People of Indian/Spanish heritage (mestizo) are estimated to account for 50 to 60 percent of the population of Mexico. Indians are from 25 to 30 percent, Caucasians from 9 to 15 percent, and Africans are a very small part of the population.

These estimates of racial groupings are tenuous at best because Mexicans do not characterize themselves in racial terms. Groups are defined culturally so that the term “mestizo” means someone who is culturally Mexican in language, dress, and perspective. Someone who does not speak Spanish but speaks an Indian dialect and dresses in traditional Indian wear would be considered Indian, even if that individual were Caucasian. Accordingly, during the course of one’s life, it is possible for someone to change their ethnic grouping by simply adopting the language and habits of another ethnic group. Indeed, in Mexico an increasing number of Indians are becoming mestizos by adopting the Spanish language and de-emphasizing their Indian customs.

The nature of the population of Mexico is notable in at least 2 other respects. First, in 1973 Mexico became the first country in Latin America to adopt a population control policy. The policy was needed because from 1940 to 1970, Mexico’s population had increased by 250 percent. Overcrowding in cities and unemployment were serious problems. Indeed, Mexico had become a victim of its own success. The Mexican death rate had decreased as a result of advances in preventive medicine and sanitation.

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