After decades of rapid population growth, the annual population increase is now down to just over 1 percent. According to Countryaah, young people make up a large part of the population and more than three-quarters of the residents live in cities.
Historical population development
Over the past 500 years, Mexico has undergone drastic changes in population growth. When the Spaniards arrived there in 1519, there were a variety of social forms: hunter and gatherer peoples in the north, fishermen (often with limited agriculture) in the west, and powerful high cultures with advanced farming in the southern part of the central highlands. The population, estimated at 20-25 million at the first contact, was reduced in eight decades to, according to conservative estimates, only 1 million. Despite this huge demographic disaster, one can still see a cultural continuity in almost the whole country today.
It was not until 1940 that the population was again up to 20 million. During the 1950-70 period, Mexico’s population nearly doubled, and in the 1960s the annual population increase was 3.4 percent, one of the highest in the world. On average, every Mexican gave birth to 6–7 children. The forecasts then gave a frightening picture of an upcoming serious overpopulation.
In the latter half of the 1970s, a comprehensive family planning program was initiated aimed at women, informing about the benefits of smaller families and providing contraception. Immediate birth rates began to decline, and the trend was reinforced as the standard of living gradually increased, an increasing proportion of women received education and urbanization increased.
Today’s population situation
In 2000, the birth rate had more than halved and was about 23 per thousand. Since then, the changes have been minor and in 2019 the birth rate was 17 percent and the death rate was 6 per thousand, which gave a natural increase of almost 1.3 percent. However, annual population growth was lower. For many years, there has been a large relocation and in 2019 this meant that Mexico’s population increased by about 1.1 percent. For detailed statistics see country facts.
The vast majority of emigrants have applied to the United States. In 2011, 6.1 million Mexicans lived illegally in the United States, while 5.8 million were legal immigrants. Illegal immigration there has declined since 2009, due to the fact that it has become more difficult to find work there and also because of stricter border control and threats and blackmail from drug cartels on the Mexican side.
The northern part of Mexico is sparsely populated with the exception of some coastal sections and the northeastern coastal areas towards the United States. The country’s most densely populated areas are along the Gulf of Mexico, especially in the state of Veracruz and in a wide stretch from there west through the metropolitan region of Mexico City and the country’s second largest city of Guadalajara to the Pacific Coast.
The states with the strongest population growth are just south of the US border and the population of Baja California Sur in the northwest is rising most rapidly. Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula at the far southeast also has a large increase in population. Both of these states have extensive tourism and also immigration of foreign families.
An extensive move from rural to urban has meant that more than 70 percent of the population now lives in the cities. The urban population increases by about 1.7 percent per year, but in the metropolitan area, the increase in population is now slower. In 2019, 18 percent of the population lived in settlements with less than 2,500 residents, and the population does not increase in general. In 2019, the largest cities, with suburbs included, Mexico City (20.9 million), Guadalajara (4.9 million), Monterrey (4.7 million), Puebla (2.9 million) and Toluca (2.2 million). In total, 13 urban areas had more than 1 million residents.
Mexico is a multicultural society. The concept of ethnicity, linked to race belonging, has been replaced by ethnic belonging defined by language and socio-cultural criteria. Because different criteria are used in different measurements, data on the ethnic composition of the population varies. Official statistics indicate that the indigenous population, the Indians, constitute 10-14%.
In northern Mexico, there are still small hunter and gatherer peoples, such as seri (800–900 who mainly live by crafts), or swedes, such as tarahumara (88,000) and yaqui (15,000) who feed as fishermen along the river banks. Further south are the traditionally bound huichol (31,000), also the burners. In central Mexico, the changes are more noticeable, but since the Indians here also constitute a large part of the population, many elements of the dominant Mist culture are also clearly Native American. Among the still living Native American cultures, for example. agricultural people like the Uto-Aztec Nahua (1.6 million). In the Oaxaca Valley and in remote parts of the Sierra Madre del Sur we find strong elements ofZapotecs (425,000) and Mixtecs (80,000). In the southeast, different Mayan people, e.g. tzotzil (405,000) in the state of Chiapas and Yukatekan maya (900,000) in the Yucatán Peninsula. See also Native Americans (Mexico and Central America).
The most numerous Native American people are those who speak Nahuatl (Aztecs), Maya and Zapotec. The Indians live mainly in the southernmost states and are a large part of the residents of Yucatán (59 percent, 2000) and Oaxaca (48 percent). Vita, ie residents of exclusively European origin, 9 percent and recent immigrants from Asia and Africa and their descendants account for 3-4 percent. All others, about three-quarters of the population, are not of wholly white or entirely Native American origin and have derived socio-cultural traits from both directions. In the past, they were referred to as mastics, but that term is increasingly used nowadays. Instead, they talk about Mexicans. They are all Spanish-speaking and mainly Catholic, but their Native American origins are evident in both physiognomy and certain cultural features. One such is “the day of the dead” during the Halloween.
The official and majority languages are Spanish. Data on the number of native speakers of native languages (Native American languages) vary widely; 10% of the population is a possible estimate. In addition, many are bilingual. There is also no consensus on how many languages are spoken; estimates range from 50 to 300. What a source considers a language can be treated in other sources as a group of up to about 50 related languages.
A number of language families are represented: uto-Aztec languages (with Nahuatl or Aztec as the most prominent language/language group), oto-mango languages (with members or subgroups such as Chinatech, Mazatek, Mixtech, Otomy and Zapotech), Yuma languages, Mixe languages, Mix languages languages and Mayan languages (e.g., chol, huasteki, huichol, tzeltal, tzotzil, and yukateki maya). In addition, there are several isolation languages.
About pre-Columbian religions in Mexico, see Native American religions.
The Spanish colonial church in the 16th century came with terror, tribute fees (repartimiento), forced labor and the expulsion of the Native American people. Dominican monk Bartolomé de Las Casas in Chiapas, and Bishop Vasco de Quiroga of Michoacán, however, condemned the oppression of Native Americans and defended their human rights. In the struggle for independence, the priests Hidalgo and Morelos were the leaders. The Church lost all economic and political power in 1821; In 1831, for example, no bishop left. In 1979, Puebla became the site of the third Latin American Episcopal Conference, CELAM III, which shaped the Church’s future path as “commitment to the poor.” In strong conflict with conservative church groups, Bishop Samuel Ruiz has defended the Indian people in Chiapa’s fight for human rights.
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90% of the population is Catholic. There is widespread popular Catholicism with elements of Native American religion; Particularly famous is the cult of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe (in Mexico City), which attracts millions of pilgrims. Furthermore, a total of 5% are Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans and Baptists. About 80,000 Russian Orthodox belong to their own exarchate. In recent years, the number of evangelical and charismatic movements has increased. Ecumenical cooperation is concentrated on the fight against poverty. The religious heritage of the Indian people is alive in popular piety and basic congregations. Interreligious dialogue is growing between Christian and Native American religious traditions.