Although the Spanish had established colonies in the Caribbean starting in 1493, it was not until the second decade of the sixteenth century that they began exploring the coast of Mexico. The Spanish first learned of Mexico during the Juan de Grijalva expedition of 1518. The natives kept "repeating: Colua, Colua, and Mexico, Mexico, but we [explorers] did not know what Colua or Mexico meant", until encountering Montezuma's governor at the mouth of the Rio de las Banderas. The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire began in February 1519 when Hernán Cortés landed on the Gulf Coast and founded the Spanish city of Veracruz. Around 500 conquistadores, along with horses, cannons, swords, and long guns gave the Spanish some technological advantages over indigenous warriors, but key to the Spanish victory was making strategic alliances with disgruntled indigenous city-states (altepetl) who supplied the Spaniards and fought with them against the Aztec Triple Alliance. Also important to the Spanish victory was Cortés's cultural translator, Malinche, a Nahua woman enslaved in the Maya area whom the Spanish acquired as a gift. She quickly learned Spanish and gave strategic advise about how to deal with both indigenous allies and indigenous foes. The unconquered city-state of Tlaxcala allied with the Spanish against their enemies, the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan. The Spanish gained other indigenous allies, who also joined in the war for their own reasons.
The 1521 capture Tenochtitlan and immediate founding of the Spanish capital Mexico City on its ruins was the beginning of a 300-year-long colonial era during which Mexico was known as Nueva España (New Spain). The Kingdom of New Spain was created from the remnants of the Aztec empire. The two pillars of Spanish rule were the State and the Roman Catholic Church, both under the authority of the Spanish crown. In 1493 the pope had granted sweeping powers to the Spanish crown, with the proviso that the crown spread Christianity in its new realms. In 1524, King Charles I created the Council of the Indies based in Spain to oversee State power its overseas territories; in New Spain the crown established a high court in Mexico City, the Real Audiencia, and then in 1535 created the viceroyalty. The viceroy was highest official of the State. In the religious sphere, the diocese of Mexico was created in 1530 and elevated to the Archdiocese of Mexico in 1546, with the archbishop as the head of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, overseeing Roman Catholic clergy. Castilian Spanish was the language of rulers. The Catholic faith the only one permitted, with non-Catholics (Jews and Protestants) and Catholics (excluding Indians) holding unorthodox views being subject to the Mexican Inquisition, established in 1571.
Pre-Columbian Mexico traces its origins to 8,000 BC and is identified as one of six cradles of civilization; it was home to many advanced Mesoamerican civilizations, most notably the Maya and the Aztecs. In 1521, the Spanish Empire conquered and colonized the region from its base in Mexico City, establishing the colony of New Spain. The Catholic Church played an important role in spreading Christianity and the Spanish language, while also preserving some indigenous cultures. Native populations were heavily exploited to mine rich deposits of precious metals, which contributed to Spain's status as a major world power for the next three centuries. Over time, a distinct Mexican identity formed, based on a fusion of indigenous and European customs; this contributed to the successful Mexican War of Independence against Spain in 1821.
Sculpture was an integral part of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican civilizations, (Mayans, Olmecs, Toltecs, Mixtecs, Aztecs), and others, usually religious in nature. From the Spanish conquest in 1521, civil and religious sculpture was created by indigenous artists, with guidance from Spaniards, so some pre-Hispanic features are evident. Since the 17th century, white and mestizo sculptors have created works with a marked influence of European classicism. After independence in 1821, sculpture was influenced by Romanticism, which tended to break the strict norms and models of classicism, while it pursued ideas influenced by realism and nationalism. Religious sculpture was reduced to a sporadic imagery, while the secular sculpture continued in portraits and monumental art of a civic nature. Between 1820 and 1880 the predominant themes were, successively: religious images, biblical scenes, allegories to the symbols of the independence insurgency, scenes and personages of pre-Hispanic history, and busts of the old aristocracy, of the nascent bourgeoisie and commanders of the pre-revolution. During the 20th century, some important exponents of Mexican sculpture are Juan Soriano, José Luis Cuevas, and Enrique Carbajal (also known as Sebastián).
The earliest complex civilization in Mexico was the Olmec culture, which flourished on the Gulf Coast from around 1500 BC. Olmec cultural traits diffused through Mexico into other formative-era cultures in Chiapas, Oaxaca and the Valley of Mexico. The formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. The formative-era of Mesoamerica is considered one of the six independent cradles of civilization. In the subsequent pre-classical period, the Maya and Zapotec civilizations developed complex centers at Calakmul and Monte Albán, respectively. During this period the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures. The Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic script. The earliest written histories date from this era. The tradition of writing was important after the Spanish conquest in 1521.
The territory became part of the Spanish Empire under the name of New Spain in 1535. Mexico City was systematically rebuilt by Cortés following the Fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521. Much of the identity, traditions and architecture of Mexico developed during the 300-year colonial period from 1521 to independence in 1821.
Mēxihco is the Nahuatl term for the heartland of the Aztec Empire, namely the Valley of Mexico and surrounding territories, with its people being known as the Mexica. The terms are plainly linked; it is generally believed that the toponym for the valley was the origin of the primary ethnonym for the Aztec Triple Alliance, but it may have been the other way around. In the colonial era, when Mexico was called New Spain, this central region became the Intendency of Mexico, during the eighteenth-century reorganization of the empire, the Bourbon Reforms. After the colony achieved independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821, said territory came to be known as the State of Mexico, with the new country being named after its capital: Mexico City, which itself was founded in 1524 on the site of the ancient Mexica capital of Mexico-Tenochtitlan.
The Marian apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe said to have appeared to the indigenous Juan Diego in 1531 gave impetus to the evangelization of central Mexico. The Virgin of Guadalupe became a symbol for American-born Spaniards' (criollos) patriotism, seeking in her a Mexican source of pride, distinct from Spain. The Virgin of Guadalupe was invoked by the insurgents for independence who followed Father Miguel Hidalgo during the War of Independence.
Spanish forces, sometimes accompanied by native allies, led expeditions to conquer territory or quell rebellions through the colonial era. Notable Amerindian revolts in sporadically populated northern New Spain include the Chichimeca War (1576–1606), Tepehuán Revolt (1616–1620), and the Pueblo Revolt (1680), the Tzeltal Rebellion of 1712 was a regional Maya revolt. Most rebellions were small-scale and local, posing no major threat to the ruling elites. To protect Mexico from the attacks of English, French, and Dutch pirates and protect the Crown's monopoly of revenue, only two ports were open to foreign trade—Veracruz on the Atlantic and Acapulco on the Pacific. Among the best-known pirate attacks are the 1663 Sack of Campeche and 1683 Attack on Veracruz. Of greater concern to the crown was of foreign invasion, especially after Britain seized in 1762 the Spanish ports of Havana, Cuba and Manila, the Philippines in the Seven Years' War. It created a standing military, increased coastal fortifications, and expanded the northern presidios and missions into Alta California. The volatility of the urban poor in Mexico City was evident in the 1692 riot in the Zócalo. The riot over the price of maize escalated to a full-scale attack on the seats of power, with the viceregal palace and the archbishop's residence attacked by the mob.
Due to the importance of New Spain administrative base, Mexico was the location of the first printing shop (1539), first university (1551), first public park (1592), and first public library (1640) in the Americas, among other institutions. Important artists of the colonial period, include the writers Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, painters Cristóbal de Villalpando and Miguel Cabrera, and architect Manuel Tolsá. The Academy of San Carlos (1781) was the first major school and museum of art in the Americas. German scientist Alexander von Humboldt spent a year in Mexico, finding the scientific community in the capital active and learned. He met Mexican scientist Andrés Manuel del Río Fernández, who discovered the element vanadium in 1801. Many Mexican cultural features including tequila, first distilled in the 16th century, charreria (17th), mariachi (18th) and Mexican cuisine, a fusion of American and European (particularly Spanish) cuisine, arose during the colonial era.
On 16 September 1810, a "loyalist revolt" against the ruling junta was declared by priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato. This event, known as the Cry of Dolores (Spanish: Grito de Dolores) is commemorated each year, on 16 September, as Mexico's independence day. The first insurgent group was formed by Hidalgo, the Spanish viceregal army captain Ignacio Allende, the militia captain Juan Aldama and La Corregidora (English: "The Magistrate") Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez. Hidalgo and some of his soldiers were captured and executed by firing squad in Chihuahua, on 31 July 1811.
Following Hidalgo's death, the leadership was assumed by Ignacio López Rayón and then by the priest José María Morelos, who occupied key southern cities with the support of Mariano Matamoros and Nicolás Bravo. In one notable incident, Nicolas Bravo captured 200 royalist soldiers, whom Morelos ordered should be executed in revenge of the murder of Bravo's father. In an act of mercy, Bravo instead pardoned the prisoners, most of whom then joined the insurgent cause. In 1813 the Congress of Chilpancingo was convened and, on 6 November, signed the "Solemn Act of the Declaration of Independence of Northern America". . This Act also abolished slavery and the caste system and, being a Catholic priest himself, Morelos called for Roman Catholicism to be the exclusive faith in Mexico. Morelos was captured and executed on 22 December 1815.
The official name of the country has changed as the form of government has changed. The declaration of independence signed on 6 November 1813 by the deputies of the Congress of Anáhuac called the territory América Septentrional (Northern America); the 1821 Plan of Iguala also used América Septentrional. On two occasions (1821–1823 and 1863–1867), the country was known as Imperio Mexicano (Mexican Empire). All three federal constitutions (1824, 1857 and 1917, the current constitution) used the name Estados Unidos Mexicanos —or the variant Estados-Unidos Mexicanos, all of which have been translated as "United Mexican States". The phrase República Mexicana, "Mexican Republic", was used in the 1836 Constitutional Laws.
In the first half-century of Spanish rule, a network of Spanish cities was created, sometimes on pre-Hispanic sites. The capital Mexico City was and remains the premier city. Cities and towns were hubs of civil officials, ecclesiastics, business, Spanish elites, and mixed-race and indigenous artisans and workers. When deposits of silver were discovered in sparsely populated northern Mexico, far from the dense populations of central Mexico, the Spanish secured the region against fiercely resistant indigenous Chichimecas. The Viceroyalty at its greatest extent included the territories of modern Mexico, Central America as far south as Costa Rica, and the western United States. The Viceregal capital Mexico City also administrated the Spanish West Indies (the Caribbean), the Spanish East Indies (that is, the Philippines), and Spanish Florida. In 1819, the Spain signed the Adams-Onís Treaty with the United States, setting New Spain's northern boundary.
In subsequent years, the insurgency was near collapse, but in 1820 Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca sent an army under the criollo general Agustín de Iturbide against the troops of Vicente Guerrero who had among his trusted soldiers, Filipino Mexicans who were concentrated in Guerrero, a state later named after Vicente Guerrero himself and where the Mexican flag was first sewn. Chief among the Filipino-Mexican soldiers was General Isidoro Montes de Oca who defeated Royalist armies 3 times his force's size. Then, the Criollo Royalist, Agustin Iturbide, instead of attacking Vicente Guerrero, approached Guerrero to join forces as he was impressed with his tenacity despite fighting larger odds, and on 24 August 1821 representatives of the Spanish Crown and Iturbide signed the "Treaty of Córdoba" and the "Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire", which recognized the independence of Mexico under the terms of the "Plan of Iguala". Similarly to José María Morelos' goals. A provision of the Plan of Iguala of Agustín de Iturbide bringing about Mexican independence in 1821, also included Catholic exclusivity in the religious sphere. The Constitution of 1824 declared that the official religion of the Republic would be Catholic.
The successful rebels established the First Mexican Republic. In 1824, a constitution of a federated republic was promulgated and former insurgent general Guadalupe Victoria became the first president of the newly born republic. Central America, including Chiapas, left the union. In 1829, former insurgent general and fierce Liberal Vicente Guerrero, a signatory of the Plan de Iguala that achieved independence, became president in a disputed election. During his short term in office, April to December 1829, he abolished slavery. As a visibly mixed-race man of modest origins, Guerrero was seen by white political elites as an interloper. His Conservative vice president, former Royalist General Anastasio Bustamante, led a coup against him and Guerrero was judicially murdered. There was constant strife between Liberals, supporters of a federal form of decentralized government and often called Federalists and their political rivals, the Conservatives, who proposed a hierarchical form of government, were termed Centralists.
During the early post-classic era (ca. 1000–1519 CE), Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, and the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán. Toward the end of the post-Classic period, the Mexica established dominance, establishing a political and economic empire based in the city of Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico City), extending from central Mexico to the border with Guatemala. Alexander von Humboldt popularized the modern usage of "Aztec" as a collective term applied to all the people linked by trade, custom, religion, and language to the Mexica state and Ēxcān Tlahtōlōyān, the Triple Alliance. In 1843, with the publication of the work of William H. Prescott, it was adopted by most of the world, including 19th-century Mexican scholars who considered it a way to distinguish present-day Mexicans from pre-conquest Mexicans. This usage has been the subject of debate since the late 20th century.
The largest blow to Mexico was the U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1846 in the Mexican–American War. Mexico lost much of its sparsely populated northern territory, sealed in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Despite that disastrous loss, Conservative Santa Anna returned to the presidency yet again and then was ousted and exiled in the Liberal Revolution of Ayutla.
Mexico's ability to maintain its independence and establish a viable government was in question. Spain attempted to reconquer its former colony during the 1820s, but eventually recognized its independence. France attempted to recoup losses it claimed for its citizens during Mexico's unrest and blockaded the Gulf Coast during the so-called Pastry War of 1838–39. Santa Anna lost a leg in combat during this conflict, which he used for political purposes. Emerging as a national hero in defending Mexico was creole army general, Antonio López de Santa Anna, who had participated in the overthrow of the emperor, fought the Spanish invasion, and came to dominate the politics for the next 25 years, until his own overthrow in 1855.
The Liberals defeated the Conservative army on the battlefield, but Conservatives sought another solution to gain power via foreign intervention by the French. Mexican conservatives asked Emperor Napoleon III to place a European monarch as head of state in Mexico. The French Army defeated the Mexican Army and placed Maximilian Hapsburg on the newly established throne of Mexico, supported by Mexican Conservatives and propped up by the French Army. The Liberal republic under Benito Juárez was basically a government in internal exile, but with the end of the Civil War in the U.S. in April 1865, that government began aiding the Mexican Republic. Two years later, the French Army withdrew its support, Maximilian remained in Mexico rather than return to Europe. Republican forces captured him and he was executed in Querétaro, along with two Conservative Mexican generals. The "Restored Republic" saw the return of Juárez, who was "the personification of the embattled republic," as president.
The Conservatives had been not only defeated militarily, but also discredited politically for their collaboration with the French invaders. Liberalism became synonymous with patriotism. The Mexican Army that had its roots in the colonial royal army and then the army of the early republic was destroyed. New military leaders had emerged from the War of the Reform and the conflict with the French, most notably Porfirio Díaz, a hero of the Cinco de Mayo, who now sought civilian power. Juárez won re-election in 1867, but was challenged by Díaz, who criticized him for running for re-election. Díaz then rebelled, crushed by Juárez. Having won re-election, Juárez died in office of natural causes in July 1872, and Liberal Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada became president, declaring a "religion of state" for rule of law, peace, and order. When Lerdo ran for re-election, Díaz rebelled against the civilian president, issuing the Plan of Tuxtepec. Díaz had more support and waged guerrilla warfare against Lerdo. On the verge of Díaz's victory on the battlefield, Lerdo fled from office, going into exile. Another army general assumed the presidency of Mexico.
Throughout the 19th century, the population of Mexico had barely doubled. This trend continued during the first two decades of the 20th century, and even in the 1921 census there was a loss of about 1 million inhabitants. The phenomenon can be explained because during the decade from 1910 to 1921 the Mexican Revolution took place. The growth rate increased dramatically between the 1930s and the 1980s, when the country registered growth rates of over 3% (1950–1980). The Mexican population doubled in twenty years, and at that rate it was expected that by the year 2000 there would be 120 million Mexicans. Life expectancy went from 36 years (in 1895) to 72 years (in the year 2000). According to estimations made by Mexico's National Geography and Statistics Institute, as of 2017 Mexico has 123.5 million inhabitants making it the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. Between 2005 and 2010, the Mexican population grew at an average of 1.70% per year, up from 1.16% per year between 2000 and 2005.
Díaz's long success did not include planning for a political transition beyond his own presidency. He made no attempt, however, to establish a family dynasty, naming no relative as his successor. As the centennial of independence approached, Díaz gave an interview where he said he was not going to run in the 1910 elections, when he would be 80. Political opposition had been suppressed and there were few avenues for a new generation of leaders. But his announcement set off a frenzy of political activity, including the unlikely candidacy of the scion of a rich landowning family, Francisco I. Madero. Madero won a surprising amount of political support when Díaz changed his mind an ran in the election, jailing Madero. The September centennial celebration of independence was the last celebration of the Porfiriato. The Mexican Revolution starting in 1910 saw a decade of civil war, the "wind that swept Mexico."
Mexico's early history as a nation state was marked by political and socioeconomic upheaval. The Texas Revolution and the Mexican–American War in the mid 19th century led to huge territorial losses to the United States. The newly instituted reforms that granted protection to indigenous communities, and curtailed the power of the military and the church, were enshrined in the Constitution of 1857. This triggered the War of the Reform and French intervention, which installed Maximilian Habsburg as emperor against resistance by republican forces led Benito Juárez. The following decades were marked by instability and dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, who sought to modernize Mexico and restore order. The Porfiriato era ended with the decade-long Mexican Revolution in 1910, after which the victorious Constitutionalist faction drafted a new 1917 Constitution, which remains in effect to this day. The revolutionary generals ruled as a succession of presidents until the assassination of Alvaro Obregón in 1928, which led to the formation of the Institutional Revolutionary Party the following year, under which Mexico was a de facto one-party state until 2000.
The National Autonomous University of Mexico was officially established in 1910, and the university became one of the most important institutes of higher learning in Mexico. UNAM provides world class education in science, medicine, and engineering. Many scientific institutes and new institutes of higher learning, such as National Polytechnic Institute (founded in 1936), were established during the first half of the 20th century. Most of the new research institutes were created within UNAM. Twelve institutes were integrated into UNAM from 1929 to 1973. In 1959, the Mexican Academy of Sciences was created to coordinate scientific efforts between academics.
The Mexican Revolution was a decade-long transformational conflict in Mexico, with consequences to this day. It saw uprisings against President Díaz, his resignation, an interim presidency, and the democratic election of a rich landowner, Francisco I. Madero in 1911. In February 1913, a military coup d'état overthrew Madero's government, with the support of the U.S., resulted in Madero's murder by agents of Federal Army General Victoriano Huerta. A coalition of anti-Huerta forces in the North, the Constitutionalist Army overseen by Venustiano Carranza, and a peasant army in the South under Emiliano Zapata, defeated the Federal Army. In 1914 that army was dissolved as an institution. Following the revolutionaries' victory against Huerta, revolutionary armies sought to broker a peaceful political solution, but the coalition splintered, plunging Mexico into civil war again. Constitutionalist general Pancho Villa, commander of the Division of the North, broke with Carranza and allied with Zapata. Carranza's best general, Alvaro Obregón, defeated Villa, his former comrade-in-arms in the battle of Celaya in 1915, and Villa's forces melted away. Carranza became the de facto head of Mexico, and the U.S. recognized his government. In 1916, the winners met at a constitutional convention to draft the Constitution of 1917, which was ratified in February 1917. Said Constitution strengthened the anticlerical provisions that were carried over from the 1857 Constitution. With amendments, it remains the governing document of Mexico. It is estimated that the war killed 900,000 of the 1910 population of 15 million.
The U.S. has had a history of inference and intervention in Mexico, most notably the Mexican-American War. During the Revolution, the Taft administration supported the Huerta coup against Madero, but when Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as president in March 1913, it refused to recognize Huerta's regime and allowed arms sales to the Constitutionalists. Wilson ordered troops to occupy the strategic port of Veracruz in 1914, which was lifted. After Pancho Villa was defeated by revolutionary forces in 1915, he led a raid into Columbus, New Mexico incursion, prompting the U.S. to send 10,000 troops led by General John J. Pershing in an unsuccessful attempt to capture Villa. Carranza pushed back against U.S. troops being in northern Mexico. The expeditionary forces withdrew as the U.S. entered World War I. Germany attempted to get Mexico to side with it, sending a coded telegram in 1917 to incite war between the U.S. and Mexico, with Mexico to regain the territory it lost in the Mexican-American War. Mexico remained neutral in the conflict.
Consolidating power, President Carranza had peasant-leader Emiliano Zapata assassinated in 1919. Carranza had gained support of the peasantry during the Revolution, but once in power he did little to distribute land, and, in fact, returned some confiscated land to their original owners. President Carranza's best general, Obregón, served briefly in Carranza's administration, but returned to his home state of Sonora to position himself to run in the 1920 presidential election. Carranza chose a political and revolutionary no-body to succeed him. Obregón and two other Sonoran revolutionary generals drew up the Plan of Agua Prieta, overthrowing Carranza, who died fleeing Mexico City in 1920. General Adolfo de la Huerta became interim president, followed the election of General Álvaro Obregón.
The first quarter-century of the post-revolutionary period (1920–1946) was characterized by revolutionary generals serving as Presidents of Mexico, including Álvaro Obregón (1920–24), Plutarco Elías Calles (1924–28), Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–40), and Manuel Avila Camacho (1940–46). Since 1946, no member of the military has been President of Mexico. The post-revolutionary project of the Mexican government sought to bring order to the country, end military intervention in politics, and create organizations of interest groups. Workers, peasants, urban office workers, and even the army for a short period were incorporated as sectors of the single party that dominated Mexican politics from its founding in 1929.
Three parties have historically been the dominant parties in Mexican politics: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a catch-all party and member of the Socialist International that was founded in 1929 to unite all the factions of the Mexican Revolution and held an almost hegemonic power in Mexican politics since then; the National Action Party (PAN), a conservative party founded in 1939 and belonging to the Christian Democrat Organization of America; and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) a left-wing party, founded in 1989 as the successor of the coalition of socialists and liberal parties. PRD emerged after what has now been proven was a stolen election in 1988, and has won numerous state and local elections since then. PAN won its first governorship in 1989, and won the presidency in 2000 and 2006.
Despite not holding the presidency, Calles remained the key political figure during the period known as the Maximato (1929–1934). The Maximato ended during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas, who expelled Calles from the country and implemented many economic and social reforms. This included the Mexican oil expropriation in March 1938, which nationalized the U.S. and Anglo-Dutch oil company known as the Mexican Eagle Petroleum Company. This movement would result in the creation of the state-owned Mexican oil company Pemex. This sparked a diplomatic crisis with the countries whose citizens had lost businesses by Cárdenas's radical measure, but since then the company has played an important role in the economic development of Mexico. Cárdenas's successor, Manuel Ávila Camacho (1940–1946) was more moderate, and relations between the U.S. and Mexico vastly improved during World War II, when Mexico was a significant ally, providing manpower and materiel to aid the war effort.
Mexican films from the Golden Age in the 1940s and 1950s are the greatest examples of Latin American cinema, with a huge industry comparable to the Hollywood of those years. Mexican films were exported and exhibited in all of Latin America and Europe. María Candelaria (1943) by Emilio Fernández, was one of the first films awarded a Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946, the first time the event was held after World War II. The famous Spanish-born director Luis Buñuel realized in Mexico between 1947 and 1965 some of his masterpieces like Los Olvidados (1949) and Viridiana (1961). Famous actors and actresses from this period include María Félix, Pedro Infante, Dolores del Río, Jorge Negrete and the comedian Cantinflas.
Because of its high biodiversity Mexico has also been a frequent site of bioprospecting by international research bodies. The first highly successful instance being the discovery in 1947 of the tuber "Barbasco" (Dioscorea composita) which has a high content of diosgenin, revolutionizing the production of synthetic hormones in the 1950s and 1960s and eventually leading to the invention of combined oral contraceptive pills.
Until the twentieth century, Mexico was an overwhelmingly rural country, with rural women's status defined within the context of the family and local community. With urbanization beginning in the sixteenth century, following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, cities have provided economic and social opportunities not possible within rural villages. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, women including middle-class women began working outside the home in offices and factories, and the gained access to education. Women were granted suffrage in 1953. In the 21st century, Mexican women are prominent in politics, academia, journalism, literature, and visual arts among other fields. In President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's first cabinet following his 2018 election, he appointed women in equal numbers as men. However, a wave of feminism in 2020 has criticized the president for his tone-deaf response to murders of women in Mexico.
Folk idioms derived mainly from the arrival of tropical rhythms and lyrical styles from the island of Cuba and Colombia were adopted and transformed into popular genres within. The Bolero, Cha-cha-cha and Mambo invade the radio of the 40s and 50s mimicking the idiosyncrasy of the Mexican. Known as Agustín Lara, the Mexican composer was and interpreter of songs and boleros, most popular songwriter of his era. In 1954 American vocalist of Mexican heritage Andy Russell, relocated to Mexico where he became a star of radio, records and nightclubs, specializing in traditional pop and Latin music. The Mexican musician Tony Camargo later became the greatest representatives of this music, and pioneer of the same in the country, his success "El año viejo" (The old year) took him to the top and it has become a classic, until today and the Sonora Santanera becomes popular by imitating the style of Cuban orchestras and boleros. But since the 1960s from other Caribbean countries and the United States arrives the Salsa music. Popularity over several decades has caused local tropical variants to form that have mixed with the folklore of Mexico, examples like the Mexican cumbia are part of this merger, of which the most successful grouping in recent years has been Los Ángeles Azules.
Mexico City hosted the XIX Olympic Games in 1968, making it the first Latin American city to do so. The country has also hosted the FIFA World Cup twice, in 1970 and 1986.
Mexico has the capabilities to manufacture nuclear weapons, but abandoned this possibility with the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1968 and pledged to only use its nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. In 1970, Mexico's national institute for nuclear research successfully refined weapons grade uranium which is used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons but in April 2010, Mexico agreed to turn over its weapons grade uranium to the United States. Mexico signed the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Luis Echeverría, Minister of the Interior under Díaz Ordaz, carrying out the repression during the Olympics, was elected president in 1970. His government had to contend with mistrust of Mexicans and increasing economic problems. He instituted some with electoral reforms. Echeverría chose José López Portillo as his successor in 1976. Economic problems worsened in his early term, then massive reserves of petroleum were located off Mexico's Gulf Coast. Pemex did not have the capacity to develop these reserves itself, and brought in foreign firms. Oil prices had been high because of OPEC's lock on oil production, and López Portilla borrowed money from foreign banks for current spending to fund social programs. Those foreign banks were happy to lend to Mexico because the oil reserves were enormous and future revenues were collateral for loans denominated in U.S. dollars. When the price of oil dropped, Mexico's economy collapsed in the 1982 Crisis. Interest rates soared, the peso devalued, and unable to pay loans, the government defaulted on its debt. President Miguel de la Madrid (1982–88) resorted to currency devaluations which in turn sparked inflation.
Nowadays, Mexico's literacy rate is high, at 94.86% in 2018, up from 82.99% in 1980, with the literacy rates of males and females being relatively equal.
Pemex, the public company in charge of exploration, extraction, transportation and marketing of crude oil and natural gas, as well as the refining and distribution of petroleum products and petrochemicals, is one of the largest companies in the world by revenue, making US$86 billion in sales a year. Mexico is the sixth-largest oil producer in the world, with 3.7 million barrels per day. In 1980 oil exports accounted for 61.6% of total exports; by 2000 it was only 7.3%.
In the 1980s the first cracks emerged in the PRI's complete political dominance. In Baja California, the PAN candidate was elected as governor. When De la Madrid chose Carlos Salinas de Gortari as the candidate for the PRI, and therefore a foregone presidential victor, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, son of former President Lázaro Cárdenas, broke with the PRI and challenged Salinas in the 1988 elections. In 1988 there was massive electoral fraud, with results showing that Salinas had won the election by the narrowest percentage ever. There were massive protests in Mexico City to the stolen election. Salinas took the oath of office on 1 December 1988. In 1990 the PRI was famously described by Mario Vargas Llosa as the "perfect dictatorship", but by then there had been major challenges to the PRI's hegemony.
The telecommunications industry is mostly dominated by Telmex (Teléfonos de México), privatized in 1990. By 2006, Telmex had expanded its operations to Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and the United States. Other players in the domestic industry are Axtel, Maxcom, Alestra, Marcatel, AT&T Mexico. Because of Mexican orography, providing a landline telephone service at remote mountainous areas is expensive, and the penetration of line-phones per capita is low compared to other Latin American countries, at 40 percent; however, 82% of Mexicans over the age of 14 own a mobile phone. Mobile telephony has the advantage of reaching all areas at a lower cost, and the total number of mobile lines is almost two times that of landlines, with an estimation of 63 million lines. The telecommunication industry is regulated by the government through Cofetel (Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones).
In 1994, following the assassination of the PRI's presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, Salinas was succeeded by substitute PRI candidate Ernesto Zedillo. Salinas left Zedillo's government to deal with the Mexican peso crisis, requiring a $50 billion IMF bailout. Major macroeconomic reforms were started by President Zedillo, and the economy rapidly recovered and growth peaked at almost 7% by the end of 1999.
Mexico is founding member of several international organizations, most notably the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the OPANAL and the Rio Group. In 2008, Mexico contributed over 40 million dollars to the United Nations regular budget. In addition, it was the only Latin American member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development since it joined in 1994 until Chile gained full membership in 2010.
Although Salinas won by fraud, he embarked on a program of neoliberal reforms which fixed the exchange rate of the peso, controlled inflation, opened Mexico to foreign investment, and began talks with the U.S. and Canada to join their free-trade agreement. In order to do that, the Constitution of 1917 was amended in several important ways. Article 27, which allowed the government to expropriate natural resources and distribute land, was amended to end agrarian reform and to guarantee private owners' property rights. The anti-clerical articles that muzzled religious institutions, especially the Catholic Church, were amended and Mexico reestablished of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, to which the Mexican State did not recognize as a political entity. Signing on to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) removed Mexico's autonomy over trade policy. The agreement came into effect on 1 January 1994; the same day, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) started a two-week-long armed rebellion against the federal government, and has continued as a non-violent opposition movement against neoliberalism and globalization.
In 1995, the Mexican chemist Mario J. Molina shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Paul J. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone. Molina, an alumnus of UNAM, became the first Mexican citizen to win the Nobel Prize in science.
In 2000, after 71 years, the PRI lost a presidential election to Vicente Fox of the opposition National Action Party (PAN). In the 2006 presidential election, Felipe Calderón from the PAN was declared the winner, with a very narrow margin (0.58%) over leftist politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador then the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). López Obrador, however, contested the election and pledged to create an "alternative government".
In 2002 , Mexico had the second fastest rate of deforestation in the world, second only to Brazil. It had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 6.82/10, ranking it 63rd globally out of 172 countries. The government has taken another initiative in the late 1990s to broaden the people's knowledge, interest and use of the country's esteemed biodiversity, through the Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad.
The federal government officially recognizes sixty-eight linguistic groups and 364 varieties of indigenous languages. It is estimated that around 8.3 million citizens speak these languages, with Nahuatl being the most widely spoken by more than 1.7 million, followed by Yucatec Maya used daily by nearly 850,000 people, Tzeltal and Tzotzil, two variants of the Mayan languages, are spoken by around half a million people each, primarily in the southern state of Chiapas. Mixtec and Zapotec, both with estimated 500,000 native speakers each, are two other well-known language groups. Since its creation in March 2003, the National Indigenous Languages Institute has been in charge of promoting and protecting the use of the country's indigenous languages, through the General Law of Indigenous Peoples' Linguistic Rights, which recognizes them de jure as "national languages" with status equal to that of Spanish. Notwithstanding, in practice, indigenous peoples often face discrimination and are unable to have proper access to public services such as education and healthcare, as well as the justice system, as Spanish is the prominent language.
As of April 2018, Mexico has the 15th largest nominal GDP (US$1.15 trillion) and the 11th largest by purchasing power parity (US$2.45 trillion). GDP annual average growth was 2.9% in 2016 and 2% in 2017. Agriculture has comprised 4% of the economy over the last two decades, while industry contributes 33% (mostly automotive, oil, and electronics) and services (notably financial services and tourism) contribute 63%. Mexico's GDP in PPP per capita was US$18,714.05. The World Bank reported in 2009 that the country's Gross National Income in market exchange rates was the second highest in Latin America, after Brazil at US$1,830.392 billion, which led to the highest income per capita in the region at $15,311. Mexico is now firmly established as an upper middle-income country. After the slowdown of 2001 the country has recovered and has grown 4.2, 3.0 and 4.8 percent in 2004, 2005 and 2006, even though it is considered to be well below Mexico's potential growth. The International Monetary Fund predicts growth rates of 2.3% and 2.7% for 2018 and 2019, respectively. By 2050, Mexico could potentially become the world's fifth or seventh largest economy.
In 2004, the literacy rate was at 97% for youth under the age of 14, and 91% for people over 15, placing Mexico at 24th place in the world according to UNESCO.
The remittances from Mexican citizens working in the United States account for 0.2% of Mexico's GDP which was equal to US$20 billion per year in 2004 and is the tenth largest source of foreign income after oil, industrial exports, manufactured goods, electronics, heavy industry, automobiles, construction, food, banking and financial services. According to Mexico's central bank, remittances in 2008 amounted to $25bn.
In 2005, Mexico presented the candidature of its gastronomy for World Heritage Site of UNESCO, being the first occasion in which a country had presented its gastronomic tradition for this purpose. However, in a first instance the result was negative, because the committee did not place the proper emphasis on the importance of corn in Mexican cuisine. Finally, on 16 November 2010 Mexican gastronomy was recognized as Intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. In addition, Daniela Soto-Innes was named the best female chef in the world by The World's Best 50 Restaurants in April 2019. Carlos Gaytan, became the first Mexican chef to enjoy Michelin-star success, Mexique earned a star in 2013 and 2014 in West Town Chicago.
Mexico is the country with the world's third largest solar potential. The country's gross solar potential is estimated at 5kWh/m2 daily, which corresponds to 50 times national electricity generation. Currently, there is over 1 million square meters of solar thermal panels installed in Mexico, while in 2005, there were 115,000 square meters of solar PV (photo-voltaic). It is expected that in 2012 there will be 1,8 million square meters of installed solar thermal panels.
Since President Felipe Calderón launched a crackdown against cartels in 2006, more than 28,000 alleged criminals have been successfully killed. Of the total drug-related violence 4% are innocent people, mostly by-passers and people trapped in between shootings; 90% accounts for criminals and 6% for military personnel and police officers. In October 2007, President Calderón and US president George W. Bush announced the Mérida Initiative, a plan of law enforcement cooperation between the two countries.
The domestic car industry is represented by DINA S.A., which has built buses and trucks since 1962, and the new Mastretta company that builds the high-performance Mastretta MXT sports car. In 2006, trade with the United States and Canada accounted for almost 50% of Mexico's exports and 45% of its imports. During the first three quarters of 2010, the United States had a $46.0 billion trade deficit with Mexico. In August 2010 Mexico surpassed France to become the 9th largest holder of US debt. The commercial and financial dependence on the US is a cause for concern.
Despite the efforts of the authorities to fight crime and fraud, most Mexicans have low confidence in the police or the judicial system, and therefore, few crimes are actually reported by the citizens. The Global Integrity Index which measures the existence and effectiveness of national anti-corruption mechanisms rated Mexico 31st behind Kenya, Thailand, and Russia. In 2008, president Calderón proposed a major reform of the judicial system, which was approved by the Congress of the Union, which included oral trials, the presumption of innocence for defendants, the authority of local police to investigate crime—until then a prerogative of special police units—and several other changes intended to speed up trials.
The denominations Pentecostal also have an important presence, especially in the cities of the border and in the indigenous communities. As of 2010, Pentecostal churches together have more than 1.3 million adherents, which in net numbers place them as the second Christian creed in Mexico. The situation changes when the different Pentecostal denominations are considered as separate entities. The third-largest Christian group is the Jehovah's Witnesses, which totals more than 1 million adherents. In the same census The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are known as Mormons, reported 314,932 members, though the church claimed in 2009 to have over one million registered members. Other groups are growing, such as Iglesia apostólica de la Fe en Cristo Jesús, Mennonites and Seventh-day Adventist Church and Church of the La Luz del Mundo, which has its center in "La Hermosa Provincia", a colony of Guadalajara. Migratory phenomena have led to the spread of different aspects of Christianity, including branches Protestants, Eastern Catholic Churches and Eastern Orthodox Church. The presence of Jews in Mexico dates back to 1521, when Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztecs, accompanied by several Conversos. According to the 2020 census, there are 58,876 Jews in Mexico. Islam in Mexico (with 7,982 members) is practiced mostly by Arab Mexicans. In the 2010 census 36,764 Mexicans reported belonging to a spiritualist religion, a category which includes a tiny Buddhist population.
As of 2017 , it is estimated that 1.2 million foreigners have settled in the country, up from nearly 1 million in 2010. The vast majority of migrants come from the United States (900,000), making Mexico the top destination for U.S. citizens abroad. The second largest group comes from neighboring Guatemala (54,500), followed by Spain (27,600). Other major sources of migration are fellow Latin American countries, which include Colombia (20,600), Argentina (19,200) and Cuba (18,100). Historically, the Lebanese diaspora and the German-born Mennonite migration have left a notorious impact in the country's culture, particularly in its cuisine and traditional music. At the turn of the 21st century, several trends have increased the number of foreigners residing in the country such as the 2008–2014 Spanish financial crisis, increasing gang-related violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America, the ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela, and the automotive industry boom led by Japanese and South Korean investment.
The challenges include water scarcity in the northern and central parts of the country; inadequate water service quality (drinking water quality; 11% of Mexicans receiving water only intermittently as of 2014); poor technical and commercial efficiency of most utilities (with an average level of non-revenue water of 43.2% in 2010); increasing the national percentage of fully sanitized water which at 57%, is considered to not be enough, as the country's theoretically available percentage of water per capita is 60% lower than it was 60 years ago; and the improvement of adequate access in rural areas. In addition to on-going investments to expand access, the government has embarked on a large investment program to improve wastewater treatment.
The electronics industry of Mexico has grown enormously within the last decade. Mexico has the sixth largest electronics industry in the world after China, United States, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Mexico is the second-largest exporter of electronics to the United States where it exported $71.4 billion worth of electronics in 2011. The Mexican electronics industry is dominated by the manufacture and OEM design of televisions, displays, computers, mobile phones, circuit boards, semiconductors, electronic appliances, communications equipment and LCD modules. The Mexican electronics industry grew 20% between 2010 and 2011, up from its constant growth rate of 17% between 2003 and 2009. Currently electronics represent 30% of Mexico's exports.
After twelve years, in 2012, the PRI won the presidency again with the election of Enrique Peña Nieto, the governor of the State of Mexico from 2005 to 2011. However, he won with a plurality of about 38%, and did not have a legislative majority.
In 2013, Mexico's basketball team won the Americas Basketball Championship and qualified for the 2014 Basketball World Cup where it reached the playoffs. Because of these achievements the country earned the hosting rights for the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship.
The project named SEGH-CFE 1, located in Puerto Libertad, Sonora, Northwest of Mexico, will have capacity of 46.8 MW from an array of 187,200 solar panels when complete in 2013. All of the electricity will be sold directly to the CFE and absorbed into the utility's transmission system for distribution throughout their existing network. At an installed capacity of 46.8 MWp, when complete in 2013, the project will be the first utility scale project of its kind in Mexico and the largest solar project of any kind in Latin America.
Drug cartels are a major concern in Mexico. Mexico's drug war, ongoing since 2006, has left over 120,000 dead and perhaps another 37,000 missing. The Mexican drug cartels have as many as 100,000 members. Mexico's National Geography and Statistics Institute estimated that in 2014, one-fifth of Mexicans were victims of some sort of crime. The U.S. Department of State warns its citizens to exercise increased caution when traveling in Mexico, issuing travel advisories on its website.
Mexico is among the countries that treat particular murders of women as femicide. In 2014, Mexico had the 16th highest rate of homicides committed against women in the world. The remains of the victims were frequently mutilated. According to a 1997 study, domestic abuse in Mexican culture "is embedded in gender and marital relations fostered in Mexican women's dependence on their spouses for subsistence and for self-esteem, sustained by ideologies of romantic love, by family structure and residential arrangements". The perpetrators are often the boyfriend, father-in-law, ex-husbands or husbands but only 1.6% of the murder cases led to an arrest and sentencing in 2015. After a particularly well-publicized gruesome femicide followed by that of a kidnapped little girl, women began protesting more vociferously, falling on deaf ears, including those of President López Obrador. This is the first new and major movement with which his presidency has had to deal. On International Women's Day (8 March) in 2020, women staged a massive demonstration in Mexico City with some 80,000 participants. On Monday, 9 March 2020, the second day of action was marked by the absence of women at work, in class, shopping and other public activities. The "Day Without Women" (Día Sin Nosotras) was reported in the international press along with the previous day's demonstrations.
Mexico produces the most automobiles of any North American nation. The industry produces technologically complex components and engages in some research and development activities. The "Big Three" (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) have been operating in Mexico since the 1930s, while Volkswagen and Nissan built their plants in the 1960s. In Puebla alone, 70 industrial part-makers cluster around Volkswagen. In the 2010s expansion of the sector was surging. In 2014 alone, more than $10 billion in investment was committed. In September 2016 Kia motors opened a $1 billion factory in Nuevo León, with Audi also opening an assembling plant in Puebla the same year. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan currently have plants in constructuion.
The mass kidnapping of the 43 students in Iguala on 26 September 2014 triggered nationwide protests against the government's weak response to the disappearances and widespread corruption that gives free rein to criminal organizations.
Mexico City is a special political division that belongs to the federation as a whole and not to a particular state. Formerly known as the Federal District, its autonomy was previously limited relative to that of the states. It dropped this designation in 2016 and is in the process of achieving greater political autonomy by becoming a federal entity with its own constitution and congress.
Although there were fears of electoral fraud in Mexico's 2018 presidential elections, the results gave a mandate to AMLO. On 1 December 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obrador was sworn in as the new President of Mexico. After winning a landslide victory in the July 2018 presidential elections, he became the first leftwing president for decades.
Among the OECD countries, Mexico has the second-highest degree of economic disparity between the extremely poor and extremely rich, after Chile – although it has been falling over the last decade, being one of few countries in which this is the case. The bottom ten percent in the income hierarchy disposes of 1.36% of the country's resources, whereas the upper ten percent dispose of almost 36%. The OECD also notes that Mexico's budgeted expenses for poverty alleviation and social development is only about a third of the OECD average. This is also reflected by the fact that infant mortality in Mexico is three times higher than the average among OECD nations whereas its literacy levels are in the median range of OECD nations. Nevertheless, according to Goldman Sachs, by 2050 Mexico will have the 5th largest economy in the world. According to a 2008 UN report the average income in a typical urbanized area of Mexico was $26,654, while the average income in rural areas just miles away was only $8,403. Daily minimum wages are set annually being set at $102.68 Mexican pesos (US$5.40) in 2019. All of the indices of social development for the Mexican Indigenous population are considerably lower than the national average, which is motive of concern for the government.
The National Autonomous University of Mexico ranks 103rd in the QS World University Rankings, making it the best university in Mexico. After it comes the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education as the best private school in Mexico and 158th worldwide in 2019. Private business schools also stand out in international rankings. IPADE and EGADE, the business schools of Universidad Panamericana and of Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education respectively, were ranked in the top 10 in a survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal among recruiters outside the United States.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, as of mid-March 2020, the country had a few cases, but as of mid-July, there were over 320,000 cases reported. However, the pandemic situation worsened significantly. In April 2021, Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19 in Mexico.