Mexico Fact File
History: The site of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The global financial crisis beginning in late 2008 caused another massive economic downturn the following year.
Recovery began in 2010, with growth rates of 4% or more through 2012. Growth has slowed to an estimated 1.8% for 2013.
President Enrique Peña Nieto was elected in 2012, returning the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power after 12 years. His administration has proposed reforms to education, tax structure, and to monopolies like communications and the state-owned oil company, Pemex. It remains to be seen how successful he will be in facing entrenched interests. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. These challenges hamper Mexico’s efforts to fulfill the potential its vast size and abundant natural resources offer it.
Location: Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the U.S. and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the U.S.
Area: 758,449 square miles (1,964,375 square kilometers). Slightly less than three times the size of Texas.
Population: 116,220,947 (July 2013 est.)
Capital: Mexico City
Climate: Varies from tropical to desert.
Government: Federal republic
Head of State & Government: President Enrique Peña Nieto (since December 2012)
Language: Spanish only 92.7%, Spanish and indigenous languages 5.7%, indigenous only 0.8%, unspecified 0.8%; note – indigenous languages include various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional languages (2005).
Religion: Roman Catholic 76.5%, Protestant 6.3% (Pentecostal 1.4%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.1%, other 3.8%), other 0.3%, unspecified 13.8%, none 3.1% (2000 census).
Time Zone: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time) and UTC-7 in Baja California.
Electricity: Electrical outlets in Mexico look like those in the U.S., and the current runs on the same 60-cycle, 110-volt system. You won’t need a converter, but you may need a three-prong adapter.
Tipping: Most service employees in Mexico count on tips for the majority of their income, and this is especially true for bellhops and waiters. Bellhops should receive the equivalent of 50 cents to $1 per bag; waiters generally receive 10% to 20%, depending on the level of service. Chambermaids receive about $2 a day. It is not customary to tip taxi drivers, unless they are hired by the hour or provide touring or other special services.
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