United Mexican States
Acapulco, Aguascalientes, Campeche, Chihuahua, Ciudad Obregón, Coyoacán, Cuernavaca, Culiacán, Durango, Guanajuato, Guaymas, Irapuato, Ixtapalapa, Jalapa, La Paz, León, Manzanillo, Mexicali, Morelia, Nezahualcóyotl, Oaxaca, Orizaba, Pachuca, Poza Rica, Puerto Vallarta, Querétaro, Saltillo, San Luis Potosí, Tampico, Taxco, Tepic, Toluca, Veracruz, Xochimilco, Zacatecas
This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for Mexico. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.
Mexico's rich past offers a visitor's backdrop of enchantment. Pyramids where Aztec priests performed human sacrifices still stand, approaching in bulk Egypt's largest. Monuments recall the exploits of a handful of Spaniards who toppled a mighty empire in a conquest unparalleled in history. Towns retain the flavor of a Spanish colony that flourished-even boasted a university-half a century before Jamestown began.
Mexico City, a metropolis of delightful climate and modern buildings amid historic charm, lies ringed by snow-capped volcanoes that slope down to pine forests, deserts, and balmy tropical beaches.
The first people to inhabit this land may have arrived 20,000 years before Columbus. Their descendants, including the Mayan and Aztecs, built a succession of highly developed civilizations that flourished from 1200 B.C.E. to C.E. 1521.
Hernán Cortex landed near modern day Vera Cruz in 1519. King Montezuma II invited the Spaniards into his palace and they promptly took him hostage. After the Spanish conquistadors destroyed the Aztec Empire, the position of the conquered peoples deteriorated rapidly. The Indian population fell from an estimated 25 million at the time of conquest to 1 million by 1605.
From the 16th to 19th centuries, a new colonial society emerged, stratified by race and wealth. The upper echelon was European, in the middle were people of mixed European-indigenous heritage, and at the bottom were the descendants of the native peoples.
Mexico began agitating for independence in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The struggle for independence was long and fitful, however, and freedom from Spain was not finally realized until 1821.
Culturally, politically, and economically, Mexico is experiencing rapid change. For a country composed mostly of peasants before the Revolution (1910-20), Mexico has undergone broad and rapid urbanization. Mexico City emerged as one of the world's largest cities at the end of the 20th century. The economy has dramatically about-faced, embracing open-market policies and free-trade links with the U.S. and countries throughout the Americas.
Mexico City, formally known as Mexico, Distrito Federal (D.F.), is a cosmopolitan capital. The glass-walled sky-scrapers lining the Paseo de la Reforma, the stunning architecture of the Museum of Anthropology, the variety of international restaurants, deluxe hotels, the Lomas residential area with its stylish homes, and modern department stores and supermarkets are all signs of a world metropolitan center. But surrounding this glittering center are mass housing developments and barrios typical of the rapidly growing capital of a developing country. Heavy industry and millions of motor vehicles make the city one of most polluted in the world.
Mexico City lies in a long, flat valley on the high plateau of central Mexico. Many of the peaks encircling the city are volcanic-including glacier topped Popocateped, "The Warrior," and Iztacchihautl, "The Sleeping Lady." "Pogo" and "Izta" provide a spectacular setting for the city on the days when a drop in air pollution makes them visible.
Although Mexico City is only 19 degrees N. of the Equator, the high altitude (7,350 feet) creates a fall-like climate all year. Thus, despite its tropical latitude, the city has a pleasant average temperature range of 53 to 79°F in the warmest month (May), and 42 to 70°F in the coolest month (January). The two seasons are dry and rainy. The latter lasts from June through September when several hours of rain fall daily, usually in the afternoon and evening; but mornings are sunny. Nights and evenings after the storms are cool and damp. The weather is coolest November through February when night and early morning temperatures can drop to freezing. March through May are the warm and dusty. These months are at the end of the dry season. Average humidity range is 44%-73% and annual rainfall averages 30 inches, 90%% of which falls between May and October.
Electricity is the same as in the U.S.: 110 volt, 60 hertz, alternating current. Buildings use liquid propane gasfor hot water and cooking.
Water pressure varies and is often low; so many residences have reserve storage tanks to occasionally supply water when the city water is off for several hours or days.
Mexico uses the same two-prong outlets as in the U.S., but many residences have been upgraded with standard three-prong, polarized, and grounded outlets that are more common in the U.S. Electrical blackouts of several hours are not unusual during the rainy season. Voltage fluctuations are common; so surge suppressors, voltage regulators, and uninterruptible power supplies for electronic equipment are useful. Kitchen and bathroom outlets are rarely found with ground fault circuit interrupters, which are required by most U.S. electrical codes.
A variety of groceries, including fresh fruits and vegetables, packaged foods (both domestic and imported), dairy products, and meats are available. Supermarkets stock fresh or frozen meat and fish, dairy products, fresh produce, and canned or packaged goods. Major U.S. food packagers produce such goods in Mexico as cereals, bakery products, and beverages-but sometimes with a slightly different taste than what you may be accustomed to. Widely available fresh fruits include pineapple, papaya, water-melon, and cantaloupe year round; as well as seasonal mango. Several large markets have unusual and common Mexican and tropical fruits and vegetables. Many specialty shops sell ethnic foods-including Middle-Eastern locally produced fresh kosher meats, and imported frozen foods. Most food items are available at reasonable prices, but imported items are only available at prices higher than in the United States. Most of the larger supermarkets feature sections devoted to imported goods. Smaller shops specializing in U.S. products are located in Lomas, Polanco, and a few other areas. All necessities and many other items are available.
Locally produced mixes and canned foods are of varying quality and very limited variety. Prepared frozen and packaged meals are imported and expensive. A large variety of Mexican cheeses are available. Many of the available cheeses are similar to common European and American types. Strained baby foods are expensive and of lower quality.
Mexican beer is good and very reasonably priced. Bottled soft drinks (including diet sodas or "lite" as they are known locally) are available at modest prices.
Clothing needs in Mexico City do not vary a great deal throughout the year. Warm clothing is useful for cold spells in the winter (November to February) and rainy season (June to September). Temperatures can vary anywhere from 70°F to 40°F It is suggested that you take a few sweaters, a raincoat, and an umbrella.
Lightweight summer clothes are essential for travel to low-altitude areas where the climate is hot and humid, but are only needed in Mexico City from March through June when temperatures may reach up to 90°F. Remember that Mexico is approximately 7,300 feet above sea level; so mornings and evenings can be cool and even though it may reach into the 90s in the sun, it can still be on the cool side in the shade.
Clothing of all kinds is available at prices comparable to the U.S., but the quality varies. Mexico City has large shopping malls, several different department store chains, and a large variety of small boutiques. Sears, Liverpool, and Palacio de Hierro are among the larger department stores. A wide variety of locally made and imported clothing is available.
Take U.S. swimsuits and underwear for children and adults. Some Mexican-made clothing, particularly stockings and pantyhose, often do not fit tall women (approx. 5′6" and taller). Mexican shoes are stylish and well made, however shoes do not go beyond American size eight for women. Narrow shoe sizes are very scarce.
Men: In Mexico City, men wear light-to medium weight business suits. The darker colors (black, brown, charcoal gray) are the most popular. Lightweight suits are comfortable in the spring and for traveling to low altitudes. Mexican shoes are stylish and well made, but do not go beyond American 10 for men. Narrow shoe sizes are very scarce. Take or order from the U.S. any sportswear, shirts, shoes, pajamas, underwear, and socks that you will need. These items are sold locally; but the quality and variety may not appeal to American tastes. It is suggested that you take along a supply of buttons (for suits) and thread. Buttons very frequently 'pop-off' at the most inconvenient time and thread sold locally may not be of very good quality.
Good tailors are available varying with prices. Hats or shorts are rarely worn in Mexico City, except for sports activities. A dark suit is appropriate.
Women: Take wool or cotton suits and dresses with jackets. Mexico City temperatures can change rapidly during the day, particularly during the rainy season. Long-sleeved blouses, sweaters, jackets, and layered clothing are very useful; homes and offices are rarely heated. Pantsuits are very popular.
The dress for receptions, cocktail parties, dinners, and similar events varies according to rank and representational activity. Most Mexican women wear current U.S. fashions for both afternoon and evening social events. Shorts are not worn except for recreation, or at resorts. Locally made dresses are available in a variety of styles, including both current fashions and Mexican ethnic. Imported clothing from the U.S. and Europe is available. Good Mexican textiles are available; but some are not pre-shrunk, colorfast, or drip-dry.
Patterns sold locally cost twice as much as those in the U.S. The selection of such sewing accessories as thread is limited and the quality is often poor. Well-crafted silver, brass, and copper jewelry is less expensive than in the U.S. Native semi-precious stones such as turquoise, opals, and topaz in silver or gold mountings-are also available.
Children: Children's clothes are available in great variety. Price and quality vary, depending upon the store. Some parents take children's clothes from the U.S. or order from catalogs. Dress for all ages is similar to that in the U.S., although teenagers in Mexico seem very fashion conscious. Some schools require uniforms. European-style baby clothing is readily available, but American style clothing is not. Disposable diapers are available in the commissary and on the local economy; however some locally made disposable diapers have been known to cause severe diaper rash on some children. Children's shoes and sneakers are available at both a satisfactory price and quality.
Supplies and Services
A variety of both domestic and imported supplies and services are available on the local economy. Many U.S. brands of health or beauty aids are manufactured and sold locally. Most medications can be bought at local drugstores and may cost less than in the U.S.
Film and developing are readily available, including 45-minute processing. Prices, quality, and service compare favorably with the U.S. Quality engraving and printing can be done locally.
Dry-cleaners and commercial laundries are slower, but competitive in price to those in the U.S. Pick-up and delivery from your residence is also available. Beauty shops and barbershops are numerous and compare favorably with those in the U.S. in price and service. Reasonably priced shoe repair is available. Audio, video, and personal computer equipment repair services are satisfactory; however, some parts are scarce and the work can be expensive. Service and repair on U.S. cars are fair. Dealer service is available for Chrysler, Ford, GM, Nissan, and VW models that are assembled in Mexico. It is suggested that you contact your local dealer in the U.S. to verify all warranty information.
Most stores and markets are located close to such tourist centers as the Zona Rosa (Pink Zone), Polanco (very popular neighborhood), and the Zocalo (Historic Center). The real bargains are in handcrafted silver, gold, copper, tin, onyx, leather, textiles, pottery, blown-glass, and paintings. Stores usually open at 10 am or 11 am, but the time may vary according to the owner's whim. They usually remain open until 7 pm or 8 pm. Many specialized stores open only half-days on Saturday and most stores close on Sunday, except for those stores located in the malls.
Many U.S. expatriates have such domestic help as maids, gardeners or chauffeurs; however, few speak English. Truly skilled cooks are hard to find. Almost all domestic employees hired locally are Mexican. The Government of Mexico is strict about visas and work permits for foreign domestics because of the large number of Mexicans available. Although many domestics live in, they can also be hired on a part-time "live-out" basis for laundry and cleaning purposes. Families with small children may find it helpful to have a live-in domestic to look after children, since good babysitters are very scarce. Most homes and many apartments have separate servants quarters. The cost of a domestic employee's salary, Christmas bonus, meals, uniform, severance pay, and Social Security has increased in recent years; but it is still significantly less expensive than in the U.S. An employer is liable for three months of severance pay upon departure once an employee has completed 30 days of employment. It increases at the rate of 20 days a year. One-third of the wage is retained to cover costs of room and board for live-in domestics. Domestic employees are entitled to one day off a week, Mexican holidays, and six to twelve days, paid vacation days a year. Employers have the option of enrolling servants in the IMSS health program or paying their medical expenses directly.
Mexico City's large English-speaking community is served by several English language religious institutions, including but not limited to Catholic, Baptist, Christian Science, Church of Christ, Greek Orthodox, Jewish (Conservative), Latter-day Saints, Lutheran, Methodist, Quaker, Seventh-day Adventist, Union Evangelical, Interdenominational, and Unitarian religions/beliefs. Announcements for the times of services appear regularly in the English-language daily newspaper, The Mexico City News.
The following schools offer programs from pre-school through sixth grade: Lomas Altas, Sierra Nevada, and Eaton. These schools are located in the Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood.
The American School Foundation (ASF) (Address: Bondojito 215, Colonia Las Americas, Delegacion Alvaro Obregon, 01120 Mexico, Distrito Federal, Mexico)
As a bicultural and bilingual school, its program is different than the U.S. schools. It offers accredited coeducational programs in pre-primary, primary (first to fifth), middle school (sixth to eighth), and high school (ninth to twelfth) levels. The SACS in the U.S. accredits the ASR The school also has Mexican accreditation, by the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) for all grade levels and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, for the high school program.
ASF receives some grant aid from the Office of Overseas Schools (A/OS); but, it is not affiliated with the U.S. Embassy. Under the terms of the Government's grant to the school, AFS must accept all children who meet admission standards. AFS has about 2,200 students-approximately 50% of whom are Mexican, 25% American, and 25% other nationalities. Classes in primary school are conducted half-day in Spanish and half-day in English. However, children with little-to no Spanish attend "Special Spanish" classes. In middle school, Spanish is taught as a second language. The ASF campus includes indoor and outdoor play areas, tennis courts, and an indoor swimming pool. An intramural sports program includes American football, soccer, and basketball.
The school year starts in mid-August and ends in late June. Two-week vacations occur both at Christmas and Easter. Uniforms are not required.
Children coming from schools with other than an American curriculum and children with poor academic records may be required to take an admission exam.
Summer activities include remedial and enrichment programs, in addition to a half-day Summer Camp Program. Extracurricular activities include drama, Model United Nations, a variety of sports, National Honor Society (NHS), and various clubs.
Greengates: (Address: Avenida Circunvalacion Poniente 102, Balcones de San Mateo, 53200 Naucalpan, Estado de Mexico, Mexico). A private, coeducational school based on the British system that offers kindergarten through high school. Applicants are tested for acceptance and placement. The school year is from mid-August through late June. Classes are taught in English. Spanish is required as a second language and French is offered beginning in grade six.
The school requires elementary and junior high students to wear uniforms. An after-school activity program includes art, drama, music, chess, and photography. About 30 nationalities are represented. Summer programs include remedial education, arts, crafts, and sports. Expenses are within the education allowance.
Lomas Altas: (Address: Montanas Calizas 305, Lomas de Chapultepec, Mexico 11000 D.F. Tels 520-5375, 2027986, fax: 520-2276.) Lomas Alias is growing in popularity for younger children (up to the sixth grade). The school is a private, coeducational school for children from pre-school through sixth grade. There are regularly long waiting lists for spaces. Early registration is recommended No uniform is required. The school year is from mid-August through to the end of June. The majority of children attending the school are Mexican. Beginning in the first grade, half the day's curriculum is conducted in Spanish and half in English. For younger children, the classes are all in English.
Westhill Institute: (Address: Monies Carpatos, No. 940, 11000 Mexico D.F) Westhill is a private, coeducational school, founded in 1992. The school has two campuses. Kindergarten through grade 6 is located in Lomas de Chapultepec. Older children go to the campus in Santa Fe. Uniforms are required. The standard curriculum includes some class work in Spanish and French.
In addition, numerous other schools-such as Montessori, French, German, and religious-are available. Many nursery schools and kindergartens are available and one or two have summer programs. Most schools have bus service.
Except for Greengates School, most schools must conform to the Government of Mexico requirements to teach Spanish at least half of every school day in elementary grades and follow the approved curriculum.
Special Educational Opportunities
UNAM has a school for foreign students, that offers programs in Latin American Studies and intensive Spanish. Most courses are in English, including those in Mexican history and culture. The university offers many degrees-including economics, dentistry, engineering, and the humanities.
A wide range of courses and programs is offered at The Ibero-American University (Universidad Ibero Americana) and the University of the Americas, Mexico City (Universidad de Las Americas).
Universidad Internacional de Mexico, located in Mexico City, is part of the U.S. International University of San Diego, California. The U.S. campus is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It offers undergraduate degrees in business administration, general studies, and psychology as well as graduate programs in management and organizational development, psychology, international business administration, and business administration. All course work is in English.
The athletic facilities at numerous private clubs are open. The ASF campus includes lighted tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool, available for community use for a nominal fee. A swimming pool at the YMCA is available for a small charge. Gold's Gym, located in Mexico City, offers various types of equipment and personal trainers for variable membership dues.
The Maria Isabel Sheraton Hotel has some athletic club facilities, including exercise classes. The Camino Real Hotel rents tennis courts by the hour.
Runners must take time to adapt to Mexico City's higher altitude. Heavy traffic and air pollution dampen some runners' enthusiasm, but Chapultepec Park and other locations provide pleasant surroundings for running. Runners must remember that crime is relatively high in Mexico City; so you must be cautious of where and when you choose to run.
As in most Latin countries, soccer is a favorite spectator sport. Other sports include horse racing, jaialai, American football, baseball, softball, basketball, and polo. Bullfights are held almost every Sunday. Horseback riding is popular among Mexicans. Few riding clubs are available in Mexico City and its environs. You may rent horses to ride "Mexican saddle" in the countryside around Mexico City.
The Government of Mexico requires special permits to possess firearms or to use them for hunting.
Freshwater fishing for trout and bass is good.
Some of the world's best deep-sea fishing and beaches are at such Pacific coast resorts, as Acapulco and Ixtapa Zihuatanejo (Guerrero), Puerto Vallarta (Jalisco), Puerto Escondido and Huatulco (Oaxaca) near the Gulf of Tehuantepec, Mazatlan (Sinaloa), and Los Cabos (at the southern tip of the 1,000-mile-long Baja California Peninsula). The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortes) resorts include Guaymas (Sonora). The Gulf of Mexico resorts include Veracruz and Tampico (Veracruz). Caribbean resorts include Cancun and Cozumel (Quintana Roo). Mountain climbing is popular at the nearby volcanoes of Popocateped ("Pogo" is the second-highest mountain in Mexico) and Iztacchihautl; and at the Pico de Orizaba (the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America, on the Puebla/Veracruz border) it is popular with the hardy who are also accustomed to high altitudes (17,000 feet above sea level). The lower slopes provide extraordinary beauty and offer an attractive alternative of hiking and scenery. The city of Puebla (altitude 7,030 feet), located on the eastern side of "Pogo" and "Izta," was one of the first Hispanic cities in Mexico. It has museums and buildings reflecting the Spanish colonial period. The Battle of Puebla, which marked Mexican victory over French forces on May 5, 1862, is celebrated in today's Cinco de Mayo festivities.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
Touring and sightseeing possibilities are excellent. Mexico abounds in archeological sites from the indigenous, meso-American civilizations of the pre-Hispanic era.
The Great Temple, the seat of the Aztec civilization, is in the Zocalo (or central plaza), in downtown Mexico City. Founded in 1325 as Tenochtitlan, it was conquered by Hernando Cortes in 1521. An adjacent museum displays artifacts found at the site. The pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, dating from C.E. 500, are found at Teotihuacan (also known as the City of the Gods), about a 45 minute ride northeast of Mexico City. Tula (Hidalgo), the capital of the Toltec civilization, is a one-hour drive northwest of Mexico City, off the toll road to Queretaro. Mayan sites are everywhere when you visit the Yucatan Peninsula.
The downtown Mexico City area includes excellent museums, the Cathedral, the National Palace with murals by Diego Rivera, glass factories, old churches, convents, and colorful markets. Chapultepec Park is a popular, lake-centered woodland.It is several miles square and located near the Polanco and Lomas areas of Mexico City. It has a zoo, bridle paths, picnic areas, playgrounds, miniature trains, botanical gardens, bicycle paths, row boats, a colorful amusement park, fine restaurants, and Atlantis-an aquatic animal park.
Mexico City's central location makes weekend trips easy to low altitudes, scenic resorts, and towns by car, train, bus, or plane. Many old haciendas have been converted into beautiful hotels and resorts. Located within a day's excursion, south of Mexico City is Cuernavaca, Morelos (altitude 5,060 feet), known as the City of Perpetual Springtime; and Taxco, Guerrero (altitude 5,760 feet), a colonial town noted for silver manufacturing.
The Spanish colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato (altitude 6,140 feet) is two hours to the north. Toll roads fan out from Mexico City to these and other areas of interest.
Summer activities for children are somewhat limited. Summer jobs are not always available for high school and college-age students; so many families spend a few weeks traveling during summer.
Mexico City's performing and visual arts programs are international in scope. The National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA) offers a broad range of cultural activities at its numerous concert halls, theaters, museums, and other facilities. The Palacio de Bellas Artes and the National Auditorium are the traditional venues for performing arts programs. In recent years, newer facilities have suffered in various parts of the city. World class symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras, chamber ensembles, opera companies, jazz groups, modern dance companies and ballet companies perform periodically at Bellas Artes. Superb art exhibits, are held frequently.
The National Museum of Anthropology hosts programs of dance and music from Mexico's indigenous cultures.
Mexico's famed Ballet Folklorico performs each Wednesday and Sunday a Bellas Artes. UNAM administers an extensive cultural program, which often includes American activities held at their Centro Cultural, in the southern part of the city. Tickets for INBA and UNAM programs are moderately priced.
There are several amateur theater groups in addition to commercial theater groups. Movie theaters show first-run American movies about three months after their release in the U.S. at inexpensive prices.
Video clubs feature a selection of movies, most of which are in VHS format. DVD is sometimes available.
Dining out is reasonably priced and varied. The cosmopolitan nature of the city is nowhere more evident than in the variety of restaurants, with specialties ranging from the various regions of Mexico (Yucatan, Veracruz, etc.) to countries and cultures around the world. Mexican food in Mexico is very different from the Mexican-style food that has become so popular in the U.S. International restaurant offerings include anything from the Argentine-style "parrilla" to Middle Eastern cuisine. Good caterers are available throughout Mexico.
Mexicans normally eat their main meal as early as 2:00 pm and then have light dinner after about 9:00 pm. It is always better to make a restaurant reservation for parties larger than six. Nightclubs are everywhere you look in Mexico City.
Chapultepec Park boasts the National Museum of Anthropology, a handsome building housing one of the world's most extensive collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts from cultures indigenous to Mexico.
Lecture tours in English are available. The Museum of Modern Art provides an overview of 80 years of Mexican art, as well as numerous excellent foreign and Mexican exhibits. The Rufino Tamayo Museum, includes collections of paintings and sculptures by 20th-century artists from Mexico, the U.S., and Europe. Chapultepec Castle and museum, the residence of the Austrian Archduke Maximilian (1864-67), overlooks the eastern end of the park and Paseo de la Reforma.
Other fine museums include the San Carlos, the Pinacoteca Virreinal, the Frida Kalo, the National Museum of the Viceroyalty (the Spanish Colonial Period), and the Anahuacali Museum which features Diego Rivera's pre-Hispancic collection.
For those interested in Mexico City's active art scene, the city offers more than a dozen fine commercial art galleries, which periodically show the best of Mexican andto a lesser extent-foreign artists. Artists also regularly exhibit in several out-door parks.
Well-known organizations with branches in Mexico City include: the American Benevolence Society, the American Legion, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Daughters of the American Revolution, Junior League, Lions, Navy League, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Shriners, Hash House Harriers, St. Andrews, and various U.S. college alumni clubs. The American Society offers a wide variety of social activities.
A good knowledge of Spanish and a real effort to make friends helps to develop friendships. Many clubs within Mexico, such as Damas Diplomaticas and The Newcomers' Club, offer monthly meetings, speakers, tours to various sites in Mexico, dinners, and dances.
Metropolitan Guadalajara, with a population of more than five million inhabitants, including approximately 50,000 resident U.S citizens, sits 5,092 feet above sea level on a broad plateau. A dramatic canyon, "La Barranca," forms the city's natural northern boundary; picturesque mountains rise to the east and west and Lake Chapala lies to the south.
Guadalajara enjoys a temperate climate year round. Dry, sunny days are interrupted by brief thunder-showers during the summer rainy season (June through October). Ninety percent of the average annual rainfall of 35 inches falls during these five months. Because of its altitude, Guadalajara escapes coastal heat and humidity. The average temperature range varies from 45 to 75°F in January and 55 to 90°F in May. The climate which is comparable to that of San Diego except for the greater rainfall, has been instrumental in attracting thousands of tourists as well as American retirees.
A city of brightly colored tropical flowers, Guadalajara proudly blends its historic past with modern development. The Cathedral, government buildings, and expansive plazas of the city center stand as impressive remnants of Mexico's colonial heritage. Plaza Tapatia, a downtown pedestrian mall, offers hours of pleasant strolling amidst greenery, fountains, shops, and restaurants in the city's historic center. It is also the location of the Cultural Cabanas Institute, which houses the world-famous Orozco ceiling murals.
Electric service is the same as in the U.S: 110 volt, 60 hertz, AC. Voltage regulators or surge suppressors can protect televisions, stereos, and computers from electrical surges. Both are available locally. It is advisable to unplug the equipment when not in use and to not use the equipment in the middle of thunder and lightning storms.
Guadalajara is home to such American chains as Wal-Mart Super-Center, Sam's Club, and Costco in addition to Mexican chain super-center-type stores. Many American products manufactured in either the U.S. or in Mexico can be found in these stores. However, those products made in the U.S. may not be routinely stocked by the store. It is best to stock up on desired goods when you find them in local stores. Additionally, there are innumerable specialty food stores, bakeries, and outdoor markets that offer a wide variety of products.
Frozen foods are readily available, and low-calorie, low-fat products are becoming more widely available. Pasteurized milk (whole and skim), cheeses, and heavy cream may be safely purchased in supermarkets.
City tap water is safe for bathing and cleaning, but not for drinking. Bottled drinking water is sold in virtually all stores and delivery service may be established such that the water is delivered to your home on a set schedule.
It is necessary to disinfect fruits and vegetables before eating them. Disinfectant drops and powder are readily available in all local grocery stores.
Guadalajara boasts an enviable spring and summer climate year round. Light and medium weight clothing is comfortable in all seasons. Heavy winter clothing is not needed. Take a raincoat and umbrella for the mid-June to October rainy season. Summer clothes are perfect for travel to low-altitude, warmer areas. Take your bathing suit for use at local pools and for the enjoyment of nearby beaches. Formal social occasions are rare; most functions are informal. A plain, dark suit for men or cocktail dresses for women is appropriate attire.
Guadalajara has several large, American-style shopping malls, and a variety of clothing styles is available in the many boutiques and department stores. Leather jackets, shoes and boots are available at reasonable prices as there are many manufacturers of leather goods in the area. Large sized shoes and clothing are scarce.
Supplies and Services
Housekeepers are available on apart-time or live-in basis. Wages are very reasonable in comparison to U.S. rates.
Gardeners are also available at a reasonable fee. Their services are generally needed every two weeks during the rainy season and less frequently for the remainder of the year. Medical care, furniture design, and construction, automobile and appliance repair, and other services can be found at a lower cost than in the U.S.
Several churches, including Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches offer English services. A Jewish community offers services in Spanish and Hebrew.
Guadalajara is home to five private and two public universities as well as several smaller institutions of higher learning. Also, a good number of excellent high schools and grammar schools exist where the language of instruction is Spanish.
The American School offers a coeducational, bilingual program from pre-kindergarten through high school. The student body consists of nearly 1,300 students, more than 80% of whom are Mexican. Children with special educational needs may not be well served there or by any other school in Guadalajara. The teaching staff is multinational, but predominantly Mexican. Most of the remainder is from the U.S. or Canada. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges of Schools. The school year runs from late August to late June with two-week vacations at Easter and Christmas.
Pre-kindergarten, elementary, and high school level courses have summer sessions. Uniforms are not required.
The John F. Kennedy School offers instruction from kindergarten through grade six. Kindergarten is taught completely in English; pre-first grade for six year-olds offers two subjects in Spanish and the rest in English; and primary school beginning at age seven is taught in Spanish and English on alternating days. Bus service is not available.
The Lincoln School, which offers prekindergarten through grade 12, has two different teaching programs: the bilingual program is taught half in Spanish and half in English; the traditional, bicultural program offers 90% of material in English, with the remaining 10% in Spanish. The school is built on Christian principles, with mandatory 20-minute devotions each morning. Bus service is not offered.
Guadalajara's climate encourages a wide variety of outdoor sports. Swimming, tennis, hiking, and horseback riding are popular. Five 18-hole golf courses, a nine-hole course and one practice range are available in Guadalajara. Both private clubs and city recreation facilities offer swimming, tennis, racquetball, basketball, and other sports.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
Guadalajara is situated in close proximity to many areas worth visiting. The neighboring towns of Tonala and Tlaquepaque offer an enormous selection of artisan crafts at very affordable prices. Tonala hosts exciting market days every Thursday and Sunday for additional shopping pleasure.
Lake Chapala and the lakeside village of Ajijic are only an hour away. Beyond the lake are the picturesque towns of Mazamitla and Tapalpa.
For beach lovers, there are many options within about four hours' driving from Guadalajara. Puerto Vallarta, the principal beach resort in the consular district, is 25 minutes away by plane or approximately four hours by car. Manzanillo, another important beach town, is three hours away by car and home to great fishing as well as the largest seaport on Mexico's Pacific coast. Additional beaches include Barra de Navidad, Nueva Vallarta, and Tenacatita.
The neighboring states of Michoacan, Guanajuato, and Zacatecas are also, easy-to-reach destinations for vacations or long weekends.
Touring musical and dance companies from Mexico and other countries are often featured in the stately Degollad Theater or Cultural Cabanas Institute. Additionally, the University of Guadalajara presents an exceptional Ballet Folk-lorico every Sunday morning at the Degollado Theater.
There is a large and active American Society to welcome new American residents. The Mexican American Cultural Institute also sponsors program, of interest.
Depending on the neighborhood in which they live, families either have cable television or a satellite television service on which various American television shows are shown, and such Popular cable channels, as ESPN, and CNN are widely available.
Monterrey stretches from the arid plains near the U.S. border south to the northern tier of traditional, colonial Mexico. The most distant major city in the district, Durango, is a six-hour drive from Monterrey. The total population of the district is estimated at nearly 12 million, of which an estimated 3.8 million live in the Monterrey metropolitan area. About 57,000 U.S. citizens live within the district, with 28,000 residing in greater Monterrey.
Monterrey is Mexico's third largest city and second most important industrial and financial metropolis. The capital of the state of Nuevo Leó It is located in the northeastern part of Mexico, about 150 miles from the Texas border. Monterrey is the hub of the most prosperous urban area in all of Mexico.
The area's geography and history have given the people of Monterrey, otherwise known as "Regiomontanos," an individualistic-reserved character. The trend setting business community is conservative in its politics, religion, and social structure. Monterrey is advanced in its approach to technical innovation and economic opportunities; closer to American than traditional Latin concepts in business practices; and devoted to the family, hard work and the expansion of the family enterprise. The "Group of Ten," are 10 large industrial conglomerates that play a crucial role in Mexico's economy.
Monterrey is situated in a semi-arid valley at an altitude of 1,766 feet and is bounded on three sides by rugged mountains. About two hours to the southeast of the city is one of Mexico's most important citrus-producing areas. Most of the surrounding countryside, however, is semi-arid and covered with brush.
While only minimal rainfall occurs during the November to April dry season, the average rainfall is 20 inches a year. Half the rain falls during August, September, and October. Summer temperatures usually begin in mid-March and last though October. Spring-like weather with warm days and cool nights occurs from November to March, but the cooler weather worsens the seemingly omnipresent smog. The average monthly temperatures vary from 50-74°F in January to 74-98°F in June and July. Summer highs regularly top 100°F for several weeks at a time; from mid-November through January, the mercury can sporadically plunge into the 30s overnight.
Dust can be an irritant year round, especially during the dry season, and chronic respiratory problems are aggravated by frequent thermal inversions. The phenomenal growth Monterrey experienced during the last decade has threatened the fragile ecology of the semi-arid region. Government efforts to reduce pollution have thus far had little effect.
Piped natural gas is commonly used for stoves and water heaters. Electric current is the same as in the U.S.: 110 volt, 60 hertz, AC. Power outages are rare but fluctuations are common, making voltage regulators or surge protectors for PC's essential. Due to scarce rainfall, many houses are equipped with water tanks and some with cistern systems, which ensure water 24 hours daily.
Public transportation within the suburbs and in Monterrey is adequate; nevertheless, you may want to bring a personnally owned vehicle for a longer stay.
Driving in this area is not for the faint-hearted. Regulations concerning driver's licenses are loosely enforced and locals are known for their aggressive driving habits.
Fish, seafood, and poultry are also regularly available. Most fresh fruits and vegetables familiar to Americans, plus a wide variety of tropical fruits, are sold here. The arrival of the South Texas grocery chain H.E.B. in Monterrey in 1997 elevated the food shopping experience to U.S. standards. Baby food, low fat, sugarfree and numerous ethnic foods are available year round. Most Americans make occasional trips to the Texas border towns to purchase hard-to-find specialty items or to take advantage of the lower prices. All cuts of good quality meat are available, but at prices higher than those in the U.S.
Although clothes are often more expensive in Monterrey than in the U.S., tailors are a bargain.
Hats are seldom worn by men, except with sport clothes or for protection from the sun and rain. In summer, men often wear cotton suits; men's fashions are conservative, with business suits universal among government and private sector contacts. A variety of women's clothing is worn. Slacks are often seen, but shorts are appropriate only for sporting activities. Women should bring what they would wear for the office, parties, or at home in the U.S. Although Mexican shoes are stylish and reasonably priced, many Americans have difficulty finding their shoe sizes. Attractive sandals for summer are available.
English-speaking services are held at the Fatima (Roman Catholic), All Souls (Anglican) and Union Churches, the latter serving a broad based Protestant congregation. The independent Castillo del Rey offers English language Bible study. There are also services for Jewish (Orthodox), LDS, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, and independent congregations, some of whose services may be translated into English upon request.
The American School Foundation of Monterrey, a private, coeducational school offering classes from nursery through grade 12. Instruction is in English with Spanish courses for American children. The school is accredited by SACS.
The school year runs from mid August to mid June. Current enrollment exceeds 2,000 students-of whom more than 10% are American. The preschool and elementary school operate at the Rio Missouri Campus and serve more than 1,000 children. A beautiful state-of-the art middle school and high school opened on a separate campus in August 1996. Students in high school have the opportunity to earn both a U.S. high school diploma and its Mexican equivalent. The school offers a rigorous college preparatory program and includes support services for children with mild learning difficulties.
Several children also attend the American Institute of Monterrey, a smaller bilingual school that is not accredited in the U.S.
Monterrey is known as the Houston of Mexico, boasting the best medical care facilities in all of Mexico. A full range of U.S. trained, English-speaking specialists is readily available to assist with virtually any medical problem. Nevertheless, some patients, in consultation with MED, would be advised to seek treatment in the U.S.-particularly expectant mothers. For dental and orthodontic needs, local professionals offer competent service at only a fraction of the stateside cost.
Public soccer fields and a jogging course are located in a long section of a dry riverbed. Few public tennis courts are in the city. Residents can join a number of reasonably priced gyms with weight rooms, aerobics, tennis courts, and small pools. The better equipped sports clubs in Monterrey are more costly. Two expensive equestrian clubs in the area offer riding and jumping. The city has a few bowling alleys, roller skating rinks, and small ice skating rinks. There are three private golf courses, but only one club offers membership-which is costly. Unfortunately, the heat and pollution limit the number of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed safely and comfortably.
Hiking and rock climbing are popular diversions in the nearby Chip-inque and La Huasteca Parks, and in other nearby mountainous areas as well. The State of Nuevo Leon is actively encouraging adventure and ecotourism. Fishing is possible in several lakes in the region, although a boat is essential in most and rentals are unavailable. Lake Guerrero, a five-hour drive away in the neighboring state of Tamaulipas, allows bass fishing, although guides and lodging are expensive. Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon allow dove, quail, duck, and/or goose hunting. Finally, the northern border region allows whitetail deer hunting, although most of this takes place on private ranches and can cost hundreds of dollars per day. Hunting weapons are subject to strict control and to cumbersome, expensive licensing requirements.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
Nearby attractions and their facilities include: Chipinque (picnic area, a restaurant, beautiful hiking trails, and a scenic view); Horsetail Falls (picnic area, waterfall, and burro riding); Presa de la Boca (picnic area, boating, and water skiing); the Grutas de Garcia (caverns); Huasteca Canyon (picnics and hiking); and Plaza Sésamo an amusement and water park for children.
The city of Saltillo, Coahuila, is about an hour's drive from Monterrey. Situated at a higher elevation than Monterrey, Saltillo offers a slightly cooler climate, a smattering of Spanish colonial architecture, and shopping for serapes. Most other handicrafts come from central or southern Mexico. Dog and horse shows (including "charreadas"), are announced in advance in the newspaper. Bullfighting is a popular spectator sport in Monterrey. During the October-May season, bull-fights are held on Sunday afternoons and holidays. Monterrey boasts two professional soccer teams and two Mexican baseball teams similar to the AAA class in the U.S. The baseball season lasts from March through August.
Monterrey has many good, moderately priced to expensive restaurants offering Mexican, German, French, Italian, Arab, and Asian cuisine. A full range of fast food shops is available, including many U.S. chain restaurants. Several modern movie theaters show current U.S. films at reasonable prices. Younger adults frequent a few nightclubs. Although known more as an industrial center than a cultural center, Monterrey offers a growing and varied bill of fare for the performing and plastic arts-including sporadic performances by the symphony, ballet, and opera. The city boasts such art galleries and museums as El Museo de Monterrey, the Glass Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Museum of Mexican History is also worth a visit.
Many Americans participate in the American Society of Monterrey [ASOMO], which sponsors a Fourth of July party, Christmas dance, Halloween party, Easter egg hunt for children, and other social events.
Opportunities for socializing with the local people are limited, particularly for single adults, since social events usually are for families and often take place at expensive private clubs.
Ciudad Juarez (commonly called Juarez) is Mexico's fourth largest city with a population of more than 1.5 million. It is the largest of all cities along the U.S.-Mexico border. Juarez is a blend of old and new. Because of its proximity to El Paso, it has strong cultural and economic ties to the U.S. Many families in Juarez have U.S. citizen relatives on the other side of the border. Still, Juarez is proud of its heritage and its history as the chief city of the state of Chihuahua, "Cradle of the Mexican Revolution:" Although Juarez Mexicans are very friendly in a social or business setting, they rarely welcome new friends into the close family circle. Invitations to dine at someone's home are rare.
Many industrial plants have been established in Ciudad Juarez to take advantage of low labor costs. The "twin plant" or "maquiladora" concept, with labor-intensive plants in Juarez and El Paso, creates an appearance of one city separated only by long lines at the immigration checkpoints over the Rio Grande. It is responsible for the extremely low unemployment rate and the rapid growth of the city. El Paso, on the other hand, has not coped well with the changes brought by NAFTA. Unemployment is high. Good jobs are scarce.
Ciudad Juarez is located 3,700 feet above sea level in an arid desert region surrounded by treeless mountains. The region enjoys cloudless days, low humidity, and an average rainfall of less than 10 inches a year. Rainfall is less than an inch per month, except for July through September, when Juarez receives one to two inches a month. The average temperature range varies from 30 to 67°F in January to 67 to 100 °F in July. Both temperatures and humidity have been rising in the last several years. Juarez enjoys a change of seasons similar to that of Washington, D.C. Dust storms, Juarez's most unpleasant climatic feature, can occur at any time of the year and can cause difficulties for persons suffering from allergies.
Modern supermarkets abound in both Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. Shopping for food and other daily necessities presents no problem. Food costs are lower than in Washington, D.C., especially for plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables. Locally produced alcoholic beverages are inexpensive and of good quality. Anything that cannot be obtained in Juarez is available in El Paso.
A seasonal wardrobe is necessary in Juarez, with emphasis on lightweight clothing in view of the long summer. In winter, medium-weight suits for men and women are appropriate. Although subfreezing temperatures are rare, penetrating winds make hats, gloves, and lined coats useful. Rain is infrequent, so little rainwear is needed; but take umbrellas.
Fashion trends in Juarez follow those in the southwestern U.S., except that shorts are seldom worn in public. Suits and dresses are appropriate for work but after hours dress is casual. Formal dress is rarely required. Several representational functions require informal dress (suit and tie).
Women in Juarez dress more formally than American women for luncheons and the like. El Paso is one of the best places in the U.S. to buy boots. Many manufacturers are head-quartered in El Paso and factory outlets are numerous. Western wear is popular on both sides of the border.
Supplies and Services
Domestic servants speak only Spanish. Full time, live-in maids have proven impossible to find. Part-time maids are available and charge $25 to $30 per day. If you need a full-time maid or nanny, the wisest course would be to take one with you.
Protestant and Roman Catholic churches are located in Ciudad Juarez and in El Paso. All services in Juarez are held in Spanish. El Paso offers a Synagogue and temple. Evangelical groups are well represented on both sides of the border.
Americans with school-age children may use any of El Paso's public or private schools. The public schools are overcrowded.
Juarez has at least four Montessori preschools. The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), with an enrollment of 13,000, grants bachelor and masters degrees. Night and summer courses are available.
Voice and music lessons are available at El Paso Community College. The Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua maintains a branch in Juarez, where evening courses are offered.
Such sports as golf, tennis, and horseback riding represent popular forms of entertainment. Other enjoyable activities available on the border are hiking and camping. Many excellent campsites are within driving distance. Whitewater rafting is also available. Snow skiing is available in the Ruidoso-Cloudcroft highlands. Spectator sports events include UTEP basketball and football. UTEP hosts the NCAA John Hancock Sun Bowl in winter. El Paso has a good minor league baseball team, the Diablos.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
Touring attractions include day trips to White Sands National Monument, the Carlsbad Caverns, Hueco Tanks State Park, and Elephant Butte Lake. Manageable in a day is Silver City, New Mexico, with its nearby ghost town and the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Some of the more interesting weekend trips include the city of Chihuahua, capital of the state of Chihuahua, about four hours south by train or car. The Mennonite Community in Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, about 220 miles south of Juarez, is fascinating.
Big Bend National Park; Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque, New Mexico; Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, and Las Vegas are frequent U.S. destinations made more appealing by fares to Los Angeles and San Diego that can be found as low as $99 on Southwest.
Juarez boasts many good restaurants in all price ranges, including Chinese, Mexican and seafood. Tacos, burritos, and hamburgers are local favorites. Brown bag lunches are also popular. El Paso and nearby Las Cruces, New Mexico, also have good restaurants. Gourmet restaurants are rare. The best discotheques and nightclubs that are open until dawn in the area are in Juarez.
Mariachi clubs abound and bands can be hired for private functions. The downtown area has many bars and clubs with live entertainment. El Paso has country/western clubs in abundance, as well as top forties nightclubs. A comedy club occasionally attracts nationally known comedians. Movie theaters on both sides of the border show the most recent U.S. releases. Video clubs are numerous and inexpensive. The El Paso YMCA, YWCA, El Paso Community College, and UTEP offer various art classes for both adults and children. The unusual scenery inspires painters and photographers. Other cultural activities include the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, touring dance groups, plays, lectures, and rock concerts.
Tijuana lies just south of San Diego, California. Its vegetation and terrain are identical to that of southern California. The city is 75 feet above sea level and about 5 miles from the ocean. It is built on and around a group of large hills, which are part of the Pacific coast range of mountains.
The climate is similar to that of San Diego. The temperature range in Tijuana varies from 42 to 68°F in January and 63 to 82 °F in August. Sunny days and low humidity help maintain comfortable conditions year round.
More than 80% of the rainfall occurs from November to March and averages only eight inches a year. Thus, vegetation on the hills surrounding the city is sparse, leading to dusty conditions year round. During periods of heavy rains, mud slides and clogged gutters often occur. Several minor earthquakes have shaken but have caused no damage to Tijuana.
Foods available in California are also sold in Tijuana, but Americans normally shop in California supermarkets.
Take warm sweaters, woolen clothing, and raincoats for winter-which is the rainy season. Formal wear is seldom needed. The women of Tijuana are fashion conscious and are always well dressed.
Although Roman Catholicism is predominant among the general population, Tijuana has several Protestant churches and a Jewish Synagogue. However, no English-language services are available. Those wishing to attend services in the U.S. usually must cross the border before 9:00 am to avoid long lines on weekends.
Most American children are enrolled in U.S. schools in the San Diego area. Parents often spend considerable time shuttling their children to and from afterschool activities.
Recreation & Entertainment
Because of Tijuana's proximity to the U.S., take advantage of the many recreational activities offered on both sides of the border. Although downtown San Diego is only a 25-minute drive from Tijuana, unpredictable waits at the border, varying from five minutes to one hour, make planning activities in the U.S. more complicated. Camping, fishing, hunting, swimming, and sailing take place on both sides of the border. The Tijuana Country Club has an 18-hole golf course that nonmembers may use for a nominal fee. Tijuana offers horse racing, dog racing, jai alai, and bullfights. San Diego has professional football, baseball, and indoor soccer teams.
The Tijuana Cultural Center offers the full range of theater arts, art galleries, exhibits, and musical events. A wide variety of theater and concerts are also available in San Diego. Located near the Cultural Center is the Rio de Tijuana Plaza-a large complex of department stores, boutiques, and specialty shops. Most Americans shop in San Diego. Tijuana has many excellent restaurants. Tijuana's nightlife consists of bars and hotels with live entertainment, several discotheques, and downtown bars designed for young U.S. tourists.
Other recreational activities include the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, and Sea World. Disneyland is an approximately three-hour drive from Tijuana.
Hermosillo, though named for one of the early explorers of the region, is in fact the "pretty little place" its name implies in Spanish. It is a city of modern houses, broad, tree-lined streets, pleasant parks, and several universities, with a population of nearly 700,000. The town is located near a river in the middle of the Sonoran desert, 800 feet above sea level, 180 miles south of Nogales, Arizona, and 60 miles inland from the Gulf of California.
Hermosillo is the hub of a small transportation network that provides the city with adequate bus, and air transportation north to the U.S. and south to central Mexico. Both Aeromexico and Mexicana offer daily flights to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Tijuana, Mexicali, and other destinations in Mexico. Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Houston are also served by non-stop flights from Hermosillo's international airport 7 miles west of town.
Thousands of Americans pass through the city en route to the seaside resorts of Bahia Kino and Guaymas/San Carlos on the shore of the Sea of Cortez, as well as to points farther south. Traditionally, the American colony was so small and well integrated into the local community that it was not recognizable as a group. However, the opening of a major Ford Motor Company plant, several maquilladora factories, and mining operations over the last two decades have expanded the size of the American community. This has had considerable influence on housing, schools, and social life in the community.
Hermosillo is the capital city of Sonora, the second-largest state of Mexico, which is part of the great southwest desert of the North American Continent. Geographically, the state has the same soil and climate as southern Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, and the desert regions of California.
The relative prosperity of Sonora acts as a magnet to draw people here from other parts of Mexico (two of the state's largest cities-San Luis and Nogales-are situated on the border and in the new Nogales consular district). The railroad passes through Hermosillo, providing freight service from Mexico City and Guadalajara to the U.S.
Sonora's relative prosperity has, as noted, been attracting new residents from other parts of Mexico, fostering a substantial middle class. Visitors are often astonished by the number of new cars and pickups on the roads, by the well-dressed matrons and teenagers thronging the sidewalks in town, and by the often elegant houses in the better residential neighborhoods.
The climate is hot and dry, yet healthful.
Summer, from May to October, brings daily temperatures of more than 100°F; rainfall averages less than 8 inches a year concentrated in two rainy seasons, one in July and August, the other in December and January. Winter months, from November to April, are cool and spring-like. Sinaloa, which includes the world famous beach resort of Mazatlan, has a more moderate climate, with considerably more rainfall.
The consular district, which covers the southern two-thirds of Sonora and all of the State of Sinaloa, has increased rapidly with respect to both population and output. The economy is farm based in the large, irrigated lowlands of western and southern Sonora, and rain-fed agriculture in Sinaloa. Cotton and wheat are the most important crops. The region is also a major producer of cattle, shrimp, poultry, oranges, grapes, and winter vegetables. Industrial output is increasing, and copper mining has always been important. The district has traditionally had close economic ties with Arizona.
Electric service is the same as in the U.S.: 110 volt, 60 hertz, AC. Voltage regulators or surge suppressors to protect televisions, stereos, and computers from electrical surges are available locally. However, houses are not grounded for electrical purposes like they are in the U.S., so surge suppressors may not offer adequate protection. In order to better protect expensive electrical equipment, especially during the rainy season, it is advisable to unplug the equipment when not in use and to not use the equipment in the middle of thunder and lightning storms.
Hermosillo is home to American chains like Wal-Mart Super Center, Sam's Club, and Costco, as well as Mexican chain super center-type stores. Many American products and brand names can be found in these stores, whether they are manufactured in the U.S. or in Mexico. However, those products made in the U.S. may not be routinely stocked by the store, so it is best to stock up on desired goods when you find them in local stores.
Frozen foods are readily available, and low-calorie, low-fat products are becoming more widely available. Pasteurized milk (whole and skim), cheeses, and heavy cream may be safely purchased in supermarkets.
City tap water is safe for bathing and cleaning, but not recommended for drinking.
It is advisable to disinfect fruits and vegetables before eating them. Disinfectant drops and powder are readily available in all local grocery stores.
During the summer months, daytime temperatures can reach 115°F, and summer weight clothing is a must. Light-to medium-weight clothing is comfortable the rest of the year, with a sweater sometimes necessary on winter evenings. Heavy winter clothing is not needed. Formal social occasions are rare; most functions are informal.
Hermosillo currently has no large, American-style shopping malls. Although the city center has many shops with all varieties of shoes and clothing, many residents (Mexican and American alike) go to Tucson for major shopping.
Supplies and Services
Housekeepers are available on apart-time or live-in basis. Wages are very reasonable in comparison to U.S. rates.
Gardeners are also available at a reasonable fee. Their services are generally needed every two weeks during the rainy season and less frequently for the remainder of the year.
Generally all services, including competent medical care, furniture design and construction, automobile and appliance repair, etc., can be found at lower than U.S. prices.
Hermosillo is home to three large universities (one private and two public) as well as several smaller institutions of higher learning. The language of instruction in the public schools is Spanish, with English instruction introduced at the secondary level.
The Instituto Irlandes offers a bilingual program from prekindergarten through high school, with boys and girls in separate classes in the upper grades. The Instituto Mexicano Americano de Relationes Culturales (IMARC) offers bilingual instruction, on the American model, from pre-kindergarten through grade 6. However, since the overwhelming majority of the students are native speakers of Spanish, the bilingual schools are not geared to students who enter with no knowledge of that language. While this does not seem to present too much difficulty at the preschool and kindergarten level, it could be problematic for children entering at a higher grade.
At the secondary level, the Instituto Technologico y des Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (perhaps Mexico's best private university, with campuses across the country) has a college preparatory school (grades 10 and up) and offers the international baccalaureate program.
Although summer can be too hot, Hermosillo's climate during the rest of the year encourages a wide variety of outdoor sports. Swimming, tennis, hiking, and horseback riding are popular. There is a country club with an 18-hole golf course, various hunting clubs, a shooting and archery range, horse and auto racing facilities, and a Mexican winter-league baseball team.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
The immediate vicinity of Hermosillo offers ample opportunity to explore the Arizona-Sonora Desert, with many petroglyph sites. To the east are the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental, which can offer some respite from the heat of the lower elevations. In the south of Sonora is the colonial town of Alamos.
For beach lovers, there are two options within about an hour and a half drive from Hermosillo. San Carlos (about 80 miles to the south), with a growing American community, has several resort hotels, two marinas, fine beaches, and a Club Med, as well as shops that carry articles from all over Mexico. Bahia Kino (about 70 miles to the west) is more of a traditional beach town, with a large fishing fleet and fewer tourist services. Mazatlan, in Sinaloa, is about eight hours away by car, but can also be reached by direct flights from Hermosillo, as can the resort areas of lower Baja California.
Los Mochis, in northern Sinaloa, is the western terminus of the Copper Canyon Railroad, which goes into the neighboring state of Chihuahua.
The entertainment scene, apart from the many movie theaters showing both English and Spanish language films, consists of small clubs with a variety of musical formats. Touring theater and
dance companies from around the country are often featured in the Casa de Cultura, the Municipal Auditorium, or at the University of Sonora.
Matamoros is located on the south bank of the Rio Grande, about 20 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. With Brownsville, its sister city in Texas, Matamoros forms a metropolitan area of around 600,000 inhabitants. Matamoros, the larger of the two cities, has more than 400,000 residents.
The Rio Grande Valley, or the Valle, as it is called locally, comprises a population of about 1.5 million and includes the city of Reynosa in Mexico (approximately 65 miles upriver from Matamoros), and the cities of Harlingen and McAllen in Texas. Gulf sea breezes temper the tropical climate. The temperature range in Matamoros varies from 78 to 98°F in July and 50 to 60°F in January. The rainfall varies from one half inch in March to five inches in September. Temperatures at mid-day in summer can range well above 90°F with high humidity. Spring and autumn days are mild and brilliant. Winter is sunny and warm, except for an occasional "norther" when temperatures can drop suddenly to near freezing.
The Matamoros and Reynosa areas are home to more than 250 border industries, or "maquiladoras" These factories import parts duty free into Mexico, assemble them, and send them back to the U.S. or other countries, again duty free. A wide range of U.S. and foreign companies have plants, including Zenith, General Motors, AT&T, and Converse, among others. The area also has a large "agribusiness" center.
Matamoros has a thriving tourist industry, providing facilities to American winter visitors and retirees. Thousands of college students spending spring break at nearby South Padre Island visit Matamoros during March of each year. Shopping and restaurants are among Matamoros' chief attractions.
Maids, both live-in and daily, are available but the cost has risen due to competition in the labor market surrounded by the rapidly expanding maquiladora sector. Day maids earn $15 to $20 per day. Live-in maids are available but tend to be younger, less experienced, and requiring of more supervision.
All food needs can be met at modern supermarkets in Brownsville and Matamoros. Local produce is of excellent quality. U.S. produce is abundant in Brownsville, and most vegetables are available fresh, year round. Seafood, especially gulf shrimp, is also of high quality. Matamoros city water is not potable but inexpensive, sterilized drinking water is readily available.
Business dress is informal and sports wear is acceptable year round. During the summer, an open-necked shirt and jacket are popular. Light spring and fall weight clothing is worn during the short winter season, although occasional cold spells make heavier clothing practical for a few weeks each year. Few social events will require black tie or formal attire; black tie dress can be rented in Brownsville.
Most faiths are represented in Brownsville, which has many Catholic or Protestant churches and a Synagogue. Although Roman Catholic churches predominate in Matamoros, congregations of evangelical and Protestant denominations also exist.
There are no English schools in Matamoros. Public schools are available in Brownsville free of charge to dependents, but most dependents attend private schools in Brownsville. The cost per pupil of private education is $2,000 to $3,000 per year. A full range of classes and subjects is available to more advanced students at The University of Texas Southwest College in Brownsville, which has a modern library with an excellent selection of periodicals and journals.
Recreation and Social Life
Most social activities revolve around civic organizations, business luncheons, Rotary, Lions, etc. The State of Tamaulipas organizes a cultural festival in the fall and the University of Texas at Brownsville offers cultural programs throughout the academic year.
The Texas Rio Grande Valley is becoming famous as a recreational area for winter and summer tourists. South Padre Island, about 25 miles from Brownsville, offers excellent swimming, surfing, sailing, and deep-sea fishing. Golf is popular and can be played year round at the numerous public and private courses. The Rio Grande Valley also offers restaurants and first run movies.
Mazatlán is an old, Mediterranean-style port city on Mexico's west coast. Located 780 miles south of Nogales, Arizona, it is situated on a picturesque peninsula. At the harbor's entrance, the highest recorded lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere, El Faro, rests atop one of Mazatlán's few hills. The city's history goes back to the early part of the 19th century, but its growth is relatively recent. The population numbers approximately 400,000 full-time residents, increased by large numbers of Americans and other tourists who visit throughout the year.
The weather in Mazatlán is excellent, particularly during the winter season, November through March. In these months, temperatures range from 85°F in the daytime to 65°F at night. The tropical summer, lasting from April to October, is hot and humid with frequent thunderstorms.
Mazatlán's economy is influenced most directly by the commercial fishing dock, which makes it a shrimp capital of the world, and by the Pacífico Brewery. Agriculture is also an important industry; the northern part of the State of Sinaloa has become the chief supplier of winter vegetables for the United States. Since Mazatlán is the biggest and busiest seaport between San Diego and Panama, U.S. Navy ships make it a port of call.
Mazatlán itself actually is more than 300 years old, but it was not incorporated until 1837. A few remnants of the colonial section remain, and they can be seen on a walking tour of the town's streets and alleys.
Most foods are available, and prices are less than or compare favorably with U.S. prices. Fish and seafood abound. Drug store items are, generally, not expensive, but some items cost more than U.S. equivalents, and some cost less. Special medications should be brought from the U.S.
Schools for Foreigners
Mazatlán has no American schools, but the Instituto Anglo-American (grade one through high school) teaches in both English and Spanish. Enrollment is small, and American students are often the children of U.S. citizens who are part-time residents during the winter. Other schools attended by American children are ICO (Instituto Cultural de Occidente), a private, coeducational school run by Italian priests (grades one through 12); Colegio Remington (girls only, run by nuns for grades one through nine); and Colegio El Pacífico (nonsectarian, grades one through 12). Most American children in Mazatlán attend boarding schools in the U.S.
Mazatlán's beaches are beautiful, and ocean temperatures seldom dip below 65°F; the surf is well-suited for swimming and surfing. North Beach and Las Gaviotas (the sea gulls) are considered the best spots. Fishing for marlin, sailfish, and other large fighters is popular. Hunters may move through the nearby foothills in search of duck, dove, goose, and quail. Mazatlán means "place of the deer" in the Nahuatl language, and deer still abound in the area.
The Club Campestre and El Cid both have fine golf courses, with memberships available. El Cid also has tennis courts and a swimming pool.
There are several air-conditioned theaters, a large baseball stadium, and a bullring in the city. Three television channels and seven radio stations provide news and entertainment in Spanish. Social events are informal, but both the American and Mexican communities are active.
Mazatlán's pre-Lenten carnaval is famous throughout Mexico.
The Yucatan is noted for the friendliness of its inhabitants and its impressive archeological remains. Home of the Maya, it is strewn with ruins and relics of their culture. Merida itself is built on the site of the old Mayan ceremonial center of T'Ho. The area has a long history of separatism from the rest of Mexico. The Yucatecan habits, culture, and outlook differ from those of the rest of the country. It is home to three million people, the majority of whom live in the state of Yucatan, with smaller populations in the States of Campeche and Quintana Roo. Merida's population exceeds 600,000 and is mostly of mixed Maya or Spanish descent. English is widely understood in the metropolitan areas. Thousands of American tourists visit the district annually. New resorts on the Caribbean coast have become increasingly popular with U.S. tourists.
Merida is about 19 miles from the sea and 25 feet above sea level. The climate is tropical, with average humidity of 72% year round. There are three seasons: rainy season, May through October with more than 80% of the 38 inches of annual rainfall; cool or winter season, November through February; and dry season, March and April. The average temperature in Merida ranges from 73 to 93°F in June and 64 to 83°F in January.
Supplies and Services
Electricity is the same as in the U.S. It is subject to spikes, so surge protectors are strongly recommended. Satellite and cable TV are available. Domestic help is reasonably priced. Live-in as well as daytime or hourly help is available.
Local authorities are concerned with growing water and automobile pollution and are beginning to monitor growth and contamination.
Food is readily available in the several large supermarket chains that operate in Merida. The central market downtown is also available for those who love chaos and olfactory challenges. Most U.S. goods are available, but sometimes irregularly. Locally all kinds of meats, fresh fruit, and vegetables can be found at reasonable prices.
U.S. type clothing is available in Merida. There are a variety of local department store chains and small shops. These all carry some U.S. brands.
There are also a few upscale department stores that have recently been constructed. American made products can be more expensive than in the U.S. Locally made clothing can be of poorer quality than in the U.S., as well. Extra care should be taken with leather goods and clothing in storage to avoid the ravages of humidity and mildew.
Coat and tie or formal dress is rarely worn at work. Men wear slacks and a shirt. Women wear cotton or lightweight dresses.
Both Catholic and Protestant services are found within the consular district. One Catholic parish offers English-language services on Sunday.
There are two bilingual schools operating in Merida. One is a Catholic institution, which is open to all; the other is secular. Both are considered suitable up to junior high level. All other schools are conducted in Spanish. Most other private schools are run by Catholic religious orders. Limited special education is available.
Recreation and Social Life
Tennis, fishing, boating and golf are common in the area. The Club Campestre has tennis courts and a swimming pool. Cancun and Merida both have 18-hole golf courses. The beach at Progreso, where cottages may be rented, is about a 20-minute drive by car. Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular at Isla Mujeres, Cancun and Cozumel. All sports equipment, including tennis balls, is expensive. Many people take their own.
Merida has a few air-conditioned movie theaters, a large baseball stadium, a bullring and a few small museums. Social life is informal. Membership to the Club Campestre, the Golf Club, the Rotary Club and the Lions Club is open. Members of the international community sponsor events from time to time. The International Women's Club is actively involved with charitable events.
Nearby attractions include the archeological sites at Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and Palenque, among others.
All kinds of sports, summer schools, and summer camps are available for children or youngsters of any age. These activities are, for the most part, organized by their schools or church communities. Merida has several parks, a zoo, and programs for children (in Spanish).
Nogales has been a border pass through the mountains since the middle 1800s, with a U.S. Consulate first established in 1886. The Consulate was closed in 1970 but reopened in 1998. Visitors are often surprised after expecting sand hills and finding a mountainous and pleasant countryside instead. The name refers to a now disappeared stand of black walnut trees, although the hills are still covered with a native scrub oak. The river valleys glisten with the leaves of huge cottonwoods, green in the summer and golden in the fall. The riverbeds are usually dry; but torrential summer rains often fill them to overflowing, closing roads and washing out bridges. The weather in the western deserts can be dramatic. Nogales is located 60 miles south of Tucson, Arizona and 140 miles to the north of Hermosillo, Sonora, on the U.S./Arizona-Sonora, Mexico border.
Long a vital entry point into the U.S. from western and northern Mexico, Nogales has grown in the past 20 years from a pleasant, small town to a booming factory town with growth fueled by NAFTA maquila-dora factories that assemble primarily U.S. made parts into goods exported around the world. There are approximately 90 factories in Nogales and another 50 to 100 in other border communities along the Arizona/Sonora border. These factories have caused tremendous growth, with many residents of central and southern Mexico moving north to seek employment. These factories account for 35,000 jobs in Nogales and another 35,000 jobs elsewhere in the consular district. The produce industry has also grown tremendously with 60% of all winter produce consumed in the U.S. and Canada passing through Nogales, Sonora, and processed in Nogales, Arizona. Most of the produce comes from areas in Sonora and Sinaloa. Cattle ranching, mining, and small farms still comprise an important part of the economy of the region. Nogales is also a major border crossing for Americans going south for the winter into Mexico and to the Pacific beaches year round.
Sonora has traditionally been a relatively prosperous state with a well-developed middle class. The capital of Sonora, Hermosillo, is a bustling and growing commercial and industrial center of almost a million. Unofficial estimates put the population of Nogales at 250,000. Agua Prieta and San Luis Rio Colorado, two other important border cities in this consular district, are also large and growing. Puerto Penasco, a shrimp fishing port and vacation destination for Arizonans located at the top of the Gulf of California, has become a major resort and residence for Americans. The history of northern Sonora is inextricably linked to that of Southern Arizona. It begins with Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit priest-who first brought European farming ideas and Christianity to the region. The churches he established are still functioning and form a tour route for those interested in Spanish colonial churches. The pleasant towns that have grown up around these churches (two of which are in Southern Arizona) form the heart of the region. Commercial and family ties between Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona are very strong and make this a unique region united culturally and historically.
The climate has dramatic temperature changes but can usually be described in two phrases: warm and sunny in the day, cool at night. The summers are hot but the nights cool off. Winter nighttime temperatures dip into the 20s and 30s but the days usually warm up to the 60s and 70s. It is very dry except in the summer rainy season in July and August. Shorts and tee shirts are the summer dress. Sweaters and jackets are appropriate for the winter. It snows on occasion, although old timers say less and less due to the increase in cars and concrete.
Electricity is the same as in the U.S. (110v, 60 hertz, AC). Voltage regulators or surge protectors are recommended for sensitive, electronic equipment. Satellite and cable are both options for television.
All food needs can be met at modern supermarkets on either side of the border. Nogales, Sonora, water is not potable; but drinking water can be purchased at reasonable cost and is plentiful.
Domestic help is available at a reasonable cost. Live-in maids, as well as daytime or hourly help are available.
Roman Catholic churches predominate in Nogales, Sonora. However, there are small Protestant congregations and both Catholic and Protestant denominations may be found in Nogales, Arizona. Jewish and other religious communities are very limited in "ambos nogales." However, Tucson has a large and active Jewish community, as well as other religious groups.
Although there are a few, self-described bilingual schools in Nogales, Sonora, instruction in these and all schools is predominantly in Spanish.
Recreation & Social Life
Tennis courts and bowling alleys are available in Nogales, Sonora. Golf is popular and can be played throughout the year at several public and private courses in Nogales, Arizona.
Entertainment in Nogales, Sonora and Arizona is limited mainly to dining; although there is also a modern movie theater in Nogales, Sonora. Southern Arizona, especially Tucson, offers a limitless variety of city and country cultural and shopping opportunities. Tucson has an opera, active theatre, a ballet, and a variety of sports events. Northern and central Sonora offer beaches, beautiful countryside, and Kino mission churches.)
Nuevo Laredo combines the convenience of shopping in the U.S. with the attractions of living abroad. Nuevo Laredo is the most important port of entry on the U.S.-Mexican border for shipping and for travelers to the interior of Mexico. Of its estimated 300,000 inhabitants, only about 10% speak English.
Nuevo Laredo is located on a gently rolling plain, with mountains skirting the southwestern boundary of the consular district. Brush, cactus and scrub vegetation abounds, as do more tropical plants. The city itself is 542 feet above sea level; and the climate is sunny and hotter than Washington, D.C., but much less humid. The daily temperature range averages 78 to 96°F in August and occasional high temperatures in winter are not uncommon. The average daily temperature range in January is 44 to 64°E Annual rainfall is 18 inches. May, June, and September usually have the greatest rainfall.
Adequate food supplies are available locally and at supermarkets in Laredo, Texas. Gourmet food items are not readily available.
During the hot season, lightweight clothing is a must. Office attire for men is usually the traditional Mexican guayabera or sport shirts with slacks. Suits are worn occasionally. The guayabera is also appropriate for informal evening wear. Women wear cotton or linen dresses, blouses, skirts, and slacks. Men often wear sport shirts and slacks at social gatherings while women favor airy cottons. For more formal occasions, men wear black or white dinner jackets; women may wear either long or short cocktail dress in a wide array of fabrics and styles. During winter, custom occasionally requires formal attire (dinner jackets for men, gowns for women). Fall and spring weight suits, dresses, overcoats, and rain boots are used during winter when temperatures can drop into the 30s. All wearing apparel needed for this climate is available in Laredo, Texas.
Supplies and Services
Necessary supplies and services are available in both Laredos. In Laredo, Texas, there are two large shopping centers featuring nationally known department stores and boutiques.
Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in both Laredos. Most Christian denominations are represented in Laredo, Texas and services in English are available.
Schools in Nuevo Laredo are overcrowded and instruction is in Spanish. Children are usually enrolled in public or private schools in Laredo, Texas. Full curriculums for undergraduate and some graduate level degrees are offered at Texas A&M International University and Laredo City College.
Puebla, capital of the state whose name it bears, is a city of over one million about 75 miles southeast of Mexico City. Its official name is Heróica Puebla de Zaragoza, in honor of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, who defeated the French here in 1862 in their attempt to establish Maximilian's empire.
Aside from the renown for its cotton mills and onyx quarries, and as a major commercial center, Puebla is known for the colorful Talavera tiles which adorn its buildings and churches. The cathedral on the main plaza, built during the 16th and 17th centuries, is one of the finest in Mexico. The city also claims to have the oldest theater in North America.
Puebla has several other notable buildings, among them the 340-year-old Biblioteca Polafoxiana, with 50,000 priceless volumes; the regional museum, dating from the 17th century; and the university founded in 1578 by Jesuit priests.
Founded by the Spanish in 1532 as Puebla de los Ángeles, the city early served as a link between the coast and the capital. It was taken by Winfield Scott in the Mexican War in 1847.
ACAPULCO , in Guerrero State, southwest Mexico, is a fashionable international resort on the Pacific Ocean. Its fine natural harbors, surrounded by cliffs and promontories, once served as a base for Spanish explorers. Acapulco played an important role in the development of the Philippines between the years 1565 and 1815, when Spanish galleons made commercial voyages across the Pacific to Manila. After Mexican independence was achieved, the city lost its status as a major port. In the 1920s, a road was constructed to Mexico City, and Acapulco became a tourist center and, again, an important port during World War II. This city of 462,000, whose full name is Acapulco de Juárez, stretches out along bays and cliffs, and its many fine beaches attract thousands of swimmers and sunbathers. In the evenings, high divers can be seen at La Quebrada, performing for enthusiastic crowds. Acapulco's economy is heavily dependent on tourism, with the copra (coconut oil) industry second in importance. In its amphitheater, overlooking the sea, the city plays host to art exhibits and to musical and theatrical productions. A historic spot in Acapulco is San Diego Fortress (Fuerte de San Diego), where Mexico's last battle for independence was fought. The star-shaped fortress, which once defended the town and harbor against pirate raids, is now a museum. A summer school for foreigners, founded in 1955, provides tourists with courses on Mexican arts and archaeology.
AGUASCALIENTES is the capital of Aguascalientes State, 100 miles northwest of León in central Mexico. The city (whose name means "hot waters" in Spanish) is also known as "the perforated city," because of its extensive network of tunnels. These were dug in pre-Columbian times and have never been fully explored. City records date to 1522, when Cortés sent Pedro de Alvarado to conquer western territories; native tribal attacks forced Alvarado to retreat. The city was founded in 1575 by a royal decree of Philip II, surviving in the early years as a wilderness outpost besieged by Indians. Modern Aguascalientes is a railroad center, known also for its orchards and vineyards, and for the ranches which breed bulls for corridas. An important native industry is drawn linen work. The broad-based economy includes railroad repair shops, textile factories, potteries, tobacco factories, and distilleries. Aguascalientes boasts lovely churches, especially San Juan de Dios, San Francisco, and La Parroquia; they contain excellent examples of colonial art. The annual San Marcos Fair features fireworks, parades, and an art exposition. Rail, highway, and air connections from Aguascalientes to other areas are good. The city has an estimated 643,360 residents.
CAMPECHE , the capital of Campeche State, is situated on the west coast of the Yucatán peninsula, 550 miles east of Mexico City. The largest city between Villahermosa and Mérida, Campeche is the first landing place (1517) in Mexico of Cortés and his conquistadors. Founded as a settlement by Don Francisco de Montejo in 1540, the old city wall and remains of 11 fortifications built in the 17th and 18th centuries for protection from pirate raids attract tourists. Today, the city produces alligator leather and Panama hats (campeche is the Spanish word); logwood, mahogany, cigars, rice, sugarcane, tobacco, and cotton are exported. A university was founded here in 1756. Campeche's population is currently 217,000.
CHIHUAHUA , 100 miles south of the Rio Grande River in the northern region, is a state capital with a population of about 670,000. It was first settled in the 1500s, prospering late in the colonial period as a mining center. Chihuahua was twice captured by American forces during the short but fierce Mexican-American War of 1846-48. The city enjoys good transportation links to other areas, allowing easy access to its university, as well as to adjacent cattle ranches. Notable public buildings here number among Mexico's architectural treasures. The church of San Francisco is arguably the best example of 18th-century Mexican architecture. Chihuahua's plaza contains a monument to the religious leader, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, and his companions in the war for independence (1821), who were executed here. Center of a rich silver-mining, timber, and ranching district, the city is famous for the chihuahuitas (miniature dogs) bred in the area. From Chihuahua, interesting side trips may be taken to the old mining town of Aquiles Sérdan, and to Aldama in the center of an important fruit-producing area.
CIUDAD OBREGÓN is located in northwest Mexico, 65 miles southeast of Guaymas. Situated in the fertile Yaqui Valley, the city is known for its contemporary buildings and complexes of storage elevators, grain mills, cotton gins, and numerous other industries. Agricultural products grown in the valley are irrigated by the Alvaro Obregón Dam, 35 miles northeast of the city. Cotton, wheat, rice, sesame, and corn are grown here. Boating and fishing are possible in the area. Sportsmen come here to hunt duck, dove, and quail; turkey, wild boar, deer, and bear may be found in the mountains to the east. Ciudad Obregón's population is 181,700.
COYOACÁN , a southern suburb of Mexico City, was settled by Cortés in 1521 and was the initial seat of Spanish government in New Spain. Cortés' palace stands in the city's main square and is now the Palacio Municipal. Russian communist leader Leon Trotsky was assassinated here in 1940. Landmarks include the Dominican Monastery (built in 1530) and the Church of San Juan Bautista (built in 1583). The Frida Kahlo Museum, the house occupied for more than a quarter-century by the artist and her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, is located here. Coyoacán's current population is approximately 360,000.
Located 120 miles south of Mexico City is CUERNAVACA , an internationally famous resort, with facilities for golf, horseback riding, tennis, and water sports. Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés seized the Indian settlement here in 1521; it later became a seat of a marques-sate and finally, a state capital. Cortés' palace was decorated with murals by Diego Rivera (1886-1957) in 1929. Along with the Franciscan cathedral and nearby ruins (at Alpuyeca, 23 miles southwest), the city is a fascinating tourist stop today. Cuernavaca's Borda Gardens —Emperor Maximilian's retreat—has attracted many wealthy Mexicans and foreigners; the mansion was built by Joséde la Borda, who made his fortune in silver mining in the Taxco area. Besides tourism, agriculture and industry are important. Crops include fruit, corn, beans, and wheat. Various plants, mills, and factories constitute the industrial base. Furniture, fine silver, and leather goods may be purchased here; on market days, Indians sell their wares in the streets and plazas. There is a university here, and a modern expressway links the area with Mexico City. Cuernavaca's approximate population is 338,000.
Situated at the base of the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, 30 miles from the Gulf of California, CULIACÁN (Culiacán Rosales) served as a base for Spanish expeditions in the early colonial era. The center of an important agricultural area, the city's surrounding farms raise corn, sugarcane, tobacco, and many varieties of fruit, which are irrigated by a sophisticated water system. Culiacán's location on the west-coast artery of the Pan-American Highway provides outstanding transportation for its approximately 307,000 residents.
DURANGO (officially called Victoria de Durango), an important political and religious center in early history, is located in northwest-central Mexico, 250 miles north of Guadalajara. Situated at an altitude of 6,314 feet on a level plain formed by foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, Durango is in a region known for its rich iron, gold, and silver deposits. Irrigated by surrounding mountain streams and by the water of the Río Tunal, the area produces cotton, corn, barley, and wheat; it is also a lumbering center. Several industries are located in the city, including cotton and wool mills, glassworks, iron foundries, sugar refineries, flour mills, and tobacco factories. Durango is the capital of Durango State, and was founded by Don Francisco de Ibarra in 1563. The main plaza, with an attractive garden, is the site of thrice-weekly band concerts. Durango has also been the scene of location filming for some Hollywood studios; a number of the movie sets are permanent fixtures here. Durango's population is about 258,000.
GUANAJUATO , the capital of Guanajuato State in central Mexico, was founded in 1554 in the Cañada de Marfil ("ivory ravine"). It is a city of narrow, steep, winding, cobblestone streets (some with rough stone steps), veined underneath with silver-mine shafts. For a while, the mine at La Valenciana, high above the town, filled the silver vaults of Spain. Silver, gold, and lead deposits are still being mined nearby. Guanajuato has so many important colonial churches and buildings—many showing a Moorish influence brought by the Andalusians who were among Guanajuato's early settlers—that the city has been declared a colonial monument. The city, now home to the International Cervantes Festival each spring, figured prominently in the wars and revolutions of the 19th and early 20th centuries because of its geographical location. The royalist garrison of Alhóndiga de Granaditas, originally a granary in Guanajuato, was besieged and captured by Hidalgo y Costilla at the outbreak of the war against Spain. Guanajuato is a resort center today. The painter Diego Rivera was born here in 1886, and his house (with sketches for murals) is now a museum. Running nearly the entire length of the main street of Guanajuato is the Calle Subterráneo, an underground road which was constructed after a devastating flash flood in 1905. The University of Guanajuato was established there in 1945. Guanajuato's estimated population is 141,215.
GUAYMAS , located in northwest Mexico 90 miles southwest of Hermosillo, is one of the country's best seaports. Situated on the Gulf of California, Guaymas was originally settled by Indians in 1760. The settlement was a Spanish-Mexican free port and opened to common trade in 1841. Guaymas is actually two communities; the city, with its shrimp docks, freighters, and tankers in the harbor, is separated from the resort area along Bocochibampo Bay by a hilly peninsula. Swimming, skin diving, water-skiing, tennis, hunting, and horseback riding are popular resort activities. The city is also popular among fishermen. Big runs of marlin and sailfish usually occur in late June, July, and August. The Fiesta de la Pesca (Fishing Festival) is held in May; an international fishing tournament is held in July. San Carlos, about 13 miles northeast, is another popular vacation center. In 2000, Guaymas had an estimated population of 130,000.
Situated in a central Mexican farming district known for strawberries, IRAPUATO is 140 miles east of Guadalajara. A rapidly expanding industrial center, Irapuato was founded in 1547 and was the scene of many battles during the colonial era. The city's central mall, a renovated shopping area surrounding the plaza and cathedral, prohibits motor vehicles. The current population of Irapuato is 440,000.
IXTAPALAPA , a southeastern suburb of Mexico City, was once a flourishing Aztec town. The Aztecs lighted new fires at the beginning of each 52-year cycle atop nearby Cerro de Estrella (Star Hill). The fertile land surrounding Ixtapalapa produces corn, alfalfa, wheat, beans, and vegetables. A number of industries are becoming an important economic asset. Ixtapalapa has a population exceeding 1.2 million.
JALAPA (Enríquez), capital of Veracruz State, is situated 150 miles east of Mexico City, just a few miles inland from the Bay of Campeche. Built on the fifth tier of a hill called Macuiltepec at an altitude of 4,500 feet, the city was once a Spanish stronghold and a stagecoach stop. Today, Jalapa is a mountain resort and an important commercial center for coffee and tobacco. Much of the city's colonial atmosphere is evident in the red tile roofs, balconies, carved doors, and window grills along the narrow, cobblestone streets. In contrast, modern buildings line wide streets in the newer section of town. Often called the "Flower Garden of Mexico," Jalapa is known for its mild climate. The University of Veracruz, founded here in 1944, has a well-known dance company and symphony. The estimated population is about 212,000.
LA PAZ is situated on La Paz Bay about 90 miles north of the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, and 720 miles south of San Diego, California. With fine port facilities, La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur State as well as the commercial center of the area. Isolation prevented permanent settlement of La Paz for three centuries; the area's only regular inhabitants were privateers who dropped anchor in the bay. The Spanish finally settled La Paz in 1811. Mining and pearl diving provided growth and the city soon replaced Loreto as the territorial capital. Both industries declined about 1930, and La Paz faded until it was rediscovered by tourists and sportsmen. Now, La Paz boasts a growing number of fine resorts and fleets of pleasure craft. The city is linked to the Mexican mainland by air-conditioned, automobile-passenger ferries. Luxury crafts make the overnight run from Mazatlán six times weekly; sailings are twice weekly from Topolobampo near Los Mochis. Flights regularly depart from the jet-capacity airport. La Paz's population is about 196,000.
LEÓN , also in Guanajuato State, was once the second largest city in Mexico. Founded in 1576, it was almost washed away by floods (most notably in 1888), diminishing its prominence. A dam was later built as protection from such disasters. León lies in a river valley on the main rail line between Mexico City and El Paso, Texas, and is a commercial, agricultural, and mining center with a population of over one million. It is known especially for its production of gold and silver embroidery and silver-trimmed leather goods. Steel products, textiles, and soap are manufactured in the city, which contains tanneries and flour mills. The area also produces serapes, spurs, and knives. Most of León's buildings are of colonial architecture. Adding to the charm of the city are flowering plazas, fine old portals around the central square, and the colorful market. Cathedrals and churches are of additional interest, and sulphur baths are nearby.
MANZANILLO , with a population of 124,000, is Mexico's leading Pacific port. Situated in the southwestern part of the country, the city is 350 miles west of Mexico City and 130 miles southwest of Guadalajara. A bronze bell is rung from a high point west of the city to announce approaching vessels. Manzanillo has a spacious water-front, and narrow streets ascend the hillside of the city. The tropical climate allows the banana and coconut plantations that line the shoreline to flourish. Manzanillo is a haven for fishermen (especially from November through March) who flock here to catch sailfish, marlin, red snapper, yellow-tail, shark, and other tropical varieties. Skin diving and water-skiing are among the popular water sports. The best still-water beaches are near Bahía de Santiago, eight miles north. Beaches near Coco and Las Ventanas have heavy surf and strong currents. The beach close to Cuyutlan, about 26 miles southeast, is known for the "green wave," a mountainous swell that crests during April or May.
The city of MEXICALI , at the northern extremity of Baja California State, is adjacent to Calexico, California. It is a duty-free port, with customs offices open 24 hours. Irrigation programs have helped this desert region to flourish. Mexicali is now a focus for commerce, and also has gained wealth and note as a gaudy border resort. The city market, in an arcaded building, sells everything from handicrafts to food. A university is located here. The city is accessible by highway, railroad, and air from the southwestern United States and from many points in Mexico. The population is currently about 765,000.
MORELIA , 150 miles west of Mexico City, is a major intellectual and art center of about 620,000 residents. The country's oldest institution of higher learning, Colegio San Nicolás, is located here, as are a classic baroque cathedral and colonial governor's palace. Since the late 1500s, Morelia has also been Michoacán State's capital and agricultural hub, processing the vegetables and cattle grown nearby. An unusual three-mile-long aqueduct was built near Morelia in 1785 for famine assistance. Transportation here is good.
NEZAHUALCÓYOTL is Mexico's second largest municipality after Mexico City, located directly east of the Federal District (Distrito Federal). This suburb of approximately 2.5 million is tied to Mexico City by a highway and shared bus lines; its residents are greatly dependent on the capital for their jobs. A new city in Mexican terms, Nezahualcóyotl was marshland, considered uninhabitable, at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the tremendous growth of the Federal District's population made the area attractive by the late 1940s. The agglomeration of numerous area cities formalized municipal administration in 1963.
OAXACA , the capital of Oaxaca State, is situated at an altitude of 5,000 feet in a semi-tropical valley, surrounded by the summits of the Sierra Madre del Sur, 230 miles south of Mexico City. Once the center of the Mixtec and Zapotec civilizations, Oaxaca was founded as an Aztec garrison post in 1486 and was conquered by the Spanish in 1521. Oaxaca is the center of a noted handicrafts market; the area produces leather goods, hand-loomed cottons, tempered machetes and daggers, and carved idols. The nearby village of San Bártolo Coyotepec is known for its black pottery; the towns of Teotitlán and Ocotlán are weaving and pottery centers. Oaxaca is a mixture of colonial and modern periods and has a great many 16th-century buildings. The city's market is colorful on Saturdays when the Indians visit town to sell their merchandise. Original costumes of the state are worn here during July and December fiestas. Guides in the city are available for tours to nearby Monte Albán (a major religious city, with ruins of the Zapotec Indians), Mitla, and Zaachila. Oaxaca's population is about 170,000.
A major manufacturing city, ORIZABA is situated at an altitude of 4,211 feet in eastern Mexico, 150 miles east of Mexico City. The 18,000-foot volcano, Citlaltépetl, looms over the far reaches of the landscape here. Once an Aztec garrison post, Orizaba was chartered as a city in 1774. Today, it has some of the country's largest cotton mills. Other industries include breweries, cement plants, marble quarries, and coffee and fruit plantations. There are also important textile centers in the nearby towns of Río Blanco, Ciudad Mendoza, and Nogales. The city was nearly leveled by a strong earthquake in August 1973, but has since been rebuilt. Orizaba has a pleasant climate and an estimated population of 125,000.
Founded by the Spanish in 1534, the city of PACHUCA is the center of an area that produces about 15 percent of the world's silver. The capital of Hidalgo State in central Mexico, Pachuca is 50 miles north of Mexico City at an altitude of 8,150 feet. The surrounding hills are extensively tunneled and heaped with slag piles; smelters and ore-reduction plants are also located in the area. Landmarks of interest in Pachuca are the Church of San Francisco (built in 1596) and the Monument to Independence. There is also a university, founded in 1869. The mining town of Mineral del Monte overlooks Pachuca, at a distance of about seven miles. It has narrow, almost vertical cobblestone streets and houses. Pachuca's population is about 110,000.
POZA RICA is Mexico's chief petroleum-producing center. Located 150 miles northeast of Mexico City, the city pipes crude oil and gas to refineries in distant cities. Oil derricks, refineries, storage tanks, and oil wells dot the landscape around Poza Rica. The city itself features wide boulevards, modern buildings, and a population of about 196,000. Eleven miles south of Poza Rica is the ceremonial city of El Tajin, which reached its peak about A.D. 800. The city is accessible by highway and is served by Mexico's domestic airlines.
PUERTO VALLARTA , a coastal town in west-central Mexico, 100 miles west of Guadalajara, is a thriving resort combining a scenic locale with extensive recreational facilities. Situated on the Bahía de Banderas, Puerto Vallarta's older buildings with red tile roofs on narrow, stony streets are in counterpoint with more modern structures on the upper slopes of the mountains that surround the bay. Popular daytime activities include swimming and surfing at nearby beaches, deep-sea fishing, tennis, golf, and horseback riding. Hunting for deer, quail, iguana, and jaguar is excellent in the mountains to the east. Aquatic sports fishing is also extremely popular in Puerto Vallarta. Sight-seeing craft are available along the shoreline, and boats for sport fishing may be chartered. Puerto Vallarta's nightlife is lively, and includes nightclubs, hotel bars, and discotheques. Cruise ships stop here regularly; a ferryboat service operates twice weekly between Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. The city is a major port through which bananas, coconut oil, hides, and fine woods are exported. The current population is about 183,700.
QUERÉTARO lies in a valley 160 miles northwest of Mexico City at an altitude of 5,900 feet. The capital of Querétaro State, the city was already an Otomí Indian settlement before the Spaniards discovered the New World, and was absorbed as part of the Aztec Empire in the 15th century. Captured by the Spanish in 1531, Querétaro was the headquarters for Franciscan monks who established missions in Central America and California. Emperor Maximilian was executed here on June 19, 1867. Querétaro today is known for its exquisite parks, squares, and gardens. An aqueduct, built by the Spanish more than 200 years ago, is still in use. Opals are mined in the area and sold by sidewalk vendors. There are several churches of interest in Querétaro. A university, founded here in 1775, was elevated to its present status in 1951. Querétaro is the site of one of Mexico's oldest and largest cotton factories. The factory also produces textiles, pottery, and processes food crops grown near the city. Querétaro's population is about 640,000.
SALTILLO is the capital and leading industrial city in Coahuila State. It lies at an altitude of 5,244 feet in a broad valley surrounded by imposing mountains, about 660 miles north of Mexico City. Founded in 1575, Saltillo is a modern city of 577,000 residents, but retains much of its Spanish colonial heritage. In the early part of the 17th century, Saltillo was headquarters for explorations to the northern part of the country. Between 1824 and 1836, it was the capital of a territory that included present-day Texas northward to the region of Colorado. Saltillo's altitude and dry climate make it a popular summer resort. Golf, tennis, swimming, polo, and hunting are available. Saltillo produces textiles in its numerous mills, and is especially known for the serapes woven here in brilliant hues and striking patterns. Gold, silver, lead, and coal mines are in the area. Educational institutions include the 15,000-student University of Coahuila, an institute of technology, an agricultural college, and the Institute for Iberoamerican Studies. Saltillo's market sells local products and handicrafts.
SAN LUIS POTOSÍ , a major industrial center, is located 250 miles northwest of Mexico City in an agricultural region. Founded as a Franciscan mission in 1583, the city was twice the seat of the national government under Juárez, in 1863 and 1867. The economy of San Luis Potosí depends mainly on the production of gold, silver, and industrial metals. A number of other industries are located here. Livestock raising is important, and hides, tallow, and wool are exported. Some of Mexico's richest silver mines are located in the city. The city is also a railroad hub and distribution center. Landmarks in San Luis Potosí include several notable churches and a cathedral. Its university, established in 1859, was elevated to university status in 1923. A pedestrian mall, with some of the city's finest shops, is located on Hidalgo Street. The population of San Luis Potosí is 670,000.
A seaport and petroleum center, TAMPICO is located in east-central Mexico on the north bank of the Río Pánuco, six miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and about 200 miles northeast of Mexico City. The city developed around a monastery founded in 1532. It was abandoned in 1683 following its destruction by pirates, and resettled again in 1823. Tampico today is a transportation center and one of Mexico's principal seaports. Exports include oil, copper ore, sugar, coffee, hides, livestock, and agricultural products. Oil tanks and refineries extend for miles along the south bank of the river. The city is also a tourist center and seaside resort known for its hunting, golfing, and fishing. The popular Miramar Beach is nearby. Tampico's current population is about 295,000.
TAXCO (formerly called Taxco de Alarcón), situated 50 miles southwest of Mexico City, is a world-famous silver capital. Perhaps the oldest mining center on the continent, it was originally an Indian town called Tlacho in the 1400s. Spanish conquest a century later brought silver-mine development, which has been constant to this day. Taxco, with some 60,000 residents, treasures its colonial past and atmosphere to the extent that the entire city has been declared a national monument. New construction must conform to old architectural styles; even the cobblestone streets may not be altered. The charm of this community has brought tourists from all over the world to sight-see and to buy unique handmade silver items from countless shops and vendors. Sundays in Taxco are market days. Indians sell their wares in the plaza, where licensed guides are available. The city's many spectacular fiestas draw visitors from across the country. Eighteenth-century landmarks include the magnificent Church of Santa Prisca and Sebastián—a richly decorated edifice built by Joséde la Borda, one of Taxco's most celebrated and prosperous citizens; Figuera House, finished in 1767 and restored in 1943 as an artist's studio; and Humbolt House (Casa de Villanueva), a restored Moorish-inspired masterpiece. Built on a hill in the middle of the Sierra Madre Mountains, Taxco is considered a difficult city for drivers. Its narrow, twisting streets—often without street signs—encourage use of the plentiful taxis, as well as leisurely walking.
TEPIC is located near Mexico's west coast, about 110 miles northwest of Guadalajara at the foot of an extinct volcano, Sángangüey. Dating back to the 16th century, Tepic's isolated position contributed to its slow development. Today, it is a fascinating combination of old and new, with busy streets and broad plazas. Tobacco is grown on plantations in the area and processed in local factories. Processing plants, refineries, and rice mills are located in Tepic. Several shops in the city offer Indian handicrafts. The cathedral in Tepic, built about 1750, has two Gothic towers. Ingenio de Jala Falls, which flow only in the rainy season, are in this area; El Salto, a beautiful waterfall, is west of the city. Tepic, with an estimated population of 305,000, is the capital of Nayarit State.
The commercial city of TOLUCA is 35 miles west of Mexico City at an altitude of 8,500 feet. Founded in 1530, it is, today, a community with many beautiful gardens, cooler in climate than Mexico City because of its higher elevation. Toluca produces dried meats, sausage, wine, dairy products, and native handicraft. The city's industries include brewing and distilling, textile manufacturing, and food processing. The extinct volcano, Nevada de Toluca, towers above the city 27 miles to the southwest. At 15,000 feet, its peak is snow-capped most of the year; the beautiful Lake of the Moon and Sun in the crater are formed by melting snow. With a guide, it is possible to drive to the top of the volcano and then down into the crater. Also near Toluca are several interesting Indian villages. Toluca, whose formal designation is Toluca de Lerdo, has a population of 666,000. The city is the capital of México State.
One of Mexico's chief ports, VERACRUZ (full name is Veracruz Llave) is situated on the Gulf of Mexico, 260 miles east of Mexico City. The original settlement, Mexico's oldest, was founded in 1519 by Cortés and named La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz (Rich Town of the True Cross). The present city and port date from 1599. Veracruz was the principal Mexican port for Spanish trade fleets from the 16th through 18th centuries, even though it was frequently sacked by pirates. The city was captured twice by the French, in 1838 and 1861, and by U.S. troops under Winfield Scott in 1847. Veracruz is the main port of entry from eastern and gulf ports; its port facilities were expanded and modernized after 1946. The city is also the terminus of two railroads and produces most of the country's cigars. In town, Veracruz's old buildings on cobbled streets contrast with modern structures. The area of old lighthouses is particularly interesting. Swimming, fishing, and boating are popular here. Band concerts are regularly held at the Plaza de la Constitución. The Mexican Naval Academy is located in the nearby coastal village of Antón Lizardo. Villa del Mar and Mocambo beaches are just south of Veracruz; they are often muddy and, sometimes, sharks lurk offshore. Veracruz's population is 460,000.
XOCHIMILCO , situated on the western shore of the lake whose name it bears, is 10 miles south of Mexico City. The city is intertwined with numerous waterways which are all that remain of what once was an extensive lake. The famous chinampas, or "floating gardens," were originally rafts woven of twigs, covered with earth, and planted with flowers; the rafts usually contained small huts and moved through the lake with oars. Through time, the roots of the vegetation on the rafts attached themselves to the lake bottom, and each "garden" became an "island." The number of these artificial islands increased until they formed a vast meadow interspersed with waterways. Flat-bottomed boats filled with flowers are today's floating gardens. Xochimilco is a prime tourist attraction, as well as a Sunday-outing spot for the natives. The Convent and Church of San Bernardino predate 1535. A campus of the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico City is located in the city. The estimated population of Xochimilco is 170,000.
The mining town of ZACATECAS in central Mexico, 160 miles northeast of Guadalajara, is the capital of Zacatecas State. The town was built on the slopes of Cerro de la Bufa at an altitude of 8,075 feet. Zacatecas was taken by the Spanish in 1548 and vast quantities of silver found here were shipped to Spain. Until the 19th century, the mines around Zacatecas yielded one-fifth of the world's silver. Although surrounded by agricultural and cattle-raising regions, Zacatecas is principally a center for silver mining. Zacatecas is characterized by closely built houses, an aqueduct, stone steps, and steeply inclined streets, all of which give the city a medieval look. In contrast are the modern facilities housing the University of Zacatecas and its museums of anthropology and mining. Colonial buildings include the Municipal Palace, Theater of Calderón, and Church of Santo Domingo; an 18th-century convent is located in the suburb of Guadelupe. Zacatecas' population is 123,700.
Geography and Climate
Mexico is located in North America. It borders the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico between Belize and the U.S. and borders the North Pacific Ocean between Guatemala and the U.S. Its land mass covers approximately 1.9 million sq. kms, or slightly less than three times the size of Texas, and has approximately 9,330 sq. kms of beachfront property. In July 1999, the population was estimated at 100.3 million.
Within Mexico, there are 31 states and one Federal District-Districo Federal, the country's capital. Independence Day for Mexico was September 16, 1810. It is celebrated widely throughout the country. The flag has three equal vertical bands of green, white, and red with a coat of arms-in the form of an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its beak-centered on a white band.
With a climate that varies from tropical to desert, the terrain ranges from high rugged mountains to low coastal plains and high plateaus to desert. Its lowest elevation point is at Laguna Salada at-10 meters. The highest point is the Volcano, Pico de Orizaba, at 5,700 meters.
Mexico has such natural hazards as tsunamis on the Pacific coast, volcanoes and destructive earthquakes at the center and south, and hurricanes on the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean coasts.
The main agricultural products are corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes, beef, poultry, diary and wood products. The Mexican currency is in pesos. The June 2000 exchange rate is 9.84 pesos=US$1; but periodic fluctuations occur.
Mexico has an estimated population of 100 million. It is the world's most populous Spanish-speaking country and the second most populous Latin American country.
Contemporary Mexico is an urban society, with close to 70% of the total population living in cities and 23% (18 million) in the Mexico City metropolitan area. Mexico is also a young nation. Almost 40% of Mexicans are less than 15 years old. Nearly 50% of the population lives in the high plateau central region (14% of the country).
About two-thirds are "mestizo" (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood). Mexican customs and traditions are an intricate mixture of the Spanish and the indigenous. Mexico has largely avoided racial divisions by proudly considering its population a distinct Mexican race, celebrated as Dia de la Raza on the October 12 annual holiday. Economic conditions determine social class.
Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion. Small groups of Protestant Christians are often related to and supported by U.S. churches.
Mexico began an aggressive and far reaching national family planning effort in 1973 to reduce the population growth rate from its all-time high of 3.5% then to 1% for the year 2000.
Spanish is the national language, spoken by 97% of the population. In some remote areas, only Indian dialects are spoken. The literacy rate is about 75%.
The country's official name is the United Mexican States (Estudos Unidos Mexicanos). The 1917 constitution provided for a federal republic, which is now composed of 31 states and the Federal District where the capital is located. The government is made up of executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
The military forces are small and have stayed out of politics since 1946. The Cabinet is politically important; from the 1930s through the 1990s, all Mexican presidents had come directly from the Cabinet. The President, elected for a single six-year-term ("sexenio"), proposes and executes laws that are passed by Mexico's congress; and has the power to govern by decree in many economic and financial areas. No Vice President is elected; if an incumbent dies or leaves office before a term has been completed, the Congress elects a provisional President.
Until the National Action Party's victory in Mexico's 2000 presidential election, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had been in power since its founding in 1929. It had won every presidential election and controlled the Congress by overwhelming majorities.
The Congress is composed of two houses: a 128 seat Senate, and a 500 seat Chamber of Deputies. Through a complex formula of proportional representation, the opposition parties are guaranteed at least 150 seats in the Chamber.
The judicial system, which is based on Roman civil law, consists of a Supreme Court and Federal and local courts. The President appoints Supreme Court justices with Senate approval.
The unicameral legislatures of the state governments are headed by elected governors, who serve for six years. In the absence of a county government system, there are only local governments at the municipal level. Mayors and city council members are popularly elected for three year terms.
Arts, Science and Education
Mexico City is the cultural hub of the country. The arts play an important role in national life and are heavily subsidized by the government. Influences of indigenous cultures, the Spanish colonial period, as well as North American contemporary culture are evident in architecture, literature, and art.
The richness and diversity of Mexico's cultural heritage and reflected by murals of Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros; paintings by Rufino Tamayo; and writings by Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, and Carlos Monsiváis.
Major arts festivals include the Cervantino International Festival in Guanajuato and Mexico City; the Festival of Mexico City's Historical Center; the International Music Festival in Morelia, Michoacán; the International Festival of Contemporary Art in León, Guanajuato; the Jose Limón International Dance Festival in Mazatlán; and the Festival of the Borders in Mexicali and Tijuana.
Nine U.S.-Mexico binational centers from Hermosillo to Merida promote understanding between "Estadounidenses" and Mexicans through the teaching of English to more than 30,000 Mexicans annually; teaching Spanish to foreigners; and sponsoring cultural and educational activities. Benjamin Franklin libraries, which receive support from the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy, are located in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.
Education is highly centralized under the Federal Secretariat of Public Education (SEP). Mexicans who can afford to send their children to private schools almost always choose to do so. More than 90% are educated under public SEP auspices. Teachers comprise half of the Federal workforce. Some 70% of Mexicans complete only primary school; about 10% finish some higher education, including university, teaching training colleges, or two-year technical institutes. The main teacher training institutions are the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional and the Escuela Normal Superior.
Traditionally, Mexican students have attended public universities-the most prestigious of which was the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the Americas. Two-thirds of the older Mexican political leaders are UNAM alumni. Government-subsidized tuition fees of approximately two cents per year have limited UNAM's resources. An attempt by the rector to raise tuition to approximately US$200 provoked a student strike that began in April 1999 and ended in February 2000 when police retook control of the UNAM installations.
Other options for public education include: the Instituto Politecnico Nacional, the alma mater of President Zedillo (the first President not to have graduated from UNAM); the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana with its three campuses in the Mexico City metropolitan area, and 31 autonomous universities, many of which have multiple campuses located in the various states.
Today, about 25% of university students are enrolled in private universities. The Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey has 27 campuses linked by satellite across the country. Other recognized institutions of higher learning are the four campuses of Iberoamericana University; Instituto Tecnologico Autónomo de Mexico (ITAM), where most of the technocrats from the Salinas and Zedillo administrations studied; and the University of the Americas in Puebla. El Colegio de Mexico also has an excellent research reputation.
Given the interest among Mexicans in continuing their studies in the U.S., the U.S. Department of State has facilitated 12 U.S. educational advising centers across the country. A 13th center was inaugurated in Chiapas in January 2000. There are currently more than 9,600 Mexicans studying in the U.S., making Mexico the 10th largest source country for foreign students in the U.S.
Commerce and Industry
During the last 20 years, the Mexican economy has undergone a dramatic reorientation away from protectionist policies. After decades of import-substitution practices and extensive state intervention, Mexico is now cited as a model for countries intent on pursuing outward-looking and market-oriented economic policies. In 1994, Mexico entered into a comprehensive free trade agreement with the United States and Canada-the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA; and in 1999, Mexico concluded a similar agreement with the European Union. Tariff levels, as high as 100% before Mexico's 1986 accession to GATT (now WTO), currently average about 4% on a trade-weighted basis. The Mexican Government's divestiture then of airlines, banks, the telephone company, mines, and steel plants were major elements of a successful privatization program that has continued. Reduction and elimination of subsidies made a major contribution toward transforming a fiscal deficit that had reached a height of 16.0% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1987. It resulted in a very manageable 1.2% deficit in 1998. By turning increasingly to private capital for such basic infrastructure investment as toll roads and ports, the government has been able to expand budget outlays on education, health, and agricultural development.
GDP growth for 2000 was at the start of the year set to be around 3.6%. Inflation closed 1999 at less than 13%, and the central bank targeted an inflation rate of 10% for 2000. At more than $30 billion, in late 1999, foreign exchange reserves stand near their all-time high.
NAFTA significantly expanded U.S. Mexican economic ties. In 1999, Mexico overtook Japan as the second largest trading partner of the United States. NAFTA also raised Mexico's attractiveness as a recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI). During the first five years of NAFTA, the country cumulatively received $36 billion in FDI, twice the amount received during the five years prior to the signing of the accord. FDI reached $10 billion in 1998 alone, and is on target to exceed that level by 2000. About 54% of that investment comes from the U.S., which is further evidence of the two countries, increasing commercial integration. Awards of major projects to American firms are common and American companies comment frequently on the greatly improved business climate.
Mexico has a number of strengths empowering it to embark on a period of sustained economic growth. It is the world's seventh largest oil producer; is ranked ninth globally in proven petroleum reserves; and is well endowed with such minerals as silver-of which Mexico is the world's number one producer-copper, and zinc. Its manufacturing sector continues to grow. Automotive parts and textiles are its most significant products. Mexico is also an important producer of steel, glass, cement, and petrochemicals. Manufactured products account for about 90% of its exports compared to 80% in 1993 and only 14% in 1982. In-bond assembly and manufacturing is the fastest growing sector in Mexico contributing to export growth. It employs more than one million workers.
To achieve its ultimate economic aspirations, Mexico must overcome a 24-year history of economic collapses brought about mostly by fiscal mismanagement. Mexico exhibits extreme regional differences in development. The richer, more vibrant and dynamic North contains the country's most modern industrial plants and is tightly integrated with the U.S. economy. The poorer, lagging South contains outdated plants and an inadequate infrastructure. Central Mexico shows signs of both regions. There also are extreme differences within some sectors, particularly agriculture. Modern and efficient export-oriented industrial estates coexist with poor and inefficient subsistence farms. The banking sector, which collapsed with devaluation of the peso, is undercapitalized and leaves businesses with little access to credit. As a result, the formal economy cannot generate sufficient jobs to absorb all of the new entrants into the labor market, pushing many of them into the informal sector. Other problems plague income distribution, nutrition, health care, education, and public services. Forty million people live under the poverty line; 26 million live in abject poverty. Of Mexico's 7.5 million unionized workers, 3.5 million belong to the Confederation of Mexican Workers and 1.5 million to the Confederation of Independent Unions.
Traffic and parking make power steering and automatic transmissions desirable. In Mexico City, drive with closed windows to keep out pollution. In the more temperate climates, such as Guadalajara, air-conditioning is optional but desirable.
General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, Honda, and Volkswagen cars are made in Mexico. Adequate repair services are available for those makes and for the American Motors Jeep and Renault, which were made in Mexico until 1986. Basic model cars are the easiest to service. The cost of parts is slightly higher than in the U.S., and parts for late model American cars-even though a vehicle with the same model name is manufactured in Mexico-may not be available in Mexico and must be ordered from the U.S.
Some cars, especially large ones with optional equipment, can lose up to 25% of their power in Mexico City's high altitude. Tune vehicles for high altitude driving to ensure efficient operation.
Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), the national petroleum company, sells vehicle fuel. Two grades (both unleaded): Premium (93 octane) in a red pump and Magna (87 octane) in a green pump. Therefore, retain catalytic converters on your vehicle. A few stations in cities and along major highways sell diesel. Keep fuel tanks at least half full, as stations are fewer and farther between than in the U.S. and may occasionally run out. Fuel is sold by the liter (3.785 liters equal 1 gallon). Use a locking gas cap.
Gasoline prices in Mexico are established by authorities in Mexico City and not by individual franchises.
Since 1991, all cars manufactured in Mexico are equipped with catalytic converters to reduce vehicle emissions that contribute to an acute air pollution problem in the Valley of Mexico-which includes Mexico City and adjacent areas in the State of Mexico.
Driving is on the right. Traffic congestion is common in cities. Mexico honors a valid drivers license, regardless of origin. Dependents who are more than 16 years of age can obtain a drivers permit for a small fee. The Mexican Department of Tourism provides a reliable highway emergency assistance patrol called "Angeles Verdes" (Green Angels), easily identifiable in a green truck. Toll roads ("cuota") are designated by the letter "D" after the highway number and are faster and safer than free ("libre") routes. The toll roads en route to the border are more expensive than comparable roads (interstates and highways) in the U.S. But it is worth the extra cost for the excellent roadbeds and uncrowded conditions.
Wandering livestock, unlighted vehicles, and unmarked road hazards make nighttime driving dangerous on all highways.
Road courtesies in Mexico, particularly on the long stretches of two-lane highway between Mexico City and the border, are different than in the U.S. 2-way traffic will often move over to the shoulders to allow vehicles to pass in the center of the road. Unwary U.S. drivers risk head on collisions if they do not pick up on this quickly. Also, drivers wanting to pass will turn on their left turn signal and leave it on until the pass is completed. Large trucks, as well as cars, often use the same signal to inform a vehicle behind them that it is safe to pass.
Mexican law requires drivers entering Mexico to have liability insurance issued by a Mexican company. Several U.S. and Mexican insurance companies offer plans that cover a driver for 30 days after crossing the border. Comprehensive and collision insurance are available from both U.S. and Mexican companies.
Cars purchased in Mexico come with temporary registration, but no temporary registration is available for imported cars. Therefore, all imported cars should have foreign registration and plates, preferably valid for at least four months from date of arrival to avoid being stopped by the police until Mexican plates are obtained.
Mexican vehicles may be sold locally, and Mexico has no restrictions on types of cars that may be imported.
Licensed taxi service is readily available and inexpensive; a small tip is customary. The taxis are painted in various distinctive colors, include the word "taxi," have distinctive license plates, and either have meters or display rates. Airports often have buses or special taxi service ("transporte terrestre"), which is preferred. When using city buses and the metro subway system, observe security precautions that are appropriate for a large city.
"Combis" (or "peseros") are vans, smaller than buses, that carry passengers over assigned routes, to provide a convenient service. Licensed, chauffeured rental cars are also available, at prices comparable to taxi service in the U.S.
Mexico has extensive, inexpensive bus service throughout the country. Quality of service ranges from air-conditioned, luxury buses with reserved seats, that serve tourist destinations to often overcrowded buses providing the basics.
Railroad passenger service within Mexico is inexpensive, but covers only a few routes-including a few connections with the U.S.-and is being improved with new equipment.
Air service is good between major Mexican and U.S. cities. Within Mexico, air routes fan out from Mexico City. Domestic air travel however is expensive. Air travel between Mexican cities along the border is accomplished more easily by using U.S. airports.
Telephone and Telegraph
Local and international services are adequate, and both domestic and international calls may be dialed directly. TelMex, the former Mexican national phone company and currently the leading private phone company in Mexico, provides the connection for a reasonable fee. Calls to the U.S. from Mexico are comparable in cost to calls from the U.S. to Mexico. International calls outside of North America are expensive. Telephone service within Mexico is inexpensive. Telegrams are accepted in English and may be billed to home telephone numbers. Domestic and international FAX service is available.
Long distance is feasible by several carriers other than TelMex; Alestra (AT&T-Bancomer), Avantel (MCIBanamex), and Miditel. Local service is still provided by TelMex.
Along with standard landlines, Mexico has two major providers of cellular phone services-TelCel and USACell. Both are affiliated with major telecommunications companies: TelCel with TelMex (Telefonos de Mexico) and USACell with Avantel, a division of MCI. Prices are very competitive between the two providers and only slightly higher than that which is available in the U.S. Both suppliers offer contracts that provide the phone, "free minutes," and access to the cellular network. At the end of the contract, the purchaser owns the cell phone. Typical contracts run for 18 months. TelCel also offers an alternative to a contract called the Amigo phone, where one buys the phone and pays for the minutes separately to be used as needed. The cell phone units offered for both contract and the Amigo plan are the same phones available in the U.S. They include, but are not limited to: Motorola, Nokia, Ericsson, and Philips with both digital and analog features. GSM technology is not supported in Mexico.
Telephone calls made with a credit card offer a wide variety of applications. Unfortunately, security is not up to the same standards as the U.S., and caution is recommended when using credit cards to place calls.
The most direct means for mail service is via post office boxes in U.S. border cities or international mail.
Radio and TV
Mexican television (TV) broadcasts on the same standard (NTSC) as in the U.S. and Mexican TV companies generally operate with state-of-theart equipment. Two networks dominate Mexican television. Televisa is the older and highest rated one, but TV Azteca-privatized in 1994-has proven itself to be a worthy adversary. Each network broadcasts on three or four channels, featuring soap operas ("telenovelas"), series, variety shows, children's programs, sports (including major U.S. broadcasts), movies, and news coverage. Although most programs are produced or dubbed in Spanish, some movies are shown in the original language with subtitles. The UHF spectrum is not as occupied as in the U.S. That is mostly due to the fact that pay television became available in most major market neighborhoods and in hundreds of small towns at reasonable prices before smaller companies resorted to UHF frequencies. Though "pay TV" companies initially simply passed through U.S. network signals, they now relay the "Latin" services that many U.S. companies have set up. There are also cable-only programs (including an all news service in Spanish) produced nationally. C-Band dishes enjoyed an early heyday, but direct-to home broadcasts on the Ku-Band are taking a greater market share.
The radio spectrum in Mexico City is saturated by radio stations operating mostly with state-of-the-art equipment. All companies, some of which own as many as 12 stations, have at least one morning news magazine program that runs 3 to 4 hours. The leading stations include live reports from the U.S. and other world capitals, though they emphasize local and national events. Many Spanish-language AM and FM broadcasts feature music in English. Along the border, U.S. broadcasts are also available.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals
Although sold at prices substantially higher than in the U.S.-a wide selection of U.S. magazines and newspapers and a limited selection of books can be found in most Mexican cities. The international editions of Time and Newsweek are sold locally, as are the editions of such major magazines as U.S. News & World Report, Popular Science, People, The Economist. The News, an English-language paper published in Mexico City, covers local events in eastern and central Mexico including Monterrey, with state-side and international coverage taken from major U.S. newspapers. The Guadalajara Colony Reporter has similar coverage for the Guadalajara area. Delivery of local Mexican papers, as well as a selection of U.S. papers (The New York Times, The Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal), is available in Mexico City and at the nine U.S. Consulates throughout the country. USA Today, the Miami edition of the International Herald Tribune, and papers from neighboring U.S. states are also available. El Financiero also publishes a weekly international edition in English, that focuses on economic and financial issues. It is sent to U.S. subscribers.
Mexico has specialized magazines in English on such subjects as computers, cars, scientific innovations, medical journals, and women that are sold in major cities at bookstores and popular restaurants.
Health and Medicine
Pharmacies in the cities carry most drugs at reasonable prices, but occasional shortages occur. Although many prescription and over-the-counter medications that are manufactured in Mexico are manufactured by Mexican affiliates of U.S. firms, there may be some minor differences in formulation; thus, consult with a health practitioner before purchasing locally manufactured medications. Take prescriptions and an adequate supply of prescription medications. If you plan to have refills sent from the U.S., make arrangements beforehand. A supply of basic medicine chest items should also be taken.
The American-British Cowdray (ABC) Hospital in Mexico City, staffed partially by English speaking, U.S. trained physicians, is recommended for emergencies and routine hospitalizations. There are other well-equipped private hospitals available with similar staff. Mexico City has many English speaking U.S. trained physicians, including medical and dental specialists. For major medical and surgical problems, patients may be evacuated to the U.S. The designated evacuation point is Miami, Florida.
Ciudad Juarez: The full range of medical services is available in El Paso, Texas.
Guadalajara: English-speaking, U.S.-trained physicians and several well equipped hospitals and clinics are available and provide adequate medical care.
Hermosillo: Hospitals and clinics in Hermosillo are adequate for routine and emergency care. Many doctors are U.S. trained and certified. A full range of medical services is available in Tucson, Arizona, a four-hour drive or a one-hour flight away.
Matamoros: The full range of medical services is available across the river in Brownsville, Texas, and other nearby cities in the Rio Grande Valley.
Merida: The incidence of diarrheal diseases and hepatitis is high. Malaria is rare; but there are incidents of other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. Medical facilities are inadequate despite the presence of competent doctors and dentists. In the event of serious illness, the patient will be evacuated to Mexico City or Miami, Florida.
Monterrey: Medical facilities in Monterrey are modern and adequate. Two large, well-equipped private hospitals have been approved for routine and emergency care. U.S. trained and highly specialized physicians and dentists are available. Difficult or unusual cases may be evacuated to Texas.
Nuevo Laredo: Use the medical and dental facilities in Laredo, Texas, or the medical center in San Antonio, Texas.
Tijuana: Complete health care is available across the border in the San Diego or Chula Vista area.
Tuxtla Gutierrez: A USDA installation is in this southern Mexico region. Private clinics and hospitals are minimally adequate, despite many well trained physicians. In the event of serious medical problems, evacuation to Mexico City or to Miami, Florida, will be authorized.
Air pollution is widely recognized as a problem in Mexico City. In a study published in the spring of 1999, the World Resources Institute rated Mexico City as the number one city in the world for health risks to children age 5 and under due to air pollution. This pollution is due in part to rapid urbanization and industrialization, but mostly to the huge and ever growing number of vehicles. The air quality has improved in some categories since the early 1990s. According to the Mexican Government, the lead and sulfur dioxide levels are consistently within the acceptable levels, as defined by the World Health Organization; and the nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide levels are rarely above them. The levels for declaring environmental emergencies were recently tightened in response to evidence of negative health effects from ozone and particulate matter. Although there were fewer ozone peaks above 330 parts per million annually in the past few years, it is still above acceptable levels over 85% of the year. Suspended particulate matter (PM 10) exceeds the standards 20% to 30% annually. Because of the continuing concerns about pollution, the standard length of tour remains at two years.
Tap water is not safe to drink. Boiling, iodine, or chlorine treatment is necessary.
Tuberculosis is still present in the general population; thus domestic employees should be screened for it. Malaria and other serious tropical diseases are present only in southern rural areas of Mexico. Persons who will reside or travel in southern Mexico should be vaccinated for yellow fever before departing the U.S. because of a yellow fever is endemic in parts of southern Mexico and Central America.
Intestinal infections are prevalent in Mexico. Most infections are due solely to the fact that Mexican bacteria are different from U.S. bacteria. Nevertheless, parasitic infections (including ameba and giardia) are common. Therefore, select food sources and restaurants carefully. Clean and treat raw vegetables and fruits with iodine. Unpasteurized dairy products may carry brucellosis and tuberculosis. Therefore, purchase only reliably pasteurized and refrigerated products.
Marijuana and cocaine and other addictive drugs are readily available, despite Mexican efforts to control drug trafficking. Drug offenders, including teenagers, are often jailed for lengthy periods.
Cigarette smokers should be particularly aware that they risk increased cardiopulmonary problems due to the altitude and pollution. The combination of altitude in Mexico's high plateau and pollution in the Valley of Mexico with smoking may be dangerous for pregnant women and the fetus. Numerous health clubs are available throughout the city. Those who wish to exercise outdoors should do so in the morning, when the pollution levels are lowest.
Rabies is endemic in Mexico, thus keep pet immunizations current. Rabies vaccine is available in the Health Unit for all who wish to be vaccinated. It may be especially advisable for children, joggers, and rural workers to be vaccinated.
Recommended immunizations for Mexico include diphtheria, tetanus, polio, MMR, and yellow fever. Infectious (viral) hepatitis is endemic in Mexico; therefore gamma globulin injections every four to six months are recommended for those over 12 years old.
Newcomers to high altitude should allow time for acclimatization. In the first several weeks, you should avoid overeating, alcoholic beverages, and excessive physical exertion. Light-headedness, insomnia, slight headaches, and shortness of breath are common initial reactions to the altitude. Adequate rest and fluids help alleviate the discomfort.
NOTES FOR TRAVELERS
Passage, Customs & Duties
The Government of Mexico requires that all U.S. citizens present proof of citizenship and photo identification for entry into Mexico. A U.S. passport is recommended, but other U.S. citizenship documents such as a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, a Naturalization Certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Citizenship are acceptable. U.S. citizens boarding flights to Mexico should be prepared to present one of these documents as proof of U.S. citizenship, along with photo identification. Driver's permits, voter registration cards, affidavits and similar documents are not sufficient to prove citizenship for readmission into the United States.
Travelers should be aware that Mexican entry regulations require Spanish translations of all legal documents, including notarized consent decrees and court agreements. Enforcement of this provision is not always consistent, and English-language documents are almost always sufficient.
A visa is not required for a tourist/transit stay up to 180 days. A tourist card, also known as a FM-T, available from Mexican consulates and most airlines serving Mexico, is issued instead. Travelers entering Mexico for purposes other than tourism require a visa and must carry a valid U.S. passport. The Government of Mexico charges an entry fee to U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico's interior.
Upon arrival in Mexico, business travelers must complete a form (Form FM-N 30 days) authorizing the conduct of business, but not employment, for a 30-day period. U.S. citizens planning to work or live in Mexico should apply for the appropriate Mexican visa (Form FM-2 or 3) at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC or nearest Mexican consulate in the United States.U.S. citizens planning to participate in humanitarian aid missions, human rights advocacy groups or international observer delegations also should contact the Mexican Embassy or nearest Mexican consulate for guidance on how to obtain the appropriate visa before traveling to Mexico. Such activities, undertaken while on a tourist visa, may draw unfavorable attention from Mexican authorities because Mexican immigration law prohibits foreigners from engaging in political activity. U.S. citizens have been detained or deported for violating their tourist visa status. Therefore, tourists should avoid demonstrations and other activities that may be deemed political by Mexican authorities. This is particularly relevant in light of the tension and polarization in the state of Chiapas. U.S. citizens and other foreigners have been detained in Chiapas and expelled from Mexico for allegedly violating their visa status or for interfering in Mexican internal politics.
Mexican regulations limit the value of goods brought into Mexico by U.S. citizens arriving by air or sea to $300 per person and by land to $50 per person. Amounts exceeding the duty-free limit are subject to a 32.8 percent tax. For further information concerning entry and visa requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Mexico at 1911 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006, telephone (202) 736-1000, or its web site at http://embassyofmexico.org, or any Mexican consulate in the United States.
Americans living in or visiting Mexico are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy or at one of the U.S. Consulates, in order to obtain updated information on travel and security within Mexico. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-525-080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5-080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-5-080-2000. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Consulates General are located in:
Ciudad Juarez : Avenida Lopez Mateos 924-N, telephone (52)(1) 611-3000.
Guadalajara: Progreso 175, telephone (52)(3) 825-2998.
Monterrey : Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente 64000, telephone (52)(8) 345-2120.
Tijuana: Tapachula 96, telephone (52)(6) 681-7400.
U.S. Consulates are located in:
Hermosillo : Avenida Monterrey 141, telephone (52)(6) 217-2375.
Matamoros: Avenida Primera 2002, telephone (52)(8) 812-4402.
Merida: Paseo Montejo 453, telephone (52)(9) 925-5011.
Nogales : Calle San Jose, Nogales, Sonora, telephone (52)(6) 313-4820.
Nuevo Laredo: Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, telephone (52)(8) 714-0512.
U.S. Consular Agencies are located in:
Acapulco: Hotel Continental Plaza, Costera Miguel Aleman 121-Local 14, telephone (52)(7) 484-03-00 or (52)(7) 469-0556.
Cabo San Lucas: Blvd. Marina y Pedregal #1, Local No. 3, Zona Centro, telephone (52)(1) 143-3566.
Cancun: Plaza Caracol Two, Third Level, No. 320-323, Boulevard Kukulcan, km. 8.5, Zona Hotelera, telephone (52)(9) 883-0272.
Cozumel: Plaza Villa Mar in the Main Square-El Centro, 2nd floor right rear, Locale #8, Avenida Juarez and 5th Ave. Norte, telephone (52)(9) 872-4574.
Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo : Local 9, Plaza Ambiente, telephone (52)(7) 553-2100.
Mazatlan: Hotel Playa Mazatlan, Rodolfo T. Loaiza #202, Zona Dorada, telephone (52)(6) 916-5889.
Oaxaca: Macedonio Alcala No. 407, Interior 20, telephone (52)(9) 514-3054 (52)(9) 516-2853.
Puerto Vallarta: Edif. Vallarta, Plaza Zaragoza 160-Piso 2 Int-18, telephone (52)(3) 222-0069.
San Luis Potosi: Edificio "Las Terrazas", Avenida Venustiano Carranza 2076-41, (52)(4) 811-7802.
San Miguel de Allende: Dr. Hernandez Macias #72, telephone (52)(4)152-2357 or (52)(4)152-0068.
There are no quarantine requirements for pets, but they require specific documents issued by an officially recognized veterinarian, and authenticated ("visado") by the Mexican consul with jurisdiction over the place of issue.
All Pets entering Mexico require a certificate that they were examined and found free of evidence of infectious or parasitic disease; this should be done within 10 days of arrival in Mexico. Dogs require proof of vaccination against rabies, viral hepatitis, leptospirosis, and distemper not less than 15 days or more than one year before arrival, and of parvo-virus vaccination not less than 15 days or more than 150 days before arrival.
Cats require proof of vaccination against rabies and feline panleucopenia not less than 15 days or more than 1 year before arrival.
Prior to travel, the Mexican consul in the U.S. requires certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Veterinary Services (APHISVS), that the veterinarian issuing the documents is officially recognized.
Pets traveling with their owners are cleared into Mexico with only these documents. Those pets who are shipped to Mexico require a free entry permit, which takes a month or more to obtain after the owner has arrived in Mexico. Pets shipped to Mexico must arrive in the morning to allow time for same-day customs clearance, as there are no pet storage facilities at airports.
Firearms and Ammunition
The Mexican Government has significant restrictions on the types of firearms and ammunition that may be imported into the country. Generally, the Mexican government prohibits the importation of .357 and .45 caliber handguns, rifles with a caliber of .30 and larger, and shotguns with barrels shorter than 25 inches.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures
The monetary unit in Mexico is the peso. The symbol used to designate pesos is the same as the dollar symbol, except that it has only one vertical line. The peso-dollar exchange rate is subject to change. Current currency notes include the following denominations: 500, 200, 100, 50, and 20. Coins in circulation include: 10, 5, 2, 1 peso, and.50, .20, .10, and.05 centavos.
The current exchange rate is approximately 9.4 Pesos=US $1.
Mexican banking facilities are similar to those in the U.S.
Carry U.S. dollar travelers checks. Travelers already in Mexico may obtain travelers checks from the travel agency at the U.S Embassy. U.S. dollars in cash or travelers checks are accepted widely, and can be exchanged at most banks or cambios (foreign exchange dealer), including those at border crossing points and international airports. Dollars and travelers checks are accepted at most hotels and many stores and restaurants, but at a less favorable rate of exchange. Major U.S. credit cards, e.g., American Express, Master Card, and Visa, are widely accepted in Mexico. Sears stores in Mexico accept Sears cards from the U.S. Credit cards can also be obtained locally with a peso account. The majority of gasoline stations in Mexico do not accept credit cards.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property
A 15% value-added sales tax is applied to most goods and services. Hotels charge an additional 2% lodging tax that is not required to be itemized separately on your bill. Rather, it is usually included in the retail price of goods. It is always smart to ask if the price includes IVA (taxes); It is customary to leave a tip for baggage handlers, porters, chambermaids, tour guides, and drivers. Avoid leaving U.S. coins. Taxi drivers expect a tip only when an extra service is provided.
Hunting licenses are required. There is a value-added tax (IVA-impuesto al valor agregado) averaging 15% on most goods and services except on food, medicines, newspapers, residential rents, and physicians' fees.
The Department of State rates Mexico City's crime situation as CRITICAL (its highest designator). Walking in an isolated area anywhere in the city, especially after dark, raises a real risk of armed robbery. The use of roving taxis, those with green and white license plates, is discouraged because of the threat of robbery by the drivers or their criminal accomplices.
Disaster Preparedness-Earthquakes & Volcanos
Since December 1994, the Popocatepetl Volcano, situated 38 miles southeast of Mexico City, has registered varying levels of seismic activity, including the release of vapor, gas, ash, and incendiary material. Depending on the levels of activity, the Mexican National Center for Disaster Prevention restricts access or closes parks and hiking trails on the mountain's slopes. U.S. citizens planning to hike in the area should be alert to any warnings or signs posted, and should contact the U.S. Embassy for the latest information about seismic activity.
Civil defense officials in the states of Jalisco and Colima are closely monitoring activity at the Volcan de Colima, (also known as Volcan de Fuego), located in south-central Jalisco. The volcano produced a number of gas exhalations, explosions and ash falls in February 1999. There is also active lava flow on the south side of the mountain. A major eruption is possible. U.S. citizens should exercise caution if planning to travel to the area surrounding the volcano. They should contact the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara, Mexico, at telephone 011-523-825-3429 for the latest information. Updated information may also be obtained in Spanish and in English at web site http://www.ucol.mx/volcan.
Jan. 1 … New Year's Day
Jan. 6 … Day of the Kings
Feb. 2 … Candlemas
Feb. 5 … Constitution
Day Feb. 24 … Flag Day
Feb/Mar. … Carnival*
Mar. 21 … Juarez's Birthday
Mar/Apr. … Holy Thursday*
Mar/Apr … Good Friday*
Mar/Apr … Easter Sunday*
May 1 … Labor Day
May 5 … Anniversary of the Battle of the Puebla/Cinco de Mayo)
May 10 … Mother's Day
Aug. 15 … Assumption
Sept. 1… El Diadel Informe
Sept.16 … Independence Day
Oct. 12 … El Dia de la Raza/Columbus Day
Nov. 1 … All Saints' Day
Nov. 2 … Day of the Dead
Nov. 20 … Revolution Day
Dec. 12 … Our Lady of Guadelupe
Dec. 23 … Feast of the Radishes (Oaxaca only)
Dec. 25 … Christmas Day
Dec. 28 … Holy Innocents' Day
Dec. 31 … New Year's Eve
The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:
Goldman, Shifra M. Contemporary Mexican Painting in a Time of Change. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
Harvey, Marian. Mexican Crafts and Craftspeople. Philadelphia, PA: The Art Alliance Press; London: Cornwall Books, 1987.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Sculpture of Ancient West Mexico: Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima: a catalogue of the proctor Stafford collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Michael Kan, Clement Meighan, H.B. Nicholson. Albuquerque, NM: Los Angeles County Museum of Art in association with University of New Mexico Press, 1989.
Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries/Introduction by Octavio Paz. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.; New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990.
Oettinger, Marion. Folk Treasures of Mexico: the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990.
Oles, James. Frida Kalo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism: from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. San Francisco, CA: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1996.
Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico. Edited by Elizabeth E Benson & Beatriz de la Fuente; with contributions by Marcia Castro-Leal. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1996.
Paz, Octavio. Essays on Mexican Art. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993.
Portillo, Jose Lopez. Quetzalcoatl, in Myth, Archeology, and Art. New York: Continuum Pub. Co., 1982.
Rivera, Diego. Diego Rivera, a Retrospective. New York: Founders Society Detroit Institute, 1986.
Rochfort, Desmond. Mexican Muralists: Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros. San Francisco: Chronicle, 1993.
Sayer, Chloe. Costumes of Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985.
Schele, Linda. The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art. Fort Worth, TX: Kimball Art Museum, 1986.
Smith, Bradley. Mexico: A History in Art. New York: Doubleday & Co.,1968.
Stierlin, Henri. Art of the Aztecs and Its Origins. New York: Rizzoli, 1982.
Yampolsky, Mariana. The Edge of Time: Photographs of Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.
Armstrong, George M. Law and Market Society in Mexico. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1989.
Mexico Faces the 21st Century. Edited by Donald E. Schulz and Edward J. Williams. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.
Mexico's External Relations in the 1990s. Edited by Riordan Roett. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1991.
Orme, William A. Understanding NAFTA: Mexico, Free, Trade and The New North America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.
Riner, D.L. Mexico: Meeting the Challenge. London; Mexico: Euromoney Publications in association with Auritec Ase-sores, Banco Internacional, 1991.
Society and Economy in Mexico. Edited by James W Wilkie. Los Angeles: University of California, 1990.
The Mexican Peso Crisis: International Perspectives. Edited by Riordan Roett. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996.
Aguilar Camin, Hector. In the Shadow of the Mexican Revolution: Contemporary Mexican History, 1910-1989. by Hector Aguilar Camin and Lorenzo Meyer; translated by Luis Alberto Fierro. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993. viii, 287 p. 972.08 CAM
At the Crossroads: Mexico and U.S. Immigration Policy. Edited by Frank D. Bean… [et al.] Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999. 322 p. 325.273 CRO
Between Two Worlds: Mexican Immigrants in the United States. David G. Guti'rrez, editor. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1996. xxvii, 271 p. 973.04 BET
Camp, Roderic Ai. Crossing Swords: Politics and Religion in Mexico. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 341 p. 261.7 CAM
Camp, Roderic Ai. Politics in Mexico: The Decline of Authoritarianism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Edition: 3rd ed. 279 p. 320.972 CAM
Centeno, Miguel Angel. Democracy Within Reason: Technocratic Revolution in Mexico. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994. 272 p. 320.972 CEN
Cornelius, Wayne A. Mexican Politics in Transition: The Breakdown of a One-Party-Dominant Regime. San Diego: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego, 1996. 122 p.: ill. 320.972 COR
Dunn, Timothy J., 1961-. The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1978-1992: Low-Intensity Conflict Doctrine Comes Home. Austin: Center for Mexican American Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 1996. xii, 307 p.: map 972 DUN
Electoral Patterns and Perspectives in Mexico. Edited by Arturo Alva-rado Mendoza. San Diego: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California, 1987. 287 p. 324.972 ELE
Encyclopedia of Mexico: History, Society & Culture. Eitor, Michael S. Werner; cartographer, Tom Willcockson; indexer, AEIOU, Inc.; commissioning editor, Robert M. Salkin. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997. 2 v.: ill., maps REF 972.003 ENC
Erfani, Julie A. The Paradox of the Mexican State: Rereading Sovereignty From Independence to NAFTA. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1995. 238 p.: ill. 320.972 ERF
Farriss, Nancy M. (Nancy Marguerite). Maya Society Under Colonial Rule: The Collective Enterprise of Survival. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.
Fodor's Mexico, 1998-. New York:Fodor's Travel Publications, 1998-v. ill., maps REF 917.2 FOD
Griswold del Castillo, Richard. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A Legacy of Conflict. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990
Guti'rrez, David (David Gregory). Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1995. 320 p. 323.116 GUT
Herrera, Celia. Uniform Title:[Francisco Villa ante la historia.] Pancho Villa Facing History. New York: Vantage Press, 1993.
Johns, Michael; 1958. The City of Mexico in the Age of Diaz. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997.
Katz, Friedrich. The Life and Times of Pancho Villa. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. 985 p.: ill. 972.08 KAT
La Problernatica de las Etnica en Mexico. Victor Campa Mendoza. Mexico: Scientyc Ediciones, 1998. Edition: 3a ed., corr. y aumentada 400 p. S 972.004 PRO
Mazarr, Michael J. Mexico 2005: The Challenges of the New Millennium. Michael J. Mazarr: fore-word by Federico Reyes-Heroles. Washington, DC: CSIS Press, 1999. 175 p. 972.08 MAZ
McGregor, Peter. Essential Mexico. United Kingdom: AA Publishing, 1996. 128 p.: ill. REF 917.2 MCG
Mexican Literature: A History. Edited by David William Foster. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994. x, 458 p. 860.997 MEX
Mexico Under Zedillo. Edited by Susan Kaufman Purcell and Luis Rubio. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998. 151 p. 972.08 MEX
Mexico, From Independence to Revolution, 1810-1910. Edited, with commentary, by W Dirk Raat. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.
Morales-Gomez, Daniel A. The State, Corporatist Politics, and Educational Policy Making in Mexico. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1990. 197 p. 379.72 MOR
Morris, Stephen D., 1957-. Political Reformism in Mexico: An Overview of Contemporary Mexican Politics. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Pub., 1995. 261 p. 320.972 MOR
New Writings From Mexico. Edited by Reginal Gibbons. Evanston, IL: TriQuarterly, Northwestern University, 1992. 420 p.: ill. 860 NEW
Opposition Government in Mexico. Edited by Victoria E. Rodriguez and Peter M. Ward. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995. 255 p. 320.972 OPP
Polling for Democracy: Public Opinion and Political Liberalization in Mexico. Edited by Roderic Ai Camp. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 1996. 186 p. 303.38 POL
Rebellion in Chiapas: An Historical Reader. [compilation, translations, and introductory material by] John Womack, Jr. New York: New Press, 1999. xvii, 372 p. 972.75 REB
Reed, Glenn and Rober Gray. How To Do Business in Mexico: Your Essential and Up-to-Date Guide for Success. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997. xvi, 181 p. REF 658.848 REE
Reed, John, 1887-1920. Mexico Insurgente. Mexico: Editores Mexicanos Unidos, 1989.
Revolution in Mexico: Years of Upheaval, 1910-1940. Edited by James W Wilkie. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1984.
Rural Revolt in Mexico: U.S. Intervention and the Domain of Subaltern Politics. Edited by Daniel Nugent; foreword by William C. Roseberry. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998. Edition: 2nd ed., expanded ed. 384 p. 327.720 RUR
Sayer, Chloe. Costumes of Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985.
Smith, Michael Ernest; 1953. The Aztecs. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.
Subnational Politics and Democratization in Mexico. Edited by Wayne A. Cornelius, Todd A. Eisenstadt & Jane Hindley. San Diego, CA: Center for U.S.-Mexican studies, University of California, 1999. viii, 369 p. 320.972 SUB
Taylor, Lawrence J. The Road to Mexico. Text by Lawrence J. Taylor; photographs by Maeve Hickey. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, c1997. 179 p. 917.2 TAY
The Evolution of the Mexican Political System. Edited by Jaime E. Rodriguez O. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 1993. 322 p.: ill. 972 EVO Prospects for Mexico. Edited by George W Grayson. [Washington, D.C.]: Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Dept. of State, 1988. 286 p.: ill. 972.083 PRO
U.S. Commission for the Study of International Migration and Cooperative Economic Development. Unauthorized Migration: Addressing the Root Causes: Research Addendum. Washington, D.C.: The Commission, 1990. 2 v. REF 325.73 USC
Van Delden, Maarten, 1958. Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998. ix, 262 p. 863 VAN
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