What is Montemojino?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Monte mojino (MON-teh mow-HE-no) is a colloquial term still used by rural people in parts of Mexico to describe the special burnished look of the tropical deciduous forest (TDF) during the dry season. From April until late June, the trees in the TDF drop their leaves and the landscape changes from emerald green to haunting shades of mauve, ocher, copper, and sienna. Botanists studying the TDF in Mexico in the early 20th century adopted the term from local residents they encountered in the field. For example, Isaac Ochoterena in his 1923 article “Las Regiones Geográfico-Botánicas de México” used monte mojino to describe tropical dry forests, noting that it was the term natives used to describe their surroundings.  Monte mojino – like many idiomatic terms used by rural speakers – appears to be falling into neglect as Mexicans continue to leave the countryside to seek jobs and education in cities. The name we have chosen for our conservation project – Reserva Monte Mojino – captures the entwined natural and cultural aspects of Mexico’s tropical deciduous forest and helps keep alive a very special name for a very special landscape. (Thank you to Fernando Chiang of the Instituto de Biología UNAM, Tom Wendt of the University of Texas at Austin Herbarium, and Alberto Búrquez Montijo of the Instituto Ecología UNAM, who were helpful in providing sources and information about the uses and meanings of monte mojino.)