Mexico

MEXICO HISTORY

mapa de guatemala click on the image to enlarge
The first signs of settled habitation in Mexico date back to around 5000-2000. The first real civilization was in the Pre-classic era (2500BC - 250AD), when Olmec cities (known best for their huge head sculptures) flourished in the low-lying coastal jungles of Veracruz. At the start of the Post-classic era (900-1520AD) there were a series of invasions from the North. The Toltec people, who dominated the central valleys from 950-1150AD, were amongst the first to arrive.


El Castillo de San Felipe de Lara click on the image to enlarge
The Aztecs arrived in central Mexico around the end of the 12th century. They proceeded to scavenge and raid until 1345, when they had achieved enough peace to build their own city. In less than 100 years they established control over the whole of central and southern Mexico. Meanwhile, in Oaxaca the Zapotecs were subject to invasions by the Miztecs, who eventually dominated the area.

hernando cortez click on the image to enlarge
The Spanish conquered Mexico and defeated the Aztecs in less than three years after Cortes landed in Veracruz in 1519 (with 550 men and a cannon). This overwhelming victory was largely due to Moctezuma’s (the Aztec god-king) belief in religious omens - he thought Cortes was a guest that should be welcomed into the city. In return, Cortes made him a prisoner in his own palace and appointed himself governor of Nueva España. The Spanish invasion had traumatic effects on the native population, who died in their hundreds from successive epidemics of European diseases.

santo domingo click on the image to enlarge
The Spanish had a huge influence on town planning - creating central plazas surrounded by a grid of streets, and thousands of churches. Many issues arose surrounding the control of the people by the church, and the near-slavery of native Indians. Trade and industry was intended to profit Spain, and a wealthy upper class of hacienda owners appeared. By the 19th century, however, Spain’s status was in serious decline and controversial political ideas from the French revolution were infiltrating into the country. When the French invaded Spain, conspirators planned a coup (in 1810) and a number of attempts to overcome the government followed. It wasn’t until 1821, however, that Mexico was granted independence.

It can be said that the next forty years were a mess, with 56 governments elected in almost farcical circumstances. General Santa Ana, for example, was made President on eleven separate occasions and managed to lose half of Mexico’s territory. In 1836 Texas declared independence and was annexed by the States in 1845. Clashes between Mexican troops and American cavalry in 1846 gave rise to the Mexican-American war, and in 1848 the US paid US$15 million for most of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Benito Juarez Presidente click on the image to enlarge
Things changed in Mexico when Benito Juarez (a Zapotec Indian) introduced some reform laws in 1861 which shook up the church and confiscated their property. A new radical leader, Diaz, emerged in 1876 and proclaimed himself President until 1911, during which time he propelled Mexico into the modern world with railways, industry and telephones. After a while, he began to lose his grip on power and was overturned by revolutionaries. Years of fighting followed, with chiefs across the country proclaiming provisional governments until Carranza set up a congress in 1917 focusing on most of the revolutionary demands.

Enrique Peña Nieto click on the image to enlarge
By 1934 Mexico had stabilized itself a little and native heroes began to replace European ideals. In 1934 Cardenas set up the PRI (Party of the Institutionalized Revolution) and a period of industrial growth and relative peace followed. This all changed in 1994 when the Zapatistas took over San Cristobal and other towns in Chiapas. The army reacted with force, creating numerous human rights issues. A number of assassinations of leading political figures followed and the government’s blatant inability to deal with the economic and political situation led to a massive devaluation of the peso. In 1995, the military invaded Chiapas, resulting in hundreds of internal refugees and an accord of the rights of indigenous cultures in 1996 which was largely ignored and is still an issue today. In 1996, the PRI lost its political majority and in the 2000 general election, Vicente Fox (representing PAN), became president.
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