The Geographic Consciousness of Mexico

Map of the southern part of North America, probably by Battista Agnese c. 1557. Chicago, Newberry Library.

•The oldest preserved cartography is a Babylonian map of the world from the 6th century BC[1]; thus the recorded history of human cartography dates back 2,500 years.

•Every complex human society has developed a portrayal of their terrains, a geographic consciousness of their habitats.
•The interpretation of the inhabited geography is a decisive action for the consolidation of human settlements.
•Cartography in the 21st century has produced systems designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographically referenced data called Geospatial Information Systems (GIS). Google Earth and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are examples of these technologies.
•Regardless of scale, the importance of a geographic consciousness -both individual and communal, is a vital aspect in the formation of territories.
•Art, technology and science, added to an anthropocentric analysis of the urban question, may form a multilayered cartography able to interpret the contemporary national territory of Mexico.
The Mexican Map. Author: Miguel Covarrubias, year : 1947. Popular Cultures Museum, México City.
• Mexico (United Mexican States) is located on the north hemisphere of the American continent and it is one of the richest contemporary nations in terms of biodiversity in the world with 40 biosphere reserves declared by UNESCO[1].
• Mexico’s location, together with its high climatic diversity, complex topography, and geological history, has resulted in a very rich and unique constellation of ecological situations within the national boundaries.[2]
• It is estimated that approximately 10% of the world’s biodiversity is concentrated in Mexico[3]; meaning that the assortment of its ecosystems varies from deserts in the northwest to tropical zones in the southeast.
• The current landscape of Mexico hosted for centuries many Mesoamerican cultures including the Toltec, Maya and Mexica; each one with a complex cosmological notion of life and death and also with a high developed urban infrastructure.
• The analysis of their ancient cities and territories has shed light to interpret the relationship between those societies with their habitats. Additionally, the graphic legacy of the Mesoamerican cultures offers a vast variety of depictions that goes from mythological rites to agriculture cycles.
• Despite the differences between such civilizations –in terms of geographic location and chronological appearance, it can be argued that their worldviews shaped the first geographic consciousness of Mesoamerica (Middle America).
• This land belonged for 300 years to the Spanish Crown due to the European discovery of the continent; from 1521 to 1821 this region was officially known as New Spain.
•The sudden encounter of two civilizations -the Catholic Spanish Empire and Mesoamerican Societies- has been analysed and studied throughout the years.
•This territorial conquest produced new landscape transformations, therefore new geographic representations constructed by a European authority
• The Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica originated the collision of two systems of thought which had a profound impact in the creation of the Mexican culture; thus, this colonization also marked the second geographic consciousness of Mexico.
• The mythological conception of a nation started less than 200 years ago, in 1821, with the end of the War of Independence from the Spanish Crown.
• The foundation of an independent and sovereign national state produced a third geographic consciousness which contributed to the “national unity”. In 1833, the creation of the Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics embodied the first effort to settle a national institution in charge of mapping the new nation.[1]
General Chart of the Republic, within the Geographic, Statistics and History Atlas of the Mexican Republic, 1858
• The 19th was a turbulent century in terms of territorial configuration: Mexico lost half of its northern territories in the Mexican-American war (1846-1848), redefining the boundaries with USA.
•On the southeast, the separation of Guatemala from Mexico (1823), added to the declaration of independence and eventual reincorporation of the Republic of Yucatan (1841-1848) shaped the current borders with Central America.[2]
 The fourth and latest geographic consciousness of Mexico was created by a single state party (PRI) during most of the 20th century. It is important to say that territorial delimitations -along with other national decisions, were taken by a centralized power located in Mexico City.
• During the 19th and 20th centuries maps gave Mexico internal definition and were a key to its membership in the international club of nations.[1]
• The contemporary United Mexican States is a young electoral democracy and it is already an international player in terms of economy; estimations from the World Bank suggest that Mexico is the 13th largest economy in the world and will be the 7th economy by 2050.[2]
 Any attempt to construct a cartography regarding sustainable environments has to consider the accumulation of the multiple geographic consciousnesses of Mexico.
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