A Wikipedia page caught my attention lately, an article on the Languages of México. Spanish naturally came to mind and the vast majority of its 120 million citizens do speak that. I figured there were probably a number of indigenous languages as well and that was likewise true. For example at least a million people speak Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec people, either as a primary or as a secondary language primarily in central México. 12MC focused on the other end of the scale and went straight down to the bottom of the list to examine the least spoken of the 68 nationally-recognized Mexican languages.
The bottom three languages each had less than two hundred Mexican speakers. Sources varied on the exact number although each would be considered threatened or moribund, and possibly in danger of extinction.
I discovered a website previously unknown to me in the process, Ethnologue – Languages of the World. The source listed information more than seven thousand living languages. It became a great resource during my search and I’m sure I will return to it in the future.
Motozintla de Mendoza, Chiapas, México
Mocho’ (alternately Motocintleco, Motozintleco, or Qato’k) is a Mayan language found in the Mexican state of Chiapas, practically on the border with Guatemala. Two distinct dialects existed, in Motozintla (map) and Tuzantán (map). Ethnologue noted that this language was extremely endangered. It would be highly unlikely to encounter someone speaking Mocho’ in either of those towns by happenstance; it was spoken by "older adults" in "home only." There were no known monolingual speakers of Mocho’ either.
Kumeyaay Plaque by Steve R, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
Kumiai is a Yuman language spoken by the Kumeyaay (formerly Diegueño) people. Yuman languages occupied a relatively small geographic footprint even during its heyday, covering modern Baja California plus portions of adjacent California and Arizona on the US side of the border. As an historical footnote, these were the people who stood on the shore greeting Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo when he landed at San Diego Bay in 1542, the first European expedition to the west coast of the future United States. An exhibit recognizes the Kumeyaay contribution at Cabrillo National Monument on the southern tip of Point Loma (map)
Currently 13 bands of Kumeyaay live in the United States and 4 live in México. The southernmost grouping resides at La Huerta, "located on the edge of a remote mountain wilderness area about 70 miles south of the U.S.-Mexican border, and 30 miles east of Ensenada" (map). The Kumiai Community Museum in Tecate attempts to preserve some of their cultural heritage.
Ethnologue estimated about 370 Kumiai speakers spread across both sides of the border. None of them were monolingual. Kumiai was categorized as moribund although efforts are underway to teach it to new generations.
Tribal Dancer by Henri Louis Hirschfeld, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
Tohono O’odham, a Uto-Aztecan language, didn’t have many speakers on the Mexican side of the border although there were at least 14,000 speakers in the United States including at least 180 monolinguals. That was enough to qualify it as "only" threatened rather than moribund, exhibiting "vigorous" usage by people of all ages. In México, however, there may be as few as a hundred speakers. These people were once known as the Papago — a name that lives on in objects as diverse as a moth, a park, and a US Navy ship. That name was discarded in favor of Tohono O’odham because Papago had been foisted upon them by outsiders.
Tohono O’odham occupied an historical range throughout the Sonoran Desert, roughly southeastern Arizona through northwestern México. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war between México and the United States in 1848 and then the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 established an international border directly through Tohono O’odham land. It wasn’t ever a problem until recently.
Initially, and for over one hundred years, the Tohono O’odham were able to pass freely over the border. However, in the mid-1980s the border was tightened in an effort by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Consequently, a barbed wire fence dividing the reservation in half and increased border patrol has made passing across the border difficult for tribal members. Entry anywhere but official check points is illegal and the entry points nearest to the reservation are 90 to 150 miles away.
The Tohono O’odham people never recognized a border and moved freely amongst themselves, making it possible for them to maintain family ties and participate in festivals such as the annual pilgrimage to to Magdalena de Kino (map) in Sonora: "we do not see ourselves as living in the borderlands. That is the view of people who look on a map but not at our lives. The border does not define us." Tohono O’odham extend as far as 90 miles south of the border into México.
I once climbed to the top of the not-too-impressive highpoint of the District of Columbia, which in fact is subway accessible. I’m all about easy highpointing. The District highpoint is kind-of equivalent to a state highpoint — some lists include it and others do not — so that was a convenient loophole to add another location to my list. I thought about that recently and wondered whether it might be possible to replicate my feat in another nation with a similar capital district.
That required a mashup of two separate lists. There weren’t very many situations like DC although a few were included in Wikipedia’s List of Federal Capitals. I cross-referenced that to the peak lists available on Peakbagger.com. It was sort-of hit or miss since most nations did not have a separate list of state, provincial and/or territorial highpoints. The lists depended upon the good graces of individual contributors to develop them. For example Abuja, Nigeria was a Federal district although nobody posted a list of individual Nigerian states so I couldn’t feature it. I wouldn’t be able to do that for Russia either unless loyal 12MC reader "January First-of-May" just happened to have the highpoint coordinates available for the Federal City of Moscow. I don’t have the data to determine these places on my own.
I found online information about several places though and I’ll list them from lowest to highest elevation.
El Palacio de Aguas Corrientes, Buenos Aires by pandrcutts, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
The summit of the Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires might be a fair comparison to Washington’s highpoint at a diminutive 38 meters (125 feet) in an urban area. Buenos Aires had a much more impressive water tower, though. The summit was crowned by the impressive Palacio de Aguas Corrientes — the Palace of Flowing Waters — a garish structure that contained a pumping station, water company offices, and even a museum dedicated to water and sanitation. As described by Welcome Argentina,
Down Córdoba Avenue, those who catch a glimpse of this building realize at once that it belongs to another time. Extravagant and ridiculous for some, fascinating for others, the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes… has been a symbol of the pomp of the generation of 1880 and at the same time a key piece for the health of a developing city.
Peakbagger even included an Ascent Trip Report, albeit a bit tongue-in-cheek.
Pico do Roncador
The Distrito Federal in Brazil included Brasília, and of course a highpoint summit which in this instance fell within a rural area of the northwest corner. Various online sources called it Pico do Roncador. Translation software told me that Roncador meant "Snorer." A little digging uncovered a species of fish called Umbrina Roncador or Yellowfin Croaker, and croakers do make a grunting noise that I guess might sound something like snoring (listen).
Was Pico do Roncador named for the fish or was it given the name because it was really boring to the point where it might put someone to sleep? Because I’m thinking the latter. The highpoint fell on a plateau at 1,341 meters (4,400 feet), hardly distinguishable from the surrounding terrain except for the presence of a communications tower visible in the distance on Google Street View.
I felt a little better when I noticed the summit of Bimberi Peak, the highpoint of the Australian Capital Territory. At least it resembled a mountain, and actually a pretty notable one for the area at 1,913 meters (6,276 feet). It’s part of the Brindabella Ranges and straddled the border between ACT and New South Wales in Namadgi National Park. The park’s website claims that the park covered "46 per cent of the Australian Capital Territory" which was an interesting point. Is there any other Federal district covered by national parkland to a greater degree?
Bimberi isn’t supposed to be a particularly technical climb although the peak does extend high enough to make vegetation sparse and it can be covered by snow in the winter.
ajusco en blanco by Señor Lebowski, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
México won the 12MC award for most extreme federal capital summit, with Cerro Ajusco in the Distrito Federal rising to 3,937 meters (12,917 feet). Like many other mountains nearby, Ajusco had a volcanic origin and was formed as part of a lava dome. One might think the altitude would be daunting however Ajusco may be the most commonly climbed summit in the nation. Why? Because something like 20 million people live within the greater Mexico City metropolitan area, and the heart of the city is only like 40 kilometres away from Parque Nacional Cumbres del Ajusco. Crazy!
Summit Post provided advice to prospective climbers.
… droves of Mexicans flock to its slopes on holidays and on weekends to escape the press of the most populated city on earth… I would suggest the best time to climb Ajusco would be early on a weekday morning so one could enjoy the peak with a degree of tranquility… it should take no more than 2-4 hours (depending on one’s level of fitness) roundtrip to complete.
That’s a little more complicated than the Washington, DC highpoint.
I’m not sure the title adequately conveyed what I’m trying to describe, although I can’t think of a better concise title to replace it either. Conceptually, I wanted to know the northernmost and southernmost places in the world and in the United States where one could cross an international border by automobile via a road connected to the larger grid. There are plenty of places farther north where a crossing could be accomplished on foot, perhaps after a long ship voyage or an airline flight, but not by a motorized vehicle on an established road. Those road crossings would be cardinal direction border extremes for the average tourist as opposed to the adventurous explorer. You know, ones that I might actually experience someday.
These were the best examples I could find. I’d love see improvements.
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The absolutely farthest northern road that crossed an international border that I found occurred between Polmak, Norway and Nuorgam, Finland at an astounding 70 degrees north of the equator. By contrast the Arctic Circle is at about 66.56 degrees north. Barrow, Alaska — about as far north as one can get in the United States — is only slightly farther north (71 degrees) and it’s not connected to anything by road, much less internationally. This is crazy far north.
Both nations are part of the Schengen Area so one could cross the border freely. It looked like a former border station had been converted into shops in the Street View image.
NORTHERNMOST UNITED STATES (AND CANADA)
Flickr by jimmywayne via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License
The United States and Canada share the same northernmost international border crossing at Poker Creek, Alaska / Little Gold Creek, Yukon (map) along the Top of the World Highway. It’s located at about 64 degrees north.
This also demonstrated how few roads crossed this rugged, isolated terrain because the border extended another 380 miles (612 kilometres) due north without a single other road crossing it. This border station closes in the winter so I’m willing to concede that purists may wish to look farther south to the Alaska-Canadian Highway for a more complete example, one that remains open 24X7 all year long (map).
What about the Lower 48 states? I think the northernmost crossing would be the place where the border jogs around to form the Northwest Angle (map). Weekend Roady visited this one in person and I won’t try to improve upon his first-hand description.
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The record wasn’t clear-cut at the southern end, nor was it quite as extreme. I think it may be a spot on Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego around 54 degrees south, although it’s not even as far south as Ushuaia (featured on 12MC previously), the southernmost town of significance in Argentina. There may also be an error on the Google Map too. Google seems to have issues with borderlines, a condition I’ve observed before. Notice the vertical fence line about 100 metres west of Google’s line. Could that be the true boundary?
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I thought perhaps there might be a car ferry between Ushuaia, Argentina and Puerto Williams, Chile. It seemed natural and I’d be willing to bend the "road" rule to accommodate a ferry. It wouldn’t violate the spirit, right? Nonetheless, Wikipedia said of Puerto Williams, "There is no regular link with Argentina and connection to Ushuaia is restricted." Puerto Williams exists primarily for the Chilean navy to assert national sovereignty at the farthest tip of South America. It was once a rather sensitive military area although tourism has begun to creep in.
Another source said it was possible to travel between the two places albeit not very conveniently, "Ushuaia Boating in Ushuaia, Argentina, has regular zodiac service to Isla Navarino October-March or April. The trajectory is boat from Ushuaia to Puerto Navarino (40 minutes, immigration), then minibus to Puerto Williams." However that wouldn’t qualify as an automobile crossing by any stretch of the imagination so I’m not going to count it.
SOUTHERNMOST SOUTHMOST USA
Eyeball estimates led me to believe that the southernmost border crossing in the United States would be found at Brownsville, Texas where it provided access to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, México. That was located at about 25.9 degrees north. A whole bunch of the world can be found farther south than that.
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That’s not what I enjoyed the most, though. I was amused by Southmost Boulevard. That’s southmost not southernmost. A shorter word with the same meaning. It sounded a little odd. Maybe I could get used to it?