Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second most-populous country in Latin America after Portuguese-speaking Brazil. Highly developed cultures, including the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec, existed long before Spain conquered Mexico in 1521. Mexico was a Spanish colony for 300 years until 1821 when it formally achieved independence.
For 70 years, Mexico’s national government was dominated by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which won every presidential race until the July 2000 presidential election when Vicente Fox became the first president to come from the opposition. President Fox completed his term on Dec. 1, 2006, and he was succeeded by Felipe Calderon.
Mexico is endowed with substantial natural resources, and is a major oil producer and exporter. The Mexican economy is highly dependent on exports to the United States, which account for about 90 percent of its total exports. Mexico has undergone a profound economic transformation since the mid-1990s as a result of economic liberalization and its joining the North American Free Trade Agreement (a free trade bloc with the U.S. and Canada also known as NAFTA). There has been rapid and impressive progress in building a modern, diversified economy, improving infrastructure, and tackling poverty. Today, the country enjoys a more open economic and political system and is more integrated with the world economy.
Note: Note that since 2010, Mexico has plagued by rampant violence and crime at the hands of narcotics traffickers and cartels, as well as drug gangs. The degree of criminality affecting broad swaths of Mexico has raised questions about the Mexican government's ability to adequately deal with rampaging drug gangs who have turned portions of the country into lawless enclaves. Indeed, in the first part of 2010 alone, more than 7,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico, while approximately 25,000 people died in drug-related violence for the previous three and a half years, according to Mexico's Office of the Attorney General.
For his part, President Calderon interpreted the rising rate of bloodshed in the most favorable manner by saying it showed that the drug cartels were under pressure from his government's crackdown. To that end, he drew attention to the fact that in the same three and a half year period, thousands of troops had been deployed at key locations across the country, 75,000 weapons had been decommissioned, and 78,000 people had been detained on narcotics-associated operations. Nevertheless, President Calderon has simultaneously warned that drug gangs and cartels are intent on imposing their own authority in pockets across Mexico. Not surprisingly, anxiety was on the rise as Mexicans worried about the "Colombianization" of the ongoing drug war in their own country.