Yucatán Peninsula

Last updated
Yucatán Peninsula
Yucatan peninsula 250m.jpg
Satellite image of the Yucatán Peninsula
Yucatan Peninsula.png
Yucatan topographic map.svg
Red pog.svg
Yucatán Peninsula
Mexico relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Yucatán Peninsula
Geography
LocationNorth America
Coordinates 19°22′00″N89°12′00″W / 19.36667°N 89.20000°W / 19.36667; -89.20000 Coordinates: 19°22′00″N89°12′00″W / 19.36667°N 89.20000°W / 19.36667; -89.20000
Adjacent bodies of water

The Yucatán Peninsula ( /ˌjkəˈtɑːn/ ; Spanish : Península de Yucatán), in southeastern Mexico, separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, with the northern coastline on the Yucatán Channel. The peninsula lies east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a northwestern geographic partition separating the region of Central America from the rest of North America. It is approximately 181,000 km2 (70,000 sq mi) in area, and is almost entirely composed of limestone. [1] [2]

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Caribbean Sea A sea of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by North, Central, and South America

The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.

Contents

Etymology

The proper derivation of the word Yucatán is widely debated. Hernán Cortés, in the first of his letters to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, claimed that the name Yucatán comes from a misunderstanding. In this telling, the first Spanish explorers asked what the area was called and the response they received, "Yucatan", was a Yucatec Maya word meaning "I don't understand what you're saying." [3] [4] Others claim that the source of the name is the Nahuatl (Aztec) word Yocatlān, "place of richness". [ citation needed ]

Hernán Cortés Spanish conquistador

Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of what is now mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers who began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located in Europe. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Yucatec Maya, called mayaʼ tʼàan by its speakers, is a Mayan language spoken in the Yucatán Peninsula and northern Belize. To native speakers, the proper name is Maya and it is known only as Maya. The qualifier "Yucatec" is a tag linguists use to distinguish it from other Mayan languages. Thus the use of the term Yucatec Maya to refer to the language is scientific jargon or nomenclature.

History

Pre-human

The Yucatán Peninsula is the site of the Chicxulub crater impact, which was created 66 million years ago by an asteroid of about 10 to 15 kilometres (6 to 9 miles) in diameter at the end of the Cretaceous Period. [5]

Chicxulub crater prehistoric impact crater buried underneath the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico

The Chicxulub crater is an impact crater buried underneath the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Its center is located near the town of Chicxulub, after which the crater is named. It was formed by a large asteroid or comet about 11 to 81 kilometres in diameter, the Chicxulub impactor, striking the Earth. The date of the impact coincides precisely with the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary, slightly less than 66 million years ago, and a widely accepted theory is that worldwide climate disruption from the event was the cause of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, a mass extinction in which 75% of plant and animal species on Earth became extinct, including all non-avian dinosaurs.

Maya

Relief map of the Yucatan Peninsula showing major Mayan archeological sites. ReliefMapMayanSites.JPG
Relief map of the Yucatán Peninsula showing major Mayan archeological sites.

The Yucatán Peninsula comprises a significant proportion of the ancient Maya lowlands (although the Maya culture extended south of the Yucatán Peninsula, through present Guatemala and into Honduras and highland Chiapas), and was the center of the Mayan civilization. [2] There are many Maya archaeological sites throughout the peninsula; some of the better-known are Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum and Uxmal. [6] Indigenous Maya and Mestizos of partial Maya descent make up a sizable portion of the region's population, and Mayan languages are widely spoken there.

Guatemala Republic in Central America

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.

Honduras republic in Central America

Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. In the past, it was sometimes referred to as "Spanish Honduras" to differentiate it from British Honduras, which later became modern-day Belize. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.

Chiapas State of Mexico

Chiapas, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Chiapas, is one of the 31 states that along with the federal district of Mexico City make up the 32 federal entities of Mexico. It is divided into 124 municipalities as of September 2017 and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Other important population centers in Chiapas include Ocosingo, Tapachula, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Comitán and Arriaga. It is the southernmost state in Mexico. It is located in Southeastern Mexico, and it borders the states of Oaxaca to the west, Veracruz to the northwest and Tabasco to the north, and by the Petén, Quiché, Huehuetenango and San Marcos departments of Guatemala to the east and southeast. Chiapas has a coastline along the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Spanish conquest

Current administration

The peninsula comprises the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, as well as large parts of Belize and Guatemala's Petén Department. [7]

Campeche State of Mexico

Campeche, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Campeche, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. Located in southeast Mexico, it is bordered by the states of Tabasco to the southwest, Yucatán to the northeast, and Quintana Roo to the east; to the southeast by the Orange Walk district of Belize, and by the Petén department of Guatemala to the south. It has a coastline to the west with the Gulf of Mexico. The state capital, also called Campeche, was declared a World Heritage Site in 1997. The formation of the state began with the city, which was founded in 1540 as the Spanish began the conquest of the Yucatán Peninsula. During the colonial period, the city was a rich and important port, but declined after Mexico's independence. Campeche was part of the province of Yucatán but split off in the mid-19th century, mostly due to political friction with the city of Mérida. Much of the state's recent economic revival is due to the finding of petroleum offshore in the 1970s, which has made the coastal cities of Campeche and Ciudad del Carmen important economic centers. The state has important Mayan and colonial sites; however, these are not as well-known or visited as others in the Yucatán.

Quintana Roo State of Mexico

Quintana Roo, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Quintana Roo, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, make up the 32 federal entities of Mexico. It is divided into 11 municipalities and its capital city is Chetumal.

Belize country in Central America

Belize is an independent and sovereign country located on the north eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. It has an area of 22,970 square kilometres (8,867 sq mi) and a population of 387,879 (2017). Its mainland is about 180 mi (290 km) long and 68 mi (110 km) wide. It has the lowest population and population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 1.87% per year (2015) is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

Economy

Cantarell 15-07-14-Yucatan-Olfelder-RalfR-WMA 0481.jpg
Cantarell

In the late historic and early modern eras, the Yucatán Peninsula was largely a cattle ranching, logging, chicle and henequen production area. Since the 1970s (and the fall of the world henequen and chicle markets due to the advent of synthetic substitutes), the Yucatán Peninsula has reoriented its economy towards tourism, especially in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Once a small fishing village, Cancún in the northeast of the peninsula has grown into a thriving city. The Riviera Maya, which stretches along the east coast of the peninsula between Cancún and Tulum, houses over 50,000 beds. The best-known locations are the former fishing town of Playa del Carmen, the ecological parks Xcaret and Xel-Há and the Maya ruins of Tulum and Coba.

Chicle natural gum derived from trees

Chicle is a natural gum traditionally used in making chewing gum and other products. It is collected from several species of Mesoamerican trees in the genus Manilkara, including M. zapota, M. chicle, M. staminodella, and M. bidentata.

Tourism travel for recreational or leisure purposes

Tourism is travel for pleasure or business; also the theory and practice of touring, the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours. Tourism may be international, or within the traveller's country. The World Tourism Organization defines tourism more generally, in terms which go "beyond the common perception of tourism as being limited to holiday activity only", as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure and not less than 24 hours, business and other purposes".

Cancún City in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Cancún is a city in southeast Mexico on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It is a significant tourist destination in Mexico and the seat of the municipality of Benito Juárez. The city is on the Caribbean Sea and is one of Mexico's easternmost points.

Geology

Sediment off the Yucatan Peninsula. Sediment off the Yucatan Peninsula.jpg
Sediment off the Yucatán Peninsula.

The peninsula is the exposed portion of the larger Yucatán Platform, all of which is composed of carbonate and soluble rocks, being mostly limestone although dolomite and evaporites are also present at various depths. The whole of the Yucatán Peninsula is an unconfined flat lying karst landscape. [2] Sinkholes, known locally as cenotes, are widespread in the northern lowlands.

According to the Alvarez hypothesis, the mass extinction of the dinosaurs at the transition from the Cretaceous to the Paleogene Period, the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K–Pg boundary), 65 million years ago was caused by an asteroid impact somewhere in the greater Caribbean Basin. The deeply buried Chicxulub crater is centered off the north coast of the peninsula near the town of Chicxulub. The now-famous "Ring of Cenotes" (visible in NASA imagery) outlines one of the shock-waves from this impact event in the rock of ~66 million years of age, which lies more than 1 km below the modern ground surface near the centre, with the rock above the impact strata all being younger in age. The presence of the crater has been determined first on the surface from the Ring of Cenotes, but also by geophysical methods, and direct drilling with recovery of the drill cores.

The Arrowsmith Bank is a submerged bank located off the northeastern end of the peninsula. [8]

Water resources

Due to the extreme karst nature of the whole peninsula, the northern half is devoid of rivers. Where lakes and swamps are present, the water is marshy and generally unpotable. Due to its coastal situation, the whole of the peninsula is underlain by an extensive contiguous density stratified coastal aquifer, where a fresh water lens formed from meteoric water floats on top of intruding saline water from the coastal margins. The thousands of sinkholes known as cenotes throughout the region provide access to the groundwater system. The cenotes have long been relied on by ancient and contemporary Maya people. [2] [9]

Flora and fauna

Vegetation

Short and tall tropical jungles are the predominant natural vegetation types of the Yucatán Peninsula. The boundaries between northern Guatemala (El Petén), Mexico (Campeche and Quintana Roo), and western Belize are still occupied by the largest continuous tracts of tropical rainforest in Central America. However, these forests are suffering extensive deforestation.

Fauna

Climate

Like much of the Caribbean, the peninsula lies within the Atlantic Hurricane Belt, and with its almost uniformly flat terrain it is vulnerable to these large storms coming from the east. The 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season was a particularly bad season for Mexico's tourism industry, with two forceful category 5 storms hitting, Hurricane Emily and Hurricane Wilma. The 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season was a typical year which left the Yucatán untouched, but in the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane season Yucatán was hit by Hurricane Dean (also a category 5 storm), nevertheless Dean left little damage on the peninsula despite heavy localized flooding.

Strong storms called nortes can quickly descend on the Yucatán Peninsula any time of year. Although these storms pummel the area with heavy rains and high winds, they tend to be short-lived, clearing after about an hour. The average percentage of days with rain per month ranges from a monthly low of 7% in April to a high of 25% in October. Breezes can have a cooling effect, humidity is generally high, particularly in the remaining rainforest areas. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Yucatán State of Mexico

Yucatán, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Yucatán, is one of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided into 106 municipalities, and its capital city is Mérida.

Coba archeological site of Pre-Columbian Maya

Coba is an ancient Mayan city on the Yucatán Peninsula, located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The site is the nexus of the largest network of stone causeways of the ancient Mayan world, and it contains many engraved and sculpted stelae that document ceremonial life and important events of the Late Classic Period of Mesoamerican civilization. The adjacent modern village bearing the same name, reported a population of 1,278 inhabitants in the 2010 Mexican federal census.

Cozumel island in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Cozumel is an island and municipality in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen. It is separated from mainland by Cozumel Channel and is close to the Yucatán Channel. The municipality is part of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Tulum Maya Site in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Tulum is the site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city which served as a major port for Coba, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The ruins are situated on 12-meter (39 ft) tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya; it was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing the city to be abandoned. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, Tulum is today a popular site for tourists.

Chicxulub, Yucatán Place in Yucatán

Chicxulub is a town, and surrounding municipality of the same name, in the Mexican state of Yucatán.

Riviera Maya area just south of the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico

The Riviera Maya is a tourism and resort district south of Cancun, Mexico. It straddles the coastal Federal Highway 307, along the Caribbean coastline of the state of Quintana Roo, located in the eastern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula. Historically, this district started at the city of Playa del Carmen and ended at the village of Tulum, although the towns of Puerto Morelos, situated to the north of Playa del Carmen, as well as the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, situated 40 kilometres (25 mi) to the south of Tulum, are both currently being promoted as part of the Riviera Maya tourist corridor.

Cenote A natural pit, or sinkhole, that exposes groundwater underneath

A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.

Sacbe

A sacbe, plural sacbeob, or "white way", is a raised paved road built by the Maya civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Most connect temples, plazas, and groups of structures within ceremonial centers or cities, but some longer roads between cities are also known. The term "sacbe" is Yucatec Maya for "white road"; white perhaps because there is evidence that they were originally coated with limestone stucco or plaster, which was over a stone and rubble fill.

Calakmul Municipality Municipality in Campeche, Mexico

Calakmul is a municipality in the Mexican state of Campeche, situated in the central part of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Costa Maya tourist region in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Costa Maya is a small tourist region in the municipality of Othón P. Blanco in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, the only state bounded by the Caribbean Sea to its east. This municipality is close to Chetumal on the border with Belize. The area was generally undeveloped but has been growing rapidly since construction of a large pier to accommodate cruise ships. Costa Maya is also the name of a subdivision near the village of Mahahual. The beach extends from Xcalak in the south to the southern border of Sian Ka'an in the north, a distance of approximately 100 kilometers (62 mi).

Xelha

Xelha is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization from pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, located on the eastern coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the present-day state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The etymology of the site's name comes from Yukatek Maya, combining the roots xel ("spring") and ha' ("water").

The term iridium anomaly commonly refers to an unusual abundance of the chemical element iridium in a layer of rock strata at the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary. The unusually high concentration of a rare metal like iridium is often taken as evidence for an extraterrestrial impact event.

Sistema Sac Actun Flooded cave system in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Sistema Sac Actun is an underwater cave system situated along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula with passages to the north and west of the village of Tulum. Discovery of a connection to the Sistema Dos Ojos has made it the longest known underwater cave system as of (2018).

Captaincy General of Yucatán Spanish 1617-1821 possession in Central America

The Captaincy General of Yucatán was an administrative district of colonial Spain, created in 1617 to provide more autonomy for the Yucatán Peninsula, previously ruled directly by a simple governor under the jurisdiction of Audiencia of Mexico. Its creation was part of the, ultimately futile, Habsburg attempt in the late 16th century to prevent incursion into the Caribbean by foreign powers, which also involved the establishment of Captaincies General in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and neighboring Guatemala. With the addition of the title of captain general to the governor of Yucatán, the province gained greater autonomy in administration and military matters. Unlike in most areas of Spanish America, no formal corregidores were used in Yucatán, and instead the governor-captain general relied on other subordinate officials to handle the oversight of local districts. The Captaincy General remained part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, with the viceroy retaining the right to oversee the province's governance, when it was deemed necessary, and the Audiencia of Mexico taking judicial cases in appeal. The province and captaincy general covered the territory that today are the States of Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Yucatán, and nominally the northern areas of Petén and Belize.

Muyil

Muyil was one of the earliest and longest inhabited ancient Maya sites on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is located approximately 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of the coastal site of Tulum, in the Municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Artifacts found here date back from as early as 350 BC. to as late as 1200-1500 AD. The ruins of Muyil are an example of Peten architecture, like those found in southern Mayan sites with their steep walled pyramids such as Tikal in Guatemala. It is situated on the Sian Ka'an lagoon, a name meaning "Where the Sky is Born". Muyil was located along a trade route on the Caribbean once accessible via a series of canals. Among the most commonly traded goods were Jade, obsidian, chocolate, honey, feathers, chewing gum, and salt. It is believed that throughout much of its history, Muyil had strong ties to the center of Coba located some 44 kilometres (27 mi) the north / northwest. The 2010 federal census reported a population of 191 inhabitants in the locality.

Tulum Municipality Municipality in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Tulum is one of the eleven municipalities that make up the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It became one of the newest municipalities in the country when it was formed on March 13, 2008, when it was separated from Solidaridad Municipality.

Chan Hol

Chan Hol, part of the Toh ha cave system, is a cenote and submerged cave system in Quintana Roo, Mexico, of interest to paleoanthropologists. The remains of two prehistoric human fossils were discovered within the cave system. Along with Eve of Naharon, Naia, the Man of El Templo and the Woman of Las Palmas, the two fossils at Chan Hol are among several ancient Paleoamerican skeletons found in the submerged cave systems of the Yucatán Peninsula around Tulum, Quintana Roo.

References

  1. McColl, R. W. (2005). Encyclopedia of World Geography. New York: Facts On File. pp. 1002–1003. ISBN   0816057869.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Scheffel, Richard L.; Wernet, Susan J., eds. (1980). Natural Wonders of the World. United States of America: Reader's Digest Association, Inc. p. 420. ISBN   0-89577-087-3.
  3. Cartas y relaciones de Hernan Cortés al emperador Carlos V (in Spanish). Paris: A. Chaix y ca. 1866. p. 1 footnote 2. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  4. "Ibero-American Electronic Text Series: Primera Carta de Relación, PREÁMBULO" (in Spanish). Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. 1945. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  5. Renne, P. R.; Deino, A. L.; Hilgen, F. J.; Kuiper, K. F.; Mark, D. F.; Mitchell, W. S.; Morgan, L. E.; Mundil, R.; Smit, J. (2013). "Time Scales of Critical Events Around the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary". Science. 339 (6120): 684–687. Bibcode:2013Sci...339..684R. doi:10.1126/science.1230492. PMID   23393261.
  6. "Yucatan map".
  7. "Yucatán Peninsula". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  8. Arrowsmith Bank, Undersea Features - Geographical Names
  9. BBC: Planet Earth , part 4: Caves.