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Jul 282014
 

We hope you will enjoy our tenth quiz about the geography of Mexico.

How many of the following can you answer correctly?

If you answer a question incorrectly, you can have more tries before the answer is revealed.

Good Luck and Enjoy!

Geography of Mexico Quiz 10

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 Posted by at 9:15 am  Tagged with:
Jul 262014
 

Tzintzuntzan, designated a Magic Town in 2012, has two sixteenth century churches, equally ancient olive trees, a craft market specializing in straw goods and ornaments, plus an archaeological site which was the capital of the not inconsiderable Tarascan Empire.

The Tarascan Empire

The Tarascan Empire, contemporaneous with that of the Aztecs, stretched westwards as far as the shores of Lake Chapala, with sporadic contacts into the Sayula lake area, and to the east as far as present-day Zitácuaro. The Tarascans spoke Purépecha, and today the local indigenous people prefer to be called Purépecha. The term “Tarascan” is more properly reserved for their ancestors and their pre-Columbian empire.

“Tzintzuntzan” is an onomatopoeic Purépecha rendering of the sound made by a hummingbird. The ceremonial center was still fully active when the Spanish arrived. Tarascan buildings were constructed mainly of wood. Only the basements were normally built of stone and today, therefore, it is only these basements or yácatas that remain. Some of the cut stones which cover the rubble-filled interiors of the yácatas are ornamented with rock carvings.

The scale of earth-moving involved in constructing the temples is remarkable. The entire 425-meter-long platform is man-made. On it were built five yácatas, on the tops of which would have been wooden and thatch structures serving as shrines. The semi-circular shape of these yácatas suggests that they were built to honor the god of the wind, Ik. The Tarascan ceremonial centre commands a magnificent view over the lake, whose waters would have been lapping at the platform’s base during some rainy seasons. The area behind the yácatas, next to the village soccer pitch blazes with color during the wildflower seasons of late spring and early autumn. The archaeological site has a small, modern museum.

The Tarascans had a mixed economy, collecting fruits and forest products, fishing and undertaking agriculture, complete with terracing and irrigation. Some archaeologists have argued that many of the pre-Columbian peoples, dependent on the natural world for their immediate survival, were very ecologically-conscious. However, in this area, evidence from rates of lake sedimentation now suggests that maybe they weren’t quite so environmentally-aware after all. It seems that erosion rates were already on the rise by the time the Spanish arrived, suggesting that native agriculture was almost certainly not sustainable. Following the introduction of European diseases, the decline in population (and agricultural workforce) prompted a further increase in erosion rates as soil conservation methods could not be maintained. Erosion and sedimentation were exacerbated by the nineteenth and twentieth century deforestation of surrounding hills.

Spanish churches

Tzintzuntzan monastery and church. Artist: Mark Eager. All rights reserved.

Tzintzuntzan monastery and church. Artist: Mark Eager. All rights reserved.

The Spanish destroyed the Tarascan temples, carting off many of the stones to build Catholic churches in their new village. Observant visitors to the beautifully-proportioned patio of the former monastery beside the main church will spot petroglyphs on some of the walls there which betray the stones’ earlier placement in the yácatas. This building, decorated with fine old colored frescoes depicting Franciscan lore, and with parts of its original wooden roof still intact, houses the office of the parish notary and is not always open to the public.

There are other peculiarities here, too, which say much for the realities of sixteenth century Spanish monastic life. When the monastery of Tzintzuntzan was built, two churches were constructed, one for the monks’ private use and the other for the lay Third Order. These two churches, only a few steps apart, are about as different as can be, given that they are of similar age. The monks’ church, beautifully restored following an arson attack, is light and airy; the Third Order church is dark, gloomy and oppressing. Both, in their own way, are awe-inspiring. To one side of the Third Order church is a complete-immersion font, shaded by two tall trees.

Ancient olive trees

In the large atrium in front of the monastery are a sixteenth century cross and the bent and twisted tree trunks of some of the oldest olive trees in Mexico, brought by special request from Spain for the express purpose of providing the monks with one of their accustomed foods. They are thought to be more than four hundred and fifty years old.

Handicraft market

Tzintzuntzan’s handicraft market is a cornucopia of straw work in every conceivable color, design and size, which make ideal Christmas decorations or gifts. Also on sale are elaborately carved wooden beams, and examples of the many different local pottery styles including the Ocumicho devil-figures and strange green pineapples as well as finely detailed, hand-embroidered scenes of village life.

How to get there:

Tzintzuntzan is about twenty minutes drive from Pátzcuaro.

Source:

This post is based on chapter 32 of my “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury” (link is to Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature), also available as either a Kindle edition or Kobo ebook.

Jul 232014
 

Today, the 23 July, is “Día del Geógrafo de México” (“Mexican Geographers’ Day”).

Grateful thanks to Annie Hansen for alerting us to the fact that 23 July was first proposed as “Día del Geógrafo de México” (“Mexican Geographers’ Day”) in a short paper published in 1999. Héctor Mendoza Vargas proposed that day because it marked the opening, in 1939, of the first National Congress of Geography ever held in Mexico. His suggestion was the winner in a competition to choose a suitable day on which to celebrate the work of geographers. Ever since then, 23 July has been a special day for all geographers in Mexico.

The first National Congress in 1939 ran from 23 July to 31 July, with sessions taking place in the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) in downtown Mexico City.

The full text (Spanish) of Mendoza Vargas’ short paper proposing 23 July as “Día del Geógrafo de México” can be seen here. It includes some interesting background history.

Feliz Día del Geógrafo – A Happy Geographers’ Day – to all our readers!

The U.S. Geography Awareness Week

For our north-of-the-border readers, the nearest U.S. equivalent of Día del Geógrafo is the National Geographic Society’s “Geography Awareness Week“, celebrated in the third week of November each year. Geography Awareness Week, signed into law in 1987 by former President Ronald Reagan, seeks “to promote geographic literacy in schools, communities, and organizations, with a focus on the education of children. The need to address geographic literacy came about in 1987 after the NGS conducted a geography survey among adults 18 years and older in the United States. The findings revealed such facts as: the average American adult could identify less than 6 of 10 U.S. states; 3 in 10 adults could not use a map to tell direction or calculate the approximate distance between two points; only 57% of adults could identify England on a map of Europe; and Brazil was the only South American country correctly identified by even half of the respondents.”

 

 Posted by at 12:26 pm
Jul 212014
 

In several previous posts, we have explained how the GINI index can be used to quantify the degree of income inequality within a population or country. The higher the GINI index, the more inequality there is. National comparisons of inequality are usually based on working out the GINI index for countries using their residents’ gross (pre-tax) incomes. However, it is also possible to calculate the GINI index for net incomes, incomes after taxes have been taken into account.

This enables economists to assess the impact of tax systems on income distribution (and income inequality) in a country.

The graph below (Figure 2 from Brown et al, 2013) shows pre- and post-tax income GINI coefficients for a selection of countries, including the larger economies in Latin America.

gini-pre-post-taxesIn the European countries, such as Belgium and Sweden, on this chart, the GINI coefficient after tax (dark bars) is much lower than the GINI coefficient before tax (light-colored bars). This means that the taxation system has led to less income inequality than existed prior to taxation. In general terms, this means that the tax system is (overall) a progressive one [i.e. one where taxes take an increasing proportion of income as income rises].

In Latin American economies, a different picture emerges. With the exceptions of Brazil and Costa Rica, the GINI coefficients after taxes are taken into account are actually higher than the GINI coefficients before tax, meaning that income inequalities have become greater as a result of the tax system. In general terms, these tax systems are regressive [where taxes take a decreasing proportion of income as income rises].

In Brazil and Costa Rica, the levels of income inequality remain unchanged after taxation is taken into account.

Clearly, if reducing income inequality is a priority for Latin America, then something has to change. Whether a nation prefers a tax system that is regressive or progressive is a question of political beliefs and policy, as well as a question of economics.

It should be noted that the chart is based on calculations using data from 2012 or earlier. It will be interesting to see how Mexico’s recent major fiscal reforms impact its GINI coefficient in the coming years. Will the recent reforms lead to a more equitable situation and reduce the GINI coefficient, or will they foment greater inequality of income, making the rich richer and the poor poorer?

Note:

The exact methodology used to derive the post-tax GINI coefficient is not clear in the original article. In particular, it is unclear whether or not the after-tax income in the chart includes the large number of Mexican workers in the informal sector who generally do not pay any income or payroll tax.

Source of image:

“Towards financial geographies of the unbanked: international financial markets, ‘bancarization’ and access to financial services in Latin America” by Ed Brown, Francisco Castañeda, Jonathon Cloke and Peter Taylor, in The Geographical Journal, vol 179-3, September 2013, 198-210.

Related posts:

Jul 192014
 

This book by Raymond Craib (Duke University Press, 2004) is one-of-a-kind. Craib combines archival analysis of mainly 19th century documents with perceptive comments on the relationships between history and geography in Mexico from the mid-19th century until about 1930.

craib-coverIn “Cartographic Mexico, a history of state fixations and fugitive landscapes”, Craib emphasizes the significance of map-making in post-Independence Mexico as a means towards furthering nationalism and as a development tool. He traces the changing motives of map-makers, focusing especially on the key area of Veracruz-Puebla which served as Mexico’s main gateway to Europe for centuries.

Craib considers why certain place names acquired more prominence than others, and examines a case study of a mining area where the granting of water rights hinged on precisely where a particular river flowed, and which tributary had which name, a case where cartographic ‘proof’ proved to be impossible and where a pragmatic solution was required.

This is an important study, with meticulous footnotes and bibliography.

“Cartographic Mexico, a history of state fixations and fugitive landscapes” is available via amazon.com

(Note: This short review was first posted on sombrerobooks.com)

Other books reviewed on Geo-Mexico.com:

Jul 172014
 

According to “Doing Business en México 2014: Entendiendo las regulaciones para las pequeñas y medianas empresas“, a study issued by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, Colima is the most favorable state in Mexico for doing business, followed by Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí and (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) the southern state of Chiapas.

doing-business-2014While the full report is in Spanish, an English language webpage offers easy access to the data for each individual city.

The rankings take into account the paperwork, time and costs associated with opening a new business, obtaining construction permits, registering industrial property rights and the resolution of commercial disputes.

The three states that improved most rapidly during the past two years were the State of México, Puebla and Quintana Roo. Guerrero was the state that most improved in business start-up, and the State of Mexico was the most improved city for construction permitting, while Guanajuato improved the most in contract enforcement.

Overall, the report concluded that the regulatory business environment in Mexico is converging towards the average performance of high income OECD economies.

Related posts:

Jul 112014
 

The National Statistics Institute (INEGI) has released population updates to coincide with today’s celebration of World Population Day (11 July). According to INEGI, Mexico currently has 118.4 million people, and is the 11th most populous country in the world.

The total world population is estimated at 7.2 billion, with slightly over half that number living in one of just 6 countries: China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan. The total fertility rate (globally) fell from 3.04 children/woman (1990-1995) to 2.53 children/woman (2005-2010). In 2010, the global life expectancy stood at 68.7 years.

Projections made by Mexico’s National Population Council (CONAPO) put Mexico’s 2013 fertility rate at just 2.2 children/woman, while life expectancy has risen (slightly) to 74.5 years. The reduction of fertility rate in Mexico is occurring in a society where the average level of schooling is increasing and where women report greater economic, social and political participation.

Between 1990 and 2011, maternal mortality in Mexico was reduced by 51.5%. Infant mortality over that period also fell, from 88 to 43 deaths/100,000 live births.

The percentage of the population that is aged 30 to 59 years increased between 1990 and 2011 from 25.5 to 35.7 %, while the percentage aged 60 and older rose from 6.2 to 9.5%. The proportion of Mexico’s population that is aged 60 and older is expected to continue rising and is predicted to reach 14.8% of the total population in 2030 and 21.5% in 2050.

INEGI also reported that the four leading causes of death among Mexicans are:

  • Diabetes mellitus (14.1% of all deaths)
  • Ischaemic heart disease (12.3%)
  • Liver diseases (5.5%)
  • Cerebrovascular diseases (5.3%)

Taken together, these four diseases, classified as chronic degenerative diseases, account for 37.2% of all deaths. Clearly while life expectancy in Mexico is increasing, it is accompanied by higher levels of obesity and physical inactivity. This will place a massive strain on health care budgets in the future.

Related posts:

Jul 102014
 

Mexico has been chosen to head the inter-governmental council that oversees UNESCO’s International Hydrological Program (IHP). The IHP is the only inter-governmental program of the U.N. system devoted to water research, water-resources management, and education and capacity building.

A joint statement issued by Mexico’s Environment Secretariat and Foreign Relations Secretariat says that David Korenfeld, the director of Mexico’s National Water Commission (Conagua) has been named the council’s president for the next two years. In his acceptance speech, Korenfeld called for “greater synergy between decision makers and specialists to combine theory and practice” and stated that “significant challenges remain [in the water sector], including integral basin management, application of the human right to water and water security and sustainability in the context of climate change.

Korenfeld said that one of the IHP’s main objectives must by to strengthen “a confluence of science, technology and public policy aimed at reducing the social and environmental vulnerability of emerging and developing countries amid the challenges of climate change.”

Related posts:

Jul 072014
 

Update (14 July 2014):

Civil Protection groups in Chiapas report that a total of 9,000 homes in that state were damaged by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that struck the region on 7 July 2014 (see below). Three people lost their lives as a result of the ‘quake: two in Hixtla and the other in Mapastepec.

Minor damages have been reported for various public buildings including the Town Hall in Tapachula, primary schools in Tapachula and Tuxtla Chico, two health care centers in Villacomaltitlán and the municipal market in Escuintla.

While all highways remained open to traffic, minor highway damages were reported on several roads including:

  • the road connecting Unión Juárez to Talquián, Córdova and Chiquihuites
  • the road linking Huixtla to El Jocote

A total of 38 municipalities in Chiapas have now been formally declared “Disaster Areas” which gives them access to funds from the federal Natural Disaster Fund.

The municipalities are Acacoyagua, Acapetahua, Amatenango de la Frontera, Arriaga, Bejucal de Ocampo, Bella Vista, Cacahoatán, Chicomuselo, El Porvenir, Escuintla, Frontera Comalapa, Frontera Hidalgo, Huehuetán, Huixtla, La Grandeza, Mapastepec, Mazapa de Madero, Mazatán, Metapa, Montecristo de Guerrero, Motozintla, Pijijiapan, Siltepec, Suchiate, Tapachula, Tonalá, Tuxtla Chico, Tuzantán, Unión Juárez, Villa Comaltitlán, Altamirano, Ángel Albino Corzo, Comitán de Domínguez, El Parral, La Concordia, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Villa Corzo and Villaflores.

Original post (7 July 2014):

A strong earthquake has rocked Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas and the neighboring San Marcos region of Guatemala. There are two reported fatalities in Chiapas, while in Guatemala casualties were restricted to a new-born baby, tragically killed by falling debris. About 300 homes in 15 municipalities in Chiapas are reported to have been damaged.

The earthquake, at about 6:30 am local (Chiapas) time, registered 6.9 on the Richter scale, though the US Geological Survey had earlier reported it as magnitude 7.1. The epicenter of the earthquake was 2km north-northeast of Puerto Madero, Chiapas, very close to Tapachula.

The airport of Tapachula, close to the Mexico-Guatemala border, is now reported to be operating normally, having sustained minor damages (see below) and having been briefly closed for inspection, with no flights allowed to land or take off.

Credit: @TapachulaCentro

Credit: @TapachulaCentro

A sequence of images posted by Mexico City daily Milenio shows some of the damage and devastation caused by the earthquake.

Damage is also reported to many homes in Tapachula, and the town market in Huixtla (north-west of Tapachula) has been partially closed due to structural damage.

We will update this report as more information becomes available.

Related posts:

 

Jul 052014
 

The interesting, but unpretentious, town of Tacámbaro in Michoacán was awarded Magic Town status in 2012. The town has a population of around 26,000 and is located at an elevation of 1650 meters above mean sea level on the edge of Mexico’s tierra caliente. Its full formal name is Tacámbaro de Codallos, so-named to honor a Venezuelan who defended federalism in the early years of Mexico’s Independence.

tacambaro

Among the tourist highlights of this Magic Town, set in the midst of stunning mountain scenery, are:

  • The town center. Despite a serious town center fire a few years ago, there is plenty to see here, including an old chapel around the corner from the main church.
  • The Hotel-Restaurant El Molino (The Mill) located near the entrance to the town. The main restaurant building is a converted, museum-piece nineteenth century flour mill, complete with grinding wheels. Simply and artistically decorated and furnished, this hotel-restaurant has an excellent fixed-price mid-day meal (comida) with subtle sauces and a varied menu.

Though not normally open to the public, a few minutes outside Tacámbaro, is the private hacienda-studio of master printer Juan Pascoe. Pascoe produces superb quality, limited collectible editions, using one of the oldest printing presses still in operation anywhere in the world: an R. Hoe Washington handpress dating back to 1838.

Historical links to Belgium

One of the more curious incidents in local Tacámbaro history is the so-called “Pardon of the Belgians” in 1865.

Belgian forces on the side of Maximilian, under Major Tydgat, were under siege in Tacámbaro on April 11, 1865. They chose to take several Republican families hostage, including the wife and three children of Nicolás de Régules, the Liberal general who was in charge of the Juarist (Republican) forces attacking the city. When Republican lieutenants realized that the hostages included the family of their general, they first requested orders for their troops to change course and avoid attacking the city, but the general answered, “Men, to your posts! Everyone has to do his duty. The Fatherland comes first!”

Later in the ensuing fighting, in a last ditch effort to prevent defeat, the Belgians produced the family of de Régules and placed them directly in the line of fire. Even that did not stop de Régules who ordered his troops to keep fighting and to take as many prisoners alive as possible. After the battle was over, de Régules had taken more than 300 prisoners, but had not taken revenge for the killing of his family. What a noble act!

The events in Tacámbaro are commemorated by monuments in two Belgian cities: Beverlo and Audenarde.

How to get there:

Tacámbaro is about an hour’s drive from the city of Morelia, the capital of Michoacán state. Follow the Morelia-Pátzcuaro highway westwards, exiting at Tiripetío (“place of gold”), where a former Augustinian college of higher studies, one of the earliest in the Americas, founded in 1537, has been restored and now houses an invaluable historical archive. From Tiripetío, follow signs for Villa Madero, and then Tacámbaro.