Mexico, situated in the middle of North America, borders the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico to the East, between Belize and the United States and Guatemala and the North Pacific Ocean to the West. Comprising about 1,964,375 sq km, it is slightly less than three times the size of Texas. The capital city is Mexico City (population 22 million, for metro area); other major cities include: Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Acapulco, Merida, Leon, and Veracruz. Mexico City is the second-largest urban agglomeration in the Western Hemisphere, after Sao Paulo, Brazil, but before New York-Newark in the United States.
Mexico's terrain consists of: coastal lowlands, central high plateaus, and mountains up to 5,400 m. (18,000 ft.). Its climate ranges from tropical to desert. Mexico has a compulsory education system of 11 years, a literacy rate of 91.4 percent, and universal suffrage at 18 years of age. Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second most-populous country in Latin America; about 76 percent of the people living in urban areas.
Highly developed cultures, including those of the Olmecs, Mayas, Toltecs, and Aztecs, existed long before the Spanish conquest. The 1917 constitution provides for a federal republic with powers separated into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Historically, the executive has been the dominant branch, with power vested in the president, who promulgates and executes the laws of the Congress. The United States was the destination for most of Mexico’s exports in 2008. Top Mexican exports to the U.S. include petroleum, cars, and electronic equipment. Mexico has a free market economy in the trillion dollar class. It contains a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private sector. Mexico has free trade agreements with over 50 countries.
Natural hazards faced by Mexico include: tsunamis along the Pacific coast, volcanoes and destructive earthquakes in the center and south, and tropical cyclones and hurricanes on the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coasts. For more information concerning hurricanes, please see the National Hurricane Center site and click on the Eastern Pacific tab.
CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 9/2011; 12/2010