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History of Mexico

Mexico’s present is deeply entrenched in its fascinating history of Indian roots and Spanish domination. Many centuries ago, the Olmec Indians of Mexico built grand cities amidst rugged terrain. Their civilization was advanced, and they had developed a form of writing, a calendar and a workable counting system that saw them through the first half of the second millennium. Mexico’s history changed dramatically when the last Indian empire of the Aztecs fell to Spanish invaders in 1521. This marked the beginning of 300 years of colonial rule in Mexico, till she got back her independence in 1821.

The early Mexican settlers were unknown tribes of Indian migrants from the north, who hunted and lived a pastoral life. They soon settled down to farming and other occupations like pottery, weaving and preaching. The fertile valley around Lake Texcoco was home to large farm villages that traded with other communities. The villagers built temples on flat-topped pyramids, to worship the forces of nature. Large villages grew into towns, which developed into Classic Indian Civilizations.

During the Classic period, between A.D. 250 and 900, religious centers flourished. Massive pyramids were dedicated to the sun and moon. The classic Indian tribes of the Mayas and Zapotecs, built stone and limestone monuments engraved with pictograms. The two great cities of Teotihuacan and Cholula, a religious center near Puebla had emerged. The Indian civilization grew to its height under the Toltecs who had their capital at Tula, and the Aztecs.

In the early 1500s, the Aztec emperor Montezuma resisted the Spanish invaders fiercely, but surrendered finally before the cannons and horses of Hernando Cortes in 1521.

The Spaniards became global colonizers, making Mexico their most treasured territory. They introduced truly European conventions of government, industry, farming and religion. While the Indians remained poor and uneducated, the Spaniards advanced culturally and financially. Local culture and native traditions were suppressed. Catholicism was accepted, as was an exacting economic system that enriched the colonizers.

The Spanish impact on Mexico was so tremendous, that decidedly Spanish towns sprang up to replicate European culture. This is still evident in the Spanish traditions of art and architecture that dominate the nation more than in any other country in the world. Colonial cities were built over Indian civilizations, nearly obliterating them. Colonial era monuments, buildings, churches and museums survive to give an impressive glimpse into Mexico’s cultural past.

It took Mexico many years and many wars to achieve independence in 1821. There was a brief period of stability under the first President, Guadalupe Victoria, while the Republic of Mexico was officially recognized. But in 1847, Mexico surrendered half its territory to USA and the country staggered under debt. Benito Juarez, the most popular president of the country, was a Zapotec Indian who struggled hard to stabilise Mexico when he was elected in 1861. After several revolutions and coups, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) came into power till the mid 1970s.

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