Economic Problems of Latin America

By Seymour E. Harris | Go to book overview

Chapter XVI Mexico: with Special Reference to its International Economic Relations

by NORMAN T. NESS


I. INTRODUCTION

Mexico, with an area of 758,258 square miles and a population in 1940 of 19,753,552, ranks third among the Latin American countries in point of size and second in terms of population. As in the case of the other countries of Latin America, its economy is primarily devoted to agriculture. Its mines, which contribute so preponderantly to the export trade, are reported to have given employment to but 80,000 people in 1939; and although the industry undoubtedly has been led by wartime demands to enlarge its personnel, mining still forms a relatively minor field of employment. Manufacturing occupies a larger proportion of the working population; and "service," if interpreted broadly enough to include merchandising, is also more important. For some details see Chart 19.

The agriculture which primarily engages the nation's energy is largely self-sufficing. This characteristic lies at the base of a dualism which marks Mexico's (as it does much of Latin America's) economy. Informed Mexicans estimate that 70 to 80 per cent of the population lives largely or wholly outside the commercial framework typified by the cities. The boundary between the economies cannot, of course, be sharply drawn, but that fact does not lessen its significance. It is, for example, to the relatively restricted sphere of markets and monetary incomes that the "Latin American economics" expounded elsewhere

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