Places | Mexico

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Learn about Mexico, its people, landscape, history and learn new vocabulary while at it. All of that in this new Places episode from English Plus Podcast.

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MEXICO

Mexico is the southern neighbor of the United States. Its full name in Spanish is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, which means the United Mexican States. Spanish is the language of Mexico because Spain ruled Mexico for 300 years.

FACTS ABOUT MEXICO  

Official name

United Mexican States

Capital

Mexico City

Official language

Spanish

Population

127,000,000 people

Rank among countries in population

10th

Major cities

Mexico City, Guadalajara, Ecatepec de Morelos

Area

758,000 square miles

1,960,000 square kilometers

Rank among countries in area

14th

Highest point

Pico de Orizaba – 18,406 feet/5,610 meters

Currency

Mexican peso

MEXICO’S PEOPLE

Most of Mexico’s people have both Spanish and Native American ancestry. Although most Mexicans speak Spanish, some still speak the Native American languages of their ancestors.

Spanish conquistadors—explorers and conquerors—came to Mexico in the 1500s. The conquistadors destroyed an empire built by Aztec Indians in Mexico. Spain ruled Mexico until 1821, when Mexico won its independence.

Under Spanish rule, Mexicans became Roman Catholics. They created a version of the Catholic religion that’s their own. For example, Mexicans worship the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe. A three-day festival honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe starts on December 12 each year. During the festival, people dance in the streets wearing Aztec headdresses and costumes.

MEXICO CITY

Mexico City is the capital and largest city in Mexico. More than 20 million people call this city home. That’s nearly one-fifth of the entire country’s population. Many Mexicans call their capital simply Mexico, because it dominates the country so completely.

Mexico City is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. In 2000, it was the second largest city in the world. Only Tokyo, the capital of Japan, had more people.

Mexico City is built on the site of the capital of the Aztec Empire. Many stones from the Aztec capital were used in its first buildings. Today, it’s a modern city with many tall buildings and wide, tree-lined streets.

LIFE IN MEXICO

A large public square, or plaza, lies at the center of most towns and cities in Mexico. Mexicans like to relax in the plaza on their time off. There’s usually a church on the plaza and a marketplace nearby.

A large number of Mexicans are poor. Some families live without electricity or running water in their homes. Some communities have no sewers. Some children leave school early to earn money and help support their families.

Many Mexicans have moved to Mexico City or other cities in Mexico to find jobs. The cities also offer more schools and better health care than rural areas. But the cities have become extremely crowded.

THE MEXICAN LANDSCAPE

Mexico offers dramatic scenery. North central Mexico looks like the set for a cowboy movie. The bone-dry desert is filled with sagebrush and crossed by deep canyons. Southern Mexico has lush tropical forests. Central Mexico is a high plateau with snowcapped mountains on either side. Active volcanoes such as Popocatépetl sometimes belch smoke into the sky.

Visitors marvel at Mexico’s white, sandy beaches and clear, turquoise waters. Acapulco, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta are famous vacation spots on Mexico’s western coast. Well-known resorts also flourish on the Yucatán Peninsula in southeastern Mexico. Mexico is one of the world’s top tourist spots.

CHOCOLATE FOR DINNER

Would you like to have chocolate sauce for dinner? How about chocolate sauce on turkey? A popular sauce in Mexico contains chocolate, cinnamon, chili peppers, and other ingredients. It’s called mole. Mexicans consider pavo en mole—turkey with mole sauce—their national dish.

ANCIENT MEXICO

Many tourists also come to Mexico to see the remains of ancient civilizations. Native Americans—including the Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec—developed civilizations in Mexico long before Europeans arrived. They built great cities with huge stone pyramids and other religious structures.

The Maya had an advanced culture. They were skillful in mathematics. They knew a great deal about the stars. They created a complex and accurate calendar. They wrote books in a system of writing that people can no longer read.

END OF THE AZTEC EMPIRE

The Aztecs ruled the last great Native American empire. They built a grand city called Tenochtitlán. The Aztecs followed a religion based on human sacrifice. They had a belief that a pale god would come from the east and destroy them.

In 1520, someone did come from the east, but he was not a god. He was Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés. Cortés and his small army destroyed the Aztec Empire and started a Spanish empire in Mexico.

ancestry

Your ancestry is the fact that you are descended from certain people.

lineage or descent, esp when ancient, noble, or distinguished

origin, house, family, line

conquistador

The conquistadors were the sixteenth-century Spanish conquerors of Central and South America.

an adventurer or conqueror, esp. one of the Spanish conquerors of the New World in the 16th century

any of the Spanish conquerors of Mexico, Peru, or other parts of America in the 16th cent.

worship

If you worship a god, you show your respect to the god, for example by saying prayers.

If you worship someone or something, you love them or admire them very much.

to show profound religious devotion and respect to; adore or venerate (God or any person or thing considered divine)

dominate

To dominate a situation means to be the most powerful or important person or thing in it.

If one country or person dominates another, they have power over them.

If a building, mountain, or other object dominates an area, it is so large or impressive that you cannot avoid seeing it.

plaza

A plaza is an open square in a city.

A plaza is a group of stores or buildings that are joined together or share common areas.

n open space or square, esp. in Spain or a Spanish-speaking country

rural

rural places are far away from large towns or cities.

rural means having features which are typical of areas that are far away from large towns or cities.

of, relating to, or characteristic of the country or country life

crowded

If a place is crowded, it is full of people.

If a place is crowded, a lot of people live there.

If your timetable, your life, or your mind is crowded, it is full of events, activities, or thoughts.

scenery

The scenery in a country area is the land, water, or plants that you can see around you.

In a theatre, the scenery consists of the structures and painted backgrounds that show where the action in the play takes place.

If you have a change of scenery, you go somewhere different after being in a particular place for a long time.

lush

lush fields or gardens have a lot of very healthy grass or plants.

If you describe a place or thing as lush, you mean that it is very luxurious.

characterized by a rich growth of vegetation

belch

If someone belches, they make a sudden noise in their throat because air has risen up from their stomach.

If a machine or chimney belches something such as smoke or fire or if smoke or fire belches from it, large amounts of smoke or fire come from it.

to expel or be expelled forcefully from inside

marvel

If you marvel at something, you express your great surprise, wonder, or admiration.

You can describe something or someone as a marvel to indicate that you think that they are wonderful.

marvels are things that people have done, or that have happened, which are very unexpected or surprising.

resort

A resort is a place where a lot of people spend their holidays.

If you achieve something without resort to a particular course of action, you succeed without carrying out that action. To have resort to a particular course of action means to have to do that action in order to achieve something.

If you resort to a course of action that you do not really approve of, you adopt it because you cannot see any other way of achieving what you want.

flourish

If something flourishes, it is successful, active, or common, and developing quickly and strongly.

If a plant or animal flourishes, it grows well or is healthy because the conditions are right for it.

If you flourish an object, you wave it about in a way that makes people notice it.

accurate

accurate information, measurements, and statistics are correct to a very detailed level. An accurate instrument is able to give you information of this kind.

An accurate statement or account gives a true or fair judgment of something.

You can use accurate to describe the results of someone’s actions when they do or copy something correctly or exactly.

sacrifice

To sacrifice an animal or person means to kill them in a special religious ceremony as an offering to a god.

If you sacrifice something that is valuable or important, you give it up, usually to obtain something else for yourself or for other people.

Self- sacrifice is the giving up of what you want so that other people can have what they need or want.

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