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Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country and the second-largest Roman Catholic nation in the world It extends from the 14th to the 32d parallel north of the equator in southern North America Brazil and Argentina are the only Latin American countries that exceed it in area The United States borders Mexico on the north while Guatemala and Belize are found on the southeast the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west and south The countrys name is taken from the Mexico one of seven Nahuatl tribes that inhabit the central region of the country Ancient Native American civilizations--including those of the Maya Olmec Zapotec Mixtec Toltec and Aztec -- flourished there for centuries before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century Under the Spaniards Mexico became the Viceroyalty of New Spain It was ruled as a colony for more than 300 years and gained independence on Oct 4 1824 Political strife anarchy and war marked the next half-century This period brought war with the United States in 1846 and the loss of what is now Texas followed in 1848 by the cession of lands included in the present US states of Arizona Colorado Nevada Utah New Mexico Texas and California In the late 1800s Dictator Porfirio Diaz brought a long period of stability and development by foreign interests The 1910 Revolution signaled the beginning of a period of dramatic social change that led to the creation of the Constitution of 1917 which remains in force President Lazaro Cardenas achieved widespread land reform and nationalization of the countrys basic industries in the l930s Although Mexican industry expanded substantially between 1940 and l980 rapid population growth prevented millions of Mexicans from escaping the chains of poverty After 1980 a recessionary world economy slowed progress Mexico is mostly mountainous The volcano Orizaba located near Puebla in a chain of mountains called the
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