Spanish Universidad Nacional Autnoma De Mxico, government-financed coeducational institution of higher education in Mexico City founded in 1551. The original university building, dating from 1584, was demolished in 1910, and the university was moved to a new campus in Mexico City in 1954. The National University was founded as the Royal Pontifical University by Antonio de Mendoza, the first viceroy of New Spain. From 1553 to 1867, when it was closed by the government of Benito Jurez, the university was controlled by the Roman Catholic church. Although its level of scholarship was originally considered equal to that of other medieval Spanish universities, political and religious interference prevented the university from keeping up with the philosophical and scientific innovations that swept Europe from the 17th through the 19th century. After 1867 a number of independent professional schoolslaw, medicine, engineering, and architecturewere established by the government. In 1910 under the government of Porfirio Daz, these separate schools were coordinated into the National University of Mexico. In the 1920s all Mexican universities were placed under government control, but the National University was given administrative autonomy in 1929. Between July and December of 1968, the university was one of the centres of student demonstrations to protest government policies, and in September of that year the campus was occupied by the military. Although there are still accusations of government interference in university affairs, the university officially maintains its administrative independence and is governed by a rector and a council that includes faculty and students. The National University has faculties of accounting and business administration, architecture, chemistry, dentistry, economics, engineering, law, medicine, philosophy and letters, political and social sciences, professional studies, psychology, sciences, and veterinary medicine and zoology. It also has national schools of music, nursing and obstetrics, plastic arts, and social work. In the late 20th century the university had an enrollment of more than 350,000 students. The economy Since the Revolution of 1910, Mexico's most notable economic achievement has been the sharp reduction of foreign ownership of the means of production while maintaining overall national growth. The economy is a combination of private, state, and mixed-capital enterprises. The state regulates the operation of private concerns in a number of ways, including the issuance of import licenses, the establishment of production quotas, and the control of prices on some products. In addition, private capital is barred from investment in certain activities. Private capital interests, with a majority of shares owned by Mexican nationals, control most industrial manufacturing activities, while semiautonomous state corporations operate the petroleum industry, generate and distribute electricity, run the banks, and oversee the telephone and telegraph systems. The government also controls foreign capital investment, usually by prohibiting it from certain industries, such as insurance, petroleum, and forestry, or by limiting it to a minority interest in others, such as mining, transportation, broadcasting, and soft-drink production. Mexico is a developing nation economically. Nonetheless, in constant pesos, the gross domestic product per capita increased more than one and a half times between 1960 and 1980. Given very rapid population growth during the same period, the nation's economic growth has been impressive, with an average annual rate of nearly 7 percent. Services account for almost 50 percent of the total gross domestic product, manufacturing about 25 percent, and agriculture about 10 percent. The nation's active labour force is equivalent to about one-third of the total population. The service sector accounts for the largest proportion of workers, about 30 percent. Slightly more than 25 percent of workers are employed in agriculture and about 12 percent in manufacturing. Nearly half of the nonagricultural labour force is unionized. The largest and most powerful union, the Confederation of Mexican Workers, is closely related to the ruling political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party. The economic boom that began in the 1970s was sustained by petroleum exports and spurred substantial capital investment from both the public and private sectors. The increase in capital created jobs and expanded the market for goods and services. Much of this development, however, was financed through loans from private banks and international lending institutions. The resulting debt, coupled with plummeting petroleum prices on the world market in the early 1980s, precipitated an economic crisis unparalleled in Mexico's history. Resources Mineral resources Minerals have been an important part of the economy throughout Mexico's history, and some 40 are now extracted in commercial quantities. Silver was long the most valuable product mined in the country, and Mexico continues to be the world's leading producer of that commodity. The major mining area during the colonial period was the so-called Silver Belt, a region that extended from Guanajuato and Zacatecas in the Mesa Central to Chihuahua in the Mesa del Norte, with outposts such as San Luis Potos farther east. The Silver Belt is still the primary region of nonfuel mineral production in the country, although now both industrial and precious minerals are sought. Silver is still taken from the older centres of Guanajuato, Pachuca, and Zacatecas, but zinc, lead, gold, mercury, cadmium, and such trace minerals as antimony and manganese are more important in total value. Iron ore deposits have been worked near Durango since the early 1900s and have provided the raw materials used in iron and steel production at Monterrey. Coking-quality coal is mined at the Sabinas fields to the north of Monterrey. Rich copper deposits were discovered in the late 1800s near Santa Rosala in Baja California, but these deposits have been largely depleted. The country's largest deposits of copper are located at Cananea and La Caridad in northern Sonora state. Since the mid-1970s, petroleum products have been Mexico's primary economic asset. Nearly 70 percent of the nation's foreign exchange earnings is derived from the sale of oil, the overwhelming majority of which is exported to the United States. The country's first commercially productive oil fields were discovered about 1900 off of Tampico on the Gulf Coast. Shortly thereafter additional producing zones were found farther south, near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Foreign capital was invested in the exploitation of petroleum, and most oil was exported until the industry was nationalized in 1938 with the creation of Petrleos Mexicanos (Pemex), a semiautonomous governmental agency charged with the exploration, production, and marketing of oil and natural gas. Several major oil-producing fields are now in operation in the Gulf of Mexico and along its coast; the main fields include the Poza Rica (near Tuxpan), the Tampico-Misantla basin, and the Chiapas-Tabasco sites. Major natural gas fields are located near Reynosa in northeastern Mexico and near Veracruz and in the Chiapas-Tabasco region of the Gulf of Mexico coast. The country has huge proven and potential reserves of petroleum and substantial reserves of natural gas. The land Relief Mexico is located in one of the Earth's most dynamic tectonic areas. It is a part of the circum-Pacific Ring of Fire, a region of active volcanism and frequent seismic activity. Towering peaks, such as Citlaltpetl (also called Orizaba; 18,701 feet [5,700 metres]) and Popocatpetl (17,883 feet [5,452 metres]), are extremely young in geologic terms (late Tertiary) and are examples of the volcanic forces that built much of the central and southern parts of the country. Mexico is situated on the western, or leading, edge of the huge North American Plate, whose interaction with the Pacific, Cocos, and Caribbean plates has, over geologic time, given rise to the earth-building processes of the area. The complexity found in southern Mexico's physiography is due to the interaction among these tectonic plates, which produces numerous and severe earth movements. It is in this dynamical but often unstable physical environment that the Mexican people have built their nation. On the basis of geologic history and surface configuration, Mexico can be divided into eight major landform regions. The largest, and most important for human habitation, is the Mexican Plateau. Extending from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec northward to the U.S. border, this region consists of a central plateau and its dissected borders. The central plateau tilts gently upward from the north toward the south. At its northern end the plateau is about 4,000 feet above sea level, and it rises to more than 8,000 feet south of Mexico City. Throughout the plateau, flattish intermontane basins and bolsones (ephemeral interior drainage basins) are interrupted by mountainous outcrops. The central plateau is divided into two major parts. The Mesa del Norte begins near the U.S. border and ends near San Luis Potos. In this arid, lower part of the Mexican Plateau, interior drainage (that is, without outlet to the ocean) predominates, and there are few permanent streams. The Mesa Central stretches from San Luis Potos to just south of Mexico City. Formed largely by volcanic action, the surface of the Mesa Central is higher (7,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level), moister, and generally flatter than the Mesa del Norte. The Mesa Central is divided into a series of fairly level intermontane basins separated by eroded volcanic peaks. The largest valleys, such as those of Mexico, Puebla, and Guadalajara, rarely exceed 100 square miles in area, while many others are quite small. The basins are generally fertile; the traditional breadbasket of the country, the Guanajuato Basin, is located in the northern part of the Mesa Central. Many of the basins were sites of major lakes that were drained to facilitate European settlement. Around Mexico City the weak, structurally unstable soils that remain have caused buildings to shift on their foundations and over many years to sink slowly into the ground. The Mexican Plateau is flanked by dissected mountainous borders. To the west is the largely volcanic Sierra Madre Occidental, with an average height of 8,000 to 9,000 feet. It has been highly incised by westward-flowing streams that eroded a series of deep canyons, or barrancas, the most spectacular of which is the Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon), Mexico's Grand Canyon. The Sierra Madre Oriental, a range of folded mountains formed of shales and limestones, is situated on the eastern side of the Mexican Plateau. With average elevations similar to those of the Sierra Madre Occidental, this highly dissected highland region has peaks exceeding 12,000 feet. The Neo-Volcnica Cordillera (also called the Transverse Volcanic Axis), with spectacular snowcapped peaks such as Popocatpetl, Iztacchuatl (17,342 feet [5,286 metres]), and Toluca (14,954 feet [4,558 metres]), forms the southern boundary of the Mexican Plateau. East and west of the Mexican Plateau lie the country's coastal lowlands. The Gulf Coastal Plain extends some 900 miles along the Gulf of Mexico from the Texas border to the Yucatn Peninsula. Characterized by lagoons and low-lying swampy areas east of the abrupt escarpment formed by the Sierra Madre Oriental, the triangular northern portion of the plain is more than 100 miles wide near the U.S. border but tapers toward the south. North of Tampico, an outlier of the Sierra Madre Oriental reaches the sea and interrupts the continuity of the Gulf Coastal Plain. South from there the plain is narrow and irregular, widening at the northern end of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and then encompassing the horizontal limestone formations that underlie the Yucatn Peninsula. The Pacific Coastal Lowlands, much narrower and less well defined than their east coast counterpart, begin near the Mexicali Valley in the north and terminate near Tuxpan, some 900 miles to the south; despite their name, for most of this distance, the lowlands face the Gulf of California. Bounded on the east by the steep-sided Sierra Madre Occidental, the Pacific Coastal Lowlands are a series of coastal terraces, mesas, and small basins interspersed with riverine deltas and restricted coastal strips. Parts of this arid region have become important sites of irrigated agricultural production. An isolated strip of extremely arid land, the Baja California Peninsula is nearly 800 miles long but seldom more than 100 miles wide. The central core of the peninsula is a huge granitic fault block with peaks of more than 9,000 feet above sea level in the San Pedro Martr and Sierra de Jurez. The gently sloping western side of these mountain ranges is in contrast to the steep eastern escarpment, which makes access from the Gulf of California extremely difficult. The Balsas Depression, which takes its name from the major river draining the region, lies immediately south of the Mexican Plateau. The depression is formed of small, irregular basins interrupted by hilly outcrops, which gives this hot, dry area a distinctive physical landscape. The Southern Highlands are a series of highly dissected mountain ranges and plateaus. On their southwestern side, approximately from Puerto Vallarta to the Gulf of Tehuantepec, are a series of ranges known collectively as the Sierra Madre del Sur. These relatively low (7,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level) crystalline mountains often reach the sea to create a rugged coastal margin, part of which is known as the Mexican Riviera. Picturesque coastal sites, such as Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, and Puerto Escondido, are favourite tourist destinations, while the less hospitable inland basins provide a difficult environment for traditional peasant farmers. Farther northeast is the Mesa del Sur, with numerous stream-eroded ridges and small, isolated valleys some 4,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level. The Oaxaca Valley is the largest and most densely settled of these valleys. With its predominantly Indian population, it is one of the most picturesque yet poorest parts of Mexico. A low-lying, narrow constriction of land, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec reaches an elevation of less than 900 feet. Its hilly central area is bordered on either side by narrow coastal plains. The Chiapas Highlands, an extension of the mountain ranges of Central America, are composed of a series of fault block mountains surrounding a high rift valley. The low, crystalline Sierra de Soconusco range lies along the Pacific coast. To the northwest and paralleling the coast is the rift valley of the Grijalva River. A group of highly dissected, folded, and faulted mountains is located between the valley and the Tabasco Plain, a southeastern extension of the Gulf Coastal Plain. To the northeast of the Tabasco Plain and extending into the Gulf of Mexico is the Yucatn Peninsula. The peninsula's limestone terrain is generally flat to rolling and seldom exceeds 500 feet in elevation. There is little surface drainage, and subterranean erosion has produced caverns and sinkholes, the latter being formed when cavern roofs collapse. The islands of Cozumel and Mujeres lie off the peninsula's northeastern tip. Drainage Because of its climatic characteristics and arrangement of landforms, Mexico has few major rivers or natural lakes. The largest are found in the central part of the country. The Lerma River has its headwaters in the Toluca Basin, west of Mexico City, and flows westward to form Lake Chapala, the country's largest natural lake. The Santiago River then flows out of the lake to the northwest, crossing the Sierra Madre Occidental on its way to the Pacific. The eastward-flowing Moctezuma-Pnuco river system, which drains much of the eastern portion of the Mesa Central, has carved gorges through the Sierra Madre Oriental to reach the Gulf of Mexico. Lakes Ptzcuaro and Cuitzeo, west of Mexico City, are remnants of the numerous lakes that once were found in the Mesa Central. The Balsas River and its tributaries drain the Balsas Depression as well as much of the southern portion of the Mesa Central. Dammed where it crosses the Sierra Madre del Sur, the Balsas is a major source of hydroelectric power. Farther southeast, the Grijalva-Usumacinta river system drains most of the humid Chiapas Highlands. Together with the Papaloapan River, which enters the Gulf of Mexico south of Veracruz, the Grijalva and Usumacinta account for about 40 percent of the total volume of Mexico's rivers. In the north, aridity and interior drainage limit the size and number of rivers. By far the most important stream in this part of the country is the Ro Bravo del Norte (Rio Grande in the United States), which forms part of the international border. The Conchos River, a tributary of the Ro Bravo, drains much of the Mesa del Norte. Because the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental originate close to the coastal margins, streams on the west and east coasts are short and steep. Along the Pacific Coastal Lowlands the Yaqui, Fuerte, and Culiacn rivers have been dammed and support major irrigated acreages. Aridity in Baja California and the porous limestones that underlie the Yucatn Peninsula cause these regions to be virtually devoid of permanent surface streams. The people Ethnic composition Mexico's population is composed of many ethnic groups. At the time of European arrival in the early 1500s, the country was inhabited by people who are thought to have migrated into the New World from Asia some 40,000 to 60,000 years ago by crossing a former land bridge in the Bering Strait. After their arrival into what is now Mexico, centuries of isolation allowed the evolution of unique cultural traits among the many separate clusters. Highly organized civilizations occupied various regions for at least 2,000 years before European discovery. By far the greatest number of people lived in the Mesa Central. At the time of European arrival, most lived under the general rule of the Aztec Empire, but many separate cultural groups thrived in this region, among them speakers of the Tarastec, Otomi, and Nahuatl languages. Outside of the Mesa Central were numerous other cultural groups, such as the Maya of the Yucatn and the Mixtec and Zapotec of Oaxaca. The splendid Aztec cities of the Mesa Central were marvels of architectural design, irrigation technology, and social organization. Spectacular Mayan ruins in the Yucatn give evidence of widespread urbanization and intense agricultural productivity dating back to well before the birth of Christ. In many ways the Indian civilizations of Mexico were more advanced than their Spanish conquerors. With the advent of Europeans, racial mixing became commonplace and a new people, mestizos, were created. Over the past four centuries mestizos have become the dominant racial group in Mexico, accounting for at least half of the total population. Northern Mexico is overwhelmingly mestizo in both urban and rural areas. Because the number of Europeans in the total population has been small, the Indian contribution to the mestizo racial group has been relatively large. Indian racial characteristics therefore predominate in many Mexican mestizos. Europeans, including those who immigrated during the 20th century, account for about 15 percent of the population and are largely concentrated in urban areas, especially Mexico City, and in the West. Although mestizos form the bulk of the population throughout the country, there are several areas where Indian speakers still represent the dominant population group. Maya speakers are the majority ethnic group in the rural Yucatn and the Chiapas Highlands. In the Southern Highlands, especially the Oaxaca Valley and remoter parts of the Sierra Madre del Sur, Indian (primarily Zapotec) communities abound. Despite their decreasing numbers, enclaves of Indians are still significant in isolated mountain areas on the eastern margin of the Mesa Central. Linguistic composition Spanish, which is the official national language and the language of instruction in schools, is spoken by more than 95 percent of the population. Although Indians are thought to represent about a quarter of the population, less than 10 percent of them speak an Indian language. There are, however, more than 50 Indian languages spoken by more than 100,000 people, including Maya in the Yucatn; Huastec in northern Veracruz; Nahuatl, Tarastec, Totonac, Otomi, and Mazahua mainly on the Mesa Central; Zapotec, Mixtec, and Mazatec in Oaxaca; and Tzeltal and Tzotzil in Chiapas.

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