History of Mexico
Prehistoric times

Although there are tantalizing fragments of evidence suggesting human habitation of Mexico more than 20,000 years ago , there is no uncontested evidence that humans arrived in Mexico earlier than ~15,000 BP (Before Present). One of those asserting a date of 28,000 years is archaeologist Michael D. Coe of Yale University.

Ancient Mexicans began to selectively breed corn plants around 8,000 B.C. Evidence shows an explosion of pottery works by 2300 B.C. and the beginning of intensive corn farming between 1800 and 1500 B.C.

Pre-Columbian Mexican civilizations
Between 1800 and 300 BC, complex cultures began to form. Many matured into advanced Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations such as the: Olmec, Izapa, Teotihuacan, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huaxtec, Purepecha,Toltec and Mexica (Aztecs), which flourished for nearly 4,000 years before first contact with Europeans. The Aztecs gave the area the name Mexihco, where the x is pronounced as sj, therefore Méjico is still used.
Major Civilizations
While many city-states, kingdoms, and empires competed with one another for power and prestige, Mexico can be said to have had five major civilizations: The Olmec, Teotihuacan, the Toltec, the Aztec and the Maya. These civilizations (with the exception of the politically-fragmented Maya) extended their reach across Mexico, and beyond, like no others. They consolidated power and distributed influence in matters of trade, art, politics, technology, and theology. Other regional power players made economic and political alliances with these five civilizations over the span of 3,000 years. Many made war with them. But almost all found themselves within these five spheres of influence.
The Olmec Civilization
While many city-states, kingdoms, and empires competed with one another for power and prestige, Mexico can be said to have had five major civilizations: The Olmec, Teotihuacan, the Toltec, the Aztec and the Maya. These civilizations (with the exception of the politically-fragmented Maya) extended their reach across Mexico, and beyond, like no others. They consolidated power and distributed influence in matters of trade, art, politics, technology, and theology. Other regional power players made economic and political alliances with these five civilizations over the span of 3,000 years. Many made war with them. But almost all found themselves within these five spheres of influence.

The Teotihuacan Civilization
The decline of the Olmec resulted in a power vacuum in Mexico. Emerging from that vacuum was Teotihuacan, first settled in 300 B.C. By 150 A.D., it had grown to become the first true metropolis of what is now called North America. Teotihuacan established a new economic and political order never before seen in Mexico. Its influence stretched across Mexico into Central America, founding new dynasties in the Mayan cities of Tikal, Copan, and Kaminaljuyú. Teotihuacan's influence over the Maya civilization cannot be understated: it transformed political power, artistic depictions, and the nature of economics. Within the city of Teotihuacan was a diverse and cosmopolitan population. Most of the regional ethnicities of Mexico were represented in the city, such as Zapotecs from the Oaxaca region. They lived in apartment communities where they worked their trades and contributed to the city's economic and cultural prowess. By 500 A.D., Teotihuacan had become the largest city in the world. Teotihuacan's economic pull impacted areas in northern Mexico as well. It was a city whose monumental architecture reflected a new era in Mexican civilization, declining in political power about 650 B.C., but lasting in cultural influence for the better part of a millennium, to around 950 A.D.

The Maya Civilization
Contemporary with Teotihuacan's greatness was the greatness of the Maya civilization. The period between 250 A.D. and 650 A.D. saw an intense flourishing of Maya civilized accomplishments. While the many Maya city-states never achieved political unity on the order of the central Mexican civilizations, they exerted a tremendous intellectual influence upon Mexico and Central America. The Maya built some of the most elaborate cities on the continent, and made innovations in mathematics, astronomy, and writing that became the pinnacle of Mexico's scientific achievements.
The Toltec Civilization
Just as Teotihuacan had emerged from a power vacuum, so too did the Toltec civilization, which took the reigns of cultural and political power in Mexico from about 700 A.D. Many of the Toltec peoples were comprised of northern desert peoples, often called Chichimeca in Mexico's Nahuatl language. They fused their proud desert heritage with the mighty civilized culture of Teotihuacan. This new heritage would give rise to a new empire in Mexico. The Toltec empire would reach as far south as Central America, and as far north as the Anasazi corn culture in the Southwestern United States. The Toltec established a prosperous turquoise trade route with the northern civilization of Pueblo Bonito, in modern-day New Mexico. Toltec traders would trade prized bird feathers with Pueblo Bonito, while circulating all the finest wares that Mexico had to offer with their immediate neighbors. In the Mayan area of Chichen Itza, the Toltec civilization spread and the Maya were once again powerfully influenced by central Mexicans. The Toltec political system was so influential, that any serious Maya dynasty would later claim to be of Toltec descent. In fact, it was this prized Toltec lineage that would set the stage for Mexico's last great indigenous civilization.
The Mexica (Aztec) Civilization
With the decline of the Toltec civilization came political fragmentation in the Valley of Mexico. Into this new game of political contenders to the Toltec throne stepped outsiders: the Mexica. They were a proud desert people, one of seven groups who formerly called themselves "Azteca," but changed their name after years of migrating. Newcomers to the Valley of Mexico, they were seen as crude and unrefined in the ways of the prestigious Nahua civilizations, such as the fallen Toltec empire.

Latecomers to Mexico's central plateau, the Mexica (or Aztecs as they were subsequently labeled by European anthropologists) never thought of themselves as heirs to the prestigious civilizations that had preceded them, much as Charlemagne of France did with respect to the fallen Roman Empire.
In 1428, the Mexica-Aztecs led a war of liberation against their rulers from the city of Azcapotzalco, which had subjugated most of the Valley of Mexico's peoples. The revolt was successful, and The Mexica, through cunning political maneuvers and ferocious fighting skills, managed to pull off a true "rags-to-riches" story: they became the rulers of central Mexico as the head of the Triple Alliance.

This Triple Alliance was composed of the city-states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. At their peak, 300,000 Aztecs presided over a wealthy tribute-empire comprising around 10 million people, almost half of Mexico's present 24 million population. This empire stretched from ocean to ocean, and extended into Central America.
By 1519, the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was the largest city in the world with a population of around 350,000 (although some estimates range as high as 500,000). By comparison, the population of London in 1519 was 80,000 people. Tenochtitlan is the site of modern-day Mexico City.

Allies of the Mexica (Aztecs)
In the formation of Triple Alliance empire, the Mexica established several ally states. Among them were Cholula (the site of an early massacre by Spaniards), Texcoco (the site of a major library, subsequently burned by the Spanish), Tlacopan, and Matatlan. Also, many of the kingdoms conquered by the Mexica provided soldiers for further imperial campaigns such as: Culhuacan, Xochimilco, Tepeacac, Amecameca, Coaixtlahuacan, Cuetlachtlan, Ahuilizipan. The Mexica war machine would become multi-ethnic, comprising soldiers from conquered areas, led by a large core of Mexica warriors and officers. This same strategy would later be employed by the Spaniards.

Spanish conquest
In 1519, the native civilizations of Mexico were invaded by Spain, and two years later in 1521, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was conquered by an alliance between Spanish and tlaxcaltecs (the main enemies of Aztecs). Francisco Hernández de Córdoba explored the shores of South Mexico in 1517, followed by Juan de Grijalva in 1518. The most important of the early Conquistadores was Hernán Cortés, who entered the country in 1519 from a native coastal town which he renamed "Puerto de la Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz" (today's Veracruz).

Contrary to popular opinion, Spain did not conquer all of Mexico when Cortes conquered Tenochtitlan in 1521. It would take another two centuries after the Siege of Tenochtitlan before the Conquest of Mexico would be complete, as rebellions, attacks, and wars continued against the Spanish by other native peoples.
Role of religion in the fall of the Aztec Empire
The Aztecs' religious beliefs were based on a great fear that the universe would cease functioning without a constant offering of human sacrifice. They sacrificed thousands of people on special occasions. This belief is thought to have been common throughout nahuatl people. In order to acquire captives in time of peace, the Aztec resorted to a form of "ritual warfare", or flower war. Tlaxcalteca and other Nahuatl nations were forced into such wars, and not particularly liking the idea of being a perpetual source of human sacrifices they willingly joined the Spaniard forces against the Aztecs. The small Spanish force, consisting of about 600 men schooled in European warfare and equipped with steel weapons and armor, was reinforced with thousands of indigenous Indian allies. Their use of ambush during indigenous ceremonies allowed the Spanish to avoid fighting the best native warriors in direct armed battle, such as during The Feast of Huitzilopochtli. The Spanish were also greatly helped by the outbreak of smallpox (one of many new diseases brought over by the Spaniards) at about this time, which killed hundreds of thousands of the Aztecs.

Plagues and Epidemics in Colonial Mexico
Another important factor for the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan (Aztec Empire Capital) were the plagues and epidemics brought to the Americas by sick Spaniards and African slaves brought by the Spanish. Smallpox,Flu, Bubonic plague, Measels, and syphilis and several others took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Aztecs and other natives in a few weeks. These epidemics may have killed over half the approximate 8,000,000 natives who lived in Mexico in the course of a few years time. The Spaniards benefited greatly from this because the disruption in social structure left a power vacuum for them to exploit.
The colonial period

The Spanish defeat of the Mexica in 1521 marked the beginning of the 300 year-long colonial period of Mexico as New Spain. After the fall of Tenochtitlan Mexico City, it would take decades of sporadic warfare to pacify the rest of Mesoamerica. Particularly fierce were the "Chichimeca wars" in the north of Mexico (1576-1606).

During the colonial period, which lasted from 1521 to 1810, Mexico was known as "Nueva España" or "New Spain", whose claimed territories included today's Mexico, the Spanish Caribbean islands, Central America as far south as Costa Rica, an area comprising today's southwestern United States, and the Philippine Islands. Spaniards had the habit of claiming all lands they walked across and all the land drained by the rivers they saw. Needless to say, many of these claims were mostly hot air since they, as a rule, did not conquer or develop any territories that did not have significant sedentary Indian populations they could take over. They walked over a good part of North America looking for treasures and subsequently claimed all the land--then they walked or rather rode home. Finding no treasures or sedentary Indian tribes they could control they retreated back to their ranchos and haciendas in Mexico and stayed there. The result was a lot of closely guarded maps that showed a lot of territory, but not much else. The Indians who lived there were mostly ignored or savagely used if they got in the way or had something the Spaniards wanted.

Mexican war of independence

After Napoleon I invaded Spain and put his brother on the Spanish throne, Mexican Conservatives and rich land-owners who supported Spain's Bourbon royal family objected to the comparatively more liberal Napoleonic policies. Thus an unlikely alliance was formed in Mexico: liberales, or Liberals, who favored a democratic Mexico, and conservadores, or Conservatives, who favored Mexico ruled by a Bourbon monarch who would restore the old status quo. These two elements agreed only that Mexico must achieve independence and determine her own destiny.

Taking advantage of the fact that Spain was severely handicapped under the occupation of Napoleon's army, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest of Spanish descent and progressive ideas, declared Mexico's independence from Spain in the small town of Dolores on September 16, 1810. This act started the long war that eventually led to the official recognition of independence from Spain in 1821 and the creation of the First Mexican Empire. As with many early leaders in the movement for Mexican independence, Hidalgo was captured by opposing forces and executed.

Prominent figures in Mexico's war for independence were Father José María Morelos, Vicente Guerrero, and General Agustín de Iturbide. The war for independence lasted eleven years until the troops of the liberating army entered Mexico City in 1821. Thus, although independence from Spain was first proclaimed in 1810, it was not achieved until 1821, by the Treaty of Córdoba, which was signed on August 24 in Córdoba, Veracruz, by the Spanish viceroy Juan de O'Donojú and Agustín de Iturbide, ratifying the Plan de Iguala.

In 1821, Agustín de Iturbide, a former Spanish general who switched sides to fight for Mexican independence, proclaimed himself emperor – officially as a temporary measure until a member of European royalty could be persuaded to become monarch of Mexico (see Mexican Empire for more information). A revolt against Iturbide in 1823 established the United Mexican States. In 1824, "Guadalupe Victoria" became the first president of the new country; his given name was actually Félix Fernández but he chose his new name for symbolic significance: Guadalupe to give thanks for the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Victoria, which means Victory.

After independence
After independence, many Spanish possessions in Central America which also proclaimed their independence were incorporated into Mexico from 1822 to 1823, with the exception of Chiapas and several other Central American states. The mostly vacant northern claims of the Spanish were claimed by Mexico and almost totally ignored, since little wealth could be extracted from them and the fledgling governments had neither money nor inclination to develop them.

Soon after achieving its independence from Spain, the Mexican government, in an effort to populate some of its sparsely-settled northern land claims, awarded extensive land grants in a remote area of the northernmost state of Coahuila y Tejas to thousands of immigrant families from the United States, on the condition that the settlers convert to Catholicism and assume Mexican citizenship. It also forbade the importation of slaves, a condition that, like the others, was largely ignored.

First Republic

The government of the newly independent Mexico soon fell to rogue republican forces led by Antonio López de Santa Anna and others. The first Republic was formed with Guadalupe Victoria as its first president, followed in office by Vicente Guerrero who won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote (The Mexican constitution was at that time very similar to the US constitution; but was largely disregarded by the majority of the population.The conservative party saw the opportunity to control the government and led a revolution under the leadership of Gen. Anastacio Bustamante who became president from 1830 to early 1832. The federalists asked Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna to overthrow Bustamante and he did, declaring General Pedraza (who won the electoral vote back in 1828) as the "true" president. Elections took place, and Santa Anna took office on 1832. Constantly changing political beliefs, as president (he was president seven different times), in 1834 Santa Anna abrogated the federal constitution, causing insurgencies in the southern state of Yucatán and the northernmost portion of the northern state of Coahuila y Tejas. Both areas sought independence from the Mexican government. After negotiations and the presence of Santa Anna's army eventually brought Yucatán to again recognize Mexican sovereignty, Santa Anna's army turned to the northern rebellion. The inhabitants of Tejas, calling themselves Texans and led mainly by relatively recently-arrived English-speaking settlers, declared independence from Mexico at Washington-on-the-Brazos, giving birth to the Republic of Texas. Texan militias defeated the Mexican army and won independence in 1836, further reducing the claimed territory of the fledgling republic. In 1845, Texans voted to be annexed by the United States, and this was agreed to by Congress and signed into law by President John Tyler.

[Special thanks to Wikipedia]


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