Top Ten Mexican Attractions

Top Ten Mexican Attractions

       Mexico is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the US; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost two million square km (over 760,000 square mi), Mexico is the 5th largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent nation in the world. With an estimated population of over 112 million, it is the 11th most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and a Federal District, the capital city. In Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica many cultures matured into advanced civilizations such as the Olmec, the Toltec, the Teotihuacan, the Zapotec, the Maya and the Aztec before the first contact with Europeans. In 1521, Spain conquered and colonized the territory from its base in México-Tenochtitlan, which was administered as the Viceroyalty of New Spain. This territory would eventually become Mexico as the colony’s independence was recognized in 1821. The post-independence period was characterized by economic instability, the Mexican-American War and territorial cession to the US, a civil war, two empires and a domestic dictatorship. The latter led to the Mexican Revolution in 1910, which culminated with the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution and the emergence of the country’s current political system. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time that an opposition party won the presidency from the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Mexico has one of the world’s largest economies, and is considered both a regional power and middle power. In addition, Mexico was the first Latin American member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD (since 1994), and a firmly established upper-middle income country. Mexico is considered a newly industrialized country and an emerging power. It has the 13th largest nominal GDP and the 11th largest by purchasing power parity. The economy is strongly linked to those of its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, especially the US. In 2007 Mexico was the 10th most visited country in the world with 21.4 million international arrivals per year.

  1. Mexico City

           Mexico is the Federal District (Distrito Federal), capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole. Mexico City is the country’s largest city as well as its most important political, cultural, educational and financial center. As an “alpha” global city Mexico City is one of the most important financial centers in North America. It is located in the Valley of Mexico (Valle de Mexico), a large valley in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico, at an altitude of 2,240 m (7,350 ft.). The city consists of 16 boroughs. The 2009 estimated population for the city proper was around 8.84 million people, and has a land area of 1,485 square km (573 square mi). According to the most recent definition agreed upon by the federal and state governments, the Mexico City metropolitan area population is 21.2 million people, making it the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the 5th largest agglomeration in the world. Mexico City has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $390 billion US$ in 2008, making Mexico City the 8th richest city in the world. The city was responsible for generating 21% of Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product and the metropolitan area accounted for 34% of total national GDP. The city was originally built on an island of Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs in 1325 AD as Tenochtitlan, which was almost completely destroyed in the 1521 siege of Tenochtitlan, and subsequently redesigned and rebuilt in accordance with the Spanish urban standards. In 1524, the municipality of Mexico City was established, known as México Tenochtitlán, and as of 1585 it was officially known as La Ciudad de México (Mexico City). Mexico City served as the political, administrative and financial center of a major part of the Spanish colonial empire. After independence from Spain was achieved, the Federal District was created in 1824. After years of demanding greater political autonomy, residents were given the right to directly elect the Head of Government and the representatives of the unicameral Legislative Assembly by popular vote in 1997. Ever since, the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has controlled both of them. In recent years, the local government has passed a wave of liberal policies, such as abortion on request to any woman up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, a limited form of euthanasia, no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten North American Cities, Top Ten Theatres, Top Ten Museums, Top Ten North American Museums, Top Ten Mexican Museums, Sculptures, Top 100 North American Sculptures, Top Ten Castles, Top Ten North American Castles, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico_City,
  2. Teotihuacán

           Teotihuacán is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, just 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the Avenue of the Dead, and numerous colorful, well-preserved murals. Additionally, Teotihuacan produced a thin orange pottery style that spread through Mesoamerica. The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC and continued to be built until about 250 AD. The city may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population of perhaps 125,000 or more, placing it among the largest cities of the world in this period. Teotihuacan was even home to multi-floor apartment compounds built to accommodate this large population. The civilization and cultural complex associated with the site is also referred to as Teotihuacan or Teotihuacano. Although it is a subject of debate whether Teotihuacan was the center of a state empire, its influence throughout Mesoamerica is well documented; evidence of Teotihuacano presence can be seen at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya region. The Aztecs may have been influenced by this city. The ethnicity of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan is also a subject of debate. Possible candidates are the Nahua, Otomi or Totonac ethnic groups. Scholars have also suggested that Teotihuacan was a multiethnic state. The city and the archaeological site are located in what is now the San Juan Teotihuacán municipality in the State of México, Mexico, approximately 40 km (25 mi) northeast of Mexico City. It is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico.
    Links: Pyramids, Museums, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teotihuacan,
  3. Chichen Itza

           Chichen Itza, “at the mouth of the well of the Itza,” was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya civilization. The archaeological site is located in the municipality of Tinum, in the Mexican state of Yucatán. Chichen Itza was a major focal point in the northern Maya lowlands from the Late Classic (600–900 AD) through the Terminal Classic (800–900) and into the early portion of the Early Postclassic period (900–1200). The site exhibits a multitude of architectural styles, reminiscent of styles seen in central Mexico and of the Puuc and Chenes styles of the northern Maya lowlands. The presence of central Mexican styles was once thought to have been representative of direct migration or even conquest from central Mexico, but most contemporary interpretations view the presence of these non-Maya styles more as the result of cultural diffusion. Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, or Tollans, referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. The city may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site. The ruins of Chichen Itza are federal property, and the site’s stewardship is maintained by Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History, INAH). The land under the monuments had been privately-owned until March 29, 2010, when it was purchased by the state of Yucatán. Chichen Itza is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico; an estimated 1.2 million tourists visit the ruins every year.
    Links: Pyramids, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chichen_Itza,
  4. Palenque

           Palenque (Bàak’ in Modern Maya) was a Maya city state in southern Mexico that flourished in the 7th century. The Palenque ruins date back to 100 BC to its fall around 800 AD. After its decline it was absorbed into the jungle, which is made up of cedar, mahogany, and sapodilla trees, but has been excavated and restored and is now a famous archaeological site attracting thousands of visitors. It is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas, located about 130 km (81 mi) south of Ciudad del Carmen about 150 m above sea-level. Palenque is a medium-sized site, much smaller than such huge sites as Tikal or Copán, but it contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb and bas-relief carvings that the Mayas produced. Much of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed from reading the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the many monuments; historians now have a long sequence of the ruling dynasty of Palenque in the 7 century and extensive knowledge of the city-state’s rivalry with other states such as Calakmul and Toniná. The most famous ruler of Palenque was Pacal the Great whose tomb has been found and excavated in the Temple of the Inscriptions. By 2005, the discovered area covered up to 2.5 km² (1 square mi), but it is estimated that less than 10% of the total area of the city is explored, leaving more than a thousand structures still covered by jungle.
    Links: Top 100 Mayan Artifacts, Top Ten Relieves, Top Ten North American Relieves, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Hispanic_City_and_National_Park_of_Palenque,
  5. Cancún

           Cancún is a city of international tourism development certified by the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization). Located on the northeast coast of Quintana Roo in southern Mexico, more than 1,700 km from Mexico City, the Project began operations in 1974 as Integrally Planned Center, a pioneer of FONATUR (Fondo Nacional de Fomento al Turismo, National Fund for Tourism Development), formerly known as INFRATUR. Since then, it has undergone a comprehensive transformation from being a fisherman’s island surrounded by virgin forest and unknown shores to being one of the two most renowned Mexican resorts, along with Acapulco. Politically, it is the county seat of Benito Juárez municipio (county), in the state of Quintana Roo. The World Tourism Organization (WTO), through its foundation UNWTO-Themis, awarded the Best of the Best “for excellence and good governance” to the Trust for Tourism Promotion of Cancun on February 3, 2007. This gave Cancún the support of the Department of Education and Knowledge Management of the WTO.
    Links: Top Ten Resorts, Top Ten North American Resorts, Top 100 Beaches, Top Scuba Diving Sites, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canc%C3%BAn,
  6. El Tajín

           El Tajín is a pre-Columbian archeological site and one of the largest and most important cities of the Classic era of Mesoamerica. A part of the Classic Veracruz culture, El Tajín flourished from 600 to 1200 AD, at which time numerous temples, palaces, ballcourts and pyramids were built. From the time the city fell in 1230 to near the end of the 18th century, no European seems to have known of its existence, until a government inspector chanced upon the Pyramid of the Niches in 1785. The architecture at El Tajín includes the use of decorative niches and cement in forms unknown in the rest of Mesoamerica. Its best-known monument is the Pyramid of the Niches, but other important monuments include the Arroyo Group, the North and South Ballcourts and the palaces of Tajín Chico. In total there have been 17 ballcourts discovered at this site. Since the 1970’s, El Tajin has been the most important archeological site in Veracruz for tourists, attracting over 650,000 visitors a year. It is also the site of the annual Cumbre Tajin Festival, which occurs each March featuring indigenous and foreign cultural events as well as concerts by popular musicians.
    Links: Pyramids, Sculptures, Top 100 North American Sculptures, Top 100 Busts, Top Ten Relieves, Top Ten South American Relieves, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Tajin,
  7. Uxmal

           Uxmal is an ancient Mayan city of the classical period. Today is one of the most important archaeological sites of Mayan culture, along with those of Chichen Itza and Tikal. It is located in the called Puuc region and is the city most representative of this architectural style. It is located 62 km south of Mérida, capital of Yucatán state in Mexico. Its buildings are noted for their size and decoration. Among them, as well as to other cities in the area, there are built few roads called sacbes. Its buildings are typical of the Puuc style, with smooth low walls that open on ornate friezes based on representations of typical Mayan huts, which are represented by columns (representing the reeds with which were built the walls of the huts) and trapezoidal shapes (representing the thatched roofs), entwined snakes and, in many cases two-headed snakes, masks of the rain god, Chaac with its big noses that represent the rays of the storms, and feathered serpents with open fangs leaving from the same human beings. Also seen in some cities influences of Nahua origin and the follow of the cult of Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc that were integrated with the original bases of the Puuc tradition. The buildings take advantage of the terrain to gain height and acquire important volumes, include the Pyramid of the Magician, with five levels, and the Governor’s Palace which covers an area of more than 1.200m².
    Links: Pyramids, Top 100 Masks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Hispanic_Town_of_Uxmal,
  8. Puerto Vallarta

           Puerto Vallarta is a Mexican balneario resort city situated on the Pacific Ocean’s Bahía de Banderas. The 2010 census reported Puerto Vallarta’s population as 255,725 making it the 6th largest city in the state of Jalisco. The City of Puerto Vallarta is the government seat of the Municipality of Puerto Vallarta which comprises the city as well as population centers outside of the city extending from Boca de Tomatlán to the Nayarit border (the Ameca River). The municipality has an area of 502.19 square mi (1,300.7 square km). To the North it borders the SW part of the state of Nayarit. To the east it borders the municipality of Mascota and San Sebastián del Oeste, and to the South it borders the municipalities of Talpa de Allende and Cabo Corriente. Puerto Vallarta is named after Ignacio Vallarta, a former governor of Jalisco.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Vallarta,
  9. Morelia

           Morelia is a city and municipality in the north central part of the state of Michoacán in central Mexico. The city is in the Guayangareo Valley and is the capital of the state. The main pre-Hispanic cultures here were the P’urhépecha and the Matlatzinca, but no major cities were founded in the valley during this time. The Spanish took control of the area in the 1520’s. The Spanish under Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza founded a settlement here in 1541 with the name of Valladolid, which became a rival to the nearby city of Pátzcuaro for dominance in Michoacán. In 1580, this rivalry ended in Valladolid’s favor and it became the capital of the colonial province. After the Mexican War of Independence, the city was renamed Morelia in honor of José María Morelos y Pavón, who is from here.
    Links: Top Ten Cathedrals, Top Ten Fountains, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_Centre_of_Morelia,
  10. Gulf of California

           The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez or Sea of Cortés or Vermilion Sea; locally known in the Spanish language as Mar de Cortés or Mar Bermejo or Golfo de California) is a body of water that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It is bordered by the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, and Sinaloa with a coastline of approximately 2,500 mi (4,000 km). Rivers which flow into the Gulf of California include the Colorado, Fuerte, Mayo, Sinaloa, Sonora and the Yaqui. The gulf’s surface area is about 62,000 square mi (160,000 square km). The name “Gulf of California” predominates on most maps in English today. The name “Sea of Cortés” or Mar de Cortés is the one preferred by most local residents. The Gulf is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet, and is home to more than 5,000 species of macro-invertebrates. Baja California itself is actually one of the longest, most isolated peninsulas in the world, second only to the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia.
    Links: Top Ten Seas, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islands_and_Protected_Areas_of_the_Gulf_of_California,
  11. Puebla

    The city and municipality of Puebla is the capital of the state of Puebla, and one of the five most important colonial cities in Mexico. Being a planned city, it is located to the east of Mexico City and west of Mexico’s main port, Veracruz, on the main route between the two. The city was founded in 1531 in an area called Cuetlaxcoapan, which means “where serpents change their skin,” in between of two of the main indigenous settlements at the time, Tlaxcala and Cholula. This valley was not populated in the 16th century as in the pre-Hispanic period; this area was primarily used to the “Flower Wars” between a number of populations. Architectural styles range from Renaissance to Mexican Baroque, and the city is also famous for mole poblano, chiles en nogada and Talavera pottery. However, most of its economy is based on industry. Being both the 4th largest city in Mexico and the 4th largest Metropolitan area in Mexico, the city serves as one of the main hubs for southeast Mexico. Many students come from all over the country. The city is also important because of its industry; one of the largest Volkswagen factories in the world not located in Germany, is located in the Municipality of Cuautlancingo. As a result, a lot of supplier factories have opened in the city of Puebla.
    Links: Top Ten Volcanoes, Top Ten Dome Interiors, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_Centre_of_Puebla,
  12. Guanajuato

           Guanajuato is a city and municipality in central Mexico and the capital of the state of the same name. It is located in a narrow valley, which makes the streets of the city narrow and winding. Most are alleys that cars cannot pass through, and some are long sets of stairs up the mountainsides. Many of the city’s thoroughfares are partially or fully underground. The historic center of the city is filled with colonial area mansions, churches and civil constructions built with pink or green sandstone and small plazas. The city was the result of the discovery of mines in the mountains that surround it. These mines were so rich that the city was one of the most influential during the colonial period. One of the mines, La Valenciana, accounted for two-thirds of the world’s silver production at its height. The city is home to the Mummy Museum, which contains naturally mummified bodies that were found in the municipal cemetery between the mid 19th and 20th centuries. It is also home to the Festival Internacional Cervantino, which invites artists and performers from all over the world as well as Mexico. The city was also the site of the first battle of the Mexican War of Independence between insurgent and royalist troops at the Alhóndiga de Granaditas.
    Links: Sculptures, Top 100 North American Sculptures, Top Ten Statues of Jesus, Top Ten Churches, Top Ten North American Churches, Top Ten Basilicas, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_Town_of_Guanajuato_and_Adjacent_Mines,
  13. Yaxchilan

           Yaxchilan (also sometimes historically referred to by the names Menché and City Lorillard) is an ancient Maya city located on the bank of the Usumacinta River in what is now the state of Chiapas, Mexico. In the Late Classic Period Yaxchilan was one of the most powerful Maya states along the course of the Usumacinta, with Piedras Negras as its major rival. Architectural styles in subordinate sites in the Usumacinta region demonstrate clear differences that mark a clear boundary between the two kingdoms. Yaxchilan was a large center, important throughout the Classic era and the dominant power of the Usumacinta River area. It dominated such smaller sites as Bonampak, and had a long rivalry with Piedras Negras and at least for a time with Tikal; it was a rival of Palenque, with which Yaxchilan warred in 654. The site is particularly known for its well-preserved sculptured stone lintels set above the doorways of the main structures. These lintels, together with the stele erected before the major buildings, contain hieroglyphic texts describing the dynastic history of the city. The ancient name for the city was probably Pa’ Chan. Yaxchilan means “green stones” in Maya.
    Links: Relieves and Petroglyphs, Top Ten North American Relieves, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaxchil%C3%A1n,
  14. Xochicalco

           Xochicalco is a pre-Columbian archaeological site in the Municipality of Miacatlán in the western part of the Mexican state of Morelos. The name Xochicalco may be translated from Nahuatl as “in the (place of the) house of Flowers.” The site is located 38 km southwest of Cuernavaca, about 76 miles by road from Mexico City. The site is open to visitors all week, from 10 am to 5 pm, although access to the observatory is only allowed after noon. The apogee of Xochicalco came after the fall of Teotihuacan and it has been speculated that Xochicalco may have played a part in the fall of the Teotihuacan Empire. The architecture and iconography of Xochicalco show affinities with Teotihuacan, the Maya area, and the Matlatzinca culture of the Toluca Valley. Today some residents of the nearby village of Cuentepec speak Nahuatl. The main ceremonial center is atop an artificially leveled hill, with remains of residential structures, mostly unexcavated, on long terraces covering the slopes. The site was first occupied by 200 BC, but did not develop into an urban center until the Epiclassic period (AD 700 – 900). Nearly all the standing architecture at the site was built at this time. At its peak, the city may have had a population of up to 20,000 people.
    Links: Sculptures, Top 100 North American Sculptures, Relieves and Petroglyphs, Top Ten North American Relieves, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeological_Monuments_Zone_of_Xochicalco,
  15. Tula de Allende

           Tula, formally, Tula de Allende, is a town and one of the 84 municipalities of Hidalgo, in central-eastern Mexico. The municipality covers an area of 305.8 km² (118.07 square mi), and as of 2005, the municipality had a total population of 93,296, with 28,432 in the town. The municipality includes numerous smaller outlying towns, the largest of which are El Llano, San Marcos, and San Miguel Vindho. It comprised one of the 56 defined Zona Metropolitana (ZM), of which Tula has 5 municipios, 184,691 people in 2005 Census, up from 169,901 in 2000 Census covering 592 square km. It is located some 100 km to the north-northwest of Mexico City. It covers part of the southeastern portion of the Pre-Columbian city. Nearby are the remains of the ancient capital city of the Toltecs, also known as “Tula” or as “Tollan.” Usually identified as the Toltec capital around 980 AD, the city was destroyed at some time between 1168 and 1179. Tula became the capital city following Teotihuacan, although it never reached the same size due to competing cities in the area.
    Links: Sculptures, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tula,_Mexico,
  16. Calakmul

           Calakmul is a Maya archaeological site in the Mexican state of Campeche, deep in the jungles of the greater Petén Basin region. It is 35 km (22 mi) from the Guatemalan border. Calakmul was one of the largest and most powerful ancient cities ever uncovered in the Maya lowlands. Calakmul is a modern name, in ancient times the city core was known as Ox Te’ Tuun. Calakmul was a major Maya power within the northern Peten region of the Yucatan of southern Mexico. Calakmul administered a large domain marked by the extensive distribution of their emblem glyph of the snake head sign, to be read “Kaan.” Calakmul was the seat of what has been dubbed the Kingdom of the Snake or Snake Kingdom. This Snake Kingdom reigned during most of the Classic period. Calakmul itself is estimated to have had a population of 50,000 people and had governance, at times, over places as far away as 150 km. There are 6,750 ancient structures identified at Calakmul the largest of which is the great pyramid at the site. Structure 2 is over 45 m (148 ft,) high, making it one of the tallest of the Maya pyramids. Four tombs have been located within the pyramid. Like many temples or pyramids within Mesoamerica the pyramid at Calakmul increased in size by building upon the existing temple to reach its current size. The size of the central monumental architecture is approximately 2 square km (0.77 square mi) and the whole of the site, mostly covered with dense residential structures, is about 20 square km (7.7 square mi). Throughout the Classic Period, Calakmul maintained an intense rivalry with the major city of Tikal to the south, and the political maneuverings of these two cities have been likened to a struggle between two Maya superpowers. Rediscovered from the air by biologist Cyrus L. Lundell of the Mexican Exploitation Chicle Company on December 29, 1931, the find was reported to Sylvanus G. Morley of the Carnegie Institute at Chichen Itza in March 1932. According to Lundell, who named the site, “In Maya, ‘ca’ means ‘two,’ ‘lak’ means ‘adjacent,’ and ‘mul’ signifies any artificial mound or pyramid, so ‘Calakmul’ is the ‘City of the Two Adjacent Pyramids’.”
    Links: Pyramids, Top 100 Mayan Artifacts, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Maya_City_of_Calakmul,_Campeche,
  17. Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico

           The site consists of a living, working landscape of blue agave fields and distilleries in Tequila, El Arenal and Amatitán where tequila is produced. It reflects more than 2,000 years of commercial use of the agave plant.
    Links: Top Ten Tequilas, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Americas,
  18. The Franciscan Missions of the Sierra Gorda

           The Franciscan Missions of the Sierra Gorda in the Mexican state of Querétaro are credited to Junípero Serra of the Franciscan Order, who also founded important missions in Alta California. The five missions are: Santiago de Jalpan and Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Tancoyol in the municipality of Jalpan, Santa María del Agua de Landa and San Francisco del Valle de Tilaco in Landa, and San Miguel Concá in Arroyo Seco. The facades of these churches are important because of the “Mestizo Baroque” style, which shows significant indigenous influence by the Pames who built them.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franciscan_Missions_in_the_Sierra_Gorda_of_Quer%C3%A9taro,
  19. Historic Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán

    The city and municipality of Oaxaca de Juárez, or simply Oaxaca, is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of the same name. It is located in the Centro District in the Central Valleys region of the state, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre at the base of the Cerro del Fortín extending to the banks of the Atoyac River. This city relies heavily on tourism, which is based on its large number of colonial-era structures as well as the native Zapotec and Mixtec cultures and archeological sites. It is also the home of the month-long cultural festival called the “Guelaguetza,” which features Oaxacan dance, music and a beauty pageant for indigenous women. It is nicknamed “la Verde Antequera” (the green Antequera) due to its prior name (Nueva Antequera) and the variety of structures built from a native green stone. The name Oaxaca is derived from the Nahuatl name for the place, Huaxyacac, which was Hispanicized to Guajaca, later spelled Oaxaca. “de Juárez” was added in honor of Benito Juárez, who was a native of this state. The coat of arms for the municipality bears the image of the decapitated Donaji, who was an indigenous princess in the years immediately after the Conquest. Monte Albán is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site in the Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán Municipality in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. The site is located on a low mountainous range rising above the plain in the central section of the Valley of Oaxaca where the latter’s northern Etla, eastern Tlacolula, and southern Zimatlán & Ocotlán (or Valle Grande) branches meet. The partially excavated civic-ceremonial center of the Monte Albán site is situated atop an artificially-leveled ridge, which with an elevation of about 1,940 m (6,400 ft.) above mean sea level rises some 400 m (1,300 ft) from the valley floor, in an easily defensible location. The archaeological ruins on the nearby Atzompa and El Gallo hills to the north are traditionally considered to be an integral part of the ancient city as well. Besides being one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica, Monte Albán’s importance stems also from its role as the pre-eminent Zapotec socio-political and economic center for close to a thousand years. Founded toward the end of the Middle Formative period at around 500 BC, by the Terminal Formative (100 BC-AD 200) Monte Albán had become the capital of a large-scale expansionist polity that dominated much of the Oaxacan highlands and interacted with other Mesoamerican regional states such as Teotihuacan to the north. The city had lost its political pre-eminence by the end of the Late Classic (500-750 AD) and soon thereafter was largely abandoned. Small-scale reoccupation, opportunistic reutilization of earlier structures and tombs, and ritual visitations marked the archaeological history of the site into the Colonial period. The etymology of the site’s present-day name is unclear, and tentative suggestions regarding its origin range from a presumed corruption of a native Zapotec name such as “Danibaan” (Sacred Hill) to a colonial-era reference to a Spanish soldier by the name Montalbán or to the Alban Hills of Italy. The ancient Zapotec name of the city is not known, as abandonment occurred centuries before the writing of the earliest available ethnohistorical sources.
    Links: Churches, Top Ten North American Churches, Top Ten Cathedrals, Top Ten Basilicas, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oaxaca,_Oaxaca, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Alb%C3%A1n,
  20. Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco

           The Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco is the name of the prehistoric rock art pictographs found in the Sierra de San Francisco region of Baja California Sur, Mexico.
    Links: Cave Paintings, Top Ten North American Cave Paintings, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Paintings_of_the_Sierra_de_San_Francisco,
  21. Yagul

           Yagul is an archaeological site and former city-state associated with the Zapotec civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, located in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The site was declared one of the country’s four Natural Monuments on October 13, 1998. The site is also known locally as Pueblo Viejo (Old Village) and was occupied at the time of the Spanish Conquest. After the Conquest the population was relocated to the nearby modern town of Tlacolula where their descendants still live. Yagul was first occupied around 500-100 BC. Around 500-700 AD, residential, civic and ceremonial structures were built at the site. However, most of the visible remains date to 1250-1521 AD, when the site functioned as the capital of a Postclassic city-state. The site was excavated in the 1950’s and 60’s by archaeologists Ignacio Bernal and John Paddock. Vestiges of human habitation in the area, namely cliff paintings at Caballito Blanco, date to at least 3,000 BC. After the abandonment of Monte Albán about 800 AD, the region’s inhabitants established themselves in various small centers such as Lambityeco, Mitla and Yagul. Mitla is the 2nd most important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, and the most important of the Zapotec culture. The site is located 44 km from the city of Oaxaca in the upper end of the Tlacolula Valley, one of the three that form the Central Valleys Region of the state. The archeological site is within the modern municipality of San Pablo Villa de Mitla. While Monte Albán was most important as the political center, Mitla was the main religious center. The name Mitla is derived from the Nahuatl name Mictlán, which was the place of the dead or underworld. Its Zapotec name is Lyobaa, which means “place of rest.” The name Mictlán was Hispanicized to Mitla by the Spanish. However, what makes Mitla unique among Mesoamerican sites is the elaborate and intricate mosaic fretwork and geometric designs that cover tombs, panels, friezes and even entire walls. These mosaics are made with small, finely cut and polished stone pieces which have been fitted together without the use of mortar. No other site in Mexico has this.
    Links: Palaces, Top Ten North American Palaces, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yagul, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitla,
  22. Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

           The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a conservation area within the wintering grounds of most of the monarch butterflies that migrate from east of the Rocky Mountains for up to 4,000 km south to central Mexico. The reserve is located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt pine-oak forests ecoregion on the border of Michoacán and Mexico State, 100 km (62 mi), northwest of Mexico City. It is estimated that between 60 million and 1 billion butterflies arrive in this area alone any given year. While over 56,000 hectares are part of the biosphere reserve, the butterflies themselves only inhabit a fraction of this when they are in Mexico from October to March. The biosphere’s mission is not only to protect the butterfly species, but also to protect the ecosystem of which it is a part. This area, which hosts the majority of wintering monarchs from the east of the US and Canada, has only been known to scientists since the 1970’s. Protection of the area began with a series of presidential decrees in the 1980’s, and a 2000 decree promoted the area to the status of federal biosphere reserve. Although the montane site remains predominantly rural, a number of conservationists are concerned about the deleterious effects of illegal logging, growing tourism, and tensions between conservation authorities and communities inhabiting the land upon which the Reserve was established.
    Links: Top Ten Butterflies, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch_Butterfly_Biosphere_Reserve,
  23. Bonus: Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

           The Hospicio Cabañas in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, is one of the oldest and largest hospital complexes in Spanish America. The complex was founded in 1791 by the Bishop of Guadalajara in order to combine the functions of a workhouse, hospital, orphanage and almshouse. It owes its name to Juan Ruiz de Cabañas who was appointed to the see of Guadalajara in 1796 and engaged Manuel Tolsá, a renowned architect from Mexico City, to design the structure. Tolsá’s design was based on classic examples such as Les Invalides in Paris and El Escorial near Madrid. The buildings form a rectangle measuring 164 m by 145 m. These are single-storied structures which are 7.5 m in height. The chapel is twice as high and has a dome rising to 32.5 m. The complex is erected on one level, “so as to facilitate the movement of the sick, the aged, and children.” Following the death of Cabañas in 1823, construction continued until 1829. Although it served for a time as a barracks in the mid-19th century, the hospital lasted well into the 20th century and continued to function until 1980, when the Cabañas Cultural Institute, with affiliated schools for arts and crafts, moved in. The highlight of the interior decoration is a series of monumental frescoes by José Clemente Orozco, including one of his most famed creations, the allegory of The Man of Fire (1936–39).
    Links: Top Ten Dome Interiors, Top Ten Domes, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hospicio_Caba%C3%B1as,_Guadalajara,
  24. El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve

           The El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, created in 1988, is located in Mulegé Municipality in northern Baja California Sur, at the center of the Baja California Peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez (or Gulf of California). With a landmass of over 55,555 square mi (143,600 square km) it is the largest wildlife refuge in all of Latin America and certainly the most diverse.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_Sanctuary_of_El_Vizcaino,
  25. Casas Grandes

           Casas Grandes, also known as Paquimé, is the contemporary name given to a pre-Columbian archaeological zone and its central site, located in northwestern Mexico in the modern-day Mexican state of Chihuahua. It is one of the largest and most complex sites in the region. Regarded as one of the most significant archaeological zones in the northwestern region, Casas Grandes is centered in a wide, fertile valley on the Casas Grandes or San Miguel river, some 35 miles (56 km) south of Janos and 150 miles (240 km) northwest of the state capital, the city of Chihuahua. The archaeological zone is contained within the eponymous modern municipio (municipality) of Casas Grandes. The valley and region has long been inhabited by indigenous groups.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeological_Zone_of_Paquim%C3%A9,_Casas_Grandes,
  26. Monasteries on the slopes of Popocatépetl

           The Monasteries on the slopes of Popocatépetl World Heritage Site are fourteen 16th century monasteries which were built by the Augustinians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans in order to evangelize the areas south and east of the Popocatépetl volcano in central Mexico. These monasteries served as the model for the early monastery and church buildings as well as evangelization efforts in New Spain and some points beyond in Latin America. These monasteries almost uniformly feature a very large atrium in front of a single nave church with an capilla abierta or open chapel. The atrium functioned as the meeting point between the indigenous peoples and the missionary friars with mass for the newly-converted held outdoors instead of within the church. This arrangement can be found repeated in other areas of Mexico as these friars continued to branch out over New Spain. The 14 monasteries are open to visitors, with 11 located in northern Morelos State and three in Puebla state. The eleven in Morelos are also promoted as the “Route of the Volcano” or the “Route of the Monasteries” for tourism purposes.
    Links: Top Ten Monasteries, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earliest_16th-Century_Monasteries_on_the_Slopes_of_Popocatepetl,
  27. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail

           El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail is a part of the US National Historic Trail system. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Spanish for “The Royal Road of the Interior Land”) was a 1,600 mi (2560 km) long trade route between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, from 1598 to 1882. The 404 mi (646 km) section of the route within the US was proclaimed as a National Historic Trail on October 13, 2000. The trail is overseen by both the National Park Service and the US Bureau of Land Management with aid from El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association.
    Links: Top Ten Roads, Top Ten Trails, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_Real_de_Tierra_Adentro,
  28. Pico de Orizaba

           The Pico de Orizaba, or Citlaltépetl, is a stratovolcano, the highest mountain in Mexico and the 3rd highest in North America. It rises 5,636 m (18,491 ft.) above sea level in the eastern end of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, on the border between the states of Veracruz and Puebla. The volcano is currently dormant but not extinct with the last eruption taking place during the 19th century. It is the 2nd most prominent volcanic peak in the world after Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro.
    Links: Top Ten Volcanoes, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pico_de_Orizaba,
  29. Tres Zapotes

           Tres Zapotes is a Mesoamerican archaeological site located in the south-central Gulf Lowlands of Mexico in the Papaloapan River plain. Tres Zapotes is sometimes referred to as the third major Olmec capital (after San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán and La Venta), although Tres Zapotes’ Olmec phase constitutes only a portion of the site’s history, which continued through the Epi-Olmec and Classic Veracruz cultural periods. The 2,000 year existence of Tres Zapotes as a cultural center is unusual, if not unique, in Mesoamerica.
    Links: Pyramids, Top Ten North American Pyramids, Top 100 Busts, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tres_zapotes,
  30. Dzibilchaltún

           Dzibilchaltún is a Maya archaeological site in the Mexican state of Yucatán, approximately 10 miles north of state capital Mérida.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzibilchaltun,
  31. Izapa

    Description:
    Links: Pyramids, Top Ten North American Pyramids, Top Ten Stelae,
  32. Links: Top Ten Mexican Hotels, Top Ten Mexican Restaurants, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico,

Gnosis Approved Products