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Central Standard Time: GMT - 6 (GMT - 5 from first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October).
Mountain Standard Time: GMT - 7 (GMT - 6 from first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October).
Pacific Standard Time: GMT - 8 (GMT - 7 from first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October).
1,959,248 sq km (758,449 sq miles).
106.4 million (UN estimate 2005).
54.3 per sq km.
Mexico City. Population: 21 million (2003 estimate).
Mexico is at the southern extremity of North America and is bordered to the north by the USA, northwest by the Gulf of California, west by the Pacific, south by Guatemala and Belize, and east by the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Mexico's geographical features range from swamp to desert, and from tropical lowland jungle to high alpine vegetation. Over half the country is at an altitude greater than 1,000m (3,300ft). The central land mass is a plateau flanked by ranges of mountains to the east and west that lie roughly parallel to the coast.
The northern area of this plateau is arid and thinly populated, and occupies 40% of the total area of Mexico. The southern area is crossed by a range of volcanic mountains running from Cape Corrientes in the west through the Valley of Mexico to Veracruz in the east, and includes the magnificent volcanoes of Cofre de Perote, Ixtaccihuatl, Matlalcueyetl, Nevado de Toluca, Orizaba and Popocatepetl. This is the heart of Mexico and where almost half of the population lives.
To the south, the land falls away to the sparsely populated Isthmus of Tehuantepec whose slopes and flatlands support both commercial and subsistence agriculture. In the east, the Gulf Coast and the Yucatan peninsula are flat and receive over 75% of Mexico's rain. The most productive agricultural region in Mexico is the northwest, while the Gulf Coast produces most of Mexico's oil and sulphur. Along the northwest coast, opposite the peninsula of Baja California, and to the southeast along the coast of Bahia de Campeche and the Yucatan peninsula, the lowlands are swampy with coastal lagoons.
Republic since 1917. Gained independence from Spain in 1821.
President Felipe Calderon since 2006.
The July 2006 presidential elections were a closely fought contest, with conservative candidate Felipe Calderon edging out his left-wing rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by less than 1%. Obrador refused to concede, and demanded a recount, rousing his supporters to rally in protest. Calderon's win was confirmed by the electoral commission in September 2006, following a partial recount, and he was inaugurated on 1 December 2006. Obrador, or 'ALMO' as he has been nicknamed, quickly set up a 'legitimate government' website, calling Calderon the 'dummy president'. ALMO even has his own TV show (The Truth will be Told) where he promotes his alternative agenda and mocks the incumbent's attempts to tackle crime and unemployment.
Spanish is the official language (spoken by more than 90%). English is widely spoken. 8% speak indigenous languages, of which Natinate is most common.
89% Roman Catholic, 5% Protestant and 6% other denominations.
110 volts AC, 60Hz. American two-pin (flat) plugs are usual.
Handshaking is the most common form of greeting. Casualwear is acceptable for daytime dress throughout Mexico. At beach resorts, dress is very informal for men and women and nowhere are men expected to wear ties. In Mexico City, however, dress tends to be smart in elegant restaurants and hotel dining rooms. Smoking is unrestricted except where notified. Mexicans regard relationships and friendships as the most important thing in life next to religion and they are not afraid to show their emotions. A large Mexican family always seems to find room for one more and a visitor who becomes friends with a Mexican will invariably be made part of the family. Visitors should always remember that local customs and traditions are important.