History of Mexico
El Castillo, pyramid of Kukulkan, in Chichen Itza,
is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.Campfire remains in the
Valley of Mexico have been radiocarbon-dated to 21,000 BCE, and a
few chips of stone tools have been found near the hearths,
indicating the presence of humans at that time. Around 9,000 years
ago, ancient indigenous peoples domesticated corn and initiated an
agricultural revolution, leading to the formation of many complex
civilizations. Between 1,800 and 300 BCE, many matured into advanced
pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations such as: the Olmec, the
Teotihuacan, the Maya, the Zapotec, the Mixtec, the Toltec and the
Aztec, which flourished for nearly 4,000 years before the first
contact with Europeans.
These civilizations are credited with many inventions and
advancements in fields such as architecture (pyramid-temples),
mathematics, astronomy, medicine and theology. The Aztecs were noted
for practicing human sacrifice on a large scale. At its peak,
Teotihuacan, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures
built in the pre-Columbian Americas, had a population of more than
150,000 people. Estimates of the population before the Spanish
conquest range from 6 million to 25 million.
In the early 16th century, from the landing of Hernán Cortés, the
Aztec civilization was invaded and conquered by the Spaniards.
Unintentionally introduced by Spanish conquerors, smallpox ravaged
Mexico in the 1520s, killing millions of Aztecs, including the
emperor, and was credited with the victory of Hernán Cortés over the
Aztec empire. The territory 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 colonial period.
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was a priest and a leader of the Mexican
War of Independence. Hidalgo is considered the Father of the
Nation.On September 16, 1810, independence from Spain was declared
by priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Dolores,
Guanajuato. The first insurgent group was formed by Hidalgo, the
Spanish viceregal army captain Ignacio Allende, the militia captain
Juan Aldama and "La Corregidora" Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez. Hidalgo
and some of his soldiers were captured and executed by firing squad
in Chihuahua, on July 31, 1811. Following his death, the leadership
was assumed by priest José María Morelos, who occupied key southern
In 1813, the Congress of Chilpancingo was convened and, on November
6, signed the "Solemn Act of the Declaration of Independence of
Northern America". Morelos was captured and executed on December 22,
1815. In subsequent years, the insurgency was near collapse, but in
1820 Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca sent an army under the criollo
general Agustín de Iturbide against the troops of Vicente Guerrero.
Instead, Iturbide approached Guerrero to join forces, and in 1821
representatives of the Spanish Crown and Iturbide signed the "Treaty
of Córdoba", which recognized the independence of Mexico under the
terms of the "Plan of Iguala".
Agustin de Iturbide immediately proclaimed himself emperor of the
First Mexican Empire. A revolt against him in 1823 established the
United Mexican States. In 1824, a Republican Constitution was
drafted and Guadalupe Victoria became the first president of the
newly born country. The first decades of the post-independence
period were marked by economic instability, which led to the Pastry
War in 1836, and a constant strife between liberales, supporters of
a federal form of government, and conservadores, proposals of a
hierarchical form of government.
General Antonio López de Santa Anna, a centralist and two-time
dictator, approved the Siete Leyes in 1836, a radical amendment that
institutionalized the centralized form of government. When he
suspended the 1824 Constitution, civil war spread across the
country, and three new governments declared independence: the
Republic of Texas, the Republic of the Rio Grande and the Republic
Texas successfully achieved independence and was annexed by the
United States, a border dispute led to the Mexican–American War,
which began in 1846 and lasted for two years, settled via the
"Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo" forcing Mexico to give up nearly half
of its land to the U.S., including California and New Mexico.
Further transferred some of its territories, southern Arizona and
New Mexico, via the Gadsden Purchase in 1854. The Caste War of
Yucatán, the Mayan uprising that began in 1847, was one of the most
successful modern Native American revolts. Maya rebels, or Cruzob,
maintained the Maya free state until the 1930s.
Benito Juárez is generally regarded as Mexico's greatest President
for the separation of church and state, resisting the French
occupation, overthrowing the Empire, and modernizing the
country.Dissatisfaction with Santa Anna's return to power led to the
liberal "Plan of Ayutla", initiating an era known as La Reforma,
after which a new Constitution was drafted in 1857 that established
a secular state, federalism as the form of government and several
freedoms. As the conservadores refused to recognized, the War of
Reform began in 1858, both groups had their own governments, but
ended in 1861 with the liberal victory led by Amerindian President
Benito Juárez. In the 1860s underwent a military occupation by
France, which established the Second Mexican Empire under the rule
of Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria with support
from the Roman Catholic clergy and the conservadores, who later
switched sides and joined the liberales. Maximilian surrendered, was
tried on June 14 and was executed on June 19, 1867.
Porfirio Díaz, a republican general during the French intervention,
ruled Mexico from 1876–1880 and then from 1884–1911 in five
consecutive reelections, period known as the Porfiriato,
characterized by remarkable economic achievements, investments in
arts and sciences, but also of economic inequality and political
repression. A likely electoral fraud that led to his fifth
reelection sparked the 1910 Mexican Revolution, initially led by
Francisco I. Madero.
Venustiano Carranza was one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution
and a supporter of the 1917 Constitution.Díaz resigned in 1911 and
Madero was elected president but overthrown and murdered in a coup
d'état two years later directed by conservative general Victoriano
Huerta. Event that re-ignited the civil war, involving figures such
as Francisco Villa and Emiliano Zapata, who formed their own forces.
A third force, the constitutional army led by Venustiano Carranza,
managed to bring an end to the war, and radically amended the 1857
Constitution to include many of the social premises and demands of
the revolutionaries into what was eventually called the 1917
Constitution. It is estimated that the war killed 900,000 of the
1910 population of 15 million.
Assassinated in 1920, Carranza was succeeded by another
revolutionary hero, Álvaro Obregón, who in turn was succeeded by
Plutarco Elías Calles. Obregón was reelected in 1928 but
assassinated before he could assume power. In 1929, Calles founded
the National Revolutionary Party (PNR), later renamed the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and started a period known
as the Maximato, which ended with the election of Lázaro Cárdenas,
who implemented many economic and social reforms, and most
significantly expropriated the oil industry into PEMEX on March 18,
1938, but sparked a diplomatic crisis with the countries whose
citizens had lost businesses by Cárdenas radical measure.
Between 1940 and 1980, Mexico experienced a substantial economic
growth that some historians call the "Mexican Miracle". Although the
economy continued to flourish, social inequality remained a factor
of discontent. Moreover, the PRI rule became increasingly
authoritarian and at times oppressive (i.e.: the 1968 Tlatelolco
massacre, which claimed the life of around 30–800 protesters).
Electoral reforms and high oil prices followed the administration of
Luis Echeverría, mismanagement of these revenues led to inflation
and exacerbated the 1982 Crisis. That year, oil prices plunged,
interest rates soared, and the government defaulted on its debt.
President Miguel de la Madrid resorted to currency devaluations
which in turn sparked inflation.
NAFTA Initialing Ceremony, October 1992. From left to right
(standing) President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, President George H.
W. Bush, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. (Seated) Jaime Serra Puche,
Carla Hills, Michael Wilson.In the 1980s, first cracks in the
political monopolistic position of PRI were seen such as the
election of Ernesto Ruffo Appel in Baja California and the 1988
electoral fraud, which prevented leftist candidate Cuauhtémoc
Cárdenas from winning the national presidential elections, who lost
to Carlos Salinas de Gortari, leading to massive protests in Mexico
City. Salinas embarked on a program of neoliberal reforms which
fixed the exchange rate, controlled inflation and culminated with
the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),
which came into effect on January 1, 1994. The same day, the
Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) started a
two-week-lived armed rebellion against the federal government, and
has continued as a non-violent opposition movement against
neoliberalism and globalization.
In December 1994, a month after Salinas was succeeded by Ernesto
Zedillo, the Mexican economy collapsed, with a rapid rescue packaged
authorized by U.S. President Bill Clinton and major macroeconomic
reforms started by president Zedillo, the economy rapidly recovered
and growth peaked at almost 7% by the end of 1999. In 2000, after 71
years, the PRI lost a presidential election to Vicente Fox of the
opposition National Action Party (PAN). In the subsequent
presidential elections, Felipe Calderón from the PAN was declared
the winner, with a razor-thin margin over leftist politician Andrés
Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).
López Obrador, however, contested the election and pledged to create
an "alternative government".