New York Public LIbrary online historical maps of Mexico

 Books and resources, Maps, Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on New York Public LIbrary online historical maps of Mexico
Jul 022014
 

A few months back, the New York Public Library (NYPL) announced that it was placing high resolution scans of more than 20,000 cartographic works online. The NYPL also asserted that it believed that “these maps have no known US copyright restrictions” and that it “is distributing these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.”

The maps can be viewed and downloaded via the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections page, and the NYPL Map Warper.

Naturally, this piqued Geo-Mexico’s interest, and we spent several enjoyable hours browsing the various maps included in this online treasure-trove that have some relation to Mexico. A search for “Mexico” yielded 36 maps, though this number included many that depict New Mexico.

seller

This 1679 map “Mexico, or, New Spain” (above) comes from “Atlas minimus, or, A book of geography : shewing all the empires, monarchies, kingdomes, regions, dominions, principalities and countries, in the whole world”, by John Seller.

Far more detailed, and a more recognizable shape emerged by 1713, with the publication of Mexico, or, New Spain : divided into the audiance of Guadalayara, Mexico, and Guatimala, Florida, from “System of geography with new maps”.

Carey's 1814 map.

Carey’s 1814 map.

This 1814 map “Mexico of New Spain” (above) is part of “Carey’s general atlas, improved and enlarged : being a collection of maps of the world and quarters, their principal empires, kingdoms, &c.”

From the mid-nineteenth century, the maps become very much like modern-day atlas maps. For example, this 1876 map, “Mexico; Mexico to Vera-Cruz; The Isthmus of Tehuantepecfrom the “New illustrated atlas of Dutchess County, New York. / Compiled & drawn from personal examinations, surveys etc. under the personal supervision of O.W. Gray & Son and F.A. Davis, and published under the superintendence of H. L. Kochersperger”.

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The volcanic calderas of Mexico’s Volcanic Axis

 Maps, Other  Comments Off on The volcanic calderas of Mexico’s Volcanic Axis
Jul 082013
 

There is still lots of work needed to fully unravel the geological secrets of Mexico’s Volcanic Axis which crosses the country between latitudes 19̊ and 21̊ North. Unlike most volcanic belts elsewhere in the world, this one does not appear at first sight to correspond to any plate boundary. Another of the mysteries of this volcanic region, where igneous upheavals have shaped the landscape for several million years, is the relative dearth of calderas, the “super craters” formed either by collapse or by giant explosions.

While the toponym La Caldera is used fairly commonly in Mexico’s volcanic regions for a volcano or volcanic crater, geologists restrict the term to the much larger landform that results from the collapse or super-explosion of a volcano. Even so, there is still some debate among specialists as to the precise definition of the term caldera.

Geologists have proposed a threefold division of the Volcanic Axis, based on differences in the volcanic landforms, in terms of their type, structure, age, morphology and chemistry.

volcanic-axis

The western sector (see map below) extends from the western coast of Mexico to Lake Chapala (including the lake basin). The central sector covers the area between Lake Chapala and the twin volcanoes of Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, close to Mexico City. The eastern sector includes these twin volcanoes and extends as far as Mexico’s Gulf Coast.

Mexico's Volcanic Axis (Fig 2.2 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. All rights reserved.

Mexico’s Volcanic Axis (Fig 2.2 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico). All rights reserved.

The only caldera recognized in the western section is that of La Primavera, the forested area west of Guadalajara, whose formation we considered in

In the central and eastern sections of the Volcanic Axis, several other calderas have been recognized. They include (from west to east):

  • Los Azufres
  • Amealco
  • Mazahua
  • Huichapan
  • Los Humeros
  • Las Cumbres

Los Azufres

The precise origin of the Los Azufres caldera, in Michoacán, is still debated. The caldera is the site of an important geothermal power station with an installed capacity of 188 MW. (Mexico is the world’s fourth largest producer of geothermal energy, after USA, the Philippines and Indonesia.) The geothermal heat in this area is also used to heat the cabins in a local campground, and to dry wood and process fruit.

Amealco

The Amealco caldera is in the central part of the Mexican Volcanic Axis, midway between the towns of San Juan del Río and Maravatio. It dates from Pliocene times and has been heavily eroded since. It is about 11 km wide and 400 m deep and was the origin of great sheets of pyroclastic flow deposits (ignimbrites) with a total volume of around 500 cubic km.

Mazahua

Mazahua is a collapse caldera, 8 km in width, near the village of San Felipe del Progreso in the western part of the State of Mexico.

Huichapan

The Donguinyó-Huichapan caldera complex is 10 km in diameter and in the central sector of the Volcanic Axis. It appears to be two overlapping calderas, dating from around 5 million and 4.2 million years ago respectively. The rocks from the older caldera are intermediate to basic in composition, while those from the more recent caldera are acidic (high silica) rhyolites.

Los Humeros

The Los Humeros caldera is in the state of Puebla, close to its border with Veracruz. It is 55 km west-north-west of the city of Xalapa (Veracruz), relatively close to Teziutlán (Puebla). The main caldera (summit elevation 3150 m) is about 400 m deep and roughly oval in shape, with a diameter which varies from 15 to 21 km. It was formed about 460,000 years ago by the collapse of the underground magma chamber. Prior to collapse, lava emitted from this vent had covered 3500 square km with ignimbrite. Later, two smaller calderas formed nearby, with ages of about 100,000 years (Los Potreros caldera) and 30,000 years (El Xalapazco) respectively. Volcanic activity in this area has been utilized to produce generate geothermal power (installed capacity: 40 megawatts).

Las Cumbres

The easternmost caldera in Mexico is Las Cumbres, 15 km north of Pico de Orizaba, Mexico’s highest volcano, and close to the state boundary between Puebla and Veracruz. The Las Cumbres caldera was originally believed to be an explosion super-crater, but geologists now think that it was created due to the partial collapse of the eastern flank of the original volcano, between 40,000 and 350,000 years ago. The collapse of the side of Las Cumbres produced a huge debris avalanche (total volume estimated at 80 cubic km, which extended up to 120 km in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico.

Lake Alchichica

According to Dra. Esperanza Yarza de la Torre in Volcanes de México (UNAM; 1984), Lake Alchichica in the Oriental Basin near Puebla occupies another caldera. The basin has several shallow lakes, known locally as axalpazcos (“sandy basin with water” in the indigenous Nahuatl language). These occupy shallow craters (or in one case a caldera) and are largely sustained by ground water. The largest of the lakes, in a caldera, is Lake Alchichica, which has a diameter of 1888 meters, an area of 1.81 square km, and lies at an elevation of 2320 meters above sea level. The rim of the caldera rises 100 m above the lake level. The lake is used for irrigation. This lake is claimed to be Mexico’s deepest natural lake with a maximum depth of 64 meters, and a mean depth of 38.6 meters.

Main sources:

Want to read more?

  • Use the site’s tag system (left hand side of the page) to find lots more posts about Mexico’s volcanoes, geology and landforms.

Map of Yucatán Peninsula including Campeche, Mérida, Cancún, Riviera Maya and Cozumel

 Maps  Comments Off on Map of Yucatán Peninsula including Campeche, Mérida, Cancún, Riviera Maya and Cozumel
Mar 092013
 

Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, a low, flat limestone platform, is the most recently formed part of Mexico. The low topography, which is quite similar to western Cuba and southern Florida, is virtually all below 150 m (500 ft). The submerged western and northern portion of this platform is known as the Campeche Bank. The peninsula was connected to Cuba until the bridging section sank below sea level forming the Yucatán Channel. The west and north coasts are marked by lagoons, mangrove swamps and sand bars. The emergence and infilling of coastal lagoons in the southeastern and southwestern extremities of the peninsula have resulted in areas of marshland interspersed with remnants of the original lagoons.

Offshore to the east lie coral reefs. Most of the peninsula has shallow, highly permeable soils and virtually no surface water. However, underground water is relatively abundant. The peninsula is honeycombed with extensive underground cave systems, which are connected periodically to the surface via hundreds of natural sinkholes (cenotes). The ancient Maya believed that these cenotes led to the underworld.

Map of Yucatán Peninsula. Copyright 2010 Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula includes three states: Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo. This region is the ancestral home of the Maya. There are about 800,000 Maya-speakers in Mexico, almost all of them living in this region. There are literally thousands of archaeological sites scattered across the peninsula, including many that are open to the public. Among the more famous are Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Calakmul (all three are UNESCO World Heritage sites), Tulum and  Coba. The city of Campeche (capital of the state of the same name) is also a World Heritage site on account of it being a walled city, one of the very few remaining in Mexico.

The state of Yucatán was important for sisal production. Between 1870 and 1920 the area experienced an economic boom based on the production of twine from sisal (oro verde or green gold). In order to transport the  sisal from the fields to processing centers and from there to the port of Sisal for export, plantation owners built an extensive (4500-km-long) network of narrow gauge railroads:

Quintana Roo is best known today for its tourism industry. The centrally planned resort of Cancún is Mexico’s leading tourist destination:

In Quintana Roo, 54% of the residents were born outside the state. These residents were mostly attracted to Quintana Roo by the rapidly growing tourist industry in Cancún and further south in the area known as the Maya Riviera. Almost 13% of Quintana Roo residents moved into the state within the last five years.

The Yucatán Peninsula has several important biosphere reserves:

  • Ría Celestún (Yucatán and Campeche): coastal region including important wetlands and drowned river valley (ría) with diverse fauna and flora, including flamingos.
  • Región de Calakmul (Yucatán): diverse tropical rainforests; the largest forest reserve in Mexico, with important Maya sites; ecotourism project.
  • Ría Lagartos (Yucatán): coastal estuary with diverse birdlife including more than 18000 pink flamingos as well as some 30,000 migratory birds.
  • Arrecife Alacranes (Yucatán): the largest coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico, and the only one in Yucatán state.
  • Sian Ka’an (Quintana Roo): coastal limestone plain, and extensive barrier reef system on Caribbean coast, with numerous archaeological sites; more than 4,000 plant species.
  • Banco Chinchorro (Quintana Roo): mosaic of open water, sea grass beds, mangroves, sandy beaches and coral reefs; more than 95 species of coral.

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The geography of music and dance in Mexico

 Excerpts from Geo-Mexico, Maps  Comments Off on The geography of music and dance in Mexico
Nov 272012
 

Numerous different regional music styles are found in Mexico (see map), some strongly influenced by indigenous instruments but most relying on the string and brass instruments brought by early Spanish settlers. Curiously, mariachi music, which is often considered Mexico’s national musical style, is believed to owe its origin to French immigrants and refer to wedding (mariage) music. Other popular music types include rancheras (country style songs), corridos (songs telling stories, often about heroes), norteño (northern), rock and pop.

Music and dance in Mexico.

Music and dance in Mexico. Fig 13.3 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. All rights reserved.

Musical instruments vary regionally as well. For instance, the marimba, a kind of wooden xylophone, is most often heard in Chiapas whereas the harp is more characteristic of Veracruz.

Regional dance styles have provided the stimulus for Mexico’s numerous baile folklórico (folkloric ballet) groups, many of which tour internationally. Some examples of regional dances are shown on the map.

Dance of the Quetzals, Cuetzalan, Puebla.

Dance of the Quetzals, Cuetzalan, Puebla. Photo: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

Some of these dances are very localized. For example, the Quetzal Dance, with its elaborate headdresses (see photo)  is performed almost exclusively in the village of Cuetzalan in the state of Puebla.

In addition to these cultural manifestations there are significant spatial variations among many other facets of culture, including sport, dress, architectural styles and handicrafts. Regional differences are also found in some forms of literature.

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Why is biomass density in Mexico relevant to climate change?

 Maps, Other  Comments Off on Why is biomass density in Mexico relevant to climate change?
Apr 282012
 

How can we measure the health of forests and other forms of natural vegetation? It has become commonplace to read about biodiversity and many conservation programs rightly stress its importance in the global scheme of things. In a previous post, we examined the biodiversity of Mexico and saw how it is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Biodiversity may be a useful indicator of likely ecological resilience in the face of changing circumstances such as global climate change, but it does not tell the whole picture. In simple biodiversity measures, each species is counted and treated as being equally important. Species close to extinction are singled out for conservation efforts in an attempt to preserve a viable wild population of that species. If all else fails, specimens are transferred to botanical gardens or seeds are collected and stored in the hope that the species can be reintroduced and reestablished in a suitable location at some point in the future.

Biomass production in Mexico (Trees and bushes)

Biomass density in Mexico (trees and shrubs); from deJong et al, 2006.

But are all plant species equal? Should a giant redwood count the same as a dandelion? Certainly in terms of their ability to store carbon, larger plants are more valuable than smaller plants, though the total number of each species also matters. Storing carbon is important. When trees are cut down and burned (to clear the way for agriculture or settlement, for example) this stored carbon is released into the air and contributes to the processes causing global warming.

The term biomass is used to describe the total mass of living organic matter in a plant or in an area. The total biomass of a plant includes its bark, leaves and twigs. In a tropical forest, biomass includes every tree, shrub, sapling, vine, epiphyte and flower. About 50% of the biomass in most forests is carbon. The amount of biomass varies seasonally and is not necessarily stable over time, since plants increase their biomass as they grow. In a forest, the balance that matters in terms of sustainable forestry is the balance between the forest’s production of “new” biomass (through photosynthesis) and the consumption of some of its biomass by chopping, burning and natural decay. Clearly, human activity can directly impact this balance, but so too can natural events such as forest fires.

Bio-geographers have a great interest in assessing biomass since it provides a starting point for numerous models that attempt to estimate the effects of releasing some, or all, of this stored carbon on future global climates. Increasingly, their estimates from the use of remote sensing and satellite images are proving to be quite reliable when tested by comparing them to the biomass of the same area calculated from on-the-ground fieldwork.

The measure of biomass shown on the map is biomass density. Biomass density is the total amount of above ground living organic matter expressed as oven-dry metric tons per hectare. This map immediately reveals why conserving Mexico’s southern rainforests is so important. They are not only the most biodiverse areas of Mexico, their high biomass density values show that they also have far more than their fair share of Mexico’s total biomass. Conserving and managing these forests therefore needs to be a priority strategy in Mexico’s efforts to limit and mitigate climate change.

Sources:

The map comes from “Advances of Mexico in preparing for REDD” by Bernardus H.J. de Jong, Leonel Iglesias Gutiérrez and José Armando Alanís de la Rosa. Presentation given at the UNFCCC Workshop on Methodological Issues relating to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. Tokyo, Japan, 25 to 27 June 2008.

To read more about estimating biomass, see Estimating Biomass and Biomass Change of Tropical Forests: a Primer. (FAO Forestry Paper – 134) by Sandra Brown. FAO Forestry Paper 134. 1997.

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Map of Oaxaca state, with an introduction to its geography

 Maps  Comments Off on Map of Oaxaca state, with an introduction to its geography
Mar 122012
 

The state of Oaxaca is Mexico’s fifth largest state, with an area of  93,793 square kilometers (4.8% of the national total) and Mexico’s tenth most populous state, with 3.8 million inhabitants in 2010.

The state has considerable variety in terms of relief, climate and natural vegetation, and has about 570 km of shoreline bordering the Pacific Ocean. Oaxaca City, the centrally located state capital, is an important city for tourism as are three towns on the coast—Puerto Angel, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco.

The eastern part of Oaxaca state is part of the low-lying Isthmus of Tehuantepec, once considered as an alternative location to Panama for a trans-continental canal. In recent years, the Tehuantepec area has received massive investments in wind power, with several major wind farms already operational and more on the drawing board.

Map of Oaxaca state, Mexico. Copyright Tony Burton;

Map of Oaxaca state, Mexico. Copyright Tony Burton; all rights reserved. Click map to enlarge

Oaxaca state state has greater linguistic and cultural diversity than any other state in Mexico. According to the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples, more than 1.5 million people in Oaxaca live in a home where at least one of the residents either speaks an indigenous language or considers themselves indigenous (even if they do not speak an indigenous language).

About one million inhabitants of Oaxaca, 35% of the state’s total population, speak one or more indigenous language. The largest indigenous linguistic groups in the state include about 350,000 Zapotec, 230,000 Mixtec, 165,000 Mazatec, 100,000 Chinantec, 100,000 Mixe, and 40,000 Chatino.

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Jan 092012
 

Mexico’s 2010 census found that 961,121 individuals living in Mexico had been born outside the country. In 2000 there were only about half as many (492,617). The 2010 figure is less than 1% of Mexico’s total population of 112 million. (Compare Canada where 21% are foreign-born and USA where 13% are foreign born). Of the total number of foreign-born residents in Mexico, 76.6% were born in the USA. Sadly, INEGI has not released any information relating to the country of birth of current residents who were born in countries other than the USA.

The map below shows the total number of foreign-born residents for each state.

Map of foreign-born residents of Mexico in 2010

Foreign-born residents of Mexico in 2010. Credit: Tony Burton/Geo-Mexico.

As can be seen on the map, the states with most foreigners are Baja California (about 123,000), Jalisco (84,000), Chihuahua (80,000), the Federal District (72,000) and Tamaulipas. The two states with fewest are Tlaxcala and Tabasco. (These are absolute numbers, and are heavily influenced by the relative size of each state).

Which states experienced the largest increases in foreigners between 2000 and 2010? The number of foreigners grew fastest in those states with relatively few foreigners in 2000, namely Hidalgo (up 402% over the decade), Tlaxcala (333%), Tabasco (281%), and Veracruz and Oaxaca (both with 272%).

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Where in Mexico do people still lack access to potable water?

 Maps, Teaching ideas  Comments Off on Where in Mexico do people still lack access to potable water?
Nov 162010
 

The map shows the 14 states in Mexico where less than 90% of the population has potable water in their homes.

map of potable water in Mexico

The 14 states with poorest potable water access in Mexico

How does the distribution of state with relatively poor access to potable water compare with maps of:

Development indices of various kinds are discussed in chapters 29 and 30 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your local library to purchase a copy today!

Which states in Mexico have the highest infant mortality rates?

 Maps, Other, Teaching ideas  Comments Off on Which states in Mexico have the highest infant mortality rates?
Nov 122010
 

Infant mortality is the number of deaths of infants (aged less than 1 year old) for every 1,000 live births. It is widely regarded as a very useful development indicator, and is one of the statistics used when calculating compound (multifactor) development indices. The Federal District has the lowest infant mortality rate in the county – 13.8, ahead of Nuevo León (14.0), Coahuila (14.8) and Baja California (14.9).

RankStateInfant mortality rate
22Michoacán20.0
23Campeche20.1
24Zacatecas20.3
25San Luis Potosí20.5
26Tabasco20.9
27Puebla20.9
28Hidalgo21.3
29Veracruz21.6
30Guerrero24.4
31Oaxaca24.6
32Chiapas25.3

The table lists the 11 states in Mexico which have the highest rates of infant mortality. No other state has an infant mortality rate of 20.0 or higher. The map clearly reveals that these states are mostly in the south of Mexico, a long way from the USA border.

Map of infant mortality

The eleven states with the highest infant mortality rates

Compare this map with the map of GDP/person. Are there any states which appear to be anomalies to the general rule that GDP/person and infant mortality rates are inversely related?

Development indices of various kinds are discussed in chapters 29 and 30 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your local library to purchase a copy today!

Oct 042010
 

The map shows the coasts of the states of Colima, Jalisco and Nayarit. These states all have some great beaches, and tourism is an important activity in many of the towns shown on the map. Some of the beaches are so exposed that the Pacific Ocean waves arriving to smash into the sand offer outstanding surfing opportunities. Other beaches are more sheltered, with calmer waters perfect for swimming.

Map of Pacific Coast beaches. Copyright 2010 Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

Besides being important for tourism, Manzanillo is one of Mexico’s largest ports. One of the major reasons why the port of Manzanillo has attracted so much investment in recent decades is that it is easy to access via the major divided highway to/from Guadalajara and the interior of Mexico (and indeed, the US border).

Further north, San Blas was once an important port, but declined as silting blocked the shallow access routes. We described the historical geography of San Blas in a previous post:

Barra de Navidad also had great historical importance, as one of the shipbuilding ports where the Spanish built the ships which traversed the Pacific Ocean to the islands of the Philippines.

The coast around the headland of Punta de Mita used to be the site of rustic fishing villages, from where fisherman also took occasional groups of tourists out to sea whale-watching. This headland, and these villages became one of the best recent examples in Mexico of a forced migration:

In recent years tourism developments have caused more forced relocations than dam construction. One example is the Punta de Mita peninsula, 50 km (30 mi) north of Puerto Vallarta, developed in the 1990s. The existing residents, mostly fishermen, were forced from their homes on the coast so that their ejido lands could be converted into a luxury tourist resort and Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

The fishermen were moved from their breezy and somewhat ramshackle palapa huts, interspersed with palm trees, into ugly, concrete block houses a short distance inland, in the purpose-built small town of Emiliano Zapata, which adjoins a redeveloped coastal commercial/ restaurant strip called Anclote. Attempts by the developers to build the fishermen a small boat-building workshop and breakwater to protect the beach caused sand to be eroded from one of the only two remaining beaches with public access. During the resort’s construction an influx of workers from other parts of Mexico pushed prices up and led to social problems. (Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico page 191)

More dramatic changes are now underway along part of this coastline. The area north of Sayulita (which has become a favored wintering location for Americans and Canadians) as far as the beach resort of Rincón de Guayabitos (favored by Mexican families) is slowly being transformed into Mexico’s latest purpose-built tourist resort, in the same way that other Mexican mega-resorts such as Cancún, Huatulco and Ixtapa were created.

Only time will tell what eventually happens to the areas that currently remain as genuine wilderness coast. One thing is sure – the more we develop this coastline, the more ecological damage will be done in the name of progress. Ecologically productive mangroves have been stripped out almost all along the coast, giving way to luxury hotels and marinas. Mangroves are now protected by federal law, but enforcement of this law may not be very effective.

Equally, fewer safe places now remain for the various endangered species of marine turtles who first visited these beaches a very long time before even the early Spanish mariners. One good sign is that active turtle protection programs exist at several of the beaches in this area. Ecological education is a good thing; ecological action is even better.

For more information about the geography of Mexico, buy your copy of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico today!

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