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Tuesday 2nd September
Mexico Facts
The highest point in Mexico is Volcan Pico de Orizaba (5,700 m).

The volcano Popocatepetl (smoking mountain) is still active.

The Paricutin Volcano, in the state of Michoacan, is famous as people witnessed its formation. Volcanic activity began in 1943 and continued until 1952.

Mexico City is the highest city in North America.

The Rio Grande is Mexico's longest river and marks the border with the USA along part of its extent.

Chicxulub, on the Yucatan Peninsula, is the centre of a huge gravity anomaly, believed to be the impact site of a comet which struck the earth sixty five million years ago. The impact which caused dramatic changes to the climate may have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The Olmecs who lived in Mexico three thousand years ago left giant, mysterious stone sculptures of heads up to three metres high.

San Lorenzo (1250 BC-9000 BC) and La Venta (800 BC-400 BC) are well known Olmec sites.

The Olmec is the first Mexican culture of which archaeological evidence has been discovered. Subsequent cultures following and overlapping were the Maya, Zapotec and Mixtec, Teotihuacan, Toltec and finally Aztec.

Despite their lack of metal tools and the use of the wheel, the original inhabitants of Mexico constructed stone structures and cities.

The Mayan city of Chichen Itza was built around cenotes, limestone sinkholes, into which sacrifices and gold offerings were thrown.

The Maya were early inhabitants southern Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The Toltecs were a warlike people who lived in Mexico around the turn of the first millennium. There are remains of Toltec art which can be seen in Tula where they had their city of Tollan.

The Amerindians played a sacred ball game which probably originated in El Tajin. Special ball courts lined with stone carvings were built. However, sacrifices were made after the game and one stone carving shows a team's captain being beheaded.

It is thought that the Aztecs built the capital city of Tenochtitlan on islands in Lake Texcoco in the fourteenth century. The Spaniards destroyed Tenochtitlan and used the site to build Mexico City.

In December 2007 archaeologists announced the discovery of an Aztec pyramid in Mexico City, estimated to have been built between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Feather weaving was one of the most beautiful crafts of the Aztecs who made cloaks, shields and headdresses. Birds to provide feathers were kept in aviaries. The quetzal was particularly prized for its plumage used in ceremonial dress.

Another name for Aztecs was Mexica, from which the country takes its modern name.

Hernan Cortes, the Spanish explorer, landed in Mexico in 1517 calling his discovery New Spain.

The Spanish brought smallpox to Mexico which killed many of the Amerindians.

Moctezuma II, the Aztec emperor, thought that Hernan Cortes was the god-king, Quetzalcoatl. Cortes took the emperor prisoner and Moctezuma was eventually murdered.

In 1551 the first university in America was founded in Mexico City.

The Spanish Inquisition was established in Mexico City in 1571.

In 1836 Texas, whose population were mainly emigrants from the USA, broke away from Mexico. There was eventually war with the USA. During the battle of The Alamo the Americans were besieged by the forces of the Mexican leader, Santa Ana. Among those killed were Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.

After the Mexican-American War the USA paid $15,000,000 for Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Many of Mexico's railways were built by British engineers.

Two legendary figures in the Mexican Revolution in the early twentieth century were Francisco "Pancho" Villa and Emiliano Zapata

Maize was cultivated in this part of the world many thousands of years ago. Maize was sacred to the Amerindians and maize deities were worshipped.

Excavations at Guila Naquitz, near Oaxaca, have produced evidence of cultivation of plants such as squash. beans and chillies. The squash seeds are estimated to date back ten thousand years.

The Mayas chewed gum, chicle, from the sapodilla tree. Chicle is still used to make chewing gum today.

Mexican hot chocolate, known as "the drink of the Aztecs", is spicy and slightly bitter. Chocolate comes from an Aztec word.

The tomato is a native South American plant; its name comes from the Aztec language.

Mexico suffers frequent earthquakes. In 1985 thousands died in an earthquake in Mexico City. In September 1995 there was an earthquake at Ometepec and Manzanillo in October of the same year.

In November 2007 Mexico's state of Tabasco suffered from severe flooding: hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless in one of the country's worst natural disasters.

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