The New Student's Reference Work/Mexico

Mex′ico, a federative republic, rich in natural resources, lies between the United States and Guatemala, in North America. It is as large as Great Britain, France, Germany and Austria together, and is 2,000 miles long and from 130 to 1,000 wide. (Area 767,005 sq. miles.) Lying between the Gulf and the Pacific, it has a coast-line of 6,000 miles and numerous ports on both coasts. The peninsulas of Yucatan and Lower California belong to it.

Surface. The country in the main is a great tableland, reaching a height of over 8,000 feet. High above the plateau tower the snow-capped crests of several volcanoes, most of which are extinct. The highest peaks are Popocatapetl (17,540 feet), Orizaba (17,362 feet), Ixtaccihuatl (16,076 feet), Toluca (15,019 feet) and Colima (14,363 feet). Two mountain-ranges traverse Mexico, running almost parallel to the coast, one along the Gulf of Mexico and the other along the Pacific coast. The former runs from 10 to 100 miles from the coast, with a slight upward incline from the low coast to the foothills, while the range on the Pacific side runs very near the coast. This range has several branches, some crossing the country.

Rivers. The rivers are of little use for navigation, but, marked by numerous cascades, afford abundant waterpower. The largest is the Rio Grande, 1,500 miles long, which forms part of the boundary between Mexico and the United States.

The principal gulfs are those of Mexico, California and Tehuantepec. The largest lake is the Chapala, over 80 miles long and 30 wide. The valley of Mexico has seven lakes, one fresh and six salt water.

Climate. Mexico presents great diversity of climate by reason of differences of altitude. The heat of the torrid zone is experienced on the sea-coast and the low lands adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. There are two seasons, the rainy and dry seasons. The rains begin usually in June and last until November. The temperate zone lies between 3,000 and 5,000 feet above the sea-level. This may be called the region of perpetual spring. Semi-tropical productions have their home here, mingled with the products both of tropical and cold regions. There are farms where both wheat and sugar-cane grow on the same parcel of ground. Between 7,000 feet above the sea-level and the heights of the mountain-ranges lies the cold region, with a mean temperature of 59° or 60° and with small changes from one end of the year to the other, though the change between sunrise and sunset is often considerable. On the central plateau, high above the sea-level and protected from winds and storms by the mountains, the climate is even, temperate and delightful.

Vegetable Life. There can be no more pleasing or extensive field for the botanist than the tropical forests of Mexico. Here are found 114 different species of building and cabinet woods, including pine, oak, fir, cedar, mahogany, rosewood etc.; 12 kinds of dyewoods, 8 of resinous trees the cacao and india-rubber, copal, liquid amber, camphor, dragon's blood and mastic; 17 varieties of oil-bearing trees and plants, among which are the olive, almond, sesame, flax, cocoa, palm etc. Fibrous plants abound, including heniquen or sisal hemp, ixtle, pita, maguey, jute, flax, ramie, aloe and cotton. In the forest-shades bloom flowers of most brilliant colors and exquisite tints. In the vicinity of Orizaba orchid-collectors may find a paradise.

Animal Life. The animal kingdom is most extensively represented including the puma, jaguar, ocelot, wolves, coyotes and wild-cats. In the southern forests a species of sloth and five varieties of monkeys are found. The armadillo and iguana are common. There also are beavers, martens and otters. Venomous serpents and insects are in the lowlands. In the mountains and foothills are deer, hare, rabbits, quail, partridge and a great variety of birds and ground game. The birds of Mexico are famed for their brilliant plumage, and include 353 species.

Minerals. The mineral wealth of Mexico is boundless, both in variety and richness of deposits. Although the metal-bearing regions have been exploited for 400 years, and fabulous values of precious metals have been mined, it is true beyond question that greater riches remain to be uncovered. Humboldt, early in the last century, estimated the mines in Mexico to number 3,000. Through lack of transportation and inefficiency of primitive mining-methods the industry declined for a time, but the extension of railroads, the introduction of modern methods and the stimulus of the modern awakening under Diaz have brought about a revival of this great industry. New areas are being exploited and large investments of foreign capital are finding rich returns in the opening and development of mines of silver, gold, copper and other metals. The minerals of Mexico include gold, silver, platinum, iron, copper, quicksilver, tin, cobalt, antimony, coal, petroleum, all of these being either worked or known to exist. Mining is carried on in 24 of the 31 states and territories, nearly all of the mines yielding silver, either alone or in combination with other ores. The total value of mine products in 1910 was $156,520,075, and of silver alone $76,349,122.

Agriculture. The shape of Mexico on the map is that of a cornucopia, and the land has been called a “horn of plenty.” Not only are her mines practically inexhaustible and her forests rich in precious woods; but her land is wonderfully fertile. The country may be divided into three agricultural regions: the sugar-cane and rubber region in the lowlands; the coffee region in the temperate belt; the region producing cereals in the central tablelands. The first is much the most fertile. Here sugar-cane reaches a height of 25 to 30 feet; the tobacco-plant which grows wild has leaves 25 to 30 inches in length; three crops of corn can be grown in one year; there are 20 species of bananas and many kinds of palms; 5,000 limes have been counted on one lime-tree. Along the river-bottoms are millions of acres of land having a soil 13 to 16 feet deep. The drawback in this region is the suffering entailed by the climate and the insects. The temperate belt is less fertile and is poorly watered, but more healthful and grows coffee abundantly and all kinds of fruits. The lands of the central plateau produce wheat, corn, beans, the agave (maguey) and grapes, and are also adapted to stock-raising. With these natural advantages, the soil has been cultivated only on a very limited scale. Until recently agricultural methods and the machinery and implements employed have been of the most primitive kind. The Mexican government has shown a decided interest in improving these conditions, and through the Department of Promotion has been endeavoring to educate the agricultural classes in scientific methods of cultivation, irrigation, fertilization and drainage of the soil and in the adaptation of different products to the several zones. Aid is rendered by the free distribution of seeds, slips and roots of vines, fruit-trees etc. In fact the incalculable service which has been rendered by the Agricultural Department of the United States government is here being duplicated as far as practicable.

Industries. Mexico has not been a manufacturing country, but with the extension of railroads and the influx of foreign capital and enterprising men a decided impulse has been given to manufacturing industries. One hundred and fourteen cotton mills were in operation in 1904. There also are numerous woolen-mills, and silk-weaving is rapidly increasing. Sugar-mills and flour-mills are many, but do not supply the local demands. Iron-foundries are numerous and profitable, but have been hindered by lack of transportation facilities. Pottery is made in many places, the cities of Guadalajara, Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Puebla being centers of the industry. Other industries are cotton-seed mills, tanneries, manufactures of glassware, hardware, drawn work and feather work. A noteworthy industry is the exporting of hides and skins. Mexico occupies the fourth rank among nations of the earth in this particular branch, the annual export amounting to more than $6,000,000 Mexican silver. The government is doing all in its power to foster home manufacture and has offered great inducements to those who will establish upon Mexican soil enterprises which will utilize its great resources. As a result the country is now making great strides in the industrial and manufacturing field. Smelting and reduction works, waterworks and electric plants are springing up throughout the country.

The capital invested in Mexico by United States companies, firms and individuals, has been stated to be in round numbers $1,000,000,000 gold, and a large part of this investment has been made within a few years. Of the total 70 per cent. is invested in railroads, the rest in mining and agriculture. United States firms have recently built many electric light and power plants, waterworks plants, telephone systems and similar plants.

English capitalists have also invested heavily in Mexican enterprises, particularly in connection with the development of the oil fields.

Education. In all the states education is free and compulsory, and the law is now enforced. In 1904 the number of Federal, State and Municipal elementary schools was 9,194, and the number of enrolled pupils was 620,476. For secondary instruction there were 36 schools with 4,642 pupils, and for professional instruction 65 institutions and colleges, including 20 normal schools. In all the Federal, State and Municipal schools there were 18,310 teachers, and the school expenditure amounted to $8,344,430. In addition there were 2,400 private schools with an attendance of 122,161.

The prevailing religion is Roman Catholicism, but the church is independent of the state, and all religions are tolerated.

Commerce. The principal exports of Mexico are silver, gold, copper, henequen, coffee, rubber, hides, guayule, cattle, chick peas, chicle and sugar. Imports: Machinery, iron, steel, textiles and manufactures, lumber, coal, iron, vegetable oils, coke, grain, wines, liquors, paper and textile fibers. Exports (1911-12) $148,994,564; imports $91,331,155.

There are 24 ports on the Gulf and 31 on the Pacific. Many of the former have steamship lines direct to the Gulf ports of the United States and Europe.

In 1911 there were 1,545 miles of railway open.

Government. Mexico is a federative republic. The constitution, originally promulgated on Feb. 5, 1857, and subsequently amended, declares that the Mexican Republic is established under the representative, democratic and federal form of government, composed of states free and sovereign in everything relating to their internal administration, but united in one single federation. The Supreme Government is divided into three coördinate branches: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. The legislative power of the nation is vested in a general Congress, consisting of two Chambers, the Deputies and the Senate. The executive power is lodged in a single individual known as the “President of the United Mexican States,” whose term of office is four years. By an amendment to the Constitution, under date of Dec. 20, 1900, he may be re-elected indefinitely. The judicial power is vested in the supreme court and the district and circuit courts.

Territorial Division. The territory of the United Mexican States is divided into 1 Federal District, 27 States and 2 Territories, whose organization is almost identical with that of the American Union. The States, as before indicated, are free and sovereign in all matters pertaining to their internal administration, their government being vested in three heads, namely: State government, State legislature and State judicial power. The States and Territories are, for convenience, classified as follows, according to their situation:

Central States. Federal District, Aguascalientes, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, México, Morelos, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosi, Tlaxcala and Zacatecas.

Northern States. Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Sonora.

Gulf States. Campeche, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Vera Cruz, Yucatán and Territorio de Quintana Roo.

Pacific States. Baja California, Colima, Chiapas, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Sinaloa and Tepic.

The two Territories are Tepic and Baja (Lower) California,

History. The early history of Mexico, as learnt from its monuments and picture-writings, includes two periods — that of the Toltecs and the Aztecs. The Toltecs are thought to have reached the country about the 8th century; they cultivated the land, introduced corn and cotton, made roads and built temples, cities and monuments whose ruins still prove their skill. To their invention are thought to belong the Mexican hieroglyphics, or system of writing by pictures, and the Mexican calendar. They are believed to have been driven south by famine and pestilence to Guatemala and Yucatan in the 11th century. After an interval, about the end of the 12th century, the Aztecs entered the land and founded, about 1325, the city of Mexico. They were a less cultivated race than the Toltecs, but more so than the North American tribes, though they are considered now as belonging to the same family. (See Aztecs.) The Spaniards under Cortez (q.v.) landed at Vera Cruz in 1519, and the story of the latter's conquest of Mexico is one of the romances of history. In 1540 all the American territory belonging to Spain, including Mexico, was united under the name of New Spain, and governed by viceroys appointed by the home government. The policy of the government, however, hindered the development of the country. Mexico was looked upon simply as a mine to be worked for the benefit of Spain. The natives were distributed as slaves on the plantations, and trade with any country but Spain was forbidden under penalty of death. In spite of this policy, however, it was one of the richest and most prosperous of the Spanish colonies. After three centuries of submission the spirit of discontent, which had been growing during the wars of Spain with France under Napoleon, broke out in rebellion in 1810, under the leadership of a country priest named Hidalgo. In 1821 the last of a series of 57 Spanish viceroys, O'Donoju, surrendered the capital. General Iturbide was proclaimed emperor in 1822, but General Santa Anna raised the standard of the republic, and Iturbide was banished to Italy, and shot the next year when he attempted to return. From that time on the history of Mexico is one of civil war until 1876. Fifty-two presidents or dictators, one emperor and a regent ruled the country in that time.

Texas secured its independence in 1836, and in 1845 became a part of the United States. The boundary line was unsettled, and a dispute over a strip of land brought on war with the United States, with its battles of Monterey, Palo Alto, Cerro Gordo, Buena Vista and Chapultepec, ending with the taking of the City of Mexico by the Americans under General Scott. Peace was concluded in 1848, Mexico ceding to the United States half a million square miles of her territory. In 1861, under the presidency of Juarez (q. v.), the country was again involved in war with the allied troops of England, France and Spain, partly as the result of some of the internal changes made by Juarez, such as the separation of church and state and the confiscation of church property, and partly because of acts of injustice to foreigners during this period of disorder. The difficulties were regulated by a treaty, to which the French commander, however, did not agree. Spain and England withdrew their forces, but France declared war, and entered the City of Mexico in 1863. The crown was offered to Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who was declared emperor. After the withdrawal of the French troops from the country, owing to the remonstrance of the United States based on the principle of the Monroe doctrine, the republican troops under Juarez defeated the army of the emperor, who was taken and shot in 1867. Juarez remained president until his death in 1872, when Tejada succeeded; and in 1876, after another revolution, Porfirio Diaz, the ablest of Mexican rulers, became president. He was re-elected continuously, his eighth term beginning Dec. 1, 1910. Early in 1911 a revolution resulted in the resignation of Diaz (q. v.) and the election of Francisco Madero, who, in turn, was deposed, and General Victoriana Huerta, one of the leaders in both revolutions, made provisional president. Madero was shot dead in the streets of Mexico on the night of February 22, 1913, while being transferred from one prison to another.

The people of Mexico, numbering in 1911 15,063,207, are over one-third Indians, embracing 35 tribes, living in communities in villages; the Mestizos, the half-breeds, with a mixture of Spanish and Indian blood, who form about one half the population; and the higher class, which is largely Spanish.


Cathedral, Mexico City.jpg

CATHEDRAL, MEXICO CITY