Basaltic columns in the Comarca Minera. Basaltic columns in the Comarca Minera.

UNESCO announces two global geoparks

Comarca Minera in Hidalgo and Mixteca Alta in Oaxaca are the first such parks in Mexico

The Comarca Minera in Hidalgo and the Mixteca Alta in Oaxaca were among eight new UNESCO global geoparks announced in Paris.

The organization defines the geoparks as places with international geological significance that are managed through an approach that combines conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities.

UNESCO describes the Comarca Minera geopark as one of “outstanding diversity” with forested mountain ranges on one hand and cactus-rich shrubland on the other.

The region was mined for gold and silver beginning in the 16th century and it is estimated that it was the source of almost 6% of the world’s historical silver production.

Another notable feature is the basaltic columns of Santa María Regla, among the longest in the world with heights greater than 40 meters.

UNESCO says the region’s five-century history of mining has left a rich industrial heritage. It also attracted immigrant miners from Britain and Northern Ireland, whose cultural heritage is evident to this day.

The area is currently home to more than half a million people.

The second of the two new geoparks is located in a region that, from a geological point of view, is considered the most complex of Mexico, according to UNESCO.

It consists of “a basement” of Precambrian rocks that are more than 500 million years old and Paleozoic rocks that are 250-500 million years old. A carpet of Mesozoic rocks dating back 60-250 million years and Cenozoic volcanic rocks less than 60 million years old cover everything.

The Mixteca civilization flourished between the second century BC and the 15th century AD, coming to an end with the arrival of the Spanish.

Today the population is about 7,000, kept low by limited economic opportunities and emigration to urban areas and the United States.

Agriculture is the primary economic activity, though mainly for self-consumption. The region is also a popular tourist destination, offering “extraordinary attractions” that include pre-Hispanic, Hispanic and contemporary sites.

There are 119 UNESCO global geoparks in 33 countries.

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