Mexico is popular with travelers from all over the world. They go there for reasons almost too numerous to mention: sunshine, blue seas teeming with fish and coral, crystal-white beaches, lofty mountains and volcanoes, jungles full of exotic wildlife, world-famous museums and painters, collectible folk art, postcard-perfect Spanish colonial cities and the breathtaking remains of ancient cultures. And some go for a less lofty reason: Mexico can be cheap, although you may have to get out of the popular resort areas to enjoy big savings.

Popular destinations in Mexico include Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen on the Yucatan Peninsula in the east, and Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo on the Baja Peninsula in the west. Between those two peninsulas lie such cities as Guadalajara, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Oaxaca. Many visitors also take the train ride through Copper Canyon.

The megalopolis of Mexico City is Mexico's capital and lies roughly in the middle of the country. Approximately 10 million people live in the city limits, but at least twice that number call metropolitan Mexico City home: By most estimates this is the fifth- or sixth-largest city in the world.

We're compelled, of course, to remind would-be visitors of Mexico's unevenness. It remains a land of baffling contradictions. Just down the street from a five-star resort, families camp in ramshackle buildings without plumbing. Burros, with rough-hewn carts in tow, amble alongside express highways. Serious pollution problems confront some cities, and a huge population strains its resources. The economy is growing and the middle class is growing along with it, but there is widespread poverty, and people are yearning for a better standard of living.

Through it all, Mexico endures with patience and a laid-back, "live and let live" attitude.

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