Mexico is the site of numerous advanced ancient Indian civilizations. For instance, the Olmecs were Meso-America’s oldest civilization [3,000 BC] who developed a mathematical system, the calendar and carved gigantic basalt heads. The Mayas [1000 BC to 1000 AD] built the pyramids. The Toltecs were followed by the Aztecs who built the city of Tenochititlan in 1325, which is today Mexico City. Two centuries later Cortez destroyed the Aztec empire and imposed three centuries of Spanish rule on a country with 6,000 miles of varied coastline and a wide range of topography.
When Mexico became a Republic in 1823, it included what is today California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Texans soon revolted against Mexican rule. Following the US-Mexican War of 1848, lands north of the Rio Grande River became part of the US. Mexico, which is three times the size of the state of Texas, is the world’s largest Spanish speaking nation. Her people are a grand mix of Mestizo [Spanish-Amerindian, 60%], Amerindian 29%, Euro-Amerindian 9% and the rest Asians [Arabs 400,000, Japanese 35,000, Chinese 31,000] and refugees from Guatemala and Salvador, 100,000 each . The people are divided into 61 different people groups and speak Spanish and/or 234 other languages.
Mexico’s economy is poor and there is much joblessness. Because of massive national indebtedness [$1,000 per person], the Peso was devalued, further weakening the economy. The average yearly income is $10,000.00, [US $25,800.00] but more than half the populous live on $135.00 per month. This is why so many Mexican laborers who were pulled by the magnet of northern jobs are residing in the US. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement, [NAFTA] caused a dramatic growth in American industry all along the 2,000 mile [TX/Mex] border from Brownsville, TX, to Tijuana, Baja CA. Over 700,000 are employed by the bustling plants just across the border. This greement unites Canada, US & Mexico as trading partners for 478 million. NAFTA is blamed for the loss of many manufacturing jobs.US.
TIJUANA. Tijuana, a city of one million and growing at 5%, is said to be Mexico’s frontier town or land of opportunity. It is also its safety valve, for many cross the border illegally due to a faltering economy. Of the 1.2 million who were apprehended trying to cross the border illegally last year, fully a third were from this, the busiest corridor. Tijuana also has a history of drug trafficking cartels, which send drugs into the US. Several cartels bring at least $20 billion into Mexico’s economy. Now a new problem has developed with increased drug usage on the streets of Tijuana. Other trouble includes US gangs smuggling weapons into Tijuana. Great need for missionary activity exists among all of Mexico’s teeming masses, including those living in urban centers.
TEX-MEX BORDER. The TEX-MEX border snakes along the 1250 mile Rio Grande River from El Paso to Brownsville. Richard Conniff, wrote in National Geographic [February 1996] that “the border sees hundreds of millions of legal crossings each year...and growing. Countless others cross illegally looking for work”. It would appear that between El Paso and Brownsville some 690 maquilladoras [assembly plants] employing over 313,000, have been opened on the Mexican side of the border to take advantage of low wages, $30.00 per day. Every day, 40,000 vehicles cross the border, making it the center of the biggest free-trade deal in history. America is being Mexicanized in many ways, including the fact that salsa outsells catsup now. At the same time, Mexico is being Americanized by commercial competition and mass culture.
Although there are jobs, the people are living in colonias in jerry-built shacks, without proper electricity or sewage. Water is delivered by truck to those who can pay. Two cultures are meeting on the banks of the river, creating a new culture.
With the devaluation of the Peso, millions of Mexicans are loosing what little they have been able to save, including their homes. Therefore, nationwide at least a million have joined ‘El Barz ó[EP2] n, an organization of debtors to take legal action and provide civil resistance to the foreclosing on their homes and businesses.
EXPORTS -- Mexican oil is their greatest export and keeps the economy afloat. Half of the oil is exported, primarily to the US. Silver jewelry, tableware and crafts from Taxco are world famous.
TOURISM -- Tourism is a major industry in such Pacific coast resorts as, Mazatlán, Manzanillo, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta which is perhaps the busiest, drawing 2.4 million guests. All told the industry pours $300 million into the coffers. The city of Cancún on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, boasts a mega-resort which produces one-fourth of Mexico’s tourist revenue. Nearby are the ancient Mayan temples and 900,000 indigenous Mayan peoples. Most of whom still need to be evangelized.
Urbanization in Mexico is similar to that of the US, 73%; however, urbanites are concentrated in a few major cities with many living in poverty.
HEALTH PROBLEMS Mexicans have a high rate of diabetes. It is also reported that Leprosy is on the increase with currently some 4 million with it and 65 per hour contracting it, according to the American Leprosy Mission of Mexico.
CULTRUAL PROBLEMS It is reported that the macho Mexican male has trouble controlling his temper in familiar relationships. Domestic violence is pandemic afecting 50% of families. [Wickipedia] Drug Cartells have promoted violence. Sixty percent of the popilation is considered Mestizo.
The INDIGENOUS POPULATION includes 27 million. The Afro-Mexican population is 1.4 million
MEXICO CITY [DF]. Mexico City,[9 million] the capital, is a megalopolis sprawling over 500 square miles and includes 30,000 factories. DF is growing at the rate of 5,000 per day and Greater Mexioco city is projected to become the world’s largest city with a population of 21 million. Although there are some 1200 churches, 1,000 neighborhoods have no evangelical witness. It is said there are 18 million poor living in the city along with the slum dwellers, numbering seven million, who live in squatter housing with no plumbing. Another half million are destitute street children. A million Indians have moved into the city.
A recent pole taken in DF found that half of all households had been victimized by crime. Muggings and bank robberies are common place. Kidnappings of businessmen and landowners is on the rise. Yet, Mexico City is relatively safe [number 6 on a scale of 1 to 10] as compared to other cities worldwide. [Pulse November 1996]
The city is very unstable, being built on an ancient lake bed and surrounded with volcanoes and is routinely shaken by earthquakes. The streets are plagued with traffic and the air is dense with smog. The masses of people are very poor because of limited job opportunities, but they have learned to depend on one another like family, which is said to be the strength of the Mexican character.
SIERRA MADRE MOUNTAINS -- The Sierra Madres, the backbone of the nation, are 800 miles long. The northern portion, with its mile-deep gorges, is called the Grand Canyon of Mexico. It is also home to 60,000 Tarahumara and other Tepehuan Indians. The Indians who eke out a living grazing cattle and farming along with the mestizos, plant their crops according to the phases of the moon and call upon shaman to sacrifice meat and corn to assure a good harvest.
MONTEREY -- Monterry is the capital of business in Mexico. It is a manufacturing city of 3 million, with shopping malls and a huge 230 foot tower called the ‘Lighthouse of Commerce’. Monterey is a city of severe contrasts, for it is home to one of the 24 wealthy families who control half the wealth in Mexico and the average worker who earns $5.00 per day. There are golf courses where the membership costs $35,000 to $200,000 per year. Wealth has helped develop cultural events, education and the arts. But the people desperately need the Gospel.
VERACRUZ -- Veracruz is Mexico’s busiest seaport which is shared by PEMEX, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company and Mexico’s largest fishing fleet where daily 11,600 commercial fishing boats supply 12% of the country’s seafood.
CHIAPAS STATE -- Chiapas is the southernmost state of Mexico. When the price of coffee, the main cash crop fell, so did the spirits of the people of this poorest of states. Land ownership has been a long standing political problem which boiled to a head when the Zapatistas formed a rebellion which was quickly quelled by the government. However, the Zapatistas reorganized to become a national political movement. At the same time, the workers on large farms began to take over the farms, making them into collective farms. Political unrest continues. The people are poor with few cars and low wages.
Among the people, 10,000 Indians have converted to Protestantism from the strange admixture of Catholicism and Mayan spiritism. Altogether, more than a third of the native peoples have converted to Protestantism.
The people of Mexico are a very religious people. Although 88 percent are said to be Catholic, only 10 percent attend mass. The Amerindian peoples all have their ancient gods to which they pay various homages. One homage has become a national holiday called ‘The Day of the Dead”, celebrated with singing and dancing in the villages. But, the most popular festival, preceding the Lenten season, is called Carnival. It is a tragic time of abandonment of all religious upbringing.
The major Amerindian groups are: Aztecs [1.2 million], Maya [714,000], Mixteco [384,000], Zapoteco [381,000], Otomi [280,000], Tzeltal [261,000], and Tzotzil [229,000]. The 260 people groups are said to be Christo-pagan, clinging to their ancient gods. Half of these groups have no viable Christian witness. New Tribes Missionaries and Presbyterian missionaries are seeking to enter some of these groups.
Although Mexico is a secular state, the culture of Roman Catholicism dominates much that happens in village and official life. The Protestant community [5.2%] is divided into 322 denominations with 33,000 congregations totaling some 2.4 million believers with another 4.6 million who are affiliated. Half of the Christians are Charismatic in theology.
Mexico has a population of 95 million, about half of which is under the age of 20. Some 12,000 campuses boast a student population of 1.8 million. However, few churches have programs designed to reach teen-agers in their churches, let alone a vision for evangelizing students.
Religious persecution is still felt in some parts of Mexico. In San Juan Chamula, southern Mexico, thousands of Evangelical believers have been forced out of their villages, and scores lost their lives over the last 2 decades.
No missionaries can officially enter Mexico; however, the 2,000 missionaries serving under 175 agencies are issued tourist visas. There are 100 Bible schools and seminaries servicing students desirous of preparing for ministry. God is doing a great work in Mexico. Christian missionary radio beams in 1,000 hours of the Gospel weekly. The Jesus Film in Spanish and 10 Indian languages, is shown regularly. Although 250 SIL missionaries are presently working in 68 languages, there is still much work to be done. Only two languages have a complete Bible translation. The New Testament has been translated into 91 languages and portions of Scripture into 39 others.
The Scriptures in 193 [of 364] languages are available on cassette. Drive-In Ministries does open air evangelism in cooperation with the national church, and has seen 8 churches planted and thriving under national pastors. Currently they have two mobile units doing evangelism year round. UIM International has several ministries among the Indians in the mountains of the province of Sonora, as well as several tribes in the south. Source of Light Mission conducts an extensive literature ministry under the leadership of Manuel and Ruth Lopez who live in Puebla, a city of two million. Manuel speaks of the great spiritual darkness into which they are pouring the LIGHT of the GOSPEL. They plan to open Associate Schools in each state in Mexico.
The Ken Bowyers, who work with the Totenoc Indians in Veracruz, under the COSECHA MINISTRIES, speak of the utter depravity and Spiritual needs of the people and how long it takes to show the love of Christ to them in an understandable format.
There is a growing missionary vision among the evangelicals in Mexico, who in 1997 comprise 15% of the population. Nearly 100 missionaries have been sent overseas and many others are working in Mexico. YWAM runs a Discipleship Training School in Juarez to train nationals as missionaries.
The largest agencies working in Mexico are: SBC 97, LAM 75, AoG 73, BBF 66, CAMI 40, BIMI 40, UFM 29, GMU 13, SIL 248, NTM 74. MAF services those working in remote places. Christian Camping International reports there are some 200 camps in Mexico.
May our hearts be burdened for the church in Mexico and the many believers who are concerned to get the gospel to those who have never heard the Truth.
· National Geographic Magazine, Vol 190, No 2, 1996 Emerging Mexico, A special issue.
· Operation World, Johnstone, 1993, Zondervan, 5300 Pattereson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
· See Part 2-- Hispanics In North America, pp 5-2-3 US News and World Report September 23, 1996, pp34-45
ACTION INTERNATIONAL MINISTRIES
BIBLES FOR MEXICO [Division of Bible League]
CHRISTIAN REFORMED WORLD MISSIONS
CHRISTIAN SERVICE INTERNATIONAL
CRUSADERS MINISTRIES, INC
EASTERN MENNONITE MISSIONS
EVANGELICAL HOME MISSIONARY ASSOC/AOG
EVANGELISM MISSION, INC
FOUNDATION FOR HIS MINISTRY
FOURSQUARE MISSIONS INTERNATIONAL
GOSPEL MISSIONARY UNION
GLOBAL STRATEGY MISSIONARY ASSOCIATION
INTERNATIONAL GOSPEL OUTREACH
LATIN AMERICAN LUTHERAN MISSION
MEXICAN BORDER MISSIONS
MEXICAN GOSPEL MISSION INC
MEXICAN MISSION MINISTRIES, INC
MISSION MINISTRIES INC
OC INTERNATIONAL INC
PACIFIC NORTHWEST MENNONITE CONFERENCE-
PRISON MISSION ASSOCIATION
REACH MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL
REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA
WORLD INDIGENOUS MISSION
WORLDWIDE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS