Feb 122017
 

One of the more beautiful, unusual and useful map projections ever devised was created by cartographer Bernard Cahill. The butterfly projection was first published in the Scottish Geographical Magazine in 1909. Cahill (1866-1944) later applied for a US patent to protect his creation.


I first came across Cahill’s projection on a stamp issued in Mexico in 1964. The design of the stamp (see image) shows his world map, an octahedral whose eight faces have been flattened into a shape resembling a butterfly. Ever since then I have wondered why such an unusual map would be chosen for a Mexican stamp that commemorated the 10th Conference of the International Bar Association (IBA), held that year in Mexico City. Coming some 20 years after the cartographer’s death, it seems an unlikely choice. So far, all my efforts to find a link between Cahill, the IBA and Mexico have drawn a blank. (Note to readers: Help needed!)

Cahill’s butterfly map, like Buckminster Fuller’s later Dymaxion Maps (1943 and 1954) enabled all the continents to appear linked, and with reasonable fidelity to a globe. Cahill demonstrated this principle by also inventing a rubber ball globe which could be placed under a pane of glass and flattened into the “Butterfly” form. When removed, the map/globe reverted to its original shape.

The original Cahill projection (1909). Credit: Gene Keyes

The original Cahill projection (1909). Credit: Gene Keyes

Largely in honor of his cartographic innovation, Cahill was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. In 1913 he started the Cahill World Map Company, but this company was not successful and his map has since been largely forgotten by most people.

But not by cartographer Gene Keyes! Except for Cahill himself, no follower of Cahill’s projection has ever been as dedicated as Gene Keyes, a former student of Buckminster Fuller. Keyes’ website is a mine of information about Cahill and his map projection, and is well worth reading.

Born in the UK, Bernard Joseph Stanislaus Cahill (18661944) was an architect, town planner and cartographer who moved to San Francisco, California, in 1888. He was an early proponent of the San Francisco Civic Center and designed that city’s Neptune Society Columbarium.

Cahill encountered some stiff obstacles in the many years it took him to develop his butterfly projection. For example, he lost all his initial drawings and papers in the disastrous San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. At least one major publisher signed a contract to publish the butterfly map as a wall map and in an atlas, but then failed to follow through.

Cahill’s world map used for world tours

Soon after its creation, Cahill’s butterfly map was used to illustrate a flying trip around the world, or circumaviation, proposed for the Panama Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915. The map was exhibited at this exposition and won a gold medal for cartography. Some time later, the map was used by both the State of California and the City of Charleston to illustrate shipping routes.

In 1924, the American Express Company chose the map for use during a world tour aboard the Cunard ocean liner Laconia. According to Keyes, the map was prominently displayed on the Palm Deck of the ship and seen by Robert Ripley, a participant on the world tour, who later featured it in his Believe it or Not series.

Perhaps the closest Cahill came to seeing his map in more general use came in 1937, when the International Meteorological Committee apparently came within a single vote of adopting a version of his projection for all world weather charting.

No wonder, then, that in Keyes’ words, “Cahill should be seen in company with other pioneers such as Charles Babbage or Gregor Mendel, who died long before their efforts gained wider appreciation. As well, he antedates Buckminster Fuller, prophet of Spaceship Earth.”

Keyes goes on to note that, “Cahill was not merely an astute architect and cartographer, but, that like Fuller, his map expressed an underlying whole-earth philosophy much like themes which emerged 60 years later. Cahill used the term “geosophy” in that regard….” (And used it as early as 1912, well before the geographer J.K. Wright, commonly credited for having coined the term in 1947).

Will Cahill’s map ever catch on? The latest sign of renewed interest in Cahill’s projection comes from its adaptation by the New York Times as the basis for a series of 10 maps published in December 2011 illustrating the changing world of computing, communications and technology.

Keyes closes his account of Cahill’s map by quoting Ambrose Bierce, who in a letter to Cahill, wrote that, “The Butterfly Map is indubitably the right one, but it will be a long time before it gets into general use….”

Sadly, that has proved to be all too true, despite its inclusion in the design of a Mexican postage stamp.

Related posts using Mexican stamps for illustration:

Nov 142016
 

The production of (genuine) tequila is tightly regulated because tequila has denomination of origin status. This status (sometimes called appellation of origin) sets specific standards for producers in terms of how a product is grown or produced, processed and presented. Equally importantly, it defines the geographic indication, the specific places or regions where the product has to be made. Other items having denomination of origin status include champagne, asiago cheese and Melton Mowbray pork pies.

Geographic indications are “indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.” (World Trade Organization)

Mexico’s denomination of origin area for genuine tequila includes includes 180 municipalities in five states, a total area of about 11 million hectares (27 million acres).

Tequila producing areas of Jalisco and neighboring states.

Tequila producing areas of Jalisco and neighboring states. Credit: Tony Burton; all rights reserved. Click to enlarge

The main area (see map above) is the state of Jalisco (all 124 municipalities), with extensions into three neighboring states:

  • Nayarit (8 municipalities): Ahuacatlán, Amatlán de Cañas, Ixtlán del Río, Jala, Xalisco, San Pedro Lagunillas, Santa María del Oro and Tepic.
  • Guanajuato (7 municipalities): Abasolo, Cd. Manuel Doblado, Cuerámaro, Huanimaro, Pénjamo, Purísima del Rincón and Romita.
  • Michoacán (30 municipalities): Briseñas de Matamoros, Chavinda, Chilchota, Churintzio, Cotija, Ecuandureo, Jacona, Jiquilpan, Maravatío, Marcos Castellanos, Nuevo Parangaricutiro, Numarán, Pajacuarán, Peribán, La Piedad, Régules, Los Reyes, Sahuayo, Tancítaro, Tangamandapio, Tangancicuaro, Tanhuato, Tinguindín, Tocumbo, Venustiano Carranza, Villa Mar, Vista Hermosa, Yurécuaro, Zamora, and Zináparo.
Tequila growing area in Tamaulipas.

Tequila growing area in Tamaulipas. Credit: Tony Burton; all rights reserved. Click to enlarge.

About 80% of all blue agave is grown in Jalisco, and almost all tequila distilleries are located in the state.

The municipality of Maravatío in the eastern section of Michoacán is a tequila outlier, some distance away from the main producing area centered on Jalisco.

The other major outlier is a group of 11 municipalities in the northern border state of Tamaulipas (see second map) where 11 municipalities (Aldama, Altamira, Antiguo Morelos, Gómez Farías, González, Llera, Mante, Nuevo Morelos, Ocampo, Tula and Xicotencatl) are included in the denomination of origin for tequila.

The first denomination of origin for tequila was registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1978. Since that time every trade agreement signed by Mexico has contained a clause to ensure that tequila’s special status is fully protected by the other signatories. Mexico has signed free trade agreements with more countries than any other country in the world.

For example, the relevant NAFTA clause states that:

“Canada and the United States shall recognize Tequila and Mezcal as distinctive products of Mexico. Accordingly, Canada and the United States shall not permit the sale of any product as Tequila or Mezcal, unless it has been manufactured in Mexico in accordance with the laws and regulations of Mexico governing the manufacture of Tequila and Mezcal.”

In 1996, Mexico succeeded in getting the World Trade Organization to recognize tequila, and also mezcal, as denomination of origin products.

The following year, Mexico signed an agreement with the European Union whereby Mexico recognized 175 European spirits, including champagne, cognac, grappa and scotch, as having denomination of origin protection, in exchange for E.U. protection for tequila and mezcal. At that time, Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) estimated that some 3.5 million liters of “pseudo-tequilas” were sold annually in Europe under such names as “Blue Tarantula” in Italy and “Hot Tequila” in Finland (In search of the blue agave: Tequla’s denomination of origin).

Related posts:

Sep 292016
 

Alexander von Humboldt‘s visit to Mexico began in Acapulco on March 22, 1803, and lasted for almost a year. (He left Mexico via Veracruz for the USA on March 7, 1804.) In his year in Mexico, Humboldt had been incredibly busy. He had measured, recorded, observed and written about anything and everything, with remarkable industry and accuracy. He had climbed mountains, burned his boots on active volcanoes, descended into mines, recorded geographical coordinates, and collected numerous specimens and antiquities. Humboldt’s Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain was the first systematic scientific description of the New World. It appeared in 1811, and marked the birth of modern geography in Mexico. His figures and ideas were used and quoted by writers for many many years.

Humboldt had also drawn a large number of maps, drawings and sketches and it can rightly be claimed that the modern era of Mexican map-making began with Alexander von Humboldt, and was then developed further later in the 19th century by cartographers such as Antonio García Cubas.

Humboldt's route in Mexico

Humboldt’s route in Mexico. Click to enlarge

Alexander von Humboldt (Self-portrait c1814)

Alexander von Humboldt (Self-portrait c1814)

The map above shows the route followed by Humboldt during his time in Mexico. The map comes from the book La obra de Alexander von Humboldt en México by Rayfred Lionel Stevens-Middleton  (Mexico D.F.: Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historía, 1956). This hard-to-find work is a comprehensive account of Humboldt’s time in Mexico and of his significance for the development of what the author refers to as “modern geography”.

The map of Humboldt’s route in Mexico includes his various side trips such as those to Jorullo Volcano and Santa María Regla.

Humboldt was keen to see Jorullo Volcano, since it was a rare example of a brand new volcano, one of only a handful of volcanoes that have emerged on land anywhere in the world in historic times. Jorullo first erupted on 29 September 1759 and activity continued for 15 years until 1774. Two centuries later, and about 80 km (50 miles) away, Paricutín Volcano burst into action for the first time, in a farmer’s field in 1943.

Santa María Regla, in the state of Hidalgo, about an hour’s drive north of Mexico City, is the best known location in Mexico for basalt columns. The columns, up to 40 meters tall,  are attractively located on the side of a canyon, with a waterfall tumbling over some of them:

Despite only seeing a relatively small part of the country (New Spain as it then was), Humboldt was able to make some generalizations about geography in general, and Mexican geography in particular, that have stood the test of time remarkably well. For example, he was the first to describe the vertical differentiation of climatic and vegetation zones in Mexico. Writing in 1811, he proposed the terms tierra caliente, tierra templada, and tierra fría, terms still widely used by non-specialists today:

Related posts:

Note: this post was first published on May 7, 2012.

Apr 282016
 

Like most geographers, I collect maps and information wherever I travel; you never know what surprises await. Tourism publications are especially interesting since they are specifically designed (one assumes) to show the best side of the places described.

My collection of tourist brochures associated with Jalisco and the Lake Chapala area dates back more than thirty years. Many early versions had stylized maps, drawn by graphic designers, not cartographers, with sound (if uninspiring) text in Spanish. English translations were often unintelligible. In the 1980s, several bilingual members of the now-defunct Association of Travel Reporters, based in Guadalajara, offered to help the Jalisco State Tourism Department improve its translations, but the offer was politely declined.

chapala-brochure-2016

As this latest brochure relating to Lake Chapala shows, translation standards have not improved significantly since then, and remain a long way off “native speaker” level. This is particularly unfortunate, given that this area of Mexico has the largest concentration of English-speakers in the country.

Here, for example, is the English translation of the attractions of San Juan Cosalá:

One has to closely experience San Juan Cosalá in order to feel and enjoy it to the most, so come and discover a place you will never want to leave, for every happy moment can be lived here, as just by visiting you feel enveloped in an affluent of joy and vitality.

In getting to know it, just stroll across its Pier, or admire the harmonious architecture in San Juan Evangelista Church, or enjoy the exquisite aromas of seafood, bouncing from restaurants enlivened with fine music while walking over the Piedra Barrenada (Drilled Stone); or the rest;  freshness and fun offered in thermal waterparks and world level spas.

Undated tourism brochure, collected April 2016

Undated tourism brochure, collected April 2016

The cartography (above) also leaves a lot to be desired. A key (not shown in this post) is provided but the Jalisco Tourism department clearly needs to hire a geographer if they want to publish useful and meaningful maps. Details worth noting include:

  • No symbol in the key for the “gas station” signs shown on the map. The map shows only four gas stations in this area (and none in Chapala or Ajijic); there are dozens of others not shown on the map, including several in Chapala and Ajijic.
  • The map has no scale.
  • The Isla de los Alacranes, a short boat-ride from Chapala, is shown a long way south of its true position, and a lot further from Chapala than it really is.
  • The dark blue area is, according to the key, the Chapala Lakeshore. I have absolutely no idea what it really represents! Lake Chapala’s catchment area is a completely different shape to the dark blue area. The “Chapala Lakeshore” should, obviously, also include the south-east section of the lake around Las Palmas and Cojumatlán. Much of the area colored dark blue is out of view of the lake, and drains towards the Santiago River, not the lake.
  • Placing the word “CHAPALA” in the north-east section of the dark blue area is totally misleading. The area where the word is written is NOT in the lake basin, not in view of the lake, and is not even in the municipality of Chapala. Again, I have no idea why the artist responsible for this map chose to ignore geography.

It is 2016, and Jalisco State tourism officials still need to improve the quality of their brochures and maps. Come on guys! Time to up your game!

Does Quintana Roo share a border with Guatemala? Not any longer.

 Maps, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Does Quintana Roo share a border with Guatemala? Not any longer.
Jan 072016
 

The state of Quintana Roo is Mexico’s youngest state (together with Baja California Sur), though this is set to change when Mexico City is formally declared a state, probably later this year. Quintana Roo, established in 1974, is well known to tourists because its largest city is the tourist mega-resort of Cancún, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

The northern part of Quintana Roo has a shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico. To the west of Quintana Roo lie the states of Yucatán and Campeche. But what about the southern limit of the state? Does it, or does it not, share a border with Guatemala?

In the early 1990s, the answer to this question was certainly “yes”, but things have changed since then, and the correct answer today is “not any longer”.

Boundary disputes in Yucatan Peninsula

  • Source: INEGI Map of the Disputed Areas

The state officially claims an area of 44,705 square kilometers (17,261 sq mi), but since 1996-97 there has  been a boundary dispute with the states of Yucatán and Campeche over an area of approximately 10,200 square kilometers (3,900 sq mi).

The contentious boundary issue arose when Campeche delimited a new municipality, Calakmul, in the south-east part of the state, and in doing so “annexed” a piece of Quintana Roo. This shifted the boundary between the two states towards the east, with a knock-on effect that the state of Yucatán also lost a small amount of territory to Campeche. However, Yucatán State simultaneously gained ground from Quintana Roo (see map). Confused? Well, that is really only the beginning, since the states of Yucatán and Campeche also dispute their shared boundary further north.

Confused administrative boundaries are never an easy thing to fix, and land boundary disputes are rife in Mexico at every level, so getting municipal, state and federal authorities to agree on a resolution takes time. The major Campeche-Quintana Roo dispute arose in the late 1990s, but was only finally settled, somewhat arbitrarily by federal court, in 2013. The court sided with Campeche, and Quintana Roo lost its border with Guatemala.

Oh dear… our Geo-Mexico map of Quintana Roo is now out of date!

Related posts:

Maps of Mexico on geo-mexico.com

 Index page, Maps  Comments Off on Maps of Mexico on geo-mexico.com
Dec 012015
 

This page lists some of the many maps on Geo-Mexico.com, as of 30 November 2015.

Want to use a map? All these maps [except those marked  (*)] are original Geo-Mexico.com maps. The use of any of Geo-Mexico’s maps for educational purposes is fine, provided credit is given to  Geo-Mexico.com. For commercial use (including business presentations, newsletters, magazines, books, TV), please contact us with details of your project via the link or the Contact Us form.

This page is updated every few months to reflect new additions to our site:

General / Educational:

Physical geography

Hazards:

Population

Economy

Regional and city maps

Crime:

History:

Other:

Mapping exercises:

 Posted by at 11:15 am  Tagged with:

The spatial development of Mexico’s railway network

 Excerpts from Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on The spatial development of Mexico’s railway network
Dec 202014
 

At the end of the nineteenth century, during the successive presidencies of Porfirio Díaz, railway building leapt forward. Díaz aggressively encouraged rail development through generous concessions and government subsidies to foreign investors. By 1884 Mexico had 12,000 km of track, including a US-financed link from Mexico City to the USA through Torreón, Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez. A British company had completed lines from Mexico City to Guadalajara, and from Mexico City via Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo.

Fig. 17.2 The development of Mexico's railway network

Fig. 17.2 The development of Mexico’s railway network. Copyright: Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved

By the start of the twentieth century, additional tracks connected Guadalajara, San Luis Potosí and Monterrey to the Gulf coast port of Tampico. A line connecting the Pacific and Gulf coasts was also completed. Durango was now connected to Eagle Pass on the US border. A second line to Veracruz was constructed, with a spur to Oaxaca. Laws passed in 1898 sought to bring order to the rapid and chaotic expansion of Mexico’s rail system. Foreign concessions were restricted. Subsidies were only made available for the completion of missing links such as lines to Manzanillo and the Guatemala border. Efforts were made to standardize track gauges.

After the Revolution, network improvements were hindered by poor administration, corruption, labor unions and a shift of government priority to roads. The west coast railroad from Sonora to Guadalajara was completed in 1927. The Yucatán Peninsula was joined to the national network in the 1950s and the famous Chihuahua to Los Mochis line through the Copper Canyon was completed in 1961, finally linking Texas and Mexico’s northern plateau to the Pacific Ocean.

Related posts:

Where are Mexico’s mangrove swamps?

 Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Where are Mexico’s mangrove swamps?
Aug 142014
 

The National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, CONABIO), has identified 81 distinct areas in Mexico that have mangroves with “biological significance and in need of varying degrees of ecological rehabilitation” (see summary map). These regions are distributed as follows:

  • 10 on the northern Pacific Coast
  • 6 on the central Pacific Coast
  • 13 on the southern Pacific Coast
  • 27 on the Gulf of Mexico and
  • 25 on the Yucatán Peninsula.

A national inventory has now been compiled by CONABIO. All areas have been surveyed and preliminary descriptions published including details of their location, size, physical characteristics, socioeconomic conditions, local uses of mangrove, biological details, including vegetation structure, and an assessment of local impacts and risks, management and existing conservation measures.

Map of distribution of mangroves in MexicoThe areas of mangroves have been mapped at a scale of 1:50,000 and satellite photos from 2005-2006 have been used in conjunction with fieldwork to calculate the areas of mangroves. The final map is believed to be more than 90% accurate, a reasonable baseline for future comparisons. CONABIO is planning to resurvey the mangrove areas every 5 years following the same methodology.

According to preliminary comparisons with previous attempts to quantify the extent of mangroves in Mexico (the subject of a future post), the loss of mangroves was greatest in the period 1970-1980, and in 2000-2005, but then diminished in the period 2005-2010.

Between 2005 and 2010, the states where mangrove loss remained high (as a percentage of the total area of mangroves in the state) included Chiapas, Baja Californa Sur and Sonora. However, the states losing the largest areas of mangroves in absolute terms were Quintana Roo, Campeche and Nayarit. Jalisco has the unfortunate distinction of being the state where coastal mangrove loss was highest (in terms of the proportion of its total coastline length bordered by mangroves).

Related posts:

The regional geography of tacos

 Books and resources  Comments Off on The regional geography of tacos
Jun 072014
 

A taco is a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around other edible ingredients, and designed to be eaten by hand – the indigenous Mexican equivalent of a sandwich. Tacos are extremely versatile and often accompanied by garnishes such as tomatoes, onions, lettuce, radishes, and avocado or guacamole, topped with salsa and cilantro.

Who would have thought that the humble taco was worth its own encyclopaedia? This particular encyclopaedia includes a fascinating graphic – a map (see graphic) summarizing the different regional varieties of taco commonly found in different parts of the country.

The accompanying terminology used to describe all these tacos is mind-blowing, but a small sampling will give you the idea:

Regional varieties of Mexican tacos

Regional varieties of Mexican tacos. Credit: La tacopedia. Enciclopedia del taco (Spanish Edition) . Click to enlarge.

The map is by no means an exhaustive list, but does include examples of taco specialties for every state.

The two states occupying the Baja California Peninsula both have seafood-based tacos:

  • Baja California – tacos de langosta con frijoles (lobster and beans tacos)
  • Baja California Sur – tacos de marlin ahumado (smoked marlin tacos)

The tacos popular in some states reveal less about their ingredients:

  • Aguascalientes – tacos mineros (miner’s tacos)
  • Coahuila – tacos laguneros (Laguna region tacos)
  • Morelos – tacos acorazados (battleship tacos)
  • Puebla – taquitos miniatura (miniature tacos)

For some unusual ingredients, try:

  • Chiapas – tacos de hormiga chicatana (flying ant tacos)
  • Colima – tacos de sesos (brain tacos)
  • Hidalgo – tacos de gusanos de maguey (maguey worm tacos)
  • Yucatán – tacos de tzic de venado (shredded venison tacos)

Feeling daring? Try the tacos envenenados in Zacatecas. The literal meaning is “poisoned tacos”, but they are apparently named so as not to reveal all their ingredients!

Tacos have become incredibly popular. While they predate the Spanish conquest, they are now well on their way to conquering large swathes of North America and Europe.

The regional patterns is analyzed further by Frank Jacobs in 604 – A Tacography of Mexico

For more about tacos, we recommend reading La tacopedia. Enciclopedia del taco by Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena (Trilce Ediciones, 2012).

Related posts:

The pattern of farm sizes in Mexico: is there a north-south divide?

 Other  Comments Off on The pattern of farm sizes in Mexico: is there a north-south divide?
Feb 242014
 

In 2007, INEGI census recorded 2.4 million “units of production” (farms) under 2 hectares in size. This number is 43.5% of all farms, and includes farms not being actively worked. 22.9% of farms were between 2 and 5 hectares in area and a further 23.4% between 5 and 20 hectares. In sum, almost 90% of all farms had an area of 20 hectares or less. At the other end of the size spectrum, 2.2% of farms were larger than 100 hectares.

In terms of land tenure, 68.5% of all farms were in ejidos (a form of collective farming), 28.5% held privately and the remaining 3% were other (communal, public, mixed). Almost three-quarters of all farms under 20 hectares in area are ejidos, whereas about three-quarters of all farms over 100 hectares in size are private.

Map of average farm size in Mexico, by state, 2007

Map of average farm size in Mexico, by state, 2007. Data: INEGI. Credit: Tony Burton/Geo-Mexico

The choropleth map (above) shows the average size of farms (in hectares) by state. It is very clear that larger farms are concentrated in northern Mexico. All the states along the US border have average farm sizes in excess of 100 hectares. At the other extreme, a ring of states in central Mexico (centered on the Federal District) have average farm sizes that are below 5 hectares. The average farm size is slightly larger to the south of that ring of tiny farms, and significantly larger towards the east, including those states comprising the Yucatán Peninsula.

The general pattern is of a north-south division, which becomes even clearer when the average farm sizes are plotted as an isoline map. With minor exceptions, the “surface” represented by these isolines slopes steeply away form the highest values in north-western Mexico towards the south-east.

Average farm size in Mexico

Average farm size in Mexico. Data: INEGI Credit: Tony Burton / Geo-Mexico

Classroom exercise

Having recognized this pattern in farm sizes, can you think of reasons that might explain it? The short answer is that farm sizes vary in response to a multitude of factors, These include historical, demographic, and socioeconomic factors as well as relief, climate, natural vegetation and soils.

Q1. Compare the maps in this post with maps for some of the factors you think might be important. (Try our Geo-Mexico Map Index as a starting point). For example, the northern area of Mexico, the area with largest farms, is primarily semi-arid or arid. Why might farms in arid and semi-arid areas be larger than in other areas?

Q2. Have a class discussion about the relative importance of the factors that have been identified or suggested.

Q3. Discuss the relative merits of the two mapping methods used in this post (choropleth and isoline) to portray average farm sizes.

Related posts:

Geo-Mexico has many other agriculture-related posts (easily found via our tag system). They include posts about the geography of growing/producing Christmas trees, cacao, honey, sugarcane, coffee, chiles, floriculture, tomatoes, tequila, horticultural cropsand oranges. Also worth reading are: