这种蓝色多汁的植物就像黄金一样珍贵 This blue succulent is as good as gold here
Cinco de Mayo
Many celebrations of Cinco de Mayo, or May 5, owe a debt to these rolling fields of blue agave, or agave Azul, the source material required to make genuine tequila. The distilled spirit is to Mexico what Scotch whisky is to Scotland and sake to Japan. Tequila is also the base ingredient in the beloved margarita cocktail certain to be served in abundance today.
Blue agave is native to Jalisco, a coastal state of Mexico, where it grows head-high in the rich sandy soils of Jalisco's highlands. Its flowers are pollinated, not by bees or birds, but by the Mexican long-nosed bat, adding to this succulent's mystique. The bat's favorite food is the pollen and nectar of agave. Tequila is made by roasting the heart of the plant and then crushing or squeezing it to release a sugary, clear liquid called aguamiel, which translates to honey water. That liquid is distilled to produce tequila. Authentic tequila, by law, can be made only in Jalisco and a few municipalities outside it, and its authenticity is protected by trade agreements.
Tequila's association with Cinco de Mayo in the US probably owes to the fact that Americans observe the day with an upbeat celebration of Mexican culture in general. Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken for Mexico's Independence Day, which is actually on September 16. In Mexico, the holiday commemorates the Mexican army's victory over the French Empire in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Whatever side of the border you're on today, if you toast the table with a glass of tequila, take a moment to remember the azure fields where it all started.
龙舌兰酒与美国的Cinco de Mayo酒的联系可能要归功于这样一个事实：美国人在庆祝这一天时，通常都会对墨西哥文化进行乐观的庆祝。Cinco de Mayo有时被误认为是墨西哥的独立日，实际上是9月16日。在墨西哥，这个节日是为了纪念墨西哥军队在1862年普埃布拉战役中战胜法兰西帝国。无论你今天身处何方，如果你用一杯龙舌兰酒来敬酒，花点时间回忆一下这一切开始的蔚蓝田野。
漫天飞舞的黑脉金斑蝶，墨西哥 Monarch butterflies in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Angangueo, Mexico (© Sylvain Cordier/Minden Pictures)
Monarch butterflies in Angangueo, Mexico
Every year, one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in Mexico takes place in the forested mountains west of Mexico City. Between mid-January and late March, colonies of monarch butterflies migrate here from colder northern climates to find warmth and begin their breeding season. These huge flying colonies can contain as many as 20 million monarchs, which make use of air currents to travel as far as 100 nautical miles per day.
Upon arrival in the Mexican state of Michoacán, they'll settle into the forests of fir trees like those shown here, before finding their way to milkweed plants to mate and lay their eggs. The eggs will hatch after just a few days, leaving the offspring to feast on the milkweed before eventually transforming into the next generation of adult butterflies. Once the winter breeding season is over, the newly hatched monarchs will start the annual migration cycle over again, taking to the air for the long trek back north.
A cry for independence
The Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City has hosted art exhibits, music and dance performances, and much more since its opening. The decadent Art Nouveau building opened in 1934 but was originally planned to open for Mexico's 100th birthday years earlier, in 1916. To get that story, we must travel 200 miles from this spot and back in time even further than the early 20th century.
On September 16, 1810, in Dolores, Mexico, the 'Cry of Dolores' rang out, signaling a call to arms. The Mexican War of Independence would last 11 years, finally breaking the country free from Spain. Though the war also ended in the month of September, it is the start of the conflict—September 16—that Mexicans celebrate as their Independence Day.
A day for our oceans
To celebrate World Oceans Day, we're swimming through a shoal of jack fish just off the coast of Baja, California, in Cabo Pulmo National Park. This Mexican marine park in the Sea of Cortez is home to the northernmost and oldest coral reef on the west coast of North America, estimated to be about 20,000 years old. Jacks are clearly plentiful here, but divers and snorkelers in Cabo Pulmo can also come across many other species of fish and marine mammals, including many varieties of sharks, whales, dolphins, tortoises, and manta rays.
For this year's World Oceans Day, the UN chose the theme 'The Ocean: Life & Livelihoods,' to raise awareness of the nearly 3 billion people worldwide who depend on oceans for their food and way of life. The residents of Cabo Pulmo know a little about this—to help revitalize their previously unprotected and overfished waters, the Mexican government turned Cabo Pulmo into a national park in 1995. But more controversially, they also banned fishing, a big deal in an area where many residents lived off the food they caught by hand. The preservation efforts paid off, though—researchers say the park experienced a 460% increase in the number of fish living in park waters between 1999 and 2009, turning Cabo Pulmo one of the world's most robust marine reserves. Now, many residents who once relied on fishing have been able to move into jobs in ecotourism or other vocations supporting the park.
The birthplace of Cinco de Mayo
The church we see on the grassy hill was built after Hernan Cortez and his Spanish army conquered Cholula one October day in 1519. The Spanish ravaged the holy city that day, murdering 10% of its population and burning down the many pyramids that dotted the area. But just underneath this church, buried for centuries, lay an ancient secret never discovered by the Spanish. It's the largest pyramid in the world, the Great Pyramid of Cholula, so large its enormous base would span several Olympic-sized swimming pools.
It's apt then, that we visit this holy area on Cinco de Mayo. Just 20 miles away near the city of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, another battle was waged, this time by the Mexicans against French invaders. By some miracle, the vastly outnumbered and outarmed Mexicans won the Battle of Puebla. And so today, we in the United States join those in this part of Mexico to celebrate a win over would-be conquerors.
Cinco de Mayo的诞生地
Rays on parade
The feeding frenzy is on! Each spring and fall, the waters off Mexico's Baja California peninsula become the perfect place to spot Munk's devil rays in massive schools like this one. Unlike stingrays (and perhaps the devil), devil rays lack fearsome pointy tails. In fact, these giants—whose wingspans can reach about 9 feet—are pretty gentle all around, feeding mainly on plankton. And for them, mealtime is party time: During huge devil ray gatherings like this, rays are seen continually bursting out of the water and landing with loud bellyflops.
Ringing in the New Year at Teotihuacan
If the Aztecs had hot air balloons, they may well have greeted the new year like this—floating above the massive Sun Pyramid at sunrise today, the first day of the year according to the Aztec calendar. Also known as Yancuic Xihuitl, the Aztec New Year is still celebrated by some Indigenous Nahua communities here in central Mexico with songs, dances, and the flames of 'ocote' (pitch-pine) candles. Dancers wear colorful traditional costumes topped by quetzal feather headdresses, and celebrants greet the New Year by making loud noises with seashells, just as Aztecs did centuries ago. It's one of the many expressions of pre-Columbian tradition that managed to survive the Spanish conquest and modern erosion of Indigenous customs.
The Sun Pyramid is the largest structure in the ancient city that Aztecs called Teotihuacan (which means, roughly, 'birthplace of the gods'). The 8-square-mile site also contains other important pyramids, plazas, temples, palaces, and a complex network of underground tunnels. As grand a city as it once was, when the Aztecs arrived here in the 1400s, Teotihuacan had been abandoned for centuries. Its precise origins are a mystery, but it was first built by an unknown civilization sometime around 400 BCE. By 400 CE, Teotihuacan had become a center of industry and trade, the largest and most powerful city in the Americas and probably the sixth largest in the world. But by around 550 CE, its major monuments were sacked and deliberately burned, the magnificent pyramids and temples deserted—at least until the Aztecs arrived.
The ruins of a Mayan superpower
Deep in the jungle of southern Mexico lay the ruins of a city that thrived for centuries before it was abandoned more than 1,000 years ago. Calakmul was once one of the two dueling superpowers—along with Tikal—of the Classical Mayan civilization. At its height, around 1,200 years ago, the city of Calakmul had a population of about 50,000 people, but the kingdom as a whole numbered more than 1.5 million. Archaeologists have uncovered 6,750 structures here—the largest is this pyramid temple, called, simply, 'Structure 2.' It's one of the tallest and most massive remaining structures from that highly advanced culture. The ruins of the city proper cover nearly eight square miles in the jungle and the kingdom once ruled over settlements as far as 90 miles away.
All the more amazing, then, that it was apparently lost to history until an American botanist named Cyrus L. Lundell discovered it when flying over the jungle on a survey of the area in December 1931. A few expeditions were sent to explore it over the next few years, but it went largely unstudied until the 1980s. Calakmul is now recognized as one of the most important archeological sites in southern Mexico.
It's Independence Day in Mexico
In honor of today's Independence Day holiday in Mexico, our homepage comes from the state of Guanajuato—where the country's battle for independence first began. The conflict started with the 'Cry of Delores,' an event on September 16, 1810, when priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the church bell in the nearby town of Delores and called for a revolt to free Mexico from Spanish control. His call to arms triggered the formation of an insurgency that marched onward to San Miguel and then to the city of Guanajuato (featured on our homepage). The ensuing conflict spanned more than a decade, culminating with Mexico finally breaking free from Spanish rule in 1821.
Since then, the 'Cry of Delores' has come to symbolize the very idea of Mexican independence. Each year on the eve of Independence Day, the president of Mexico re-enacts the call to arms from the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City, while ringing the same bell that Hidalgo used that day on September 16, 1810.