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Latin America Team Dispatch


The Border, Through Time
January 20, 1999


Shawn

In small groups over the past couple days The Odyssey World Trek Team has crossed the one of the most active borders in the world, the 150-year-old "line in the sand" between the United States and Mexico. In sandals, and tennis shoes, covered in Patagonia fleece, carrying packs filled with digital cameras and portable computers, we entered Mexico.

As we passed through customs, we couldnít help but wonder what they were wearing and carrying 22,000 years ago when the first travelers crossed into what we now call Mexico. And who were they anyway?

Bering Strait

Over the course of about 50,000 years, tribes of people migrated from Siberia to Mexico, over a massive ice bridge that spanned the Bering Strait. Itís nearly impossible to imagine how, without the gear, equipment and special clothing we depend on today, anyone could survive such a trip so inconceivably long ago. The answer, in a word, is animals. Migrants used animals in every conceivable way Ė for food, for transportation, for clothing, for shelter. You can see them in your mind, covered in animal fur, living in tents made of animal hide, following the herds to capture and kill their next meal.

But eventually, the ice that defined the Ice Age began to thaw, temperatures rose and the all-important animals could not survive. The assignment from the earth was very clear: live off the land or die. People were forced to adapt, turning more and more to plants for food and wood from trees for shelter. Many thousands of years ago, people in what is today Mexico were planting chili peppers, squash, corn and beans. Today, most of us live lifetimes without personally growing crops, hunting animals, building shelters or surviving nature.

Upon crossing the border, we begin our trek towards Mexico City. We mirror what the first people to arrive to these lands did tens of thousands of years ago. We also mimic the migration of a much later Mexican society, the Aztecs. When we reach Mexico City, we will have followed roughly the same 600-year-old trail the Aztecs followed from their original land in search of the land where they would build the capital of their empire. The migration from the Northwest of what is today Mexico to today's Mexico City in the South is best chronicled by the myths of Aztecís heroes, Gods and witches. (you can read these myths in The Heart of Copil and The Evil of Tezcatlipoca.)

Aztec Capital

The Aztecs were a great warrior people and dominated the land for most of the 15th Century (the 1400's), claiming an empire of about 5 million people. The Aztecs are known by many people for their human sacrifices, though they were also responsible for their advanced farming techniques which included new ways of moving and distributing water (irrigation, terracing, and lake reclamation). The Aztec empire was massive by any standards, extending throughout much of what is today Mexico.

An important question to test yourself on is what brought the Aztecs down in the end? ( Here is a hint: Who was Hernan Cortes and what was his mission? Check out the Guidebook to find out.)

The border didn't even exist here until 1848 when the United States took this land from Mexico! But that's a long story unto itself. For more details, check out some of our reports from the Mexico Trek, like "The US Invades Mexico - Read All About It!"

Monica - Trek Team Crosses the Border
Abeja - Flat Tires to Paradise
Team - Seeking "El Norte"
Klaus - Ready...or Not?...
 
 
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