National Geographic : 1911 May
OUR NEIGHBOR, MEXICO BY JOHN BIRKINBINE PAST' PRESIDENT OF THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE OF PHILADELPHIA AND OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF MINING ENGINEERS With Photographsfrom the Author IN discussing the truly interesting country which for 1,8oo00 miles forms the southern boundary of the United States, the intention is to treat it in a neighborly spirit and neither as cynic nor apologist; to summarize some geographi cal and topographical features, indicate the nation's present position in commerce and industry; to recall a few historical facts, and tell of the people from an ac quaintance of nearly 30 years. The visits to Mexico, while far from covering all of the Republic, have been in connection with engineering problems, and have included cities, towns, pueblos, haciendas, ranches, or camps upon desert or among mountains, presenting oppor tunity for acquaintance with the various physical features, with the mineral wealth, and with the activities and environment of the people. In formulating opinions I have had the benefit of an extended acquaintance in Mexico, and also of investigations by three sons who as business associates have visited the Republic, one residing in that country for the past five years. A resume must necessarily be general which refers to territory practically as great as that of the United States between the Mississippi River and the Atlantic coast, the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mex ico, varying in altitude from sea-level to 18,ooo feet above this datum; its climate affected by these elevations, and by a range of 18 degrees of latitude. Twelve hundred miles is the distance traversed in passing south from Juarez, on the northern boundary, to the Mexican capi tal; and, to reach the southeastern bound ary, 9oo miles more must be covered. To the coast line of 1,700 miles along the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea is to be added 4,000 miles along the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California. MEXICO IS AS LARGE AS GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND, FRANCE, GERMANY, AND AUSTRIA-HUNGARY COMBINED Prior to 1836, Mexico, as a Spanish colony, and the United States covered approximately equal areas of North America, but the Texas secession and the result of the Mexican War added nearly a million square miles to our terri tory, and the extent of Mexico now is less than one-fourth that of continental United States. But our neighbor Repub lic still has territorial expanse equal to the aggregate of Austria-Hungary, Ger many, France, Great Britain, and Ireland. The total area of the Republic of Mexico (767,000 square miles) is less than that of our five largest States Texas, California, Montana, New Mex ico, and Arizona-combined, all of these except Montana having been a part of New Spain 75 years ago. None of the 31 political subdivisions of our neighbor are as large as either of the five States named, but four Mexican States contigu ous to the United States aggregate an extent greater than that of Texas. Chi huahua, the largest Mexican State, ap proximates in area (87,000 square miles) that of Utah, Sonora (77,000 square miles) of Nebraska, Coahuila (63,000 square miles) of Georgia, and Durango (40,000 square miles) of Kentucky. Nine subdivisions of the United States (excluding Alaska) are larger than Chi huahua, 15 of greater magnitude than Sonora, and 32 larger than Durango. The rugged and desert character of the Mexican border States support sparse populations, except where mining ex ploitation and cities resulting therefrom have concentrated settlement.