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Mexico is distinguished as a country of parallel realities, countless contradictions and staggering disparities. It is a country where ancient cultural tradition meets spring break debauchery and mass consumer industry collides with indigenous craft. Mexico’s extraordinarily long and tumultuous history can account for such modern juxtapositions, as highly developed civilizations have inhabited the region for nearly 3,000 years. The rise and fall of great societies, particularly before Spanish arrival, has enriched the country with fantastic legends and lore that infiltrate every aspect of Mexico’s art, design and architecture. Hernán Cortés’ Spanish conquest of the Aztec (Mexica) capital in the 16th century resulted in a unique superimposition of Spanish culture over indigenous heritage and beliefs that can be identified everywhere in Mexico today.
Mexico’s Advanced Ancient Age
The Yucatán Peninsula is an archeological goldmine. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico’s southern shore, the region was the center of Mayan civilization throughout their rule. The extensive ruins at Calakmul (“The City of Two Adjacent Pyramids”) are some of the most spectacular, embedded in the thick tropical forest of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and best viewed from atop one of the ancient city’s pyramids. Just east of the peninsula, Teotihuacán is the archeological site of ancient Mexico’s largest city and most unifying empire. By 200 A.D. this metropolis was home to the third largest pyramid in the world, the Pyramid of the Sun, with a total of 248 steps. The remains of the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Mayan and Aztec Empires, along with their surviving descendents, expose an intriguing ancient history of advanced mathematics, astronomy, farming and technology unknown to the rest of the world and largely obliterated by European conquest and disease in the 16th century.
Solace in the Sand and Sun
Travel to Mexico to experience one of North America’s most popular vacation destinations, particularly during the winter. A majority of Mexico is situated in the tropics, making weather somewhat reliable and the months of July and August necessarily avoidable, when temperatures may not drop below 90F at night. Visit the year-round resort towns of Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta along Mexico’s Pacific coast and Cancun and Veracruz along the warmer waters of the Gulf coast. The island of Cozumel, just off the coast of Cancun, boasts some of the world’s best scuba diving and the surrounding sea is completely protected as an underwater national park. Baja California, which borders the Sea of Cortes and the Pacific, is an extremely popular destination for surfers, sea kayakers and loungers alike. Great waves, sea caves and the proximity of many interesting locales intensifies the lure of this western peninsula.
Mexico’s majesty lies south of the border. Move past the mental images of Tijuana stereotypes and explore Mexico’s grand urban centers like Mexico City and Guadalajara. Put on a sombrero, dance to a Mariachi band and sip the finest tequila on Earth while exploring nearly 20,000 years of human history!
Read more articles by: Frank Johnson
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