Mexico, formerly known as New Mexico, is a city in Audrain County, Missouri. The population was 11,543 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat, home to the Missouri Military Academy, and annually hosts the Miss Missouri Pageant. The micropolitan statistical area consists of Audrain County.
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 it became the county seat under its present name in 1837. The word "New" was dropped out after the Mexican War that saw Texas become a part of the United States.
There is an apocryphal story concerning the name. When a University of Missouri student, who was questioned on radio, was unable to give an account of her hometown's name, the question was put to L. Mitchell White, then editor and publisher of the Mexico Ledger: "'The first settlers found a wooden sign along the trail. It pointed southwest, and on it had been painted Mexico.'" To avoid unnecessary labor, the sign was left in place. "It was easier to call their town 'Mexico' than to take down the old sign."
Mexico was incorporated as a town in 1855, was served by the Wabash Railroad in 1858 and by the Alton Railroad 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 refractory plants in the area closed in 2002. There is currently no active quarrying for clay used in fire brick or refractories 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 1970s, 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 Saturn's new U.S. auto plant. Mexico lost out to winner Spring Hill, Tennessee because 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 Capital of the World," Mexico still hosts Hollywood celebrities and other visitors from around the world who come to purchase riding horses. The Simmons Stables, currently being revitalized, are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Audrain County Courthouse, Ross House, and Arthur Simmons Stables Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mexico is located at 39°9′57″N 91°53′5″W (39.165814, -91.884761). northeast of the center of the state, and approximately 100 miles northwest of St Louis. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.38 square miles (32.06 km2), of which 12.01 square miles (31.11 km2) is land and 0.37 square miles (0.96 km2) is water.
As of the census of 2010, there were 11,543 people, 4,727 households, and 2,908 families residing in the city. The population density was 961.1 inhabitants per square mile (371.1/km2). There were 5,272 housing units at an average density of 439.0 per square mile (169.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.1% White, 8.3% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.1% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.1% of the population.
There were 4,727 households of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.5% were non-families. 32.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.91.
The median age in the city was 36.7 years. 26.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.5% were from 25 to 44; 23.8% were from 45 to 64; and 17% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.3% male and 51.7% female.
Mexico was 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, governor of the state from 1872–1874. 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 which are located on South Jefferson Street. They have a bulldog for their mascot.
It is served by the Mexico Public Schools. Present public schools in the city include Mexico High School, Mexico Middle School, Hawthorne Elementary School, Eugene Field Elementary School, and McMillan Elementary School. Private schools include St. Brendan's Catholic School. The Davis H. Hart/Mexico Area Vocational-Technical School and the Advanced Technology Center are located here as well.