Geography and environment
Historically and ethnically, the Huasteca region is defined by the area dominated by the Huastecs at their height. The actual extension of the region is somewhat disputed as well as how it should be sub-divided. Geographically it has been defined as from the Sierra Madre Oriental to the Gulf of Mexico with the Sierra de Tamaulipas as the north border and the Cazones River as the south. It extends over the south of Tamaulipas, the southeast of San Luis Potosí, the northeast of Querétaro and Hidalgo and the extreme north of Veracruz and Puebla and a very small portion of Guanajuato over an area of about 32,000km2.
To the north and east there are relative flatlands. To the south there are hills of calcified sand. Basalt from old lava flows penetrate the primarily sedimentary rock from the west and appear with wind and water erosion. The higher mountain areas to the west often have tall peaks in capricious forms with steep slopes and eight fast running rivers. Highways in the region tend to be small and winding, especially in the higher elevations in San Luis Potosí and Hidalgo. Most of these river eventually empty into either the Pánuco or the Cazones River with the zone belonging to the Pánuco, Tuxpan and Cazones River basins, all of which empty into the Gulf of Mexico. As much of the rock is easily eroded, the mountain areas are filled with caves and other underground openings. The best known of this is the Sótano de las Golandrinas (Cave of Swallows) just north of Xilitla. It is famous for the large number of birds (swifts and green parrots, not swallows) that emerge from the opening in the morning. It is also a site for base-jumping down the sink’s 372-meter depth. The birds return en masse again at nightfall. Many of the rivers run clear or turquoise blue in deep ravines or canyons and form waterfalls. The tallest of these is the Tamil, which is 300 meters wide and 105 meters tall. It joins the waters of the
Gallinas River with those of the Santa Maria River to form the
Tampaon River. Another important waterfall is the Tamasopo and at the Nacimiento del Río Huichihuayán (Source of the Huichihuayán River) near the village of the same name, the water comes out of the mountains, forming pools large enough for swimming.
It is one of the most bio-diverse regions in Mexico, with over 2,000 species of plants. This diversity also extends into agricultural crops with local corn varieties resistant to drought. This area is mostly dominated by tropical rainforest, some of which is still semi-virgin with a hot humid climate with some areas of pine-holm oak forest in the highest elevations and arid bush and grassland in a few isolated areas. Tropical forests have species such as kapok, cedar, ebony and more with palms more common on the coastline. Tall growth perennial rainforest dominates in the states of Hidalgo and Veracruz with medium grown semi deciduous rainforest in San Luis Potosí. It also has a large number of species of algae, more diverse and of different types than those found in other parts of Mexico. It is also rich in wildlife such as parrots, macaws, spider monkeys, owls, eagles, toucans, deer, jaguar, wild boar and raccoons with various species of reptiles and insects.
The main city in the SLP section is Ciudad Valles, founded by Nuño Beltran de Guzmán in 1533. The most important city in the Hidalgo portion is
Huejutla . Other important population centers include Tantoyuca, Tamazunchale and Chicontepec.
One section of the Huasteca is called the Sierra Gorda, which is centered on northern Querétaro, but extends into Hidalgo and Guanajuato.