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Ethnic Groups and Culture

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Ethnic Groups and Culture
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Mexico ’s population has grown at a tremendous rate.  Today’s population is about 105 million.  20 years ago it was 67 million.  That is a 64% increase in only 20 years.  Of even more concern is the growth of the cities, which attract thousands of newcomers from the impoverished countryside every day.  Mexico city with its population of 20 million people attracts 2,000 migrants daily.  75% of Mexico ’s people live in the cities.


104,959,594 (July 2004 est.)
Mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%

Age structure:
0-14 years: 31.6% (male 16,913,290; female 16,228,552)
15-64 years: 62.9% (male 31,975,391; female 34,090,440)
65 years and over: 5.5% (male 2,618,713; female 3,133,208) (2004 est.)

Median age:
total: 24.6 years
male: 23.7 years
female: 25.5 years (2004 est.)

Population growth rate:
1.18% (2004 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.84 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2004 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 74.94 years
male: 72.18 years
female: 77.83 years (2004 est.)

Ethnic Groups

The overwhelmingly largest ethnic group in Mexico is the Mestizos who are of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry.  They control most of the money and the power.  The next largest group is the indigenous population who largely retain their sense of distinct identity.  The Mexican government recognizes 56 different indigenous groups and these cultures that have survived largely because of their rural isolation.  These people are generally poor and their main wealth is traditional and spiritual and their way of life filled with communal customs and rituals.

The largest indigenous group is the Nahua, descendants of the Aztecs.  There are at least 1.7 million Nahuatl speakers.  There are approximately 1 million Maya speakers, 500,000 Zapotecs, 500,000 Mixtecs, 260,000 Totonacs and 130,000 Purepechas.


Spanish, various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional indigenous languages


Religion plays a central role in Mexican culture and the overwhelming majority of the population is Roman Catholic.  The Mexican Catholic Church’s most important symbol is Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, a dark-skinned manifestation of the Virgin Mary who appeared to a Mexican Indian in 1531 on a hill near Mexico City .  Today she is the country’s patron and her name is invoked in religious ceremonies, political speeches and literature.

Indian Christianity is fused with ancient beliefs.  The early missionaries won over the indigenous people by identifying Catholic saints with Indian gods and allowing old festivals to be celebrated.  Acceptance of the new religion was greatly helped by the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1531.  Old traditions still survive however.  In the traditional Indian world almost everything has a spiritual dimension – animals, trees, rivers, wind, rain, sun and hills have their own gods or spirits.  And these may be invoked in ancient ceremonies for their own purposes.  Witchcraft and magic also still survive.

A very small percentage of other religions are also practiced in Mexico including Protestantism and Judaism.

Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 6%, other 5%


Huasteca textiles

Talavera ceramic pottery

Huasteca Dance 

Mexican Instruments

Mexican Folk Music – Veracruz  

Art of Mexico/Latin
American Art

Education World
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Discovery School
Mexican Holidays

Cinco de Mayo for Teachers

The Voladores of Papantla

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