The people of Mexico reflect the country's rich history. The Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire in the early 16th century soon led to widespread intermarriage and racial mixing between Spaniards and Native Americans. As late as the early 19th century, Native Americans accounted for nearly two-thirds of the population in the region. During that century, however, the racial composition of the country began to change from one that featured distinct European and native populations, to one made up largely of mestizos, people of mixed Spanish and Native American descent. By the end of the 19th century, mestizos, who were discriminated against during three centuries of Spanish colonization, had become the largest population group in Mexico. Mestizos now account for about 60 percent of Mexicans (Encarta 2002).
The history of Mexico revolves around the mixing of numerous cultural, ethnic, and political influences. These include contributions from several major indigenous civilizations, Spanish influences from the period of colonial rule, and a significant African heritage resulting from the slave trade of the early colonial era.
Mexico's post independence period was characterized by violence and civil war, including European intervention and a long domestic dictatorship. The latter led to the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920)--the most important event in 20th-century Mexican history. This revolution influenced Mexican culture and politics for decades to come.
As descendants of Spaniards who brought their religion to Mexico, the majority of Mexicans belong to the Catholic faith. Generally, Mexican Catholics have observed doctrine and received the sacraments by marrying in the church and having their children baptized and taught religion, though their adherence to Catholic teaching is far from complete. Recent surveys indicate that many Mexican-American Catholics view the church as a place for worship but not an institution readily responsive to personal and community needs. Close to 60 percent...