Mexico is a city in Audrain County, Missouri, United States. The population was 11,320 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Audrain County. The Mexico Micropolitan Statistical Area consists of Audrain County. Citizens of Mexico, Missouri are known as "Mexicoans" and not "Mexicans". Mexico hosts the annual Miss Missouri Pageant; the winner goes on to represent the state of Missouri in the Miss America pageant.
Mexico was laid out as "New Mexico" in 1836 and was a major stop for settlers heading to the Republic of Texas (thus the name New Mexico), and became the county seat under its present name in 1837. The word "New" was dropped after the Mexican-American War that saw Texas become a part of the United States. It was incorporated as a town in 1855, was entered by the Wabash road in 1858 and by the Alton in 1872, and was first chartered as a city in 1874. The city is situated in the blue grass region of Missouri, and was a shipping-point for horses and mules. Mexico was a one-time major source for the nation's fire brick production, so much so, that it adopted the moniker "Fire Brick Capital of the World". However, the industry fell on hard times and both major refractories in the area closed around 2000. There is currently no active fire brick quarrying or production in the area.
The historic downtown square, with the typical court house as the focal point, is surrounded by dozens of multi-story brick buildings--some dating to the founding of the community. In the late 70s, Mexico began ripping up crumbling sidewalks and installing red paver bricks accented with turn-of-the-century lamp posts and park benches. In the 1980s Mexico was one of six nationwide finalists for Nissan's new U.S. auto plant. Mexico lost out to winner Smyrna, Tennessee as, at the time, Mexico was not served by a four-lane freeway. So as not to lose future development, Mexico officials quickly lobbied state and federal officials to secure funding for a new four-lane divided highway (U.S. Route 54) which now serves the community from Interstate 70. Formerly known as the "Saddle Horse Capitol of the World," Mexico still hosts Hollywood celebrities and other visitors from around the world who come to purchase riding horses. The Simmons Stables are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mexico is the home of Hardin College and Conservatory of Music, a Baptist college established in 1873 for young women, an institution founded and endowed by Charles H. Hardin (1820-1892), governor of the state in 1872-1874. It is also home to the Missouri Military Academy (1889). Hardin College closed during the Great Depression and never re-opened. Its 1200 seat auditorium has been painstakingly restored and is now used for community theater and concerts. The remainder of the college houses the Mexico Public Schools administrative offices. Present public schools in the city include Mexico High School, Mexico Middle School, Hawthorne Elementary School, Eugene Field Elementary School, McMillan Elementary School, and St. Brendan's Catholic School. The Mexico Area Vocational-Technical School and the Advanced Technology Center are located here as well. The administrative building is on South Jefferson Street.
As of the census of 2000, there were 11,320 people, 4,804 households, and 3,021 families residing in the city. The population density was 995.7 people per square mile (384.4/km²). There were 5,301 housing units at an average density of 466.3/sq mi (180.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 88.79% White, 9.19% African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.51% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.28% from other races, and 0.95% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.87% of the population.
There were 4,804 households out of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.8% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.1% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.84.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.9% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 25.0% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 86.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,714, and the median income for a family was $39,406. Males had a median income of $30,266 versus $21,190 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,845. About 10.0% of families and 13.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.0% of those under age 18 and 11.0% of those age 65 or over.