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Highly developed cultures, including those of the Olmecs, Mayas, Toltecs, and Aztecs existed long before the Spanish conquest.

The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia wrote, "The chronology and historical documents of the Aztecs give us a more or less clear account of their history for eight centuries prior to the conquest, but these refer only to their own history and that of the tribes living in close proximity to them, little or nothing being said of the origin of the Otomies, Olenques, Cuitlatecos, and Michoacanos." 

"According to Clavijero the Toltecs came to Mexico about A.D. 648, the Chichimecs in 1170, and the Aztecs in 1196. That their ancestors came from other lands, is asserted by all these tribes in their traditions, and the north is generally the direction from which they claim to have come. It seems probable that these first immigrants to Mexico came from Asia, either by way of Behring Strait, or across the Pacific Ocean. The theory that these people had some close connextion with the Egyptians and other peoples of Asia and Africa has some substantiating evidence in the ruins still extant, the pyramids, the exact and complicated method of computing time, the hieroglyphics, and the costumes (almost identical with those of the ancient Egyptians), seen in the mural paintings in the ruins of Chichen-Itza. It seems that the Otomies were one of the oldest nations of Anahuac, and the Itzaes of Yucatan. These were followed by the Mayas in Yucatan, and in Anahuac the Toltecs, the Chichimicas, and Nahoas, with their seven tribes, the Xochimilcas, Chalcas, Tecpanecs, Acolhuas, Tlahuicas, Tlaxcaltecs, and Aztecs." 

"The last-named founded the city of Tenochtitlan, or Mexitli, in 1325, and gradually, overpowering the other tribes, extended their empire north as far as the Kingdom of Michoacan, and the domain of the savage Otomies, east to the Gulf, west to the Pacific, and south to Nicaragua. This was the extent of the Aztec empire at the time of the Spanish invasion in 1519." 

Hernando Cortes conquered Mexico during the period 1519-21 and founded a Spanish colony that lasted nearly 300 years. 

Independence from Spain was proclaimed by Father Miguel Hidalgo on September 16, 1810; this launched a war for independence. An 1821 treaty recognized Mexican independence from Spain and called for a constitutional monarchy. The planned monarchy failed; a republic was proclaimed in December 1822 and established in 1824. 

Prominent figures in Mexico’s war for independence were Father Jose Maria Morelos; Gen. Augustin de Iturbide, who defeated the Spaniards and ruled as Mexican emperor from 1822-23; and Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, who went on to control Mexican politics from 1833 to 1855. Santa Ana was Mexico’s leader during the conflict with Texas, which declared itself independent from Mexico in 1836, and during Mexico’s war with the United States (1846-48). The presidential terms of Benito Juarez (1858-71) were interrupted by the Habsburg monarchy’s rule of Mexico (1864-67). Archduke Maximilian of Austria, whom Napoleon III of France established as Emperor of Mexico, was deposed by Juarez and executed in 1867. Gen. Porfirio Diaz was president during most of the period between 1877 and 1911. 

Mexico’s severe social and economic problems erupted in a revolution that lasted from 1910-20 and gave rise to the 1917 constitution. Prominent leaders in this period—some of whom were rivals for power—were Francisco I. Madero, Venustiano Carranza, Pancho Villa, Alvaro Obregon, Victoriano Huerta, and Emiliano Zapata. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), formed in 1929 under a different name, emerged as a coalition of interests after the chaos of the revolution as a vehicle for keeping political competition in peaceful channels. For 71 years, Mexico’s national government had been controlled by the PRI, which had won every presidential race and most gubernatorial races until the July 2000 presidential election of Vicente Fox Quesada of the National Action Party (PAN). 

On July 2, 2000, Vicente Fox Quesada of the opposition “Alliance for Change” coalition, headed by the National Action Party (PAN), was elected president, in what are considered to have been the freest and fairest elections in Mexico’s history. Fox began his 6-year term on December 1, 2000. His victory ended the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) 71-year hold on the presidency. 

An unresolved sociopolitical conflict exists in the southernmost state of Chiapas. In January 1994, insurgents in the state of Chiapas briefly took arms against the government, protesting alleged oppression and governmental indifference to poverty. After 12 days of fighting, a cease-fire was negotiated that remains in effect. Since 1994 sporadic clashes have continued to occur between armed civilian groups, usually over disputed land claims. 

As a presidential candidate, Fox promised to renew dialogue with the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) and address unresolved problems in the state. Following his inauguration, he ordered many troops out of Chiapas, dismantled roadblocks, closed military bases, and submitted revised peace accords to Congress. In August 2001, the peace accords became law, after having been passed by Congress and ratified by more than half of the state legislatures. 

Since August 2001, numerous legal challenges to the accords have been filed, and the Fox Administration has on more than one occasion suggested that modifications may be necessary. 

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