Mexico City

Currency unit

Mexican peso






Spain Empire







Mexico was one of the centers of a highly organized culture before the Europeans reached the Americas in the 15th century.

The Spaniards found the urban Aztec (Mexica) Empire centered on Tenochtitlan which is now Mexico City. This empire collapsed rather quickly, partly because it did not have any transport animals (the Spaniards brought horses) and did not have effective weapons against the invaders. But the Aztecs' own mythology is said to have mentioned "white gods from the east" which may have caused a weakness of morale in the face of the invaders.

(Were these stories memories of pre-Colombian transatlantic contacts, perhaps by Celts in pre-Roman times, or from north Africa? The jury is still out because of lack of evidence.) The Aztecs' cruel religious practices - mass human sacrifices - must also have weakened the allegiance of the other peoples who made up the empire. The Aztecs themselves had conquered the area from previous rulers, the Toltecs, and were a ruling group different in language from the mass of the people.

Southern Mexico, like other parts of Central America, was part of the Mayan area.

An important result of the Spanish conquest was a catastrophic collapse of population due to the import of diseases and the disruption of the economic system.

Modern Mexico derives from a Spanish administration, called New Spain, set up on the ruins of the Aztec Empire. The Spanish administrator also exercised control over areas to the north which are now California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas and Central America to the south. The long term effect of immigration into the areas to the north may be to restore this administration at some time in the future as the culture of the ordinary people changes from Anglo to Hispanic. Texas was lost in 1836 and California, New Mexico and Arizona in 1845. Central America went its own way soon after independence.

Mexico became independent of Spain in 1821. There were several regimes including two empires, the first approved by referendum, the second appointed by the French, various types of republic and a long period under a dictator, Porfirio Diaz, who employed European technocrats to modernize the country.

However, during the 20th century the emphasis of culture in Mexico has changed from Hispanic to recognizing the pre-Columbian strands in the origins of the Mexican people, most of whom are descendants of the original inhabitants. Others are descendants of both strands and a few descendants only of European immigrants. Many of the influential leaders have been of Indian descent.

Since the Mexican revolution of 1910 pre-Spanish culture has been given prominence. This is similar to anticolonial resurgences in other parts of the world.

The revolution was a revolt against the dominance of the descendants of the Spanish colonialists who had continued to rule after the break up of the colonial Empire. They emulated the French revolutionaries in their hostility to the privileges of the Catholic Church, planted there by the Spaniards as part of their government.

The revolutionaries were also hostile to the influence of the United States which they saw as trying to replace the Spaniards as quasi-colonial rulers.

In 1938 the government nationalized the oil companies. However, although there was a large public sector the Mexicans never adopted the complete nationalization of the economy as found in the Soviet Union and was never Marxist or dependent on the Soviet Union.

Mexico is the only American country where the pre-colonial culture is exercising a large effect on present day politics. Perhaps the Andean cultures will be next?

Mexico has joined the North American Free Trade Area, at present including Canada and the United States. This may have political results as well as economic. One of the first of these may have been a revolt of the mainly Mayan peasants of the southern state of Chiapas in early 1994. They alleged betrayal of the original Revolution and believed NAFTA threatened the peasants' right to their hereditary land as northern financial interests might buy up the estates.




various Amerindian languages







Mexico has had one of the world's most unusual political systems. The revolutionaries of 1910 tried to prevent the civil war endemic to the society when there are several electoral parties in a society composed mostly of illiterates.

As in the Soviet Union the revolutionaries set up a single party - the Institutional Revolutionary Party. However, unlike the Soviet Party the PRI was more flexible and represented many different groups in society - officially the workers, peasants and army, in practice mainly the businessmen. The president could not succeed himself after a 6 year term. Each president named his successor, so that the regime could best be classified as an oligarchy. The President had almost the powers of a king. This may owe more to the Aztec past than to European models of government. The PRI is the source of patronage and therefore subject to a great deal of corruption but until recently it has avoided civil war and Mexico has been more peaceful than its neighbors to the south.

There are increasing calls for genuine multi-party elections. The government claimed that the elections in 1988 were free, but the opposition claims that the moderate left wing party gained the most votes, although the PRI government party led by Carlos Salinas was declared the winner. There are now three main parties: PAN, a rightwing, business party; PRI, the government; and a moderate left wing party led by the son of a former president, Cuahtemoc Cardenas. The military do not have autonomous power as in many other Latin American states. It is possible that PAN is funded by US interests.

The absence of democracy has led to widespread corruption and inefficiency, especially in the state-owned industries. The main cry of the Revolution was Land to the Peasants. This has not occurred and the Latifundia are still a serious cause of inequality.

There are several signs that the 1994 elections were rigged: constant proportion of votes in each voting district (too neat); computer failures at crucial times; testimony of personation and multiple voting arranged by PRI; crooked voters' lists.

The elections of 1999 resulted in a victory of the opposition candidate Vicente Fox of the PAN party (possibly supported by US interests), and at last the PRI went into opposition. The 2003 elections also resulted in a victory for the pro-American party (perhaps with assistance from north of the border).

Interesting reading

Bernal Diaz del Castillo - The Conquest of New Spain

Broken Spears - Miguel Portillo

The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

Pre-Colombian Transatlantic visitors? No real evidence
Try Barry Fell- America BC (New York 1976)







Mexico's economy was for most of the 20th century subject to a policy of attempted autarky , or at least strong government control in favor of national producers. Some of it, especially the important oil industry, was nationalized.

In 1990 Mexico signed an agreement to set up a free trade area (NAFTA ) with the United States and Canada. This is likely to have great effects on its economy. Mexican industries which tend to be inefficient will be opened up to competition and will either improve their efficiency or close. US industries, seeking cheaper labor, will tend to migrate south of the border. It is difficult to know whether employment will improve or get worse. Other countries, such as Britain, which have opened their borders to more efficient neighbors have suffered an increase in unemployment. But there will also be effects on the United States where wages will tend to be depressed, or unemployment rise. On balance the effects for the world as a whole may be good as over-consumption in the United States may be restrained and Mexicans be saved from the depths of poverty most of them experience.

An important part of Mexico's economic problem is the very high rate of population increase which makes it difficult to invest enough in basic social services such as education.

The new president of the PAN party has promised to open up the economy with privatisation and deregulation.

Mexico is the major route for supplying illegal drugs to the United States. This trade is in the hands of extremely violent gangs. This trade may be a major source of wealth for Mexico. The government has a policy of trying to kill the trafficers but these are so wealthy that they can corrupt officials even at the highest levels.

The new pro-business party sold the state railways to United States companies, which insisted on the closure of the passenger service.

Ioan Grillo - El Narco

El Narco: The Bloody Rise of Mexican Drug Cartels







Mexico City with a population of about 20 million is still growing rapidly. It is said to have the worst air pollution in the world. As much of it is built on the dried out bed of a lake (the Venice-like city of Tenochtitlan which the Spaniards found) it is very vulnerable to earthquakes when the soil liquefies as the buildings are mostly not founded on rock.

This city is regarded as one of the world's major ecological disasters.

There are many polluting industries within the city region. These include oil refineries and chemical factories. When they catch fire they add to the pollution coming from road vehicles.

Carelessness with safety and pollution (perhaps caused by lack of democracy) leads to frequent disasters, especially in the petrochemical industry. Lack of control on pollution attracts US industry. If harmonization of pollution legislation is not part of the NAFTA Free Trade Area treaty Mexico may become even more attractive to polluting industries. North American companies apparently feel free in Mexico to do what they would not do at home - release pollutants without regard for people or environment.

Mexico shows the effects of unrestricted population growth, encouraged by religious interests. The government, however, is secular and encourages limitation of family size increasingly urgently.

The Gulf coasts might be suitable sites for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion plants to produce non-carbon emitting energy, fresh water and mitigation of Hurricanes.






Human Rights

The one party state caused a lax attitude to human rights including restrictions on the press and police brutality and disappearances of political opponents of the ruling party.

The main cause of disturbance is the drug industry.

Climate effects

Last revised 18/01/12

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Since 18/01/12

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