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Land and Resources

semiarid climate, Gulf of Tehuantepec, Bay of Campeche, Coatzacoalcos, Manzanillo

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Mexico extends along the entire southern border of the United States, from Tijuana, just south of San Diego, California, southeast to Matamoros, along the Gulf Coast of Texas just below Brownsville. The entire border between Texas and Mexico follows the Rio Grande. Mexico is more than 2,000 km (1,200 mi) wide along its northern border with the United States, but narrows to only 210 km (130 mi) in the south, between the Bay of Campeche and the Gulf of Tehuantepec. In northwestern Mexico, the peninsula of Baja California extends southeast below California. In the southeastern part of the country, the Yucatan Peninsula extends northeast toward Cuba, separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea.

Mexico is a mountainous country with a large central plateau and relatively small amounts of naturally fertile land. Much of the country is characterized by a semiarid climate with limited rainfall. The varied topography and climate in other regions have contributed to regional diversity and uneven economic development.

The capital, Mexico City, has long served as the hub of the country’s development, and most major north-south transportation links pass through the city. Mexico’s population has historically been concentrated in the central regions of the country, with development moving northward along the central plateau. The south—characterized by dense forests, a tropical climate, a largely indigenous population, and a rural-based economy—is much less developed than the rest of the country.

Since World War II (1939-1945), the northern border states have been the focus of heavy government investment and have attracted increasing internal migration. Agricultural lands in these northern regions are often irrigated. Industrial enterprises, including border assembly industries, characterize much of this region. Due to the resources recently invested along Mexico’s northern border, as well as the proximity of the United States, northern Mexico and the border region now host some of the most economically advanced areas in Mexico.


Mexico’s coastline totals about 9,330 km (about 5,797 mi) in length, with its western coast being about twice as long as its eastern coast. The country has few good harbors. Tampico, Veracruz, and Coatzacoalcos are major ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Important Pacific ports include Acapulco, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, and Salina Cruz.

Natural Resources

Most of Mexico’s natural resources are below the soil. The country’s semiarid climate, its lack of rainfall, and its limited amounts of fertile land have made large-scale agriculture difficult. Only about 13 percent of Mexico’s land is cultivated. Forests cover approximately 33 percent of the nation, giving Mexico some of the world’s largest remaining forest reserves, despite the high levels of deforestation. Most of these forests are found in the Sierra Madre ranges, and in the rainy, tropical regions of the Yucatan Peninsula and the Chiapas Highlands. Mexico has large deposits of silver, copper, salt, fluorite, iron, manganese, sulfur, phosphate, zinc, tungsten, molybdenum, gold, and gypsum. Petroleum is the country’s single most valuable mineral resource. Most of the major reserves have been discovered along the Gulf Coast, either inland or in the Gulf of Mexico.

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