Mexico (Spanish: México [ˈmexiko] ( listen); Nahuatl languages: Mēxihco), officially the United Mexican States (Spanish: Estados Unidos Mexicanos, listen ), is a federal republic in the southern portion of North America . It is bordered to the north by the United States ; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean ; to the southeast by Guatemala , Belize, and the Caribbean Sea ; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost two million square kilometers (over 760,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world .
With an estimated population of over 120 million , the country is the eleventh most populous and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world while being the second most populous nation in Latin America . Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and a special federal entity that is also its capital and most populous city . Other metropolises include Guadalajara , Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, and Tijuana.
Pre-Columbian Mexico dates to about 8,000 BC, is identified as one of seven cradles of civilization and was home to many advanced Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Maya and Aztec before first contact with Europeans. In 1521, the Spanish Empire conquered and colonized the territory from its politically powerful base in Mexico-Tenochtitlan, which was administered as the viceroyalty of New Spain . Three centuries later, the territory became the current nation following recognition in 1821 after the colony's Mexican War of Independence. The tumultuous post-independence period was characterized by economic inequality and many political deep changes.