Mexico Early History

Early cultures

The area of ​​present-day Mexico was first inhabited by humans about 20,000 years ago. From around 1500 BC The first high cultures arose. The Olmecs lived on the Gulf Coast and made giant heads out of stone. On the Yucatán peninsula settled from 1000 BC. The Maya.

In the Oaxaca valley, around 500 BC BC a culture that was named the Zapotec after the many Zapote trees that grow there. Their center was Monte Albán. 250 BC Another culture arose in the city of Teotihuacán. The Toltecs ruled central Mexico from the 10th to the 12th centuries.

They all have something in common: the situation in Mesoamerica, maize as a food source, the building of pyramids and the ritual ball game. Many of these cultures remained in ruins that can be seen today in Mexico.

The Aztecs (14th – 16th centuries)

Unlike the peoples of the early Mesoamerican cultures, the Aztecs lived much later, namely in the 14th to 16th centuries. But there are great similarities to the early cultures. The Aztecs also built pyramids, ate corn and played a ritual ball game. They subjugated other peoples and were very powerful.

Their capital was Tenochtitlan. Today Mexico’s capital Mexico City is located there. The Aztecs made human sacrifices to their gods. They had a calendar and illuminated manuscript. There was always a ruler at the head of their city-states.

Conquest by Spain (1519-1521)

Aztec culture was destroyed between 1519 and 1521. The Spaniard Hernán Cortés was one of the conquerors who came to the New World after Christopher Columbus discovered America. Lured by the prospect of wealth, the conquistadors, as they were called, moved across the Atlantic.

At that time, Tenochtitlan was ruled by Montezuma II (sometimes written as Moctezuma). He received the fair-skinned strangers in a friendly manner, believing that one of their gods had returned, as one of their legends tells. But when Cortés captured Montezuma and the Spaniards brutally attacked the Aztecs, resistance arose. Cortés fled, but returned with reinforcements and captured the city. Many Aztec buildings were destroyed.

Encomienda and hacienda

As early as 1503, the Spanish introduced the encomienda system in the areas they had conquered. Very large lands were given to the conquistadors, along with the Indians living there. The Indians were formally free, i.e. not slaves, but they were often treated like such and exploited. From 1810, with the struggle for independence, the large estates “borrowed” from the Spanish Crown were converted into lands that now belonged to their owner. These were called haciendas. They were mostly smaller than the encomiendas, but still very large.

Viceroyalty of New Spain (1535-1821)

The former empire of the Aztecs has now become a Spanish colony. They were called the Viceroyalty of New Spain. More and more areas and peoples were subjugated. The Spaniard Francisco de Montejo conquered the province of Tabasco and the Yucatán peninsula.

New Spain eventually extended far beyond what is now Mexico. All of Central America and part of today’s USA were part of it. More and more settlers from Spain came here. They brought their language with them and supplanted the culture and religion of the Aztecs. They built their palaces and Christian churches on the rubble of the Aztec houses. The Indians were forced to do hard labor. Many died of diseases that the Spaniards brought in and against which they had no defenses.

Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821)

At the beginning of the 19th century, the struggle for independence began throughout Central and South America. Also in Mexico – the country declared its independence from Spain in 1810. Viva Méxiko (“Long live Mexico”) became the battle cry of the insurgents. But Spain did not give up easily and a war ensued that only ended in 1821.

Treaty of Cordoba (1821)

The Treaty of Cordoba was signed in 1821 between the leader of the Mexican independence movement Agustín de Iturbide and the last Spanish viceroy, Juan O’Donojú. The price, however, was high: the Spaniards left, but received generous compensation for their property in Mexico. So they got money for their country and Mexico’s economy was down. This had consequences for the rest of history in the 19th century.

First Empire (1821-1823) and Republic (1824-1864)

Mexico became an empire. Agustín de Itúrbide was crowned the first emperor Augustín I. A member of a European ruling family was supposed to take the throne, but nobody wanted to do so. Spain continued to hope that the colony would return. But Agustín’s government received great criticism and he eventually resigned. The republic was proclaimed. This First Mexican Republic existed from 1824 to 1864. To get more information on Mexico and North America, check calculatorinc.

Mexican-American War (1846-1848)

The southwest of today’s USA (with the states of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado) still belonged to Mexico at that time. Texas proclaimed its independence in 1836, and in 1845 it was annexed by the United States. The USA now also claimed other areas of Mexico for itself. So it came to the war, which ended in 1848 with the surrender of the territories to the USA.

Mexico Early History