Mexico is a city in Audrain County, Missouri, United States. The population was 11,543 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Audrain County. The Mexico Micropolitan Statistical Area consists of Audrain County. 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 it became the county seat under its present name in 1837. The word "New" was dropped out after the Mexican–American 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.