Mexico is still a nation where the past plays a prominent role in shaping the nation’s present day development. Mexico has a fascinating but often bewildering history. Its past differs from that of the U.S. and Canada in several respects, notably:
- When “discovered” in 1519, Mexico was home to an estimated 10 million native inhabitants living in feudal but highly disciplined and organized societies. These people could not be ignored or simply swept aside, as was done in North America, but rather became the foundation upon which the Spanish conquerors built their colonial empire. Even today, Mexico is rich in ethnic diversity, with nearly 15 million pure-blooded Native Americans, speaking nearly fifty languages.
- Mexico endured 300 years of colonial domination (1521-1821) by Spain, a nation that itself was one of the least progressive in Europe. Iberian institutions, political heritage, and authoritarian traditions left an indelible mark on Mexico.
- Rich in mineral resources and manpower, Mexico has historically been exploited in one form or another by foreign powers. Its abundant reserves of gold, silver, lead, petroleum, copper, and zinc are in sharp contrast to its shortage of tillable, well-irrigated soil. Sustained economic development has been difficult to achieve and has generally been distorted in favor of a small segment of the country’s population.
- For the past 200 years, Mexico has been overshadowed by its neighbor to the north. The relationship has wavered between blatant intervention, to total ignorance, to a growing sense of interdependence. Nowhere in the world do two countries of such distinction share a common border. Proximity to the U.S. has generated a peculiar attitude towards the U.S. Extensive “cultural borrowing” – American music, films, consumer products, and fashions – is mixed with staunch nationalism and the desire to “protect” the motherland from foreign economic and cultural domination.
Mexico for living means embracing your new country of residency. Understanding these currents of history will help you see beyond the often-glaring differences between our “distant neighbor” Mexico.