Mexico is a vast country, more than two thousand miles long, dominated by the Sierra Madre. Journey down this rocky spine and you’ll discover an amazing diversity of life, from black bears and orchid bees to resplendent quetzals and millions of monarch butterflies.
In episode one of this series we travel to the far north-east to the Serranias del Burro, a vital outpost for black bears.
The grandest mountain vistas are found in the north-west, including the Copper Canyon, which is home to the Rarámuri, who have lived in these peaks for more than 2,000 years.
Perhaps the most famous mountain product is tequila, made from the blue agave plant. We meet a 16-year-old agave farmer, a jimador, harvesting plants with his uncle.
Mexico’s fertile volcanic heartland gave rise to great ancient empires, and their ruins still pepper the mountains today. In an abandoned Aztec shrine we meet a band of coatis that have made it their home.
In the far south of Mexico, the Sierra Madre catch moisture coming in off the Pacific, creating a rich cloud forest. This is home to many rare animals including a mythical creature whose feathers were treasured more than gold by the Aztecs – the resplendent quetzal.
For thousands of years the people living in Mexico’s mountains have believed these butterflies are the spirits of the dead. Their arrival in winter coincides with Mexico’s most spectacular festival, Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead.
Mexico: Earth’s Festival of Life, BBC2, Sunday, 8pm