Mexico is famous for many things. Amazingly sophisticated food and drinks. Beautiful people and cultures. Picturesque beaches and scenery. And plenty of history and tourist attractions. Yet, despite all it has to offer, Mexico, somewhat strangely, remains a confusing place for some people. Ask a random American “what is Mexico?” or “where is Mexico?” or “what continent is Mexico in?”, and you are likely to get at least a few confusing looks. So, we’re here to clear up a few things about America’s neighbor to the south. Here are a few facts about Mexico everyone should know.
What is Mexico?
Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. Mexico is a country! And it is a pretty big country at that. With around 124 million people, it is the 11th most populous country in the world. It has a total land area of 761,610 sq mi, placing it as the 13th largest country. It covers an area roughly four times the size of Spain.
Where is Mexico?
The bulk of the Mexican land mass is located directly south of the western part of the United States, and borders Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Think you can name the 10 closest U.S. state capitals to Mexico?
Farther south, the country curves to the east around the expanse of the Gulf of Mexico, with one of its easternmost points, Cancún, located almost directly south of Atlanta. To the southeast, Mexico shares borders with Guatemala and Belize. It boasts a wide range of terrain and climates, from deserts and beaches to tropical jungles and rocky highlands.
What Continent is Mexico In?
Mexico is sometimes described as being part of Central America, but that is not really accurate. Central America itself is not recognized as a separate continent, but is instead a region in North America. Central America includes just seven countries (Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama). Though Mexico shares some cultural similarities with the rest of Central America, it is rarely considered part of it.
History of Mexico
Human artifacts discovered in Mexico date back up to 10,000 years, and around 1,500 BC the region was dominated by the Olmec people, whose role in Mesoamerica has led to areas of Mexico being considered among the six independent cradles of civilization.
Zapotec, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations followed, among others, leaving behind incredibly important archaeological evidence, before the arrival of Hernán Cortés and the Spanish in 1519. The deadly combination of Spanish weaponry and smallpox devastated the indigenous people of Mexico, killing millions and reducing the population by 80 to 90 percent.
For almost 300 years, Mexico was known as Nueva España, or New Spain, until an independence revolt began in earnest on September 16, 1810, led by Miguel Hidalgo in the tiny city of Dolores. It took almost 11 years, but ultimately Mexico won their independence from Spain. They still celebrate Independence Day on September 16th to this day.
In the years that followed, Mexico often found themselves at conflict with the United States, particularly regarding the border between the two nations. However, today, there is considerable cooperation between the countries, although political and economic hostilities continue to crop up on occasion.
We’ve established that Central America is in North America. We’ve also established that Mexico is not part of Central America. Despite all that, there is no denying that Mexico has much in common with other Central American countries, at least compared to the United States, Canada, or the Caribbean nations.
The entire region was once dominated by Spain. As such, Spanish is the de facto official language of Mexico. Also, given its Spanish colonial history, Mexico, like many other Latin American countries, is predominantly Roman Catholic. Cities throughout Mexico and Central America are very similar in terms of religion, architecture, food, art, music, and traditions.
In respect to politics and economics, however, Mexico tends to have more similarities with the other larger countries in North America (United States and Canada).
Officially part of North America, culturally similar to Central America, but a massive, unique and independent nation all its own, Mexico has been shattering preconceptions for centuries.
Think you know a thing or two about Mexico? Test your skills in the quiz below!