie theaters, a mall) of a larger city. It's also famous for its nightlife (young people from neighboring cities come every now and then to go to the clubs). It also boasts some amazing views (it was built on a hilly valley, after all).
A coastal city in the southern state of Guerrero, famous both across the country and worldwide as a popular tourist destination. Once well known as an important port for the trans-Pacific galleon trade which had exchanged goods to and from Manila, and once well known as THE beach destination, and in vogue among the wealthy for their beach homes, it has increasingly become less popular as drug cartels (who, ironically, profit mainly from local tourism) escalated violence in its streets, making it one of the most dangerous cities worldwide. Most Mexicans now see it as a Wretched Hive with dirty, crowded beaches (lots of them also go anyway because it's closer to home than say, Cancún, that is really not close to anywhere else). Speaking of which...
A city that was little more than a few houses in a sandbar at the start of the seventies. Some businessmen saw an opportunity to market it as the next big tourist destination right on the Mexican Caribbean, and the rest is history. The city is famous for its opulent, luxurious hotels and its clubs. It's also infamous for the droves of young American spring breakers that come to get absolutely plastered on the beach (the minimum drinking age in Mexico is 18, as opposed to 21 in the states).
A funny thing about Cancún is how isolated from the rest of Mexico it is. It lies at the eastern edge of the Yucatán Peninsula. This means that, even though there are a few cities close by, it is separated by pretty much every major Mexican city by at least a day's drive (in fact, most Mexicans that go on holiday do so by plane). That and coupled with the fact that it runs almost exclusively on the tourism industry, it has a very different atmosphere (and many say, that atmosphere is decidedly un-Mexican). Since many foreigners have only ever been to Cancún when visiting Mexico, they also often see very little of day to day culture.
Cancún has always been famous for having clear, Caribbean turquoise waters, but very recently, it is facing a very concerning problem. Rising sea temperatures have caused huge populations of sargassum (gooey, smelly, oxygen-guzzling clumps of seaweed) to wash ashore right during the summer. The once pristine beaches are turning a disappointing shade of green brown most days, and making the beaches reek of decay. Members of the tourism industry are frantically attempting to mitigate the problem, but it is starting to scare tourists away. What's worse, the sargassum endangers local marine environments by competing for oxygen and sunlight. Yes, the 21st century can really suck sometimes.
A city a couple hours north of Mexico City. Like many Mexican cities, it is very old and it has a long history. It was the site of the initial plots for Mexican independence, which fell through due to a nasty betrayal. What followed was Mexico's very own "Paul Revere" (carried out by a jail keeper called Ignacio Pérez) moment in which a lone rider set out to warn the rebel generals to begin the uprising immediately. It's also where the Mexican Constitution of 1917 was drafted and signed—the constitution that Mexico follows to this day (despite half a dozen changes in the de facto structure of the regime). Despite this, Querétaro has always had a fame as a tiny, irrelevant city.
Nowadays, this is far from the truth. Not only has it been the communication hub between Mexico City and everywhere else up north for centuries, it is now one of the fastest growing cities in the country, bursting with industry. Large, international companies like Kellogg's and Samsung have their Mexican headquarters here. It is also not small at all: The metro area has a population of nearly 2 million people.
The "small town" thing is not exactly made up, though: Before the 90's the city was indeed small and close-knit. The locals where very private and traditional. A few of the older families do resent the quick growth of the city. There's a joke that no one is from Querétaro anymore, everyone is from elsewhere (but mostly Mexico City). What attracted people to the city was all the space (that's starting to run out), and the security compared to Mexico City (Querétaro continues to be one of the safest cities in the country, but it's fallen from first place. Growing so quickly does that to any city).
A city that you can find within the state of the same name, right at the center of the country (this is not an exaggeration, grab a map and find it) around three or four hours distance from Mexico City, one of the proposed meanings for the name is "Place with a lot of mountains", and as you can guess it's build in a valley between lots of mountain landscape.
This city is famous for three things: Its colonial streets, so narrow that cars cannot pass, and stretch from the top of th city to even the tunnels undergroud if you know your way, the mummies and the museums showing them in exhibition, the special thing about these mummies is that most of them were not embalmed, but the product of the climate of the city; and the International Festival Cervantino (called just "El Cervantino") which has grown to become the most important international artistic and cultural event in Mexico and Latin America, to the point that in 1988, the city was declared World Heritage Site.
As you can imagine this means the Guanajuato city thrives a great deal out of tourism from all over the world, but it's not its only source of prosperity, another important part of the city comes from the University of Guanajuato, one of the most prestigious in the entire country and birthplace of many doctorate, masters and bachelor degrees graduates (although they also offer high school education), it's famous for its history and quality of its education, only second to the UNAM.
A young but booming city that was founded at the end of the 19th century, Tijuana wasn't a very prominent destination due to its distance to central Mexico (the Baja California peninsula wasn't connected by roads or railways until the 1950's, and before that, to reach it you had to travel by boat to Ensenada to get there). It is also extremely isolated from the rest of Mexico, being the westernmost part of the continental territory of Mexiconote to the point that while the closest mayor cities (Ensenada and Mexicali, and San Diego in the United States) are less than two hours driving, the rest of the country is only reachable by airplane.note
When it was founded, it was a small collection of ranches and farming parcels scattered around the Tijuana river, until the Prohibition hit the United States in the Roaring Twenties. At that time, the city boasted many bars, casinos, and racing tracks, the most famous one being the Agua Caliente casino, but all that faltered after the end of the prohibition and closed down (Nowadays, in its place, the Lázaro Cárdenas Federal High School is built in its place), not to mention that Tijuana is the birthplace of the Caesar Salad (the most accepted story is that Cesare Cardini, the owner of the Caesar Hotel in downtown Tijuana, experienced an ingredient shortage in the Fourth of July festivities in 1924, and he MacGyvered the recipe on the spot with ingredients that he had left in the kitchen). On the postwar years, the city's popularity waned, up until The '80s.
In The '80s, the city experienced a population surge like none other in Mexico, with many people seeking to use the city as a staging ground to get to the United States, or people seeking a new life away from their places of origin, chiefly by people that were left destitute after the 1986 Mexico City earthquake or by Sinaloans that were trying to avoid the increasing violence of The Cartel. The sudden population boom caused many urbanization problems in Tijuana, to the point that the city is mostly bereft of parks and other commodities such as theaters, museums and libraries, giving the city a somewhat deserved reputation of being a dull urban wasteland by many tourists.note However, many industries tapped on the newcomers to empower the manufacturing sector, furthering the population boom by people from all over Mexico coming in for jobs in this sector. However, it still came at the expense of leaving it bereft of any semblance of cultural life, with the only entertainment being a few cinemas, the CECUT (featuring an IMAX dome and a planetarium, and an iconic building in Tijuana due to its spherical shape), some seedy dive bars and the Coahuila street.
The latter used to be infamous for the amount of seedy strip clubs, drugs, crepy dive bars, carnal desires, and Americans wanting to get drunk, until the tail end of the Turn of the Millennium, when the city cleaned it up and began branding it as a more welcoming experience for tourists, with modern art festivals and events related to the viticultural harvests of the Valle de Guadalupe (which is located mid-way between Rosarito and Ensenada). This coincided with the city engaging in a long overdue clean up of its reputation, now promoting itself also as a destination for medical tourismnote , a burgeoning craft beer scene to which the formerly seedy bars jumped in and improved a lot, and boasting many world class restaurants, featuring the original concept of Baja Med cuisine. The city has grown now into becoming the second largest metropolis in Mexico in terms of population.
The Mexican flag
Coat of arms of Mexico
The Mexican national anthem
- Federal presidential constitutional republic
- President: Andrés Manuel López Obrador
- President of the Senate: Oscar Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar
- President of the Chamber of Deputies: Dulce María Sauri Riancho
- Capital and largest city: Mexico City
- Population: 126,014,024
- Area: 1,972,550 km² (761,610 sq mi) (13th)
- Currency: Mexican peso ($) (MXN)
- ISO-3166-1 Code: MX
- Country calling code: 52
- Highest point: Pico de Orizaba (5636 m/18,491 ft) (20th)
- Lowest point: Laguna Salada (−10 m/−33 ft) (23rd)