Mexico has been home to advanced civilizations-including the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec-for thousands of years. When Cortez conquered Mexico in 1521, he destroyed a flourishing Aztec civilization. Mexico won independence in 1911, but turmoil and a revolution preceded the constitution of 1917. Social discontent rocked the country during the 1960s and 1970s, especially with rising urbanization and unemployment. In 1994, Indians in Chiapas revolted, demanding economic and political reform; and currency devaluation produced near economic collapse. Inflation and recession continue to plague Mexico, and the government has been charged with corruption involving drug dealers.

Marked by sharp class and social divisions, Mexicans typically treasure family and traditional values. Graciousness in conversation and other communication is highly regarded, and relationships take precedence over other matters. About 80 percent of Mexicans are mestizos-descended from both Spanish and Indian ancestors. Nearly 90 percent speak Spanish and are Roman Catholic.

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