Geographical Regions of Mesoamerica
The zone known as Mesoamerica includes much of northern as well as central and southern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and portions of Honduras and El Salvador. For study of ancient – as well as modern – indigenous cultures and precolumbian artifacts (ruined cities, art, languages, etc.), Mesoamerica is usually divided, geographically, into the following zones (names given here are a mixture of states and regions):
the west: Michoacan, southwestern Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit, Sinaloa
the south: Oaxaca and Tehuantepec
the center (or "altiplano"): Morelos, Hidalgo, Mexico (state, estado), Puebla, Tlaxcala, Distrito Federal (Mexico City)
the north: Queretaro, Guanajuato, southern Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi, northeast Jalisco, southern Zacatecas and western Durango.
the gulf coast: Veracruz
the Maya area: Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Belize, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas, Guatemalas and portions of Honduras and El Salvador
the desert frontier (not usually included in Mesoamerica): all of Northern Mexico, southern Texas, New Mexico, southern Utah, Arizona and the borders of southern California
Our divisions of these regions, here on this page and linked pages, generally follow those published by the Mexican magazine Arqueologia Mesoamerica. However, their divisions do not include "the desert frontier" in Mesoamerica. In their categorization, that area (including especially the "Pueblo" cultures of Chihuahua and New Mexico) is studied and analyzed under the names of "Aridoamerica and Oasisamerica." We have chosen to diverge in this one point. (Perhaps because we always wanted to live in Mesoamerica and so have dragged its borders almost up to our doorstep – but we already warned you that these are subjective, non-scientific writings we present!).
Remember, also, that this one world between the waters was, for all its many different cultures, all the same world, one nest of civilization bound together in webs of trade, war, and tribute. Their leaders all knew about each other but probably no one else (i.e. no contact with Europe, Asia or Africa (their are, however, dissenters to this commonly accepted thesis). Two thousand years ago, even before the Maya classic flowering or Teotihuacan's rise to power, the trading networks were already old. From the islands off Yucatan to the volcano valleys at the heart of Mexico, this civilization was one world view divided into ten hundred different languages and cultures who defined and re-defined each other generation after generation.
In the west these peoples created the kingdoms of the Tarasca or Purepecha, among others. In the center the Otomí and Nahua peoples dominated from the fall of Teotihuacan, through Toltec times into the Aztec age. In the Huasteca (bounded by central and gulf areas), another ancient people, the Huaxtec, probably related to the Maya, certainly were in constant contact with them all. The Maya area is itself the seat of several sister languages and hundreds of cities, thousands of towns and villages, and now, a recently deciphered history of kings and queens and war carved in stone and painted on ceramic. On the northern desert frontier, turquoise is forever thunder. In the south, Oaxaca is a 3000 year old seat of high culture dating from the days of Olmec war and independence.