The Mexico you don’t know about

The Mexico you don’t know about

Copper Canyon: because there's more to Mexico than beach resorts and spicy food
Copper Canyon: because there’s more to Mexico than beach resorts and spicy food Credit: takawildcats – Fotolia/unknown

It would be impossible to describe Mexico as an unknown destination. Here, after all, is the 13th biggest country on the planet,

a colossal nation of about 120 million people – the sturdy land-bridge that connects the hamburgers, highways and holiday certainties of the United States with the less-acknowledged Central American mysteries of Guatemala and Belize.

And yet, for all its enormity, the suspicion lingers that the general appreciation of Mexico goes barely further than its beaches and sporadically spicy contribution to global cuisine.

The new show will shed a light on lesser-known parts of the country
The new show will shed a light on lesser-known parts of the country Credit: ALAMY

“People tend to think of Mexico in terms of sunshine getaways or bad-news stories,” says Victoria Bromley, one of the producers of Mexico: Earth’s Festival of Life – a new BBC exploration of the country, which begins tonight.

“When I sat down to write the script, I asked my partner for the first things that came into his mind when thinking of Mexico. He said, ‘Cartels, cacti, tacos, moustaches.’ That’s probably a reliable baseline for how much people know of the country. And yet it’s one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.”

Bromley was at the helm of Mountain Worlds, one of three episodes in a series that will try to redress this perception gap (the others will chart the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico’s deserts). In doing so, it will take the viewer to locations far removed from the resorts of Cancun and Cabo San Lucas.

Mexico's reputation has also been besmirched by drug cartels
Mexico’s reputation has also been besmirched by drug cartels Credit: GETTY

One of these places is Copper Canyon, which, despite the name, is six separate corridors, cut into the mountain rock of the Sierra Madre Occidental range of north-westerly Chihuahua state. Another is Volcan de Colima, a 12,533ft peak in south-westerly Jalisco, so active – it has erupted over 40 times since 1576 – that it is also known as Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire).“We camped on its slopes so that we could fly a drone over its crater at early light,” says Bromley. The series will also peer at a less-recognised side of Mexico: its jungles and treescapes.

“We filmed in El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve [in southerly Chiapas state],” says Bromley. “It’s a vast tranche of cloud forest, entirely protected – so we couldn’t drive any vehicles in. We had to load our equipment on to donkeys and walk inside for three hours. But there is something truly remarkable about stepping into virgin forest where every link in the ecosystem is still there.”

Yes, the coast will feature in the show – just don't expect to see many sunloungers
The Yucatan Coast will feature – just don’t expect to see many sunloungers Credit: ALAMY

This made for creature encounters – not least with the quetzal, a bird of evocative colours that was held in special regard by the Aztecs. “It’s very beautiful – and very secretive,” says Bromley. “We were lucky enough to find a pair of them, nesting. Our cameraman put in about 100 hours in a hide, filming them.”

Proof, clearly, that far from offering just a quick fix of sunshine, Mexico rewards those who take their time.