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Mexico (Latin America)

www.beatenglish.com 挑战英语 2010-02-12  来源:网络 []


An Introduction

They say that Mexico is a country no one ever leaves. Every year, millions of tourists pass through, and Mexicans jovially warn that a part of them will remain behind forever. Most visitors are vacationing North Americans who wind up on the brilliant beaches of Cancun, Acapulco, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. The beaches, of course, are among the world's best - but those who venture inland are rewarded with the true soul of Mexico, which has always resided firmly in the interior.

And it is a big soul. The Republic of Mexico is vast, comprising nearly two million square miles of coastline, desert, rain forest, mountains, and fertile plains. From the American borderlands of the wide, agriculturally rich north, the country narrows gently as it sweeps south and east. The two main mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental, hug the west and east, finally merging into the volcanically active central highlands and the capital, Mexico City - the most populous city in the world. Further south, the country narrows to only 100 miles, then broadens again before reaching the Guatemalan border. There are two major peninsulas in Mexico that are almost countries themselves. In the west is the poetically barren Baja Peninsula, which seals in the biological riches of the Sea of Cortes; to the east, portruding into the Caribbean like the end of a fish hook, is the Yucatan peninsula, bursting with rain forests, Mayan ruins, and white powder beaches.

The population is about 106 million, and the generosity of the Mexican people is unsurpassed. Knowing a few simple sentences in Spanish will win hearts.

Mexico has been graced with an unusually temperate climate year-round. The most important thing to remember is that the Mexican summer is also the rainy season, although the rain rarely lasts more than a few hours, and typically arrives in the late afternoon. Extremes are present only in the North and in Baja, both of which have deserts where the temperature leaps above 100F. Mexico City has a year-round temperature in the high 80s, while the coasts usually stay in the mid-90s. Night time temperatures fall somewhat, but rarely break down below a comfortable 60F.

History and Culture

Mexico's historical attractions - from the ancient ruins of the Olmecs, Maya, and Aztec, to the train routes used by the brash and legendary Pancho Villa - rank second only to the beaches of Cancun - and Alcapulco as the prime reason people come. The reason for this is simple: the tale of Mexico's past, accompanied by an overwhelming amount of physical remains, is as romantic, blood-curling, dramatic, and complex as it gets.

Somewhere around 1000 BC, the first of Mexico's ancient civilizations, the Olmecs, established themselves in what are now the states of Veracruz and Tabasco. They worshipped a jaguar God, built cities, constructed massive stone head carvings, and spread throughout central and southern Mexico until their civilization mysteriously vanished around 400 BC. Though the Olmecs left behind relatively few artifacts, their influence on later cultures was profound. In their wake came the Teotihuacan, the Zapotecs and Mixtecs of Monte Alban, the Maya of Yucatan, the Toltecs, Aztecs, and dozens of smaller, citied groups. To balance the spiritual and earthly realms and appease their pantheons of gods, many of these civilizations practiced human sacrifice, a fact that often overshadows their great achievements in the realms of mathematics, astronomy, architecture, textile weaving, art, and pottery. The Maya, for example, were so advanced in mathematics and astronomy that their calendar was the world's most accurate until this century. They could also predict solar and lunar eclipses.

None of Mexico's pre-Columbian civilizations is more storied, however, than the Aztecs. Though it is arguable that other civilizations in Mexico achieved greater artistic and scientific feats, none advanced as quickly or ruled as much   territory. Prior to the 15th century, the Aztecs were a marginal tribe living on the edge of Lake Texcoco, the site of present day Mexico City.  By 1473, after subjugating neighboring tribes, they ruled the largest empire Mexico had ever seen. Their capital of Tenochtitlan, set in the lake, was a picturesque city of pyramids, mile-long floating roads, aquaducts, animated marketplaces, and one hundred thousand residents. Leading a highly codified government was an all-powerful emperor who exacted taxes from the conquered and distributed land to his people, especially the warriors. When the Spanish adventurer Hernan Cortez arrived in 1519, the rich city was a vision perfectly meshed to his thirst for conquest.

The Conquest of New Spain, a great and tragic history, begins in April of 1519  when a Cortes lands in Veracruz, about 200 miles from the Aztec capital.  Cortes  had a singular mission: defeat the Aztecs and take their gold. To do so, he had  less than 400 soldiers, 16 horses, 14 pieces of artillery, 11 ships, plenty of guns and ammunition, and cajones. His first act upon landing was to burn all but one of his ships - he wanted no turning back. That he was able to defeat an empire with just a few hundred men seems nothing short of miraculous, but some of el conquistador's success, however, can be attributed to plain and simple luck.挑战英语 http://www..beatenglish.com/

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