Mexico is described as being in “Middle America” — the transitional area between North and South America that includes Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies. It forms the southern border of the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. It is bordered on the west and south by the North Pacific Ocean, to the east by the Gulf of Mexico, and to the southeast by the Central American countries of Guatemala and Belize. The capital of Mexico is Mexico City, known locally as "Distrito Federal" (Federal District), "D.F.," or simply "México."
Mexico has an area of 761,605.8 square miles (1,972,550 sq km). It is the 14th largest country in the world and the fifth largest in the Americas, following Canada, the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. The lowest point in the country is Laguna Salada which is at an altitude of 32.7 feet (10 m), and its highest point is Volcan Pico de Orizaba at 18,700.79 feet (5,700 m).
The indigenous peoples of Mexico included the Aztecs, the Maya, and the Zapotec. Europeans arrived in 1517, and Spain ruled Mexico for about 300 years, before Mexico declared independence — on 16 September, 1810, and actually had its independence recognized by Spain — 27 September 1821. To its inhabitants, the country is known as Estados Unidos Mexicanos. It is a federal republic.
As one might expect from its history, many of the people of Mexico are of mixed heritage. Sixty percent are a mixture of Amerindian and Spanish referred to as mestizo; 30% are either full Amerindian or predominantly so; 9% are termed “white” by the census. The majority of people—76.5%—are Roman Catholic, with 6.3% Protestant, and 92.7% speak only Spanish, with 5.7% speaking both Spanish and at least one indigenous language, such as Mayan, and 0.8% speaking an indigenous language only. Ninety-one percent of the population is literate.
The United States is Mexico’s top trading partner, both for imports and for exports. Its chief exports include fruits and vegetables, coffee, cotton, oil and oil products, manufactured goods, and silver. It relies on imports for machinery, electrical equipment, parts for assembling cars and aircraft and for car repair, and steel mill products. The service industries are the largest sector of the economy.
The Mexican diet is a blend of Spanish and Amerindian cuisines and food stuffs. Corn is the main staple, and is often served as tortillas. Chicken, pork, and beef are all used, and foods are often seasoned with chilies and herbs such as oregano, cilantro, cumin, and cinnamon. Beans, or frijoles, are often served, as are sweet potatoes, and avocados.