was priviledged to work in Mexico during 2001 to 2003 living in the historic San Angel pueblito, now a part of Mexico City,
still the greatest city in the Western Hemisphere after over half a millineum. The elections held in 2000 marked
the first time since the 1910 MexicanRevolution that an opposition candidate - Vicente FOX of the National
Action Party (PAN) - defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).The
project I headed was one of USAID's first in Mexico and was to be a flagship activity of the renewed US relations with Mexico.
Unfortunately I arrived on August 28 and was still in a hotel on September 11, 2001 when events caused the US to look Eastward
for the next decade.
Mexico is a Spanish-speaking
country about three times the size of Texas, consisting of 31 states and one federal district. The capital is Mexico City.
Mexico has a rapidly developing economy, ranked by the International Monetary Fund as the fourteenth largest in the world.
The climate ranges from tropical to arid, and the terrain consists of coastal lowlands, central high plateaus, deserts and
mountains of up to 18,000 feet.
cultures, including those of the Olmecs, Mayas, Toltecs, and Aztecs, existed long before the Spanish conquest. Hernan Cortes
conquered Mexico during the period 1519-21 and founded a Spanish colony that lasted nearly 300 years.
Independence from Spain
was proclaimed by Father Miguel Hidalgo on September 16, 1810. Father Hidalgo's declaration of national independence, “Viva
Mexico!,” known in Mexico as the "Grito de Dolores," launched a decade-long struggle for independence from Spain. Prominent
figures in Mexico's war for independence were: Father Jose Maria Morelos; Gen. Augustin de Iturbide, who defeated the Spaniards
and ruled as Mexican emperor from 1822-23; and Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, who went on to dominate Mexican politics from
1833 to 1855. An 1821 treaty recognized Mexican independence from Spain and called for a constitutional monarchy. The planned
monarchy failed; a republic was proclaimed in December 1822 and established in 1824.
Throughout the rest of the 19th century, Mexico's government and economy were shaped
by contentious debates among liberals and conservatives, republicans and monarchists, federalists and those who favored centralized
government. During the four presidential terms of Benito Juarez (1858-72), Mexico experimented with modern democratic and
economic reforms. President Juarez' terms in office and Mexico's early experience with democracy were interrupted by the invasion
of French forces in early 1862. They imposed a monarchy on the country in the form of Hapsburg archduke Ferdinand Maximilian
of Austria, who ruled as emperor from 1864-67. Liberal forces succeeded in overthrowing, and executing, the emperor in 1867
after which Juarez returned to office until his death in 1872. Following several weak governments, the authoritarian General
Porfirio Diaz assumed office and was president during most of the period between 1877 and 1911.
Mexico's severe social and
economic problems erupted in a revolution that lasted from 1910 until 1920 and gave rise to the 1917 constitution. Prominent
leaders in this period--some of whom were rivals for power--were Francisco Madero, Venustiano Carranza, Pancho Villa, Alvaro
Obregon, Victoriano Huerta, and Emiliano Zapata. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), formed in 1929 under a different
name, emerged from the chaos of revolution as a vehicle for keeping political competition among a coalition of interests in
peaceful channels. For 71 years, Mexico's national government was controlled by the PRI, which won every presidential race
and most gubernatorial races until the July 2000 presidential election of Vicente Fox Quesada of the National Action Party
(PAN), in what were widely considered at the time the freest and fairest elections in Mexico's history. President Fox completed
his term on December 1, 2006, when Felipe Calderon, also of the PAN, assumed the presidency.
Whenever you find you
are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect
--- Mark Twain
We have never observed
a great civilization with a population as old as the United States will have in the twenty-first century; we have never observed
a great civilization that is as secular as we are apparently going to become; and we have had only half a century of experience
with advanced welfare states...Charles Murray
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