Mexican History

All info on Mexican history!

Mexican history, a summary

From ancient world to modern day The first inhabitants in Mexican history were people who migrated into the New World from Asia, by crossing the land bridge that existed in the Bering Strait at some time during the Ice Age. Then, they traveled south through Alaska, Canada, the United States and into what is today, Mexico. Different tribes settled in different Mexican regions. This took place more than 40,000 years ago. Mexico’s ancient cultures helped shape the country as it is today. There was no direct succession from one group to another. Throughout Mexican history many cultures existed at the same time in various parts of Mexico and Middle America (Mesoamerica), among them, the Olmecs, the Teotihuacans, the Mayans, the Mixtecs, the Zapotecs, the Tarascans, the Totonacs and the Aztecs.

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PRE-CLASSIC PERIOD

The Olmecs lived in the humid lowlands of southern Veracruz and Tabasco along the Gulf of Mexico. The word Olmec means “the dweller in the land of rubber”. The Olmecs were great sculptors, whether carving tiny jade figures or gigantic basalt monuments. They considered jade to be a precious stone.

According to Mexican history, they are most famous for their carvings of huge human heads made from boulders, some weighing as much as 50 tons, which they made without any metal tools. The largest head found is 3.40 metres (10 feet) high. By 1994, 17 of these colossal heads had been found. The Olmecs carried these boulders as far as 100 kilometres (60 miles). To this day, nobody knows how they did this.

The Olmecs invented a calendar and influenced later cultures such as the Aztecs, Mixtec, Totonac and the Mayans who played a major role in Mexican history.

Uxmal Mayan Ruins

Uxmal Mayan Ruins

CLASSIC PERIOD

Teotihuacan is an ancient Mexico city that was built around 200 AD, in the Valley of Mexico. Teotihuacan means “The City of the Gods”. It is about one hour’s drive North of present day Mexico City. It was believed to be the place where the gods were created; and many people came on pilgrimages to visit it. Before the Spanish arrived, Teotihuacan had about 200,000 inhabitants, making it the largest city in Mesoamerica.

The Teotihuacans built the temples, monuments, streets and squares of their city based on their observations of astronomy. This must be one of the most breathtaking archeological sites in all the Americas. Even today you can still walk along the main street, called the Avenue of the Dead, climb the Pyramid of the Moon, then tackle the even higher Pyramid of the Sun, which compares in size to the pyramids of Egypt.

When people think about Mexican history they usually think of the Mayan Empire. The Mayans are often considered to be the crown jewel of pre-colombian cultures. They developed the mathematical concept of Zero and produced a calendar that enabled their priests to predict eclipses and plot the movements of the solar system.

The Mayans also participated enthusiastically in brutal games, human sacrifice and ritual bloodletting, which they believed helped them to communicate with the Gods. The vast Mayan empire, first centered in Guatemala and the state of Chiapas, spread north to the Yucatan Peninsula by the seventeenth century.

Mayan art

Mayan art

Mexico Chechena

Mexico Chechena

SPANISH INVASION OF MEXICO

The Aztec empire is often the second thing people think of when they talk about Mexican history. The Aztecs were warrior people who came from a place called Aztlán, thought to be in the north-western region of Mexico. They left Aztlán in the 12th century, settling in various places before finally, in the 13th Century, arriving in the Valley of Mexico.

Driven by prophetic decree, they moved from place to place in search of a location where they would see an eagle perched on a cactus pad, clutching a serpent in its beak. According to the legend, this spot was an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco, within the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs soon dominated other tribes and villages, and in 1325 founded Tenochtitlan, which was later to become Mexico City.

In the 16th century the Spanish invaded and conquered what today is modern Mexico. Between 1515-1850, many people from Europe, especially from Spain, came to settle in the region Mexico. Hernán Cortés, the leader of the small group of Conquistadores, arrived at Veracruz, a town on the Gulf of Mexico. Cortés and his men settled in Tenochtitlan.

Mexico Tenochtitlan, the old capital of the Empire, became known as Mexico City. New Spain, as Mexico was called then, was a rich source of mineral wealth, especially silver. The Spaniards developed a colonial economy in Mexico, based on the hacienda system and export-import trade with mainland Spain.

Mexican history and its culture have been greatly influenced by The Spanish way of life. While Mexico remained a colony, rulers that governed Mexico came from the mainland of Spain. Spanish missionaries also educated the indigenous people. However, both native Mexicans and Creoles (people of Spanish descent born in Mexico) were unhappy with this system. Mexican people are a mix of Europeans, mostly Spanish, and Indians. People of Indian and Spanish descent are called mestizos who make up the majority of Mexico’s population.

Spanish invasion

Spanish invasion

INDEPENDENCE OF MEXICO

After a war which lasted eleven years and in which many people died, Mexico finally achieved its independence from Spain in September 1810; the independence day being September 16th. The War of Independence cost Mexico a great deal.

As a new country, Mexico was struggling internally to achieve nationhood. Throughout Mexican history, the nation was deeply divided between two political groups – the Liberals and the Conservatives – who each wanted to rule Mexico in a different way.

The Conservatives wanted to use the old Spanish model to govern Mexico, but the Liberals wanted a system similar to that of the United States. Agustín de Iturbide was the first Emperor in the history of independent Mexico. The Conservatives wanted Mexico to become an Empire after independence, and Iturbide was crowned Emperor.

In 1824, Iturbide returned to Mexico but was arrested and shot. The Mexican government, far away in Mexico City, could not extend its rule effectively to the furthest corners of Mexico. War began in 1846 when the United States army began its march south toward Mexico City.

Mexican soldiers

Mexican soldiers