Everyone loves the idea of Mexico. It brings up romantic images of endless stretches of pink sand, sparkling oceans, aqua skies lit up by golden suns and magenta sunsets. But the true historical importance of the tiny country, where it has earned a level of pre-eminence in the history of human achievement, is lesser known. Aside from its iconic panoramas and renowned festivals, Mexico has played a pivotal role on the world stage.
Many experts assert that climate change is the most momentous and significant issue facing mankind today. Forty years ago, the depletion of our ozone layer was the critical issue. A Mexican scientist, Mario José Molina-Pasquel Henríquez (born 1943), had a pivotal role in the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole. He was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for exposing a major cause of the ozone layer depletion - chlorofluorocarbon gases contained in aerosol cans and refrigerators. The brilliant work of Molina led to a world-wide ban on CFCs.
We can thank Mexico's son for his role in a team of scientists who helped saved us all from a planetary and human apocalypse. Phys.Org (2014) reports the positive news: “Earth's protective but fragile ozone layer is finally starting to rebound, says a United Nations panel of scientists. Scientists hail this as rare environmental good news.” With our present global warming planetary crisis, Mexico reminds us that “when the world comes together, it can stop a brewing ecological crisis.” Our present world leaders can learn many valuable lessons from Mexico on the absolute necessity of global collaboration and scientific leadership in solving the biggest problems facing our blue planet.
Historians believe that the single most important step in the advancement of human achievement was the invention of the printing press by Guttenberg in 1450. The new print technology allowed large numbers of copies of written work to be created quickly, giving greater access to information locally and globally, and setting the stage for a major transformation of literacy and knowledge around the world. The introduction of this revolutionary invention to the 'new world' of the Americas happened in Mexico.
“The House of the First Printing Press in the Americas, also known as Casa de la Primer Imprenta de América, in Mexico City, Mexico, was the first printing press established in the Americas.” (Latino Book Review, 2017). Commissioned by the Archbishop of Mexico City, it was brought from Spain in 1539 and introduced by Juan Pablos to the western world. Pablos printed the first North American newspapers in 1541 (The History of the Book in America, 2009). The first known book of the Americas, Doctrina breve, was published in 1539 in Mexico City (Wikipedia).
“Its grand cultural and historical importance is an unknown jewel to many.” This tribute by the Latino Book Review to the first printing house in Mexico can easily be applied to a long list of human accomplishments that took place in a small country best known for its burritos and beaches.
The 'real' Mexico has been an “unknown jewel' for too long. Considering recent developments in American racist politics that paint a false portrait of Mexican people, the time is ripe for a renewed appreciation and respect for that land of sun and margaritas.
Who knows? Our future as a species may depend on it.