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Mexico- From tribal times to Independence

Updated on April 1, 2013

Around 9,000 years ago, ancient native tribes peoples changed their farming practices which lead to the formation of many complex societies. Between 1,800 and 300 BC many American civilizations advanced into the early pre-Colonial civilizations such as the Olmec, the Mayan, the Zapotec, the Toltec and the Aztec civilizations.

Estimates for the population in the meso-american region before the Spanish conquest range from 6 million up to 25 million. Much of the ancient buildings are still standing and have been awarded world heritage status. These American societies had a great understanding of Astronomy, Mathematics and construction techniques.

Much of the building style is very similar to what the Ancient Egyptians were using. The majority of these civilizations practised human sacrifice, but at the same time in history many European religions did the same. By the time of the Spanish invasion the Aztecs were still practising Human sacrifice.

Aztec temple in modern Mexico
Aztec temple in modern Mexico

In the early 16th century, the landing of Hernán Cortés in modern day Mexico signalled the end of the Aztec nation and civilization. The people of the Central America's had been left free of foreign influences for thousands of years. The invasion and conquest of the mighty Aztec's Empire by the Spanish conquistadors ultimately led to a smallpox epidemic which estimates claim killed millions, including the Emperor of the Aztec's. The Emperor was the embodiment of the Sun and his decree and will was final. With their leader dead, the resistance to the occupation crumbled. The territory then became part of the Spanish Empire under the name of New Spain. Much of the identity, traditions and architecture of Mexico were created during the time of the Spanish colonial period.

The people of New Spain declared independence from their colonial masters in 1810. This lead to conflict between the revolutionaries and colonial Spanish forces it was not until the "Treaty of Córdoba", which recognized the independence of Mexico in 1821. Mexico did not
settle into a stable society with the Declaration of Independence. For the next 100 years Mexico suffered from internal political and social upheaval, coups, assassinations and war.The Mexican-US War 1846-1848 saw Mexico cede vast tracks of land to it's continental
rival, New Mexico and parts of Arizona joined the United States of America. The USA had annexed the independent Republic of Texas a decade earlier after Texas and two other Mexican states split from the Union. Mexico came under the control of the French in the late 19th century but it was short lived. The revolutionary spirit of the Mexicans guaranteed they would manage their own affairs. The Catholic elite initially welcomed the French military expedition but they soon choose nationalism over religious agreement.


General Diaz took control of Mexico on two occasions and gave Mexico some stability. Diaz was able to turnaround a lot of the social and economic inequality. And Mexico was slowly becoming a more advanced nation. There was still a lot to divide the country but Diaz maintained social order. Diaz resigned from office over electoral fraud in 1911 and until 1917 the country fell into anarchy. In 1917 a new revolutionary constitution was agreed on. Mexico's fortunes varied until the 1940s The Oil industry was responsible for a major economic growth for Mexico and it lasted until the 1980s. The country fell into recession by 1994 Mexico's economy had collapsed and the United States bailed the country out. Mexico continues to have a big gap between its rich and poor, and the Catholic Church is powerful in the upkeep of the Mexican family and character.


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