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People, Principal Cities

Ciudad Juarez, capital of Mexico, sister city, Guadalajara, geographers

Mexico is a country dominated by what geographers call a primary city, a single metropolitan area that is larger than the next four cities combined. Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, had a population of 8,591,309 in 2000 and a population of 16.9 million (1996)in its metropolitan area. It has a concentration of economic, political, and cultural resources not seen anywhere else in the country. Much of Mexico’s manufacturing capacity is located in Mexico City or the Federal District, which surrounds it. Because political power is concentrated in the federal government, Mexico City dominated political life during the 20th century. These economic and political resources have attracted to the capital the majority of Mexico’s cultural resources. Most of the leading museums, prestigious educational institutions, skilled professionals, publishing firms, magazines, and newspapers are located in the capital.

Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara, with a population of 1,647,720 in 2000, is located about 465 km (about 290 mi) northwest of Mexico City. It was a colonial center of considerable religious and architectural importance and is now a major hub for commerce and industry. Guadalajara is second only to the capital in its importance as a cultural center. The city has produced numerous literary and cultural leaders.

Netzahuacoyotl (1,224,924), is located just east of the capital and is inhabited largely by skilled and unskilled blue-collar workers employed in nearby industrial operations in the state of Mexico and in the Federal District. Netzahuacoyotl suffers from serious problems, including inadequate housing, communications, and basic services.

Monterrey (1,108,499), located in the northern border state of Nuevo Leon, is the center of Mexico’s iron and steel industry and is for that reason often called “the Pittsburgh of Mexico.” Many residents of the city pride themselves on their entrepreneurial spirit and resent the domination of the capital. Monterrey is second only to the capital in its concentration of important, capital-intensive industries. It is a major center of economic activity, and a significant channel of commerce linking Mexico to the United States.

One of the oldest Mexican cities, located southeast of Mexico City in the neighboring state of Puebla, is the colonial town of Puebla (1,346,176). The state capital, it is an important commercial link between Mexico City and the major Gulf Coast port of Veracruz to the east. Finally, one of Mexico’s newer cities and an example of the rapidly growing north is Ciudad Juarez (1,217,818), the largest border city with the United States, and a major source of trade and transportation with its sister city, El Paso, Texas.

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