The popular greeting – which means “hello friend” in Spanish – is so typical of Mexico's welcoming atmosphere. While most tourists come, at least initially, for the epic scenery and fine beaches, Mexico offers so much more. Once you get to know the slower pace, partake in the many festivals and bask in the natural wonders, you'll find Mexico is a tonic for the soul. Its unique art, music, architecture, historical attractions and natural beauty make this country a feast for the eyes and mind.
Mexico is geographically diverse and never ceases to surprise. Barrancas del Cobre, one of the largest canyon systems in the world, makes up part of the rugged terrain in the north. The central heartland and valleys of Mexico are prime agricultural areas. Rainforests and jungles flourish in the tropical south while mountain ranges cut through the west and east coasts. The Pacific ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea lap the extensive coastlines. Mexico has an abundance of protected natural areas and bioreserves including endangered sea turtle nesting sites. For those who prefer shopping expeditions, the high-end boutiques and colorful markets in Mexico City, Oaxaca and Guadalajara, to name just a few, will delight.
Mexico has 26 locations designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites – the most of any country in the Americas. Many are ruins or buildings that show off the elaborate colonial architecture. The Aztec and Mayan pyramids, built with their advanced astronomical knowledge, still astound researchers, and the ruins offer a wealth of history and artifacts. Museums are common in almost every town and share the country's pre-Hispanic and revolutionary history.
Family is the center Mexico`s religious culture as evidenced by the frequent celebrations enjoyed by all generations. Spanish is by far the most commonly spoken language but English is heard frequently in tourist areas. Mexico’s climate ranges across the country from desert to temperate to tropical but the busy foreign tourism season is December to April when the temperatures at the resorts are warm and there is little rain – but no time is a bad time to be somewhere in Mexico.
Mexico is a democratic and economically ambitious country with growing industries and foreign trade. Tourism is a significant contributor to the economy and the government has invested heavily in its development. Services such as banking, health care and transportation are modern.
Despite its rich natural and cultural heritage, Mexico has received a lot of bad press over the years. Violence among drug cartels has resulted in travel warnings to some border and other worrisome areas of Mexico. More military check stops and patrols seem to be helping in the battle against these powerful cartels. However, the problem won't be solved overnight. Neither will the poverty that can shock tourists when they leave the luxury of their resorts. Wages are low and employment can be scarce, especially in rural areas. Many people cross the border into the U.S. everyday hoping for better opportunities. The money they send home helps support the families they leave behind. The present government has designated job creation and poverty reduction as its top priorities.
Mexico also suffered a blow with the recent H1N1 influenza outbreak. However, the action to halt the virus was impressive, and by shutting down schools and businesses Mexico limited the outbreak throughout the country. While the economy overall was hurt by the response, the World Health Organization credited Mexico for its aggressive action.
- Major Cities: Guadalajara, Monterrey
- Capital City: Mexico City
- Boundaries: United States of America to the North, Belize and Guatemala to the South. The Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea border the coastlines.
- Population: 113,724,226 (2011 est.)
- Languages: 92.7% speak predominantly Spanish; 5.7% speak Spanish along with indigenous languages; 0.8% speak only indigenous languages such as various Mayan and Nahuatl dialects.
- Diversity: Mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%; Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%; White 9%; Other 1%.
- Religion: Mexico has no official religion. Roman Catholic (76.5%); Protestant 6.3%; Other 0.3%; Unspecified 13.8%.
- Government: Federal Republic
- Currency: Peso (MXN)
- Gross National Income (GNI) per capita: $14,360 (2010)
- Population Using Improved Drinking Water Sources: 94%
- Time Zone: Southern, eastern and some central region states are on Central Time (GMT-6). The northwest and Pacific coast states are on Mountain Time (GMT-7). Baja California is on Pacific Time (GMT-8 hours). Daylight saving time (-1 hour) is applied during the summer.
- Country Calling Code: +52
- Climate: Temperate year-round in central regions. Hot and humid May to September in coastal areas with some hurricane risks. Northern states have more extremes in temperatures with colder winter and hot summers.
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