(Published in The West Australian on 7 October 2010)

1. Emperor: An Austrian named Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph was Emperor of Mexico from 1864 until a firing squad shot him dead three years later.

2. Lost property: Mexico once owned Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming but lost it all in the Mexican-American War (1846-48).

3. Food and flowers: Chocolate, avocados, tomatoes, maize, corn, vanilla, zucchini and the poinsettia originated in Mexico.

4 . Population: One million US citizens live in Mexico, and 29 million US citizens claim Mexican ancestry. With 111 million, Mexico is the 11th most populous country in the world. It has more than twice the number of Spanish speaking people than Spain.

5. Religion: There are more Catholics in Mexico (100 million) than any other country in the world except Brazil. The Mexican Catholic church was severely persecuted  in the 20th century,

6 . Sport: Mexicans play the oldest  ball game in the world (ulama). It which originated in 1600 BC. Soccer is now the most popular game but bullfighting is the official national sport.

7. Slim pickings: The richest man in the world is a Mexican, Carlos Slim, a telecoms magnate said to be worth US $60 billion. When his father arrived as a penniless immigrant from Lebanon, he was only 14 and unable to speak Spanish.

8. Economy: More cars are built in Mexico than in the United States and Canada. Mexico is predicted to be one of the five largest economies in the world in 40 years time (the others: United States, India, China, Brazil). Oil is its most lucrative export.

9. Tragedy: Mexico has had more than share of tragedy. Its revolution (1910-20) claimed one million lives, a war against persecution of Catholics cost 90,000 dead, thousands of students died in a protest in Tlatelolco Square before the Olympic Games in 1968. Since 2007, more than 22,000 have died in the war against drug cartels.

10. Arts: Good books by foreigners about Mexico include All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy), The Power and the Glory (Graham Greene); Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence