Feb 192010

Mexico has a long tradition of geography. Modern geography was given a jump-start in the country by the brilliant Prussian traveler Alexander von Humboldt, who explored Mexico for twelve months in 1803–04.

The Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics was founded in 1833, only three years after the UK’s Royal Geographical Society and fully 55 years before the National Geographic Society. Geography remains a popular and respected subject in Mexican high schools and universities.

Even prior to Humboldt, many authors had made valuable descriptions of many aspects of Mexico’s geography. Writing in the mid-17th century, but looking back to a century earlier, Father Antonio Tello, in describing the province of Xalisco (Jalisco) offers lots of information about plants, animals, natural hazards, rivers and natural hot springs, while speculating about whether underwater springs fed Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest natural lake.

Though many volumes have been lost, the surviving parts of the Geographic Accounts written at the end of the 16th century are a veritable “Domesday Book” of information.

After Humboldt, however, geography set off on a much more scientific, analytical path, one which has continued to the present day and which has now resulted in Richard Rhoda and Tony Burton’s Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.

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