The History of Mexico
A History of Mexico: The beginning of the history of Mexico dates back to the arrival of the original settlers more than 10,000 years ago. Little by little great peoples began to emerge (the Olmec, Teotihuacán, Maya and Mexica or Aztec civilizations stand out) that occupied different and large territories and developed their civilizations. In the 15th century the Spanish arrived and, after a war of conquest, they subdued the local natives and created a viceroyalty (colonial state). Spanish rule lasted until 1821, the year in which Mexico won the War of Independence and the First Mexican Empire was created, which soon gave way to the First Federative Republic.
The History of Mexico Timeline
The history of Mexico, which is particularly rich, can be divided into three major periods. Different peoples with different cultures succeeded one another until 1521, when the last Aztec emperor surrendered to the Spaniards. The third part begins with the independence of Mexico in 1821 and lasts until the present day. The History of Mexico.
The pre-Columbian period
Rich in history, tradition and culture, Mexico is made up of 31 states and a federal district. It is the third largest country in Latin America and has one of the largest populations. It is home to more Spanish speakers than any other country in the world. Despite the political and social changes that have occurred over the centuries, evidence of past cultures and events is evident everywhere in Mexico. Many rural areas of Mexico are still inhabited by indigenous peoples, whose lifestyles are similar to those of their ancestors.
In addition, many pre-Columbian ruins still exist throughout Mexico, including the ancient city of Teotihuacan and the Mayan pyramids at Chichen Itza and Tulum. Reminiscences of the colonial past are evident in the architecture of cities such as Taxco and Queretaro.
1. The Olmecs, the first peoples of Mexico
The History of Mexico TimeLine : Around 1500 AD, this civilization was the first to occupy Mexican territory. Installed in the current states of Puebla and Veracruz, the Olmecs already had well-established rites and construction techniques. The History of Mexico.
2. The Mayans, the greatest pre-Columbian civilization
The origin of the Mayas, dated a priori to the 4th century, is still unknown. At its peak (between 600 and 900 AD), this brilliant civilization extended mainly over the Yucatán Peninsula and almost all of what is now Guatemala. The History of Mexico.
The chronological history of the ancient Mayan Empire could be established thanks to stelae dated by an extremely complex calendar. This tool testifies to the mathematical and astronomical knowledge of a people who were “obsessed with time”. The History of Mexico.
The Mayans formed a very hierarchical civilization in “nation-states” to such an extent that each state had its own army. They had for Creator God, “Kukulcan”, the “feathered serpent” but also Itzamma (the Sky God) equivalent of Zeus among the Greeks. The most popular Mayan god was certainly Chac, the rain god. It can be said that, in general, the Mayan religion revered nature.
3. The arrival of the Toltecs
Around the 10th century, the Toltecs, a people from the north, invaded Yucatán when the Mayan civilization was in decline. The Mayans, a farming population, are struggling to recover from periods of drought and the impoverishment of soils exhausted by slash-and-burn corn. The arrival of the Toltecs and the establishment of the new empire at Chichen Itza introduced the art of goldsmithing and metalwork. Along with the common practice of human sacrifice, a new Toltec-Mayan culture is established. The revolt of the Mayas and the fall of Chechen Itza sign the end of the supremacy of the Toltecs. The History of Mexico.
4. The Aztecs, the last pre-Columbian people in Mexican history
The Aztecs, probable descendants of the Toltecs, were the last pre-Columbian people in Mexico to experience a golden period. This nomadic people had for mission, according to the prophecy of their god Huitzilopochtli, to build a city at the place where would appear to them an eagle devouring a snake above a cactus (a symbol which one finds today on the Mexican flag). The oracle took place in 1325 on an island in Lake Texaco. The Aztecs then built Tenochtitlan there, a city that would become the capital of the future Aztec Empire.
Between 1517 and 1518, the Spaniards discovered and explored the east coast of Mexico. When the conquistadors landed in 1519, the Aztecs reigned supreme over the region, taxing populations and enlisting men in their armies. Unpopular with the natives, the Aztecs facilitated Spanish colonization. The first to land, on February 19, 1519, was Hernan Cortès, famous conquistador who founded the city of Veracruz. The Aztec Empire ended on August 13, 1521 with the siege of Tenochtitlan. The city was razed by the Spaniards who built Mexico City instead. The Spaniards therefore extended their territory called “New Spain” which enriched the Kingdom of Spain for many years. This is The History of Mexico City.
It was one of the most important episodes in the history of Mexico. What causes independence? There are essentially two causes: the first is that inequality in society was getting stronger. The second was the news that Napoleon Bonaparte had taken Spain: the logical effect was that Spain’s power in the colonies was instantly weakened and many took advantage of this circumstance to go on attack.
In particular we must remember the figure of the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla who, on September 16, 1810, together with Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama began the Revolution with the famous” grito de Dolores ” (so called for having occurred in the city of Dolores). It consisted of a call to the people to rise up in arms against the Viceroyalty..
After a war that began in 1810, the Spaniards definitively lost Mexico in 1821. The Mexican insurrection that began in Valladolid gradually gained the main cities of the country. After more than ten years of struggle which cost many lives, Mexico acquired its independence. On May 18, 1822, Augustin de Iturbide became the first emperor of independent Mexico.
Ancient History of Mexico Summary
Pre-Hispanic (or Pre-Columbian) Period: 2500 BC-1521 AD
The pre-Columbian era (that is, before the arrival of Columbus) is the one that scholars define as the first period of Mexican history. A su vez is divided into 3 sub-periods (pre-clásico mesoamericano, clásico mesoamericano and post-clásico mesoamericano).
Essentially we can say that it is the time of the great civilizations that both influenced the character, architecture and thoughts of the Mexican people. Highlight these civilizations: The History of Mexico.
- Precursor of other pre-Columbian cultures. They existed between 1200 and 500 B.C.
- Located in the Gulf Coast region of Mexico.
- They had a calendar and hieroglyphic writing.
- Famous for the construction of great architectonic works, such as the colossal heads that, supposed, represented to great warriors of the age.
- The religion was fundamental and the supreme chief was the priest. Of course it was a polytheistic religion (the jaguar cult was very strong).
- It disappeared, is created, because of an ecological disaster.Teotihuacan
It took place between 200 and 650 A.D. and its disappearance is a mystery to historians.
Unlike the other pre-Columbian civilizations, it was concentrated only in one area: the one that corresponds to the remains of the city of Teotihuacán.
Their religion was polytheistic, they worshiped different gods (Quetzalcoatl was the Serpent God, Huehuetéotl the Fire God, Tlaloc the God of rain, Tezcatlipoca the God of heaven and Earth). Sacrifices, including humans, were frequent.
It was a society that subsisted especially from agriculture and commerce.
It is assumed that the city of Teotihuacán came to have a population of 200,000 inhabitants, a barbarity in the America of that time. Curiosity: its remains are today the most visited in Mexico. The History of Mexico.
- It took place between 200 and 650 A.D. and its disappearance is a mystery to historians.
- Unlike the other pre-Columbian civilizations, it was concentrated only in one area: the one that corresponds to the remains of the city of Teotihuacán.
- Their religion was polytheistic, they worshiped different gods (Quetzalcoatl was the Serpent God, Huehuetéotl the Fire God, Tlaloc the God of rain, Tezcatlipoca the God of heaven and Earth). Sacrifices, including humans, were frequent.
- It was a society that subsisted especially from agriculture and commerce.
- It is assumed that the city of Teotihuacán came to have a population of 200,000 inhabitants, a barbarity in the America of that time. Curiosity: its remains are today the most visited in Mexico. The History of Mexico.
- It is one of the most amazing civilizations in the world and has a history of almost 3,000 years.
- They were a society super advanced to their time and developed writing and language, also left important legacies in the architectural, astronomical and mathematical field.
- While in the past the Mayans were thought to be a theocratic society, today it is more logical that the Mayans were organized around feudal lords. Trade was so fundamental to them, they earned the nickname “the Phoenicians of America”.
- However, religion was a very important aspect in everyday life. The most important Mayan Gods were Hunaj Kú (the Creator God), Itzamná (the God of heaven, night and day), Kukulkán (the God of wind) and Chac (the God of rain).
- The Mayans never completely disappeared: today, especially in the Yucatan area, it is a strong and living culture.
- Since we are going to visit the Yucatan Peninsula and that is deeply influenced by this civilization, we have prepared this post with a few curiosities of the Mayan culture. The History of Mexico.
- Although they are more known as “Aztecs” this term is later since they were called “mexica”.
They lived in the middle of the Valley of Mexico.
- Society was divided into castes, with the military and priests being the highest castes.
- Their astrological knowledge was very advanced (they knew the phases of the moon and differentiated the constellations) and also, they gave great importance to art (so that later history has branded them, for a long time, barbarians).
- Religion was polytheistic and in this case also sacrifices were common (including humans).
- Their civilization died out in 1521 because of the diseases carried by the Spaniards.
Viceregal Period: 1521-1821
The History of Mexico: It is the time that lasts 3 centuries and that goes from the arrival of the Spaniards, led by Hernán Cortes (and the consequent fall of the Aztecs) to the Independence of Mexico.
The society of the Viceroy was thus hierarchized:
- Guachupines: the Spaniards by birth, who performed important jobs and enjoyed a high status.
- Criollos: children of the guachupines born in the American continent.
- Mestizos: children of people of different geographical origin (usually Spanish father and indigenous mother).
A figure that we found super interesting is that of Gonzalo Guerrero, a Spaniard who was taken prisoner by the Mayans and who, over time, learned to admire this culture so much that he did not hesitate to “change sides” and fight with them. He is also considered the father of miscegenation since he was the first Spaniard to have children with a Mayan woman. We recommend reading the book by Alfonso Mateo-Sagasta “Caminarás con el sol” that talks about its history and gives a million data and information of the time.
Contemporary and Modern era
Wars with France and the United States
Something remarkable of this period were the Spanish attempts to reconquer Mexico (1821-1829) but, as you can well imagine, they failed. There were also two interventions at the hands of the French who demanded payments from the Mexicans: the War of the Cakes (1838-1839) and the War of 1862-1867 (after which Benito Juárez decided to stop paying the foreign debt, and of course, the French were not very happy). And, of course, we cannot forget the War with the United States, where Mexico lost about 50% of its territories (1846-1848). The History of Mexico.
Porfiriato and the Mexican Revolution
A History of Mexico: A relative stability began in 1876 when Porfirio Díaz came to power, who would remain in charge of the country until 1910. But make no mistake: stability is not always good, especially if it is a political dictatorship. The good thing about this era (Porfiriato) was that Mexico was modernized. The bad thing is that the dictatorship, obviously, did not like the majority: social tension was getting stronger, money was concentrated in the hands of a few and it led to an inevitable revolution. The History of Mexico.
It was the year 1910 and Díaz, after having said that he would not run again, not only does he do it, but he manages to get his opponent, the real winner (Francisco Madero), sentenced to jail. The village was already tired.
Madero called for rebellion (Plan de San Luis Potosí) and was supported by leaders like Emiliano Zapata(does the term “zapatista?) and Pancho Villa. Díaz had to flee to Europe and his dictatorship was finally over.
What happened next? Madero was in power for about 2 years, but in 1913 he was murdered. The command now belonged to Victoriano Huerta, but in 1915 Venustiano Carranza replaced him and in 1917 the Constitution of Mexico was promulgated. In a few years all these leaders of the revolution die, and not of natural causes: Carranza’s men murder Emiliano Zapata and those of Álvaro Obregón kill Carranza. Pancho Villa also suffers the same fate. Come on … a lake of blood. Approximately 2 million people died during the Revolution, a full-fledged Civil War. The History of Mexico.
Mexico after the Revolution
The history of Mexico does not end here. After the Revolution and until 2000, the reformists ( a party that later, in the ’40s, would be renamed PRI/Partido Revolucionario Institucional) succeeded each other in Mexico. An essential figure is that of Lázaro Cárdenas del Rio, who in 1937 took command of the country and was responsible for fulfilling several issues that had been discussed for years, first of all the Agrarian Reform.
He also nationalized the railways and expropriated oil (which until then was in the hands of foreign companies). He was one of the best-rated presidents in Mexico’s history, although it must be remembered that not everything was beautiful: political corruption and high poverty rates were there. The History of Mexico.
Cárdenas was succeeded by Manuel Avila Camacho who developed a moderate and centrist policy (although some say that his interests benefited the bourgeoisie more than all Mexicans). With the Second World War, Mexico’s economy suffered (like almost all) and in 1942 decided to go to War supporting the allies. The History of Mexico.
See Also History of Spain
The next presidents were Miguel Alemán, Ruiz Cortines (who granted universal suffrage and finally women were able to vote) and Adolfo López Mateos (who promoted great economic growth and inaugurated many hospitals, museums and schools).
1968 is another key date in Mexico’s history: the economy begins to slow down and the people are increasingly discontent. The Tlatelolco Massacre, during which hundreds and hundreds of students died after repression by the security forces, marks one of the most tragic episodes in modern Mexican history. The History of Mexico.
The PRI is increasingly in question: with its repressive policy and the alleged electoral fraud (Carlos Salinas de Gortari won the elections after a rare and mysterious computer error), the party does not have a good time… but neither do Mexicans! The economy tends towards neoliberalism, hundreds of state companies are privatized and in the ‘ 80s the oil crisis is suffered. The History of Mexico.
These are also the years in which drug trafficking begins to take a lot of power and move a lot of money: these are the years in which Colombians begin to move their routes.
After a few years of PRI victories, in 2000 the elections were won by Vicente Fox, a member of Alianza por el Cambio. His intentions were very good, but he lacked support to carry out all the reforms he had thought of. The next one was Felipe Calderón of PAN, who is remembered for his hard fight against drug cartels: for example, he sent thousands of soldiers to the cities bordering the United States and managed to arrest some gang leader.
The effect is the opposite of what was desired: the guerrillas among the gangs are increasing (more than 50,000 dead during Calderón’s term, almost 10,000 per year) and decreasing only for a macabre reason: the main enemies had already been eliminated. The drug business was getting stronger and stronger. The History of Mexico.
In 2012, the PRI returned to power, led by Enrique Peña Nieto, whose objective was to improve the country’s economy and its position internationally. During his government, several remarkable episodes occurred: to begin in 2014, 43 normalistas students (a collective of students of revolutionary origin) disappeared at the hands of corrupt police and were supposedly killed by the Guerreros Unidos cartel. And not only did national security not improve, as he had promised in his campaign, but the record number of nearly 26,000 deaths was recorded. The History of Mexico.
The History of Mexico: Although there was a great triumph: the capture of El Chapo Guzmán, a triumph that ended up like a Hollywood movie: the Sinaloa cartel boss ended up escaping from the maximum security prison through a tunnel, and he did it on a motorcycle. The History of Mexico.
The newly elected president of Mexico is Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the National Regeneration Movement. He took office on December 1, 2018 and some of his promises were:
- Reduce his salary to 50% of the current president.
- Give up living in the official residence (Los Pinos).
- Sell the presidential plane (he said Trump doesn’t even have a plane like Peña’s).
- Fight poverty (”for the good of all, the poor first”).
- Banish corruption (“even if it belongs to family or friends”).
- Austerity in government.
- Combat insecurity.
- Reduce your escort.
- National energy and fuel production.
- Free and quality public education. The History of Mexico.
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