By the middle of the twentieth century, the caves of Mexico had attracted considerable scientific interest, due mainly to their biology, although there was some interest in exploring and describing the caves themselves, resulting in, for example, F. Bonet's 1953 publication on the caves in the Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, area.
Cavers from the United States, mainly from Texas at first, began visiting Mexico in the 1950s, with a trip to the Xilitla area in 1958 especially significant in raising interest in the country. Following a trip to the Tequila, Veracruz, area in 1962, TR Evans of Austin, Texas, organized the Speleological Survey of Mexico, which was to become the Association for Mexican Cave Studies shortly thereafter. The emphasis was always on publications to inform the world of the cavers discoveries.
The Association for Mexican Cave Studies Newsletter began in 1965. Originally bimonthly, its appearance became irregular. Four full volumes were published, and part of a fifth, which finally appeared in 1977. The AMCS Bulletin series began in 1967, with the publication of Bulletin 1, Caves of the Inter-American Highway, a guide to caves of northeastern Mexico. The most recent Bulletin is number 8, published in 1982, but the series is being resumed today. Terry Raines of Austin was the publisher and a principal mover behind these early AMCS publications. James Reddell, editor of many of the Bulletins, William Russell, and many others contributed during this period.
With the Newsletter slowing to a halt, AMCS cavers in Austin, including Russell, started a new publication called the AMCS Activities Letter in 1975. It was initially also quite frequent, but, renamed the AMCS Activities Newsletter after number 6, has evolved into the more-or-less annual magazine it is today.
An artifact of that early work is the AMCS Anthem, no longer in active use!.
The Association for Mexican Cave Studies became an official Project of the National Speleological Society in 2001.
While publishing has always been the main activity undertaken officially by the Association for Mexican Cave Studies, the main interest of most of its members has always been, of course, the exploration and study of the caves of Mexico. During the early years of the AMCS, almost all of the significant exploration of Mexican caves was done by American cavers. More recently, a considerable number of Mexican cavers have become qualified to participate in even the most difficult explorations, and groups from overseas, notably France, Italy, England, and Australia, have made significant discoveries. Progress over the years can be seen from the facts that in 1964 the skylight drop in Ventana Jalalí, Tamaulipas, at 153 meters, became the deepest drop in a North American cave, and in the same year Sótano de Tlamaya, San Luis Potosí, was surveyed to 391 meters deep, becoming the deepest cave in North America. Today, neither makes the list of the top fifty in Mexico. As of 2012, thirty-seven pits at least 200 meters deep are known, and twenty-one caves over 800 meters deep, nine of them over 1000 meters. Six caves have been surveyed to over 50 kilometers of surveyed passages; strikingly, four of those are underwater, near the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo.
AMCS Activities Newsletter 22 contains a twenty-four-page article by Bill Stone and Terry Raines on the history of cave exploration in Mexico to 1992, except for the caves around Huautla, Oaxaca. Number 21 contains a fourteen-page article by Bill Stone on the history of exploration of the Huautla caves up until the same time. Both articles include extensive bibliographies.
We wish to acknowledge some past board members and associates who made the organization what it is today:
- Bill Mixon, long-term editor and treasurer of the AMCS (d. 8 May 2019)
- William H. Russell (d. 21 March 2019), a founder of the AMCS, a former editor, and author of early publications
- David McKenzie, himself an important early caver in Mexico, whose software genius helped the AMCS develop its data collection operations.