Monarch butterflies in a Michoacan sanctuary © Tony Burton, 1997

Butterflies by the million : the Monarchs of Michoacán

Every winter, more than one hundred million monarch butterflies fly into Mexico from the U.S. and Canada. On arrival they congregate in a dozen localities high in the temperate pine and fir forests of the state of Michoacán. As a species, monarchs are native to North America, but they subsequently island-hopped their way around the […]

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Riding the cart to the train, near Ixhuatan, Oaxaca © Tony Burton 1985

Did you know? Mexico has many “Est”raordinary railway places

An earlier column, “Microwaves (with a view)”, examined the scenic delights to be found by following the “Microondas” road signs that puzzle many first-time visitors. That column probably didn’t appeal to any passing historians, but another road-sign abbreviation, “EST”, could easily have been invented just for them. EST stands for Estación. In some contexts, this would […]

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The Battle of Calderon Bridge (Tony Burton)

Did you know? Independence battle map is upside down

The battle in question is the Battle of Calderon Bridge (Batalla del Puente de Calderon), fought just outside Guadalajara in January 1811 as part of Mexico’s fight for Independence. The decisive battle was waged on the morning of Thursday, January 17. Imagine the scene. One side, led by Ignacio Allende, had some eighty thousand ill-equipped […]

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Fuchsia fulgens

Did you know? Many common garden flowers originated in Mexico

Karl Theodor Hartweg (1812-1871) came from a long line of gardeners and had gardening in his genes. Born in Karlsruhe, Germany, on June 18, 1812, he worked in Paris, at the Jardin des Plantes, before moving to England to work in the U.K. Horticultural Society’s Chiswick gardens in London. Keen to travel even further afield, […]

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Primitive tequila still (Lumholtz, 1897)

Did You Know? Tequila dates from the sixteenth century

In 1897, Carl Lumholtz, the famous Norwegian ethnologist, who spent several years living with remote Indian tribes in Mexico, found that the Huichol Indians in eastern Nayarit distilled agave juice using simple pot stills, the pots being quite unlike any other Spanish or pre-Columbian vessels. By 1944, Henry Bruman, a University of California geographer, had […]

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Did you know? Mexico has over thirty UNESCO-designated biosphere reserves

A surprising percentage of Mexico’s land area is protected in one form or another. A very large number of sites of archaeological or historical importance are managed by the National Institute of Anthropology and History, more commonly known by its acronym INAH. In theory, all buildings more than 100 years old have some degree of […]

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Juan Pascoe at his press Photo reproduced by kind permission of Juan Pascoe

Did you know? Mexico has one of the world’s oldest still-functioning printing presses

One of the oldest printing presses still in operation anywhere in the world is in Tacámbaro, Michoacán. Juan Pascoe lives on a remote ex-hacienda outside Tacámbaro, Michoacán. Visitors invited to view his work often think they’ve lost their way in the surrounding sugar-cane fields, but then suddenly catch their first glimpse of the former Great […]

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Potato, onion, garlic and eggs are essential for tortitas de papa. © Daniel Wheeler, 2010

Did You Know? A fungus from Mexico and the Irish potato famine

There wouldn’t be many Irish people in the United States if it wasn’t for a Mexican fungus. The census of 1841 in Ireland recorded a population of about 8 million. This figure was a staggering 300% more than sixty years earlier. The staple Irish food at that time was the humble potato and Ireland’s rapid […]

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Did you know? Dinosaur bones in Mexico

Thousands of dinosaur bones have been found in northern Mexico. Bones literally litter the ground. Here’s a femur; there’s a tibia; vertebrae, ribs, skulls… Dozens of dinosaurs, including the world’s cheapest, have been unearthed in a broad belt across northern Mexico, from Baja California and Sonora in the west, through Chihuahua, and Coahuila to Nuevo […]

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American novelist Charles Fleming Embree set his first novel at Lake Chapala

Embree was born in Princeton, Indiana, October 1, 1874, the son of lawyer David Franklin Embree, member of a prominent pioneer family, and Mary Fleming Embree. He was educated in Princeton public schools and entered Wabash College in the fall of 1892. After three years he left college without graduating to devote himself to writing, […]

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