Flora & Fauna of Mesoamerica
FLORA OF MIDDLE AMERICA (PLANTS)
The significance of agriculture to civilization is that with the benefits of agriculture (you can feed
more people, and they don't have to go as far to get fed), new problems are created which often
lead in their solutions, to civilization. In Mesoamerica agricultural problems arose between
25OO and l5OO B.C.
Problems: a) land ownership and land use problems (the distribution of
the people on the land).
b) population increase: problems of social organization
maintenance of social organization.
c) sedentary life: necessitates new behavioral patterns
d) problem of economic distribution
e) harvest problems: a storage system needed
l. what to store it in
2. how to protect it from insects, rodents and spoilage
3. managerial: how much to store? how much to use?
how to use it--ritual vs. food--and saving seed to plant.
f) continuity of systems for solving the problems.
Agriculture is apparently a prerequisite for civilization. Is New World agriculture borrowed from
the Old World? (Old World agriculture arose around 9,000 BCE; New World agriculture arose about
If agriculture develops naturally as a result of a certain combination of conditions
that lead unavoidably to it, then it probably arose independently in the Old and the New Worlds.
There are some common conditions in Old and New World agricultural centers:
l) both are areas of great diversity
2) the first developments took place in the hilly flanks areas
3) both have sufficient rainfall for crops (without need for irrigation)
4) seed crops existed wild in both areas
Old world New World
wheat, barley maize, amaranth
plow agriculture digging stick (dibble, coa)
powerful beasts of burden (oxen) no powerful beast of burden
Plants found early in Old and New Worlds:
Maize (corn-Zea mays) native to New World: probably domesticated in Mesoamerica first; maize once
thought to be a cross between Tripsacum and a now extinct pod-popcorn (per Mangelsdorf), but now
seen (by Iltis and others) as derived from teosinte / teocentli [seen on left in picture] through selection
Maize is domesticated; i.e. dependent on human intervention for its propagation, and the varieties of
maize developed by the Indians of Middle America include several different colors and fall into five main
classes; flint, dent, flour, pop, and sweet.
Researchers have found the earliest evidence ever of domesticated maize in the Mexican Central
Balsas River Valley. The evidence points to an 8,700 year old origin for domesticated maize.
Pollen and charcoal found in lake sediments in the area showed forests were being cut down and
burned to create agricultural plots 7,000 years ago. Then the researchers studied caves where people
lived earlier in the area. Tools for grinding corn were found that have been radiocarbon dated to 8,700
years ago. Maize starch was found in the crevices of almost all of the tools unearthed. The previous
earliest date posited for domesticated maize was 1,100 years later.
Maize dates to 6,000 to 7,000 years ago near Mitla, Oaxaca, and 4000 to 6000 years ago in the basin
of Mexico. Maize cobs dated at 5050 years ago have been found in Tehuacan Valley caves (Puebla,
A date of 3650 BCE (later revised towards the present) is associated with a find of a primitive pod
popcorn in Bat Cave (New Mexico).
In Assam, the Naga hills people cultivate a very primitive variety of maize, and in China, maize is said
to have been used to pay taxes within 60 years of the “discovery” of America by Columbus. Maize may
have been already established in the Philippines when Magellan landed there [1521 CE].
It is in Middle America that maize, as the basis for the diet of most Indian groups, provides by its life
cycle, the rhythm for Indian life and religion. More than once an Indian revolt has fizzled on the brink
of success because planting time arrived. Only in Mesoamerica, where maize is processed through
nixtamalization (cooking in lime [calcium hydroxide] and/or ash [potassium hydroxide]), was maize
able to provide the vital niacin to prevent pellagra, along with other nutrients, to eliminate some
mycotoxins, and improve the flavor.
Peanut (Arachis hypogaea) A new world plant, perhaps first used by humans in South America, but,
like the pineapple, it spread from there to Mesoamerica very early. The peanut, now cultivated so
extensively in Africa (our word goober comes from a Bantu language of Africa [from the word guba]),
is reported by usually reliable authorities to have been present in China about 2000 BCE. Regardless,
there is little doubt about its status as a New World plant. Interestingly, the individual little yellow peanut
flower lasts for only one day.
Bottle Gourd - Lagenaria Native to the Old World, with a dispersion center most probably in Africa,
the bottle gourd is found in the New World very early (e.g. at the Huaca Prieta site in Peru it is dated by
C-l4 to 23OO BC. It has been dated to 7000 CE in Guila Naquitz, Oaxaca).
Cotton There are wild cottons in both Old and New World. Domesticated cotton is found by at least
3OOO BC in the New World (Tehuacan valley) and by 2500 BCE in the Old World, but New World
cultivated cotton is apparently a hybrid between Old World domesticate and New World wild.
Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) Mexican name camote (from Nahuatl). Native American domesticate,
but cultivated in Polynesia for a long time. Compare these terms for the sweet potato: Ecuadorian Quichua
(Chinchasuyu dialect of Quechua– Brand in Riley et al 1971:360) kumar; Cañari of Ecuador komal;
Nahuatl kamotli . Polynesian dialects kumala, kumala and cognate forms in the Pacific;
Add to this Malagasy (Madagascar) kambar 'yam'; Bengali kamalu 'yam'; Telegu (S. India) kumara 'yam';
Malay kemahang 'wild yam'; Korean koguma 'sweet potato'.
The above plants are some of the problem plants that have been used as evidence in the
controversy surrounding the question of possible Old World - New World contacts in pre-Columbian times.
The following food plants are native to the New World, and many to Mesoamerica:
kidney beans [habichuelas], lima beans [habas] ). Extremely important source of vegetable protein in
Mesoamerica. Called frijoles in Mesoamerica, generically beans are known as habichuelas in the Caribbean.
Squash – (Cucurbita spp.) several types including pumpkin squash and other large, ripe
and melon squash (chilacayote).
bland. First domesticated in the Chiapas-Guatemala highlands. Tree gets large. Sp. aguacate .
For more information.
Sapotes / Zapotes- (from Nahuatl zapotl 'fleshy sweet fruit') These are the fruits of several
white zapotes [Casimiroa edulis], and yellow zapotes [Pouteria campechiana]; all are sweet.
species of persimmon, named "turkey excrement" in some Mayan languages, due to the color and texture of
the fruit, which is eaten by people out of hand when ripe. When unripe the fruit is astringent, caustic, and
bitter, and is ground up and used as a temporary fish poison. The fruit looks a little like the Texas persimmon
only larger, and has about twice the vitamin C of an orange. The fruit and when ripe has been used as a
dye. The leaves are made into a decotion to treat ringworm and itching skin conditions.
its seeds and to a lesser extent the flesh of the fruit are known to have sedative and other medicinal
zapote, or just zapote, this delicious fruit is eaten as picked or made into marmalade.
mamey, mamey amarillo, or zapote de niño, the juicy yellow fruit is eaten while the juice and seeds are used as
Green zapote (Pouteria viridis), zapote injerto or injerto verde, and raxtul in Guatemala
(from the Quiché Maya). Found mostly in Guatemala. Sweet and juicy.
chicle in our chewing gum comes (cf. the Nahuatl word tziktli 'chewing gum'), very sweet.
chakalte’(red tree), this giant hardwood tree is rapidly disappearing. In the late 1800s began the cutting of these trees
in Tabasco and then Chiapas. Slow to rot, the wood is used for boats and drums.
Colombia or Central America. It is a cauliflorous tree. It will bear clusters of 30 or more
fruits (of up to 25 pounds each) directly from the trunk of the l0 to l5 foot tall "tree". Papaya plants
develop to their full size in less than a year. The papaya seeds (as well as the milky juice in the stalks,
leaves, and unripe fruits) are used as a worm remedy. A piece of papaya leaf placed on a sore will promote
rapid healing, through the action of its "meat tenderizing" enzymes; and mashed papaya fruit is used to
treat skin blemishes.
species). Flower supposed to have religious significance (lO petals for the lO apostles, 5 anthers for
5 wounds, 3 stigmas for 3 nails). Fruit is delicious.
jungle/rainforest plant of Middle America, that bears a large, tasty, sweet, pineapple-like edible fruit.
Annona - tropical rainforest trees (Annona cherimola and related species) give fruits called
custard apple, anona, guanabana, cherimoya, sweetsop, atemoya, sugar apple (see J. Morton's
Annonaceae on the index page of Fruits of Warm Climates for more detail on the different species of
Guava - widely cultivated tree; fruit is often full of worms, which add protein to them. Several
medicinal uses for the plant. (Sp. guayabo 'guava tree', guayaba 'guava fruit')
directly from the trunk (ie. it is cauliflorous) brown beans taken from the pulp of the fruit and sun dried.
Cacao beans were used for money in Mesoamerica from the earliest times, and also by the Aztecs.
Also used for a refreshing beverage (by 600 BC) to which other vegetable products were added
(e.g. corn meal, vanilla). Recent discoveries of theobromine in ceramic vessels dating to 1100 BC
suggest the use of cacao beer (fermented cacao pulp) later leading to discovery of the chocolate taste
from the beans (because of the fermentation required in the process. The name 'chocolate' is said to
derive from the Maya term for hot water (chocol + ha'), or from the Aztec term for 'water beaten with
a stick' or 'beater drink' (chikol-atl). Cacao was also used medicinally.
Cacao flowers sprouting from the trunk are of some interest for their delicate beauty.
Pineapple- a terrestrial bromeliad (Ananas comosus), related to our ball moss and to Spanish
moss, the pineapple probably originated in lowland South America, but was brought to Middle America
and edible fruit (chayote), as well as edible flowers. Comes in both spiny and non-spiny varieties.
Fruit is boiled like potatoes, and tastes something like the potato.
Chile / chili pepper- (Capsicum species) many different varieties, with many different degrees
of "hot". Known as chile in Mesoamerica, and aji in the Caribbean.
Husk tomato – (Physalis ixocarpa , Sp. tomatillo ) a little green tomato (or can have purple, or
yellow colored skin); strong taste, good for making sauces (salsa verde), or eaten raw when ripe.
Yam (Dioscorea) most true yams in Mexico and Guatemala are famine foods only. They
contain saponins (hemolytic proteins) and need to be thoroughly cooked before eating in order to
prevent the skin from getting huge bruises (or worse).
Sweet manioc (Manihot esculenta) root is eaten. Tastes sort of like potatoes. Called yuca
in many parts of Latin America, and should not be confused with the yucca plant.
Chipilín (Crotalaria longirostrata) leafy vegetable found in southern Mesoamerica.
Leaves can be boiled and served green, dried and used as an herb, or added to tamale doughs for color and flavor.
The plant is a nitrogen fixer.
like potatoes. Spanish, malanga, tarabundí, mafafa, or yautía
Potato - native to Peru, came relatively late to Middle America; Never very important in the Middle
American indigenous diet.
Amaranth- "sacred grain of the Aztecs", it was almost eradicated by the Spaniards (who called
it bledos). Small tasty grains, made into cakes for bloodletting and other rituals (in the past).
Now sometimes called ajonjolí (literally 'sesame') the grains are often toasted and popped (like popcorn)
and mixed with honey to make a tasty candy. In Indigenous communities the leaves of this plant are eaten
maize substitute in the making of tortillas. This tree grows well where maize grows, so Lacandón
maize farmers plant their maize where the Ramon tree is found to be growing. Either of these
facts might account for the Huastecs calling the Ramon "maize of the ancestors." Yucatecs built huge
bottle-shaped underground chambers (called chultun) in the lime-stone bedrock that may have been used to
store Ramon nuts. Currently in the US it is sold as a nutritious coffee substitute made from the ground and
roasted seeds, and is called mojo [you can buy it at Wheatsville coop].
Tomato- (Solanum lycopersicum) native to Peru, but reached Middle America quite
early, and used in many foods, particularly in tasty sauces. Unusual variety is the Zapotec tomato.
Tree tomato - (Cyphomandra betacea / Solanum betaceum) native to Peru; arrived early in
Mesoamerica. Grown at medium altitudes. Known as tomate de arbol or kaxlan pix . Also known as
Hog Plum (Spondias mombin, S. purpurea). One of several kinds of Mesoamerican plums, has
plentiful fruit, avidly sought by humans and animals alike. The purple mombin is preferable to the
yellow. Resin from S. mombin is used as glue, bark used for tanning and dyeing (because of tannin
content), and young leaves cooked as greens.
Prickly pear- (Opuntia sp.) tasty fleshy fruits called tuna, the leaves (nopal) are sliced and
eaten (sold as nopalitos), often scrambled in eggs.
use of several pitahaya species (including, pitahaya agria (the sour pitahaya, Machaerocereus gummosus)
and pitahaya dulce (the sweet pitahaya, Lemaireocereus thurberi). One species is marketed in the U.S. as
'dragon fruit' (of the genus Hylocereus).
Vanilla – (Vanilla planifolia ) the bean of an tropical orchid vine native to Veracruz, Mexico.
In 1520 one of Cortes' men, Bernal Diaz del Castillo ,noticed that Montezuma drank his hot chocolate
(made with cacao beans and ground maize and honey) flavored with tlilxochitl (ground black vanilla
pods; literally 'black flower' in Nahuatl – though the flower itself is actually greenish yellow).
Achiote - seeds from the Bixa orellana tree- red dye used as food coloring and for skin coloring
and also as flavoring for beans and some other foods (it has also been called bija, bijol, annatto, urucu
and roucou elsewhere in Latin America). (the big picture)
decorated ceramics of the Maya. Became a major commercial crop (for the dye) during colonial period.
Tobacco - Nicotiana tabacum is the main cigarette and cigar tobacco. It is also used in powder
form and mixed with lime (calcium oxide from ashes or heated limestone or shells) for “chewing” (i.e.
placed in the mouth and left in the cheek for a time).More potent native tobaccos (Nicotiana rustica,
N. glauca), called piciete or pilico in Spanish, are also employed in various indigenous communities.
Datura (jimson weed). Datura strammonium, D. inoxia used in California and N.W. Mexico
for puberty ceremonies.
Peyote (Lophophora williamsi) a spineless cactus, causes visions, allays hunger and thirst,
assists one’s sense of balance and puts off tiredness. Used today by Huichols and Tarahumara.
Psilocybe - one of several genera of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Most often associated with
Mazatecs, but also known to be used among Zapotecs, Mixe, Nahuatl speakers and others.
Ololiuhqui - recently identified as (Ipomoea tricolor), relative of the morning glory whose
hallucinogenic seeds were important to the Aztecs (long thought to be Rivea corymbosa).
Ska Maria (Salvia divinorum) - a sage (in the Mint family), propogated vegetatively
(i.e. apparently domesticated), employed by Mazatec healers to ascertain the cause of an illness.
Its flowers are used to make whistles, accounting for the Spanish term pito as a name for the tree.
Mountain Laurel - Sophora secundiflora (now Calia secundiflora) - called the mescal bean,
one of the oldest hallucinogens whose use is documented. Dangerous to eat (one bean can cause death
of a child), its presumed use by North American Indians supposedly gave way to the safer peyote.
Agave (of the Amaryllis family): the century plant is of the genus Agave.
Agaves include the true maguey, so important in Mesoamerica, particularly for pre-Columbian alcohol
production. Large fields of the plant can be seen in many parts of Mexico.
Before the flower stalk forms, however, the thick center bud can be cut from the plant, leaving a cavity
that receives great quantities of saps meant for the stalk. This sap is sucked out daily for a couple of months
(several quarts a day), and is called aguamiel. Then it is fermented into pulque. Distilled, this becomes
mezcal and tequila). The young stalks are sweet and can also be cut and roasted for food. Likewise
when the leaves are cut off, the “hearts” are roasted in pits and eaten.
Henequen (another species of agave) is planted in dry tropical areas by the acre (e.g. in
Quintana Roo, Yucatan), and from it comes sisal fiber. It is important, both economically and
Lechuguilla is the common agave of the northern deserts. It is a source of ixtle fiber.
Guamuchil (Pithecellobium dulce) Also called pinsón. Mimosaceae family – In May and June
it produces edible fruit/seedpods. Found in deciduous tropical forest region, near water. A medicinal tea
can be made from its leaves.
Spineless Yucca - (Yucca elephantipes) - houseplant sold in local nurseries. Also called "giant
yucca". Takes dry conditions and can stand low light.
Ceiba (Ceiba pentandra and other species) - the kapok tree, or silk-cotton tree. This is the
sacred tree of the Mayans, often depicted as a tree having hundreds of breasts. It grows to more
than lOO feet. When young its green trunk has many large and sharp spines. The green trunk accounts
pods full of white fibers (kapok) once used to fill sleeping bags. Some ancient Maya jade earflares
were carved to resemble the ceiba flower.
Ahuehuete - (Taxodium mucronatum) this is the Montezuma Baldcypress, relative of the
baldcypress found in Austin along Town Lake and elsewhere along rivers and creeks. The one at
El Tule in the valley of Oaxaca is Mexico's most famous tree. It is supposed to be more than 2,000 years
old, with a girth of 178 feet.
Copal - the trees (from several different genera and species) from which the incense widely
used In Mesoamerica comes (i.e. from the sap of the trees). Bursera, Protium, Pinus, etc.
Marigold- (Tagetes erecta) flor de muerto, the "flower of the dead" used at funerals and during
Todos Santos in Mesoamerica. It has yellow flowers and exudes material with insecticidal properties.
A close relative of this flower (Tagetes lucida) has a strong anise scent and is used as a substitute for
tarragon. Both species have a chemical component, tagetone, that is mildly biotoxic.
Flor de Mayo - Frangipani, the sacred flower of the Maya, the red and the white species of
The flowers are strongly and beautifully scented.
Jagua (Genipa americana), also called genipa or tapaculo. Tree to 60' tall, gives edible fruits.
Fruit pulp eaten fresh or made into deserts, syrups, wine and jam. When green the fruit gives a yellow
or white juice that gradually turns very dark blue and is used to dye hair or clothes, or for body painting
(especially in South America). Fruit extracts used to treat rheumatism, liver ailments, and asthma.
Fruit pulp also used as a dental anesthetic. Green fruit, scraped, treats itching.
Algarrobo (Prosopis spp.; Hymenaea courbaril) This tree is a relative
of the mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) that we have here in Austin. In northern Mexico and
the US southwest the name algarrobo refers usually to the mesquite (or to a close relative
that may attain 60' in height). Elsewhere in Mexico and farther south the term is more likely
to refer to the Hymenaea (also called guapinol or jatoba, or stinking toe), a tree that can
attain 130' in height. The Hymenaea courbaril has large seed pods with edible pulp surrounding
the seeds, that smells bad but tastes good. The resin is used for incense and the wood for tool
handles. Bark, resin and leaves are all used medicinally. In Spain the name refers to the
carob tree, which also has large seed pods with edible material surrounding the seeds. The
name comes from the Arabic term for the carob (becoming clear when one breaks it up into
its component forms al + garrob + o ).
Dahlia - the national flower of Mexico and a common garden flower in the U.S.
Zinnia - also native to Mesoamerica, a common garden flower in the U.S. now.
Poinsettia - native to Mesoamerica, this is a member of the Euphorbia (spurge) family, many
members of which have a milky juice that is biotoxic.
Shellflower (a kind of iris) - Tigridia pavonia – The flower is beautiful, and the bulb, roasted
and eaten by Aztecs and Mayans tastes kind of like sweet potato.
world, this plant responds to touch by rapidly closing up its leaves. Its movement is much more rapid than
Iron Cross Plant - (Oxalis deppei) tasteless but edible bulblike root, and the leaves are also edible
too, though the oxalic acid makes it risky to eat a lot. It is a famine food in Mesoamerica.
Introduced food plants, from the Old World, include:
until after 1800 – introduced from Jamaica], wheat, rice, barley, sorghum, oats, sugarcane (Africa),
onions, beets, garlic, turnips, carrots, cabbage, eggplant, lettuce, mulberry, orange, lemon,
lime, sweet lime, tamarind (Africa – by way of India – name comes from Arabic) [introduced into Mexico
in 1600’s], banana (some varieties may be prehispanic, but not native to New World – origin in
Indo-Malaysian region extending to northern Australia).
(see Julia Morton's Fruits of Warm Climates)
(see Purdue's crop index )
(see Economic Botany writeups)
Introduced non-food plants (some come from other parts of New World):
tree tobacco (Argentina), angels trumpet / tree datura / floripondio [Brugmansia sp.] (Peru),
castor bean, eucalyptus (Australia), oleander [Nerium oleander] (Mediterranean),
bougainvillea (Brazil), Jacaranda (Brazil), Orchid Tree [Bauhinia purpurea.] (India),
royal poinciana [Delonix regia] (Madagascar), Bamboo (Asia), African tulip tree (Africa),
noni [Morinda citrifolia] (Polynesia).
http://www.jardin-mundani.com/index.htm photos alphabetically by binomial name
SOME FAUNA OF MIDDLE AMERICA (ANIMALS)
also in art.
Scarlet Macaw - the largest and most conspicuous parrot of Middle America, from tropical
lowland areas; called mo? in several Mayan languages.
Quetzal - one of 8 species of trogons living in Mexico and Guatemala. The quetzal is famous
for long green tail and showy plumage.
Curassow – (Crax rubra) large edible pheasant-like bird
Chicken - George F Carter considers the evidence in "Pre-Columbian Chickens in America"
(in Man Across the Sea, edited by Riley et al 1971. pp. 178-218), concluding that chickens in America
were more likely present in the New world before Columbus, and that they were more likely to have been
introductions of Asiatic fowl (but by way of Polynesia, and to South America). There is some linguistic
evidence for Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican chickens.
or "twenty-bat" in indigenous languages.
Boa Constrictor lO to l2 feet long - often allowed to live in the thatch of Yucatec Maya houses as
news story later regarded as innacurately reported.
Raccoon Family includes the raccoon, but also has the coati or coatimundi (from a Brazilian word),
known in Mexico as a tejon or pisote. The coati has a long nose and long, non-prehensile tail. Makes a good
pet and is fun to watch. The cacomixtle is nocturnal and lives in the highlands--also called the ring-tailed cat.
monkey-like animal. Sometimes known in Mexico as marta or martucha, and in U.S. as honey bear.
Pig family - includes the collared peccary (jabali, javelina) - from dry plateaus to tropical
lowlands--can become quite aggressive; and the white lipped peccary (senso), from the jungles of Veracruz,
Chiapas, Tabasco, and Yucatan.
Dogs - Native pre-Columbian dogs include the Chihuahua and the Xoloitzcuintli (or Xolo). The
latter is hairless and used as food or as a hot water bottle (because no hair, so no fleas, and also has
a high temperature). It sweats through its skin unlike other dogs, and is believed in some regions to
serve as a guide for human souls in the underworld.
Monkeys - there are 2 kinds in Middle America: the Spider monkey is smaller (l8 inches) and
more slender, with long arms; the Howler monkey which is larger (33 inches) and more heavy
bodied, and whose roaring cries echo in rain and cloud forests. The howler is reddish brown to
black and travels in bands in the treetops. Males have a long "beard".
is smaller (2O inches) with solid color, and sometimes feeds during the day. The Paca (called tepeitzcuintli
or tepezcuintle) is larger (26 inches) and spotted w/ bands of white spots. It is called a gibnut in Belize.
It is tropical, shy, over hunted, and almost extinct.
Brocket deer (Mazama spp., Spanish cabrito) - very small (dog size) deer, with pointed
un-branched horns like those of a goat. Reputed to stomp poisonous reptiles to death.
figure in some Mesoamerican iconography. Alligators are found in North America, but are absent from
Iguana - dragonlike vegetarian lizard, serves as meat for people who hunt them; sold in markets.
as food. Two types: the tree-living and more common green iguana (Iguana iguana), and the groun-living
one that runs upright, and can walk on water.
Cane Toad - (Bufo Marinus) also called the giant toad, spring chicken (Belize), marine toad,
sapo grande, sapo gigante, and sapo lechero. Poisonous secretion form paratoid glands.
Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas; Sp. tiburón) Young bull sharks (cazón) are considered
a delicacy on the Gulf coast in the Veracruz region. They are noted for their tendency and willingness to
enter fresh water areas, going long distances up rivers. These sharks are said to be very dangerous.
Alligator Gar (Spanish peje lagarto) A distinctive and "ancient" fish; large and with an unsual
scale pattern. Shows up in Olmec iconography.
Sting Ray (Spanish pastinaca) - stingray spines were used by the classic Maya as bloodletting
implements, and perhaps also to tip arrows. There is even an alleged stingray spine glyph in the Maya script.
Cochineal - small insects (Coccus cacti, Dactylopius coccus) whose dried bodies (only the
females) make a red dye. The insects live on Opuntia and Nopalea cacti (prickly pears). Aztecs called the
dye nocheztli. Spaniards called it cochinilla. Cultivated for local use and trade in western and south-central Mexico;
it became a very important export from Mexico and Guatemala during colonial period.
http://www.xcalak.info/visit/uk/mammels-uk.shtml some pictures of Mesoamerican mammals. Not
fully accurate. For example the very first picture is of a kinkajou (Potos flavus) rather than a cacomixtle (Bassariscus sumichrasti)