The United Mexican States, more commonly known as Mexico, is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the North Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. The United Mexican States is a federation comprising thirty-one states and a federal district, the capital Mexico City, whose metropolitan area is one of the world's most populous.
Covering almost 2 million square kilometers, Mexico is the fifth-largest country in the Americas by total area and the 14th largest in the world. With an estimated population of 109 million, it is the 11th most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world.
As a regional power, and the only Latin American member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1994, Mexico is firmly established as an upper middle-income country.
Mexico is the 12th largest economy in the world by GDP by purchasing power parity. The economy is strongly linked to those of its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, despite being considered an emerging world power the country's social and security problems keep it away from being effective.
Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time that an opposition party won the presidency from the Institutional Revolutionary Party ("Partido Revolucionario Institucional" : PRI) which had held it since 1929, culminating the political alternation at the federal level, which had begun at the local level during the 1980s.
Mexico's total area is 1,972,550 km², making it the world's 14th largest country by total area, and includes approximately 6,000 km² of islands in the Pacific Ocean (including the remote Guadalupe Island and the Islas Revillagigedo), Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of California. On its north, Mexico shares a 3,141 km border with the United States. The meandering Río Bravo del Norte (known as the Rio Grande in the United States) defines the border from Ciudad Juárez east to the Gulf of Mexico. A series of natural and artificial markers delineate the United States-Mexican border west from Ciudad Juárez to the Pacific Ocean. On its south, Mexico shares an 871 km border with Guatemala and a 251 km border with Belize.
Mexico is crossed from north to south by two mountain ranges known as Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental, which are the extension of the Rocky Mountains from northern North America. From east to west at the center, the country is crossed by the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt also known as the Sierra Nevada. A fourth mountain range, the Sierra Madre del Sur, runs from Michoacán to Oaxaca. As such, the majority of the Mexican central and northern territories are located at high altitudes, and the highest elevations are found at the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt: Pico de Orizaba (5,700 m), Popocatépetl (5,462 m) and Iztaccíhuatl (5,286 m) and the Nevado de Toluca (4,577 m). Three major urban agglomerations are located in the valleys between these four elevations: Toluca, Greater Mexico City and Puebla.
The Tropic of Cancer effectively divides the country into temperate and tropical zones. Land north of the twenty-fourth parallel experiences cooler temperatures during the winter months. South of the twenty-fourth parallel, temperatures are fairly constant year round and vary solely as a function of elevation.
Areas south of the twenty-fourth parallel with elevations up to 1,000 meters (the southern parts of both coastal plains as well as the Yucatán Peninsula), have a yearly median temperature between 24 and 28 °C. Temperatures here remain high throughout the year, with only a 5 °C difference between winter and summer median temperatures. Although low-lying areas north of the twentieth-fourth parallel are hot and humid during the summer, they generally have lower yearly temperature averages (from 20 to 24 °C) because of more moderate conditions during the winter.
Many large cities in Mexico are located in the Valley of Mexico or in adjacent valleys with altitudes generally above 2,000 m, this gives them a year-round temperate climate with yearly temperature averages (from 16 to 18 °C) and cool nighttime temperatures throughout the year. Many parts of Mexico, particularly the north have a dry climate with sporadic rainfall while parts of the tropical lowlands in the south average more than 200 cm of annual precipitation.
According to the World Tourism Organization, Mexico has one of the largest tourism industries in the world. In 2005 it was the seventh most popular tourist destination worldwide, receiving over 20 million tourists per year; it is the only country in Latin America to be within the top 25. Tourism is also the third largest sector in the country's industrial GDP. The most notable tourist draws are the ancient Meso-American ruins, and popular beach resorts. The coastal climate and unique culture – a fusion of European (particularly Spanish) and Meso-American cultures; also make Mexico attractive. The peak tourist seasons in Mexico are during December and during July and August, with brief surges during the week before Easter and during spring break at many of the beach resort sites which are popular among vacationing college students from the United States.
Mexico's middle/lower class typically take their vacations within Mexico, in contrast to the middle/higher class who travel worldwide, especially to Europe and the United States, and in lesser numbers to Asia and South America. Mexico is the twenty-third highest tourism spender in the world, and the highest in Latin America.
Mexican cuisine is known for its intense and varied flavors, colorful decoration, and variety of spices. Most of today's Mexican food is based on pre-hispanic traditions, including the Aztecs and Maya, combined with culinary trends introduced by Spanish colonists. The conquistadores eventually combined their imported diet of rice, beef, pork, chicken, wine, garlic and onions with the native pre-Columbian food, including maize, tomato, vanilla, avocado, papaya, pineapple, chile pepper, beans, squash, limes (limón in Mexican Spanish), sweet potato, peanut and turkey.
The most internationally recognized dishes include chocolate, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos and mole among others. Regional dishes include mole poblano, chiles en nogada and chalupas from Puebla; cabrito and machaca from Monterrey, cochinita pibil from Yucatán, Tlayudas from Oaxaca, as well as barbacoa, chilaquiles, milanesas, and many others.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org