*As photo of the month for December, we chose the above image. Fittingly enough, the photo was taken Christmas morning on a ridge high above the Barranca de Metzquititlán, Hidalgo, Mexico. The region about Metzquititlán has long been known to lovers of cacti and succulents. In this region lies the famous 'Valley of the Old Men', a sort of Mecca for cactophiles such as ourselves.
In the foreground of the photo are century plants or agaves, probably Agave salmiana. Along the mountain limestone slopes and canyon ridges, small farms use the agave for property enclosures, wind breaks, and in terrace farming. It was from a camp at the site of a long abandoned farm that this picture was taken.
In the Metzquititlán region, the indigenous peoples since prehistoric times have used the wild or cultivated agave to make a fermented drink 'pulque', a nourishing, moderately alcoholic drink drawn from the sap of the living plant by cutting off the young flower stalk. A hollow was gouged out and the sap allowed to accumulate, then collected and permitted to ferment. From the flower bud also comes a fine fiber which is used for cords, nets, and woven cloth.
The agaves make a fitting foreground for a lovely sunrise, entirely appropriate for adding the right touch of Christmas spirit.