Mexico: A Brief Overview of its Cultural Heritage, Geography, and Climate
Ancient, crumbling pyramids and ceremonial centers. Vividly-colored, handwoven rugs and textiles. Imaginatively fashioned arts and crafts. Craggy and parched cactus-studded deserts. Sun-washed, sandy beaches lining warm and ever-changing waters. Sparkling eyes flashing in golden-brown, smiling faces … this is Mexico!
Mexico over the centuries and millennia has been home to many cultural groups and influences, some of the major ones being the Olmecs, the Maya, Zapotecs, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Mixtecs.
Much of these ancient cultures were destroyed during the conquest and later colonization by the Spaniards as of the 1500s. Nevertheless, the result is a people and customs that form a rich ethnic and cultural tapestry, along with a wealth of archaeological relics and architectural marvels that span the ages.
Mexico holds a spectrum of geographical characteristics, and in traveling its expanse, one can quickly move from vast, arid deserts to steaming, tropical jungles, from lush wetlands rich in flora and fauna to towering, glacier-capped mountains, from rugged and wild, rocky coastlines to glistening, white-sanded and sun-washed beaches.
Mexico straddles the Tropic of Cancer, which almost bisects its north-south distance, and its climate ranges predominantly from temperate to sub-tropical.
Positioned between the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, the country’s climate is greatly affected by these large bodies of water as well as by the configuration its mountain ranges.
We’ve all heard of the Sierra Madres, the mountains of Mexico. The Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental (Eastern and Western mountain ranges) run slightly inland along each coastline. They define a central high plateau area in much of the country. The climate and vegetation on either side of these ranges can be quite distinct.
There are many volcanic peaks in Mexico, the highest being Orizaba, (5,639 meters), Popocatepetl (5,452 meters), and Ixtaccihuatl, or the Sleeping Lady (5,286 meters). Active volcanoes include the mentioned Popocatepetl and the Nevado de Colima in the west-coast state of Colima.
Rainy Season in Mexico
Most of Mexico experiences a defined rainy season during the summer months. Though rains often begin falling in May and can extend well into October, regular rains are most likely to fall only from June through September. In many areas, the rains in July and August tend to be lighter and less frequent.
Mexico is highly affected by tropical storms and often hurricanes during the Pacific and Atlantic hurricane seasons, which officially start on May 15 for the eastern Pacific and on June 1 for the central Pacific and Atlantic. Both seasons are considered over by November 30.
Average annual temperatures in the more tropical coastal regions of Mexico range from about 25 to 28 degrees C (77 to 82 degrees F), although in areas temperatures can soar to over 38 C (100 F) in both the dry, northern desert and humid, southern tropical areas. At the higher altitudes of the central plains, average annual temperatures tend to be in the 17 to 21 degree C (63 to 70 degree F) range, and at the highest altitudes (above 7,000 ft or so) they hover at around 16 C, or 60 F.