Sombreros raised to Mexico

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With its impressive network of Free Trade Agreements (including with the US and the EU) and its strategic location in–between the US and Latin America, Mexico–which officially falls in North America – has the potential to act as a springboard into the Latin American region as well as being an attractive proposition in its own right.

However, the old saying of "never confuse geographic proximity with cultural proximity" was probably never more true than when trying to compare Mexico with its larger neighbour, the US. More than a border separates the two countries and although the economic importance of the US to Mexico cannot be overstated (77% of Mexican exports are bound for the US), Mexico is a country unique unto itself with a very distinct approach and business outlook. Mexico is often perceived to be a tough proposition, even for the seasoned exporter, due to high levels of bureaucracy and complicated procedures. However, doing business in Mexico is no more difficult than in other emerging markets, and in many cases it is much easier. The Mexican government is actively working to reduce bureaucracy and improve competitiveness, and is driving forward reforms to attract new investment and diversify trade. Naturally, some things are done differently there but, as with all overseas markets, many of the potential pitfalls can be avoided with adequate preparation. InfrastructureThe Mexican president launched a major new National Infrastructure Plan in July 2007. Under the plan, which began being implemented in the second half of 2008, the government is investing additional revenue generated by fiscal reforms in developing the country's ports, airports, roads and railways as well as water supply and treatment, irrigation systems and oil and gas generation: a staggering $250bn of new investment over five years. The National Infrastructure Plan contains over $40bn worth of transport infrastructure projects including:• 100 road projects, including the construction and expansion of 17, 598 km of roads;• A new rail network to improve connectivity and multimodal corridors to make freight transportation more efficient as well as the development of passenger trains; • Five new ports and the expansion and modernisation of a further 22;• Three new airports as well as the expansion of 31 more. In addition, many large cities such as Mexico City are promoting their own transport modernisation plans with new suburban railways, tram systems and the like. There are also major opportunities across a wide range of sub–sectors associated with infrastructure. MEI readers can find more information about these opportunities and the full National Infrastructure Plan in English on the Mexican government website www. infraestructura. gob. mx. Mexican societySpanish control of Mexico led to the dominance of Spanish as Mexico's official language. As many as 100 Native American languages are actually still spoken in Mexico, but no single alternative language prevails. Eighty percent of those Mexicans who speak an indigenous language also speak Spanish. The family is at the centre of the social structure in Mexico. Outside of the major cosmopolitan cities, families are still generally large and the extended family is as important as the nuclear family since it provides a sense of stability. Mexicans consider it their duty and responsibility to help their family members. For example, they will help find employment or finance a house or other large purchase. Most Mexican families are extremely traditional, with the father as the head, the authority figure and the decision–maker. Mothers are greatly revered, but their role may be seen as secondary to that of their husband. Mexican society and business are highly–stratified and vertically–structured with Mexicans emphasising hierarchical relationships. People in the country respect authority and look to those above them for guidance and decision–making. Rank is important and leads to an authoritarian approach to decision–making and problem– solving. Mexicans are very aware of how each individual fits into each hierarchy – be it family, friends or business. Cultural events in MexicoNew Year celebrations are particularly lively in downtown Mexico City: although there are festivals and parties all over the country. The City of Merida Festival (Festival de la Ciudad de Merida) in Merida, Yucatan is held every January in celebration of the city's founding over 460 years ago. The 10–day festival features music, dance and exhibits of local art, as well as the annual serenade to the city, where the traditional 'Happy Birthday' song is sung by its residents. In February, celebrations in Mexico begin five days before Ash Wednesday and are marked by parades, parties and dancing in the streets. Some of the most famous and festive celebrations are held in the port towns of Veracruz, Campeche, Mazatlan and Ensenada, whilst carnival in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, is one of the most important indigenous celebrations in Mexico, involving purification ceremonies and ethnic dances that depict Mayan legends. Taking place the first Friday night of March every year, the Night of the Witches (Noche de Brujas) in Catemaco, Veracruz is a spectacle of witches, healers, magicians and wizards. Mexico City's Annual Festival takes place in April every year and is a two–week festival of art and culture. Also, Mexico's largest annual fair takes place every April in Aguascalientes: the Feria de San Marcos. After the Labour Day holiday on 1 May, there are plenty of May events in Mexico, among others: the Cinco de Mayo celebrations (although these are bigger in the US than in Mexico). Meanwhile, festivities take place nationwide to celebrate Corpus Christ in June every year. One of Mexico's biggest and most revered annual festivals – The Guelaguetza – takes place every July in Oaxaca. Chihuahua State also hosts various festivals this month, including one to celebrate the heritage and cultures of northern Mexico. During mid–August Ascencion Day festivities takes place nationwide and are particularly lively in certain areas. Meanwhile, the Chamber Music Festival in San Miguel Allende is one of the city's biggest events of the year. The country's most important annual event and biggest party season outside of Christmas happens in September: Mexico's Independence Day, 16 September. The Pamplonadas – running of the bulls – in San Miguel Allende draws huge crowds every year. In October, the Festival Cervantino – in Guadalajara–is one of Mexico's biggest cultural events of the year. November is a busy month in Mexico: Day of the Dead is celebrated nationwide and is especially big in Oaxaca. The Parties of the Sea take place in Puerto Vallarta and 20 November is Mexico's Dia de la Revolucion (Revolution Day), a national holiday. Mexico's spectacular Annual Air Balloon Festival in Leon, Guanajuato, takes place in December every year. It is the largest balloon festival in Latin America with more than 60 balloons and pilots from all over the globe participating. Following that, Christmas celebrations, beginning with Posadas (party processions) on 16 December take centre stage throughout Mexico as do a variety of regional events including the Annual Tequila Festival and the city of San Cristobal's largest festival. Sports events in MexicoMexico City hosted the 1968 Summer Olympics. It is the only Games ever to have been held in Latin America to date (although that will be rectified by Rio in 2016), and it was the second ever to have been held outside of Western Europe, Australia, or the US. Mexico first participated at the Olympic Games in 1900 and has sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games since 1924. Mexico has also participated in several Winter Olympic Games since 1928. Mexico has performed best in athletics, boxing, diving, equestrian events, and more recently taekwondo. The 1970 FIFA World Cup, the ninth staging of the FIFA World Cup, was held in Mexico, from 31 May to 21 June that year. Mexico was chosen as host by FIFA in October 1964. The 1970 tournament was the first FIFA World Cup ever hosted in North America, and the first to have been held outside South America and Europe. The 1986 FIFA World Cup, the 13th staging of the FIFA World Cup, was held in Mexico from 31 May to 29 June that year. Colombia had been originally chosen to host the competition by FIFA but, largely due to economic reasons, was not able to host the competition and officially resigned in 1982. Mexico was selected as the new host in May 1983. The tournament was the second to feature a 24–team format, although unlike the previous edition in 1982, the second round of the tournament was played on a knock–out basis rather than groups. Although the heat and altitude of Mexico would seem to favour Latin American teams, the likes of Belgium, France and West Germany all progressed to the later stages of the competition. But it was eventually won by Argentina, who beat West Germany 3–2 in the final at Mexico City's Estadio Azteca. Football is the most popular sport in Mexico, followed by boxing basketball, golf, wrestling, bullfighting, and charrer퀀a. International sporting events hosted by Mexico:1968 Summer Olympics1926 Central American and Caribbean Games1954 Central American and Caribbean Games1990 Central American and Caribbean Games2014 Central American and Caribbean Games1955 Pan American Games1975 Pan American Games2011 Pan American Games1969 World Judo Championships1970 FIFA World Cup1986 FIFA World Cup1983 FIFA World Youth Championship2011 FIFA U–17 World Cup1999 FIFA Confederations Cup1974 FIVB Men's Volleyball World Championship1974 FIVB Women's Volleyball World Championship1979 Summer Universiade1993 CONCACAF Gold Cup2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup2007–2008 FIBA Americas League2008–2009 FIBA Americas League2007 World Chess Championship2008 World Polo Championship2009 World Baseball Classic (Pool B)

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