Mexico is a vast country, more than two thousand miles long, dominated by a great chain of mountains, the Sierra Madre. Journey down this rocky spine and you’ll discover an amazing diversity of life, from black bears and orchid bees to resplendent quetzals and millions of monarch butterflies. This is a land where giant volcanoes simmer and ancient and modern cultures collide in a festival of life. New three part series Mexico: Earth’s Festival Of Life premieres on Sunday 7 May
In episode one we travel to the far northeast of Mexico to the Serranias del Burro, a vital outpost for Mexico’s black bears, where there is little groundwater for bears to drink.
The grandest mountain vistas are found in the northwest of the country, including the Copper Canyon which covers 25,000 square miles and is home to the Rarámuri, who have lived in these mountains for more than 2,000 years.
Perhaps the most famous mountain product is tequila, made from the blue agave plant. We meet a 16 year-old agave farmer, a jimador, harvesting plants with his uncle.
Mexico’s fertile volcanic heartland gave rise to great ancient empires, and their ruins still pepper the mountains today. In an abandoned Aztec mountain shrine we meet a band of coatis that have made it their home. These adaptable animals have a steady of supply of food on their doorstep, brought in by unwitting tourists.
In the far south of Mexico, where the Sierra Madre meets the Pacific, the mountains catch moisture coming in off the ocean, creating a rich cloud forest. This is home to many rare creatures, including a mythical creature whose feathers were treasured more than gold by the Aztecs – the resplendent quetzal.
For thousands of years the people living in Mexico’s mountains have believed these butterflies are the spirits of the dead. Their arrival in winter coincides with Mexico’s most spectacular festival, Dia de los Muertos – The Day Of The Dead.
Pictured is Popocatépetl – Mexico’s most active volcano which lies on the outskirts of its largest metropolois, Mexico City.
Mexico: Earth’s Festival Of Life Episode 1 (of 3) airs on Sunday 7 May 2017 from 8.00pm-9.00pm on BBC Two.