Mexico is a large, Spanish-speaking country in southern North America. In Spanish, the name of this country is Estados Unidos Mexicanos (the United Mexican States). It is the fourth-largest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Through the centuries, Mexico has been inhabited by Teotihuacans, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Spanish conquistadors. Mexico achieved independence from Spain early in the 19th century.
Capital: Mexico's capital is Mexico City; its original name was Tenochtitlan. It is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of about 20 million people. Mexico City was founded around AD 1325.
Location: Mexico is located between the United States of America (at the north) and Guatemala and Belize (at the south). At Mexico's west is the Pacific Ocean; at the east is the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
Climate: Mexico's climate varies from hot deserts, forests, tropical rainforests, and some chapparal (along the northwestern coastline).
Area: Mexico covers almost 2 million square kilometers of land. It has 9,330 kilometers of ocean coastline.
States: Mexico is divided into 32 states (Aguas Calientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Durango, Estado de México, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Vera Cruz, Yucatán, Zacatecas) plus a Federal District (Mexico City).
1. What is the capital of Mexico? _____________________________________
2. What country borders Mexico on the north? ___________________________
3. What two countries border Mexico on the southeast? ________________________ and _________________________
4. What ocean borders Mexico on the west? __________________________________
5. What large body of water borders Mexico on the east? _______________________________
6. What is the name of the city in the northwestern tip of Mexico? _____________________
7. What is the name of the desert in northwestern Mexico? ______________________________
8. What is the name of the long peninsula on the northwest coast of Mexico? ______________________________________
9. What is the name of the city in the northeastern corner of Mexico (at the southern tip of Texas)? _____________________________________
10. What is the name of the peninsula in southeastern Mexico? __________________________________________________________
The coyote is a fast-running carnivore (meat-eater). The coyote is closely related to the wolf. Coyotes probably mate for life; they have 3 to 12 pups each spring. Both parents care for the pups, regurgitating food to help feed them. Coyotes live in small family groups and guard their home territory fiercely.
Habitat and Range: Coyotes live in forests, prairies, mountains, chaparrals, and deserts in much of North America.
Anatomy: Thse mammals have a brown, gray, cream and/or black coat that camouflages them while hunting. Adults weigh from 20 to 50 pounds (9 to 23 kg). They have very good eyesight, acute hearing, and a keen sense of smell.
Hunting and Diet: Coyotes eat rodents, carrion (dead animals that they find), fish, snakes, lizards, grains, and fruit. They swallow food in large chunks, barely chewing it.
Kangaroo Rats are small, hopping rodents that are not closely related to kangaroos. There are over 20 types of Kangaroo Rats; they live in deserts and other dry regions in western North America.
These mammals have powerful hind legs which they use to hop, dig burrows and protect themselves from predators (like rattlesnakes). Kangaroo Rats are nocturnal; they are most active at night and spend the hot days in their burrows.
Anatomy: Kangaroo Rats range in size from 9 to 16 inches (23-41 cm) long (including the very long tail). They have very big hind feet, which keep them from sinking into the sand in their desert environment.
Diet: Kangaroo Rats eat mostly seeds. They need very little water; moisture is obtained from their food. They have fur-lined pouches on the sides of their face; they use the pouches to carry food to their burrow.
The Chihuahua is a small, alert, lively, playful companion dog. It was originally bred in Chihuahua, Mexico. There are both short-haired (smooth-coated) Chihuahuas and long-haired Chihuahuas. Chihuahuas are sensitive to the cold and will shiver when cold, excited, or nervous.
Anatomy: The Chihuahua is about 6 to 9 inches (15-23 cm) high at the shoulders, and weighs from 2 to 6 pounds (1-3 kg). The short, glossy coat is tan, chestnut, or white.
The roadrunner (also called the Ground Cuckoo), is a fast-running terrestrial bird that lives in thorny scrub, sparse grasslands, and deserts of Mexico and the southwestern USA. The roadrunner can run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour (24 km per hour). The roadrunner rarely flies and does not migrate. When it is in danger, it runs or crouches to hide. The scientific name of the roadrunner is Geococcyx californianus (genus and species).
Anatomy: The roadrunner is about 23 inches (58 cm) long. It has a shaggy crest on its head. The tail is long and narrow; it helps the roadrunner with balance and lets it turn quickly when running. The roadrunner's wings are short and rarely used; the legs are long and make this bird a fast runner. There are four toes on each foot; two toes face forwards and two face backwards. Males and females are similar in appearance. Roadrunners make rattling and cooing calls.
Diet: Roadrunners eat fruit and small animals, including small lizards, scorpions, spiders, insects, eggs, small snakes, and some small rodents.
Reproduction: The roadrunner is a type of cuckoo, but unlike many other cuckoos, it is not a nest parasite. It builds its cup-like nest in a thorn bush or a cactus. The female lays 3 to 8 white eggs.
The Mexican Flag is a red, white and green banner whose center contains an eagle eating a rattlesnake while standing with its left claw upon a nopal cactus, and a half circle of green oak (enciño) on the left (symbolizing strength) and laurel branches on the right (symbolizing victory). The red symbolizes the blood that was shed during the battles for Independence. The white symbolizes purity. The green symbolizes the fertility of the earth.
The eagle eating a snake while perched upon a cactus is from an ancient Aztec legend in which the Aztec people were told by Huitzilopochtli (their God) that to find their promised land, they were to find the place where an eagle landed on a nopal cactus while eating a snake. After wandering for hundreds of years, they found the eagle on a small swampy island in Lake Texcoco. This new Aztec home was named Tenochtitlan (meaning "Place of the Nopal Cactus"), and in 1325, they built what is now called Mexico City.
This flag was first used on September 17, 1968 (it was decreed by Gustavo Díaz Ordaz); it was a variation on a flag first used in 1821.
The Spanish began exploring, looting, and conquering Mexico and the Aztec Indians who lived there in the 1500's.
ANZA, JUAN BAUTISTA DE Captain Juan Bautista de Anza (1736-1788) was a Mexican-born trailblazer and explorer. He was the first person of European descent to establish an overland trail from Mexico to the northern Pacific coast of California (then called New Albion). He found a corridor through the desolate Sonoran Desert. His expeditions brought hundreds of settlers to California. He founded the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose. De Anza was the commander of the presidio at Tubac.
CABEZA DE VACA, ALVAR NUNEZ Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca [Cabeza de Vaca means "head of a cow"] (1490?-1557?) was a Spanish explorer who sailed to North America from Spain, leaving in 1527. He traveled from Florida to Texas on a raft, then walked from Texas to Mexico City. He also explored the Paraguay River in South America. De Vaca and his fellow travelers were the first Europeans to see the bison, or American buffalo.
CABRILLO, JUAN RODRIGUEZ Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (? -1543) was a Spanish or Portuguese explorer (his nationality is uncertain). Cabrillo was the first European explorer of the Californian coast. In 1542, he sailed from Acapulco to southern California, claiming California for King Charles I of Spain. Cabrillo named San Diego Bay and Santa Barbara. He died on San Miguel Island (in the Santa Barbara Channel) after a fight with Indians, from complications resulting from a broken leg.
CERMENHO, SEBASTIAN Sebastian Meléndez Rodríguez Cermenho (also written Cermenon) was a Spanish navigator and explorer (Cermenho was Portuguese by birth). Cermenho was directed by Cortés to explore the California coastline in 1595. With a crew of 70 men on the Manila (Philippines) Galleon San Agustin in the service of Spain, Cermenho sailed from the Philippines to California. After running aground near Point Reyes (north of San Francisco), Cermenon named the nearby bay San Francisco (it is now called Drakes Bay). They built a smaller boat from the wreckage and sailed to Acapulco, Mexico, charting the coastline all the while.
COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was an Italian explorer who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, hoping to find a route to India (in order to trade for spices). He made a total of four trips to the Caribbean and South America during the years 1492-1504, sailing for King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain. On his first trip, Columbus led an expedition with three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
CORDOBA, FRANCISCO FERNANDEZ DE Francisco Fernández de Córdoba (? - 1524) was a Spanish explorer and slave trader who explored Mexico (1517) and Nicaragua (1524)..
CORONADO, FRANCISCO Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (1510-1554) was a Spanish ruler, explorer and conquistador. He was the first European to explore North America's Southwest.
CORTES, HERNAN Hernán Cortés (also spelled Cortez), Marqués Del Valle De Oaxaca (1485-1547) was a Spanish adventurer and conquistador (he was also a failed law student) who overthrew the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico for Spain (1519-21).
Cortes sailed with 11 ships from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula to look for gold, silver, and other treasures. Hearing rumors of great riches, Cortés traveled inland and "discovered" Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. He then brutally killed the Aztec emperor Montezuma and conquered his Aztec Empire of Mexico, claiming all of Mexico for Spain in 1521. Treasures from the Aztecs were brought to Spain, and Cortés was a hero in his homeland. Cortés was appointed governor of the colony of New Spain, but eventually fell out of favor with the royals. He then returned to Spain where he died a few years later.
DE ANZA, JUAN BAUTISTA Captain Juan Bautista de Anza (1736-1788) was a Mexican-born trailblazer and explorer. He was the first person of European descent to establish an overland trail from Mexico to the northern Pacific coast of California (then called New Albion). He found a corridor through the desolate Sonoran Desert. His expeditions brought hundreds of settlers to California. He founded the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose. De Anza was the commander of the presidio at Tubac.
DE NIZA, MARCOS Fray Marcos de Niza (1495 - March 25, 1558 ) was a Franciscan priest who is said to have traveled to the fabled "Seven Golden Cities of Cibola" in what is now the western part of New Mexico.
De Niza was born in Savoy (now in France, but it was Italian then), and became a Franciscan friar. He sailed to the Americas in 1531, and traveled to Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico. He freed some Native American slaves at Culiacán, Mexico.
He and the Moorish slave Estevanico were sent from Mexico City to find Cibola by the Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza (March to August 1539). De Niza reported that he and Estevanico saw the extraordinarily rich "Seven Golden Cities of Cibola," but they were later found to be simple Zuni Indian pueblos. Estevanico was killed by Zuni Indians during this expedition. De Niza survived and eventually was in charge of his Franciscan order (1541).
DE PORTOLA, GASPAR Gaspar de Portolá (1767-1784) was a Spanish soldier, leader, and explorer. Portolá was appointed Governor of Las Californias from 1768-1770 and founded Monterey and San Diego (California). As governor, Portola was ordered to arrest and expel all Jesuits from their well-established colleges and 14 missions; many of these missions were given to the Franciscans. In 1768, Portola volunteered to lead a large expedition of settlers, missionaries, and soldiers up the California coast to San Diego and Monterey (in California) in order to establish new Franciscan missions; the expedition was planned by Jose de Galvez. Portolá's overland expedition began on July 14th, 1769, and included Father Junipero Serra and 63 other men. They reached Los Angeles on August 2, 1769, Santa Barbara on August 19, Santa Cruz on October 18, and the San Francisco Bay area on October 31 (they missed Monterey). They again failed to find Monterey on their return trip to San Diego (both by land and by sea), so Portolá, Father Serra, and others tried another expedition, arriving at Monterey on May 24, 1770. In 1776, Portolá was chosen governor of the city of Puebla; he served for eight years, until his death.
DE VACA, ALVAR NUNEZ CABEZA Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca [Cabeza de Vaca means "head of a cow"] (1490?-1557?) was a Spanish explorer who sailed to North America from Spain, leaving in 1527. He traveled from Florida to Texas on a raft, then walked from Texas to Mexico City. He also explored the Paraguay River in South America. De Vaca and his fellow travelers were the first Europeans to see the bison, or American buffalo.
DRAKE, FRANCIS Sir Francis Drake (1545-1596) was a British explorer, slave-trader, privateer (a pirate working for a government) in the service of England, mayor of Plymouth, England, and naval officer (he was an Admiral). Drake led the second expedition to sail around the world in a voyage lasting from 1577 to 1580 (Magellan led the first voyage around the world).
ESTEVANICO Estevanico (pronounced es-tay-vahn-EE-co), also called Estevan, Esteban, Estebanico, Black Stephen, and Stephen the Moor (1500?-1539) was a Muslim slave from northern Africa (Azamor, Morocco) who was one of the early explorers of the Southwestern United States.
GARCES, FRANCISCO Father Francisco Tomás Garcés, (April 12, 1738 - July 18, 1781) was a Spanish Franciscan priest who was a missionary and explorer. Father Garces explored the southwestern part of North America, including what is now Arizona, U.S., southern California, and the Gila and Colorado rivers (including the western Grand Canyon). He visited Hopi and Havasupai Indians, learning much about the area.
From 1768 to 1776, Father Garces explored with Juan Bautista de Anza and alone with native guides. He and Juan Díaz died in a Yuman uprising in the area where the Colorado and Gila rivers meet; they were trying to find a route from Sonora, Mexico to California.
HUMBOLDT, ALEXANDER VON Baron Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a Prussian naturalist and explorer who explored much of Central and South America. Humboldt and his friend, the French botanist Aime Bonpland, explored the coast of Venezuela, the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, and much of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico (1799-1805).
On their many expeditions, Humboldt and Bonpland collected plant, animal, and mineral specimens, studied electiricity, did extensive mapping of northern South America, climbed mountains, observed astronomical phenomena, and performed many scientific observations.
KINO, EUSEBIO Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, S. J., (Aug. 10, 1645 - March 15, 1711) was a Jesuit priest, missionary, explorer, map-maker, mathematician, and astronomer. Kino was a missionary who founded many missions and explored areas in southwestern North America (Pimería Alta), including areas in what are now northern Sonora (Mexico), southern California (USA) and southern Arizona (USA).