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The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia wrote, "The chronology and historical
documents of the Aztecs give us a more or less clear account of their history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,
"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,
"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 Mexicos 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 Mexicos leader during the conflict with Texas, which declared itself
independent from Mexico in 1836, and during Mexicos war with the United
States (1846-48). The presidential terms of Benito Juarez (1858-71) were
interrupted by the Habsburg monarchys 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.
Mexicos 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 periodsome of whom were rivals for powerwere 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, Mexicos 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 Mexicos history. Fox began his 6-year term on December 1, 2000. His
victory ended the Institutional Revolutionary Partys (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.
Mexican History Bibliography