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Saturday, 14 May 2016



Before the Europeans came, many Native American cultures existed in Mexico. The earliest was the Olmec culture, which flourished on the Gulf Coast from around 1500 BC. The Olmecs are famous for the large stone heads they made.

On the Yucatán peninsula lived the Maya civilization. The Mayans lived in city states ruled by kings. The Mayans were most powerful between 200 and 900 AD.

Thirty miles north-east of Mexico City, the ruins of this 2,000-year old metropolis were once home to an estimated 125,000 people, but by the 8th century Teotihuacan lay in ruins. Not even the Aztecs knew who built it, who lived there or why it fell, although evidence now suggests it was destroyed in a civil uprising after decades of drought and famine. It was the overawed Aztecs who later gave the vast deserted city the name Teotihuacan, meaning ‘The places where gods were created’.

Image of Mexico-Tenochtitlan from the Codex Mendoza

In 1519 the Spanish  conquistador Hernán Cortés came to Mexico. When Cortés arrived in Tenochtitlan, in November 8, 1519, the  Aztecs thought he was the returned Quetzalcoatl, (Their god, had disappeared across the Atlantic and was due to return in 1519.) Cortés told the emperor that he came as an ambassador from the King of Spain with instructions to preach true religion and end their cannibalistic practices, so they did not want to fight against him.

In 1521, after four months of siege Cortés captured the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan which was five times larger than London at the time. Cortés replaced it with Mexico City. The Aztec Empire became part of Spain and was called New Spain.

A view from the Tlatelolco markets into Mexico-Tenochtitlan, By Wolfgang Sauber - Wikipedia Commons

In 1531 an apparition of Mary appeared in front of a native American peasant Juan Diego at Guadalupe, Mexico. From then on Spanish missionaries utilized the story of Juan Diego's vision when attempting to convert the indigenous people of Mexico and today it is almost a totally Catholic country. The Basilica of Guadalupe was built in honor of Mary in Mexico City. It is the largest basilica in the Americas.

The epidemics of smallpox, measles and influenza Cortés and his fellow Spaniards introduced to Mexico devastated the native Indian population, who had no immunity to the disease. It is estimated that between 1530 and 1545 alone one and a half million Indians died of measles alone.

The Mexican city of León was founded by order of the viceroy Don Martín Enríquez de Almanza on January 20, 1576.

Miguel Hidalgo, the parish priest in Dolores, Guanajuato, delivered the Grito de Dolores to his congregation in 1810, instigating the Mexican War of Independence against Spain.

On January 17, 1811, the Battle of Calderón Bridge was fought in the First Mexican War of Independence. Led by Miguel Hidalgo, the rebels numbering 100,000 (reportedly) were destroyed by 6,000 Spanish Royalists under Calleja.

In 1821 the Spanish finally retreated and Mexico became independent. The first leader of independent Mexico was Emperor Agustin de Iturbide. On October 31, 1822 Iturbide closed down the congress and two days later, he created a military junta to legislate in its place, answering only to him.

The Mexicans were not happy with Iturbide's reign and overthrew him in March 1823. Mexico enacted its first constitution in 1824, defining the nation as a federal republic.

Agustin I, Constitutional Emperor of Mexico at the National Palace

Between 1846 and 1848 there was war between Mexico and the United States. Mexico was forced to give up more than one-third of its land to the U.S., including Alta California, New Mexico, and the disputed parts of Texas.

US General Winfield Scott was the American hero of the Mexican War. Such was his popularity that the phrase "Great Scott" originated from his feats.

In the 1860s Mexico was occupied by France, which established the Second Mexican Empire under the rule of the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria with support from the Roman Catholic clergy and the conservadores.

The celebration of Cinco de Mayo held every May 5 commemorates Mexico's victory over its French occupiers at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. While it was not a major battle, the day became a rallying point for a sense of national pride and resistance against the French.

The Battle of Puebla. By Mike Manning - Wikipedia

Politician Francisco I. Madero issued the Plan de San Luis Potosí on November 20, 1910, denouncing Mexican President Porfirio Díaz. He called for a revolution to overthrow the government of Mexico, effectively starting the Mexican Revolution. The armed conflict lasted for the better part of a decade, until around 1920.

On April 10, 1919 Emiliano Zapata, the leader during the Mexican Revolution, was ambushed and shot to death in Morelos by government forces.

Francisco I. Madero with Emiliano Zapata, in Cuernavaca during the Mexican Revolution.

Pedro Lascuráin was President of Mexico for 45 minutes on February 18, 1913; this is the shortest term to date of any person as president of any country.

The current constitution of Mexico was adopted on February 5, 1917, establishing a federal republic with powers separated into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The constitution was the first such document in the world to set out social rights, serving as a model for the Russian Constitution of 1918 and the Weimar Constitution of 1919.

Cover of the original copy of the Constitution

In 1929 President Plutarco Elías Calles founded the National Mexican Party, PNM. The party was later renamed Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI. Mainly through ballot box fraud the PRI managed to stay into power until 2000, when Vicente Fox of the National Action Party, PAN, was elected president. In total the PRI had governed Mexico for 71 years.

Mexico was the only country to protest against the German annexation of Austria of 1938, right before World War II.

In 2012, Mexico passed a comprehensive climate change bill, a first in the developing world, that has set a goal for the country to generate 35% of its energy from clean energy sources by 2024, and to cut emissions by 50% by 2050, from the level found in 2000.


Covering over 760,000 square miles (almost two million sq kms), Mexico is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent nation in the world.

Mexico is crossed from north to south by two mountain ranges known as Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental, which are the extension of the Rocky Mountains from northern North America.

Mexico from space

Mexico's official name is "United Mexican States" and it has 31 states.

Due to its rich culture and history, Mexico ranks first in the Americas and sixth in the world by number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. It is also the second most populous country in Latin America (after Brazil).

60% of Mexicans have Native American and European forefathers; they are known as mestizos. Almost 30% of Mexicans are pure Native American and 10% are European.

Most Mexicans (90%) speak Spanish. There are more Spanish speakers in Mexico than in any other country.

10% of the Mexicans speak a Native American language, like Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, Maya or Zapotec.

Most people in Mexico are Roman Catholic (89%). 6% are Protestant.

Despite its high crime rate, there is only one gun-store in Mexico.

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