|History of Mexico|
This article is part of a series
|War of Independence|
|War with Texas|
|La decena trágica|
|Plan of Guadalupe|
|Occupation of Veracruz|
|La Década Perdida|
|1982 economic crisis|
|1994 economic crisis|
|The end of PRI's hegemony|
The history of Mexico, a country located in the southern third of North America, is at once a record of great cultural achievement and a catalogue of violent military and political struggle. First populated more than 20,000 years ago, the country produced complex indigenous civilizations before being conquered by the Spanish in the 16th Century. Since the Spanish Conquest, Mexico has struggled to fuse its long-established native cultures with European civilization. Perhaps nothing better represents this hybrid background than Mexico's languages: the country is both the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and home to the largest number of Native American language speakers on the continent.
For many thousands of years after the arrival of the first Amerindians, Mexico was a land of hunter-gatherers. But around 9,000 years ago, Amerindians domesticated corn, initiating an agricultural revolution that lead to the rise of large cities and the formation of sophisticated civilizations (e.g., the Olmecs, the Maya, and the Aztecs) that developed writing systems; created elaborate and sometimes immense (e.g., the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacan) architectural structures; pursued astronomical studies--in the process developing a mathematics the equal of any created before modern times; and established large armies that conducted difficult military campaigns.
In 1519, the first Spaniards arrived and quickly absorbed the native peoples into Spain's vast colonial empire. For three centuries, Mexico was a colony, during which time its indigenous population fell by more than half. After a protracted struggle, formal independence from Spain was recognized in 1821. In 1846, the Mexican American War broke out, ending two years later with Mexico ceding almost half of its territory to the United States. Later in the 19th Century, France invaded Mexico (1861) and ruled until 1867. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1929) resulted in the death of 10 percent of the nation's population, but brought to an end the system of large landholdings that had originated with the Spanish Conquest.
Since the Revolution, Mexico has continued the struggle to reconcile its deeply rooted indigenous heritage with European culture and the requirements of the global economic system. Beginning in the 1990's, the one-party political system established during the Mexican Revolution has given way to a nascent democracy.
Accounts written by the Spanish at time of their conquest (the conquistadors) and by indigenous chroniclers of the post-conquest period constitute our principal source of information regarding a) Mexico at the time of the Spanish Conquest and b) the conquest itself.
The presence of people in Mesoamerica was once thought to date back 40,000 years, an estimate based on what were believed to be ancient footprints discovered in the Valley of Mexico; but after further investigation using radiocarbon dating, it appears this date may not be accurate. It is currently unclear whether 21,000-year-old campfire remains found in the Valley of Mexico are the earliest human remains uncovered so far in Mexico.
The first people to settle in Mexico encountered a climate far milder than the current one. In particular, the Valley of Mexico contained several large paleo-lakes surrounded by dense forest. Camels, bison, and horses roamed in large numbers. Such conditions encouraged the pursuit of a hunter-gatherer existence.
3. Corn, Squash, and Beans (the Three Sisters)
The diet of ancient Mexico was varied, including corn (also called maize), squashes such as pumpkin and butternut squash, common or pinto beans (a nitrogen fixer), tomatoes, cassava, pineapples, chocolate, and tobacco. The Three Sisters (corn, squash, and beans) constituted the principle diet, the most famous of which may be corn.
Indigenous peoples in western Mexico began to selectively breed maize (Zea mays) plants from precursor grasses (e.g., teosinte) around 8000 BC, and intensive corn farming began between 1800 and 1500 BC.
5. Villages, Pottery, and Cities
Evidence shows a marked increase in pottery working by 2300 BC. Between 1800 and 300 BC, complex cultures began to take form, many maturing into advanced pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Olmec, Izapa, Teotihuacan, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huastec, Tarascan, "Toltec" and Aztec, which flourished for nearly 4,000 years.
During the course of their existence, these civilizations made signicant technological, cultural, and scientific advances, including the construction of pyramid-temple complexes, the development of a sophisticated mathematics and astronomy, the compiling of a large body of medical knowledge, and the elaboration of complex theologies. Perhaps most famous among their cultural achievements are the development of the Long Count Calendar and the practice of the Mesoamerican Ball Game.
6. The Great Civilizations
During the pre-Columbian period, many city-states, kingdoms, and empires competed with one another for power and prestige; nonetheless, ancient Mexico can be said to have produced five major civilizations: the a) Olmec, b) Maya c) Teotihuacan, d) Toltec, and e) Aztec. Unlike other indigenous Mexican societies, these civilizations (with the exception of the politically fragmented Maya) extended their political and cultural reach across Mexico and beyond. They consolidated power and exercised influence in matters of trade, art, politics, technology, and religion. Over a span of 3,000 years, other regional powers made economic and political alliances with them; many made war on them. But almost all found themselves within their spheres of influence.
a) The Olmec (1400-400 BC)
The Olmec first appeared along the Atlantic coast (in Tabasco state) in 1400 BC.
b) The Maya
c) The Teotihuacan
d) The Toltec
e) The Aztec Empire (1325-1521 AD)
Early History. The Aztec people arrived in the Valley of Mexico in 1248 AD. They had migrated from the deserts north of the Rio Grande over a period traditionally said to have been 100 years. They may have thought of themselves as the heirs to the prestigious civilizations that had preceded them, much as Charlemagne saw his empire. What the Aztec initially lacked in political power, however, they made up for with ambition and military skill.
Religion. Aztec religion was based on the belief that the universe required the constant offering of human blood to continue functioning; to meet this need, the Aztec sacrificed thousands of people. This belief is thought to have been common throughout Nahuatl people. In order to acquire captives in times of peace, the Aztec resorted to a form of ritual warfare called flower war.
The Tlaxcalteca, among other Nahuatl nations, were forced into such wars.
Origins of the Empire. In 1428, the Aztec led a war of liberation against their rulers from the city of Azcapotzalco, which had subjugated most of the Valley of Mexico's peoples. The revolt was successful, and the Aztecs, through cunning political maneuvers and ferocious fighting, became the rulers of central Mexico as the leaders of the Triple Alliance.
Administration. This alliance was composed of the city-states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. At their peak, 350,000 Aztec presided over a wealthy tribute-empire comprising 10 million people, almost half of Mexico's estimated population of 24 million. Their empire stretched from ocean to ocean, and extended into Central America. The westward expansion of the empire was halted by a devastating military defeat at the hands of the Purepecha (who possessed weapons made of copper). The empire relied upon a system of taxation (of goods and services) which were collected through an elaborate bureaucracy of tax collectors, courts, civil servants, and local officials who were installed as loyalists to the Triple Alliance (led by Tenochtitlan).
By 1519, the Aztec capital, Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the site of modern-day Mexico City, was the largest city in the world, with a population of 350,000 (estimates range as high as 500,000). By comparison, the population of London in 1519 was 80,000.
1. Mesoamerica on the Eve of the Conquest
2. The Arrival of the Spanish
In 1519, Hernán Cortés, set sail from Cuba--without the governor's permission--on a new journey of discovery. Cortés lead a small band of explorers, 500 men, equipped with steel weapons and armor. After a journey along the Yucatan Peninsula, the expedition made a landing farther north on Mexico's Atlantic coast.
3. The Landing at Veracruz and the Destruction of the Ships
Cortés landed at a Totonac settlement in the modern state of Veracruz. Greeted by cheering townsfolk, Cortés quickly persuaded the town's chief to throw in his lot with the Spanish. Wary of his problems with Cuba's governor, Cortes established a new town (which has grown into the modern city of Veracruz)); the "town council" promptly offered Cortés the position of adelantado, an action that legally freed him from Velásquez's authority. So important was the creation of this office that several men returned to Spain to seek royal confirmation.
But the expedition's legal status was still unresolved. Learning that several men conspired to seize a ship and return to Cuba, Cortés scuttled the fleet, stranding his tiny expedition in unknown territory. Every Spaniard was now committed to Cortés and success.
4. The March Inland and Alliance with the Tlaxcalteca
Cortés led his force, augmented by 250 Totonacs, up out of the humid coastal plain and into the mountains--a difficult march for all, but especially for the Totonacs, who were unprepared for the bitter cold of high altitudes.
The expedition arrived at Tlaxcala, a confederacy of 200 towns. After a century of the Flower Wars, during which many of their warriors had ended as human sacrifices, the Tlaxcalans hated the Aztecs and soon recognized the Spanish as allies in their struggle. The expedition stayed three weeks in the confederation, resting and building up its strength. Cortés won the true friendship of the Tlaxcala leaders, who converted to Christianity.
5. A Difficult Decision
Meanwhile, Mocteczuma sent ambassadors to Cortés, asking him to go on to Cholula, an Aztec ally. The Tlaxcaltecan leaders, in response, urged Cortés to go to Huexotzingo, one of their allies.
Cortés faced a difficult decision: the Tlaxcaltecans were his allies, and their warriors constituted the bulk of his military strength. If he rejected their advice, they might end their alliance with him or even attack the expedition. A journey to Huexotzingo, on the other hand, would be seen by the Aztecs as an act of war. Cortés decided to side with the Aztecs (the real military power, after all) and go to Cholula, but protected the Tlaxcaltecans with a practical compromise: he accepted both gifts from the Mexica ambassadors and the porters and warriors offered by Tlaxclateca. In this way, he was travelling under Aztec auspices, but would be killed by his Tlaxcaltecan contingent if he moved against their people's interests.
As things turned out, Cortés was misinformed. He saw Cholula as a military center where he could further strengthen his forces. In fact, Cholula was probably the most sacred city in the Aztec Empire, and consequently had only a small army. Howsoever, in the middle of October, the expedition, accompanied by 1,000 Tlaxcalteca, marched to Cholula.
6. The Massacre at Cholula
Three different accounts of events at Cholula have survived: Cortés letters, a history written by the Aztecs, and another written by the Tlaxcaltecans.
Cortes' Letters. After talking to the wife of a Cholulan lord, La Malinche told Cortés that the Cholulans planned to murder the Spaniards in their sleep. Urged on by his Tlaxcaltecan contingent, Cortés ordered a preemptive attack--the Spaniards seized the city's leaders and set Cholula on fire. Cortés claimed that the expedition killed 3,000 people; another Spanish witness estimated the number of dead at 30,000.
The Tlaxcaltecan History. The Cholula tortured the Tlaxclatecan ambassador, forcing Cortés to carry out the attack in revenge.
The Aztec History. The Tlaxcalteca contingent, frightened by Cortés' decision to go to Cholula, started the massacre.
Whichever version is correct, the massacre terrified the Mexica and inclined their allies to submit to Cortés' demands. Cortés himself sent a message to Moctezuma explaining the massacre--the people of Cholula had treated him with disrespect--and reassuring the Emperor that the Aztecs need not fear his wrath, provided that Moctezuma treat him with respect and offer gifts of gold.
7. The Expedition Reaches Tenochtitlan
In early November, nearly three months after leaving the coast, the expedition reached the Great Causeway on the outskirts of Tenochtitlan, where Cortés was greeted with flowers and speeches. Afterwards, the expedition, which by this point included 3,000 native warriors, was housed in the palace of Moctezuma's father.
Cortés proved to be an ungrateful guest: he demanded that a) the Emperor to provide gifts of gold as a sign of fealty; b) the two large idols be removed from the main temple pyramid and the human blood be scrubbed off them; and c) Christian shrines be set up in their place. When these demands were met, Cortés made Moctezuma prisoner in his own palace and demanded an enormous ransom in gold, which was paid.
8. Unexpected Reinforcements
At this point, Cortés received news that a large Spanish expedition (including 900 soldiers) had arrived on the coast. The new expedition had orders to arrest Cortés and bring him back to Cuba for trial and possible execution. In response, Cortés showed his mettle: Leaving a small garrison behind, he returned to the coast with 260 men and defeated the new arrivals in a night attack, taking their commander prisoner. This victory was followed by a brilliant move: Cortés told the defeated soldiers about a city of gold farther inland, and they agreed to join him. The combined forces then marched quickly back to Tenochtitlan. ...
9. The War and the Defeat of the Aztecs
The Alliance's use of ambush during indigenous ceremonies allowed the Spanish to avoid fighting the best Aztec warriors in direct armed battle, such as during The Feast of Huitzilopochtli.
In 1521, Tenochtitlan fell to the Spanish and Tlaxcaltecs.
Contrary to a widespread misconception, Spain did not conquer all the empire when Cortes took Tenochtitlan. It required another two centuries to complete the Conquest of the Aztec Empire: rebellions broke out within the old Empire and and wars continued with other native peoples.
10. The Aftermath
a) Political. Apparently, Cortes favored maintaining the political structure of the Aztecs, subject to relatively minor changes.
b) Religious. Cortes immediately banned human sacrifice throughout the conquered empire. Evangelization began in the mid-1520’s and continued in the 1530’s. Many of the evangelists learned the native languages and recorded aspects of native culture, providing a principle source for our knowledge about them. By 1560, more than 800 clergy were working to convert Indians in New Spain. By 1580, the number grew to 1,500 in 1580 and by 1650, to 3,000.
1. Period of the Conquest (1521-1650)
Economics. The Council of Indies and the Mendecant establishments, which arose in Mesoamerica as early as 1524, labored to generate capital for the crown of Spain and convert the Indian populations to Catholicism. During this period and the following Colonial periods the sponsorship of Mendecant friars and a process of religious syncretism combined the Pre-Hispanic cultures with Spanish socio-religious tradition. The resulting hodgepodge of culture was a pluriethnic State that relied on the "repartimiento," a system of peasant "Republic of Indians" labor that carried out any necessary work. Thus, the existing feudal system of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican culture was replaced by the encomienda feudal-style system of Spain, probably adapted to the pre-Hispanic tradition. This in turn was finally replaced by a debt-based inscription of labor that led to widespread revitalization movements and prompted the revolution that ended colonial New Spain.
Evolution of the Race. During the three centuries of colonial rule, less than 700,000 Spaniards, most of them men, settled in Mexico. The settlers intermarried with indigenous women, fathering the mixed race (mestizo) descendents who today constitute the majority of Mexico's population.
2. The Colonial Period (1650-1810)
During this period, Mexico was part of the much larger viceroyalty of New Spain, which included Cuba and Puerto Rico, Central America as far south as Costa Rica, the southwestern United States, and the Philippines. Spain during the the 16th Century focused its energies on areas with dense populations that had produced Pre-Columbian civilizations, since these areas could provide the settlers with a disciplined labor force and a population to catechize. Territories populated by nomadic peoples were harder to conquer, and though the Spanish did explore a good part of North America, seeking the fabled "El Dorodo," they made no concerted effort to settle the northern desert regions in what is now the United States until the 17th Century.
Colonial law was in many ways destructive. No administrative office was open to any Mexican native, even those of pure Spanish blood. From an economic point of view, New Spain was administered principally for the benefit of Spain. For instance, the cultivation of grapes and olives, which grow particularly well in certain areas of the country, was banned out of fear that the harvest would compete with Spain's. Only two ports, morever, were open to foreign trade--Vera Cruz on the Atlantic and Acapulco on the Pacific. In fact, foreigners had to obtain a special permit from the Royal government to enter Mexico, and few Mexicans were permitted to travel abroad. Education was discouraged, and few books were available.
In defense of the Spanish, it may be said that human sacrifice and cannabalism, practices they found utterly repugnant and contrary to God's intention, stood at the center of Mesoamerican religion and culture, and rooting them out of the society was an arduous, protracted, and sometimes heartbreaking process. Neither did the Spanish tolerate slavery; although Indians lived in serfdom, as Catholics they were spared genocide. Thus, many Indian languages and customs have survived down to the present--for example, in Oaxaca State alone, there are nearly half a million speakers of Zapotec.
3. The System of Land Tenure and Indian Rights
1. The Political Background
In 1807 Napoleon I invaded Spain and installed his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne, Mexican Conservatives and rich land-owners who supported Spain's Bourbon royal family objected to the comparatively liberal Napoleonic policies.
Thus an unlikely alliance was formed in Mexico: liberales, or Liberals, who favored a democratic Mexico, and conservadores, or Conservatives, who favored a Mexico ruled by a Bourbon monarch who would restore the status quo ante. These two elements agreed only that Mexico must achieve independence and determine her own destiny.
2. Grito de Delores (16 September 1810)
Taking advantage of the fact that Spain was severely handicapped by the occupation of Napoleon's army, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest of Spanish descent and progressive ideas, declared Mexican independence in the small town of Dolores at daybreak on 16 September 1810, with a proclamation now known as the "grito de Dolores".
Hidalgo y Costilla's declaration suceeded in sparking the drawn-out war. The first official document of independence was the Solemn Act of the Declaration of Independence of Northern America signed in 1813 by the Congress of Anáhuac. Eventually led to the official recognition of independence from Spain in 1821 and the creation of the First Mexican Empire. As with many early leaders in the movement for Mexican independence, Hidalgo was captured by opposing forces and executed.
3. The Course of the War
The war for independence lasted 11 years; the troops of the liberating army entered Mexico City in 1821. Thus, although independence from Spain was first proclaimed in 1810, it was not achieved until 1821, by the Treaty of Córdoba, which was signed on August 24 in Córdoba, Veracruz, by the Spanish viceroy Juan de O'Donojú and Agustín de Iturbide, ratifying the Plan de Iguala.
4. Independence, the First Mexican Empire, and the United States of Mexico
In 1821, Agustín de Iturbide, a Spanish general who switched sides to fight for independence, proclaimed himself emperor –-officially only as a temporary measure until a member of European royalty could be persuaded to become monarch of Mexico (see Mexican Empire).
A revolt against Iturbide in 1823 established the United Mexican States. In 1824, "Guadalupe Victoria" became the first president of the country (his given name was actually Félix Fernández but he chose his new name for symbolic significance: Guadalupe to give thanks for the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Victoria.)
1. Empire or Republic?
The first Mexican Republic was declared on 1 December 1822. Guadalupe Victoria was elected its first president and the government adopted a liberal constitution modeled closely on that of the United States.
Unfortunately, most of the population largely ignored the new Constitution. When Guadalupe Victoria was followed in office by Vicente Guerrero, who won the electoral but lost the popular vote, the conservative party saw an opportunity to seize control of the government and led a coup under the Gen. Noel Ceja-Garcia, who served as president from 1830 to early 1832.
This coup set the pattern for Mexican politics during the 19th Century. Many governments rose and fell during a period of instability caused by factors including 1) the control of the economic system by the large landowners, 2) the struggle over the status of Mexico's northern territories, which issued in a devastating defeat at the end of the Mexican American War; and 3) the gulf in wealth and power between the Spanish-descended elite and the mixed-race majority.
It should also be noted that, while the form of Mexican government fluctuated considerably during these years, three men dominate 19th Century Mexican history: 1) Antonio López de Santa Anna (from independence until 1855); 2) Benito Juarez (during the 1850's and 1860's); and 3) Porfirio Diaz (during the final quarter of the century).
2. Santa Anna
The federalists asked Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna to overthrow Bustamante and he did, declaring General Manuel Gómez Pedraza (who won the electoral vote back in 1828) as the "true" president. Elections were held, and Santa Anna took office in 1832.
Constantly changing political beliefs, as president (he served as president 11 times), in 1834, Santa Anna abrogated the federal constitution, causing insurgencies in the southeastern state of Yucatán and the northernmost portion of the northern state of Coahuila y Tejas. Both areas sought independence from the central government. After negotiations and the presence of Santa Anna's army eventually brought Yucatán to again recognize Mexican sovereignty, Santa Anna's army turned to the northern rebellion. The inhabitants of Tejas, calling themselves Texans and led mainly by relatively recently-arrived English-speaking settlers, declared independence from Mexico at Washington-on-the-Brazos, giving birth to the Republic of Texas. Texan militias defeated the Mexican army and captured General Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico, further reducing the claimed territory of the fledgling Mexican republic. In 1845, Texans voted to be annexed by the United States, and this was ratified by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President John Tyler.
3. Political Developments in the South and North
Central America, which at the time of Independence was still part of the viceroyalty, broke away from Mexico during 1822 and 1823 and formed the short-lived United Provinces of Central America.
The northern provinces grew increasingly isolated, economicaly and politically, due to prolonged Comanche raids and attacks. New Mexico in particular had been gravitating more toward Comancheria. In the 1820s, when the United States began to exert influence over the region, New Mexico had already begun to question its loyalty to Mexico. By the time of the Mexican-American War the Comanches had systematically raided and pillaged large portions of northern Mexico, resulting in sustained impoverishment, political fragmentation, and general frustration at the inability--or unwillingness--of the Mexican government to disicipline the Comanches.
1. Santa Ana, Again
Santa Anna was Mexico's leader during the conflict with Texas, which declared itself independent from Mexico in 1836 and ensured that independence by defeating the Mexican army and Santa Anna. Santa Anna was in and out of power again during the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-48). After ratifying Texas's application for statehood in 1846, the U.S. government sent troops to Texas in order to secure the territory, subsequently ignoring Mexico's demands for withdrawal. Mexico saw this as a US intervention in its internal affairs by supporting a rebel province.
Soon after achieving independence, the Mexican government, in an effort to populate some of its sparsely settled northern territories, awarded extensive land grants in a remote area of the state of Coahuila y Tejas to thousands of immigrant families from the United States, on condition that the settlers convert to Catholicism and become Mexican citizens. It also forbade the importation of slaves. All of these conditions were largely ignored. A key factor in the decision to allow American to settle Texas was the hope that the immigrants would help buffer and protect the province from Comanche attacks. It was also hoped that the policy would blunt American imperial expansion by turning the immigrants into Mexican citizens. The policy failed on both accounts, as the Americans tended to settle far from the Comanche raiding zones and used the failure of the central Mexican government to suppress the raids as a pretext for declaring independence.
3. Invasion and Defeat
Disagreements about boundaries made conflict inevitable. Mexican troops then attacked and killed several American soldiers and captured a small American detachment between the Rio Grande (which the Republic of Texas, and subsequently the U.S., claimed as the southern border) and the Nueces River (which had been considered the historic southern border of the Mexican department of Tejas). As a result, President James K. Polk requested a declaration of war, and the US Congress voted in favor on May 13, 1846. Mexico formally declared war on 23 May. This resulted in the Mexican–American War, which lasted from 1846 to 1848. Mexico was defeated by United States forces, which occupied Mexico City and many other parts of the country.
It should be noted that some Mexican units fought with distinction. One of the justly commemorated units was a group of , very young Military College cadets (now considered by some as Mexican national heroes). These cadets fought to the death defending their college during the Battle of Chapultepec (September 13, 1847). Another group revered by Mexicans was the Batallón de San Patricio, a unit composed of hundreds of mostly Irish-born American deserters who fought under Mexican command until an overwhelming defeat during the Battle of Churubusco (August 20, 1847). Most of the "San Patricios" were killed and a few captured. Many of the captured men were court-martialled by the U.S. Army as deserters and traitors and were subsequently executed at Chapultepec.
4. The Terms of Surrender
The war was terminated with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which stipulated that, as a condition for peace, Mexico was obligated to sell the mostly vacant northern territories to the United States for US$15 million. Over the next few decades, Americans settled these territories and petitioned for statehood, forming the states of California, Wyoming, Idaho, Oklahoma, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Baja California was not included in the U.S. purchases or in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo despite being occupied by U.S. troops at the end of the war.
5. Analysis of the Defeat
The primary reason for Mexico's defeat was its problematic internal situation, which led to a lack of unity and organization for a successful defense.
6. The Gadsen Purchase
In 1853, mostly vacant desert territory containing parts of present-day Arizona and New Mexico were sold to the United States in the Gadsden Purchase. This land was sold by President Santa Anna in order to gain personal profit and to pay off his army. The Americans had not realized when they were negotiating the Treaty of Hidalgo (when they accepted the Gila River as the southern U.S. boundary) that a much easier railroad route to California lay slightly south of the Gila River. The Southern Pacific Railroad, the second transcontinental railroad to California, was built through this purchased land in 1881. As a bonus, the city of Tucson (Arizona) and its few hundred inhabitants was added to the U.S. territory of New Mexico.
1. Santa Ana, Yet Again--and Benito Juarez
In 1855, Santa Ana was overthrown by the Liberals, in what was called the Revolution of Ayutla. The moderate liberal Ignacio Comonfort became president. The Moderados tried to find a middle ground between the nation's liberals and conservatives.
2. The 1857 Constitution
During Comonfort's presidency, a new constitution was drafted. The Constitution of 1857 retained most of the Roman Catholic Church's Colonial-era privileges and revenues. Unlike the earlier constitution it did not mandate that the Catholic Church be the nation's exclusive religion. Such reforms were unacceptable to the leadership of the clergy and the conservatives. Comonfort and members of his administration were excommunicated, and a revolt broke out.
3. The War of Reform
This led to the War of Reform, from December 1857 to January 1, 1861. This civil war became increasingly bloody and polarized the nation's politics. Many of the moderates came over to the side of the liberals, convinced that the great political power of the Church needed to be curbed. For some time, the liberals and conservatives had their own governments, the conservatives in Mexico City and the liberals headquartered in Veracruz. The war ended with a liberal victory, and liberal President Benito Juárez moved his administration to Mexico City.
In the 1860s, the country again underwent a military occupation, this time by France, which installed the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, with support from the Roman Catholic clergy and conservative elements of the upper class as well as some indigenous communities. Although the French, then considered one of the most efficient armies of the world, suffered an initial defeat in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 (now commemorated as the Cinco de Mayo holiday) they eventually defeated the Mexican government forces and set the couple on the throne.
The Mexican monarchy set up its administration in Mexico City, using the National Palace as its seat of government. Maximilian's consort, born a Belgian princess, was Empress Carlota of Mexico, a cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. The Imperial couple chose as their home Chapultepec Castle, and later adopted two grandchildren of the first Mexican Emperor, Augustin I. The Imperial couple noticed how the people of Mexico were treated, especially the Indians, and wanted to ensure their human rights. They were interested in a Mexico for the Mexicans, and did not share the views of Napoleon III, who was interested in exploiting the rich mines in the north-west of the country.
Maximilian favored the establishment of a limited monarchy, one that would share its powers with a democratically elected congress. This was too liberal to please Mexico's Conservatives, while the liberals refused to accept a monarch, leaving Maximilian with few enthusiastic allies within Mexico. President Benito Juárez kept the federal government functioning during the French intervention that put Maximilian in power.
In mid-1867, following repeated losses in battle to the Republican Army and ever decreasing support by Napoleon III, Maximilian was captured and executed by Juárez's soldiers, along with his last loyal generals, Mejia and Miramon in Querétaro. From then on, Juárez remained in office until his death from heart failure in 1872.
In 1867, the republic was restored and Juárez was reelected, continuing to implement his reforms. In 1871 he was elected a second time, much to the dismay of his opponents within the liberal party, who considered reelection to be somewhat undemocratic. Juárez died one year later and was succeeded by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada.
In 1876 Lerdo was reelected, defeating Porfirio Díaz. Díaz rebelled against the government with the proclamation of the Plan de Tuxtepec, in which he opposed reelection, in 1876. Díaz managed to overthrow Lerdo, who fled the country, and was named president.
Díaz became the new president. Thus began a period of more than 30 years (1876–1911) during which Díaz was the strong man in Mexico. This period of relative prosperity and peace is known as the Porfiriato. During this period, the country's infrastructure improved greatly thanks to increased foreign investment. However, the period was also characterized by social inequality and discontent among the working classes.
1. The Election of 1910
In 1910, the 80-year-old Díaz decided to hold an election for another term; he thought he had long since eliminated any serious opposition. however, Francisco I. Madero, an academic from a rich family, decided to run against him and quickly gathered popular support, despite has arrest and imprisonment by Díaz.
When the official election results were announced, it was declared that Díaz had won reelection almost unanimously, with Madero receiving only a few hundred votes in the entire country. This fraud by the Porfiriato was too blatant for the public to swallow, and riots broke out. On November 20, 1910, Madero prepared a document known as the Plan de San Luis Potosí, in which he called the Mexican people to take up weapons and fight against the Díaz government. Madero managed to flee prison, escaping to San Antonio, Texas, where he began preparations for the overthrow of Díaz--an action today regarded as the start of the Mexican Revolution.
Revolutionary force--led by, among others, Emiliano Zapata in the South, Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco in the North, and Venustiano Carranza--defeated the Federal Army, and Díaz resigned in 1911 for the "sake of the peace of the nation." He went into exile in France, where he died in 1915.
2. Violent Disagreements (1911-1920)
The revolutionary leaders had many different objectives; revolutionary figures varied from liberals such as Madero to radicals such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa. As a consequence, it proved impossible to reach agreement on how to organize the government that emerged from the triumphant first phase of the revolution. This standoff over political principles lead quickly to a struggle for control of the government, a violent conflict that lasted more than 20 years. Although this period is usually referred to as part of the Mexican Revolution, it might also be termed a civil war. Presidents Francisco I. Madero (1913), Venustiano Carranza (1920), and former revolutionary leaders Emiliano Zapata (1919) and Pancho Villa (1923) all were assassinated during this period.
Following the resignation of Díaz and a brief reactionary interlude, Madero was elected president in 1911, only to be ousted and killed in 1913 by Victoriano Huerta, a one of Diaz' generals. This coup had the support of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, but not that of U.S. President-elect Woodrow Wilson. Huerta's brutality soon lost him domestic support, and the Wilson Administration actively opposed his regime.
In 1915, Huerta was overthrown by Venustiano Carranza, a former revolutionary general. Carranza promulgated a new constitution on February 5, 1917. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 still guides Mexico.
On January 19, 1917, a telegram was forwarded from Germany to Mexico proposing military action should the U.S. enter World War I by declaring war against Germany. The offer included material aid to Mexico to assist in the reclamation of territory lost during the Mexican-American War, specifically the American states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Carranza formally declined Zimmermann's proposals on April 14, by which time the U.S. had declared war on Germany.
Carranza was assassinated in 1919 during an internal feud of his former supporters over who would replace him as president.
3. Obregon and Liberalization (1921-1926)
In 1920 Álvaro Obregón, one of Carranza's allies who had plotted against him, became president. His government managed to accommodate all elements of Mexican society except the most reactionary clergy and landlords; as a result, he was able to successfully catalyze social liberalization, particularly in curbing the role of the Catholic Church, improving education, and taking steps toward instituting women's civil rights.
While the Mexican revolution and civil war may have subsided after 1920, armed struggle continued. The most widespread of these conflicts was the battle between those favoring a secular society with separation of Church and State and those favoring supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church. This fight developed into an armed uprising by supporters of the Church that came to be called "la Guerra Cristera."
It is estimated that between 1910 and 1921, 900,000 peoples died.
In 1926, an armed conflict in the form of a popular uprising broke out against the anti-Catholic\anti-clerical Mexican government, set off specifically by the anti-clerical provisions of the Mexican Constitution of 1917. Discontent over the provisions had been simmering for years. The conflict is known as the Cristero War. A number of articles of the 1917 Constitution were at issue. Article 5 outlawed monastic religious orders. Article 24 forbade public worship outside of church buildings, while Article 27 restricted religious organizations' rights to own property. Finally, Article 130 took away basic civil rights of members of the clergy: priests and religious leaders were prevented from wearing their habits, were denied the right to vote, and were not permitted to comment on public affairs in the press.
The Cristero War was eventually resolved diplomatically, largely with the help of the U.S. Ambassador. The conflict claimed the lives of some 90,000: 56,882 on the federal side, 30,000 Cristeros, and numerous civilians and Cristeros who were killed in anticlerical raids after the war's end. As promised in the diplomatic resolution, the laws considered offensive to the Cristeros remained on the books, but no organized federal attempts to enforce them were put into action. Nonetheless, in several localities, persecution of Catholic priests continued, based on local officials' interpretations of the law.
1. One-Party Rule
In 1929, the National Mexican Party (PNM) was formed by the serving president, General Plutarco Elías Calles. It would later be renamed the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which ruled the country for the rest of the 20th century. The PNM succeeded in convincing most of the remaining revolutionary generals to dissolve their personal armies to create the Mexican Army, and so its foundation is considered by some the real end of the Mexican Revolution.
The PRI set up a new type of system, led by a caudillo.
The party is typically referred to as the three-legged stool, in reference to Mexican workers, peasants and bureaucrats.
After its establishment, the PRI monopolized all the political branches: it did not lose a single senate seat until 1988 or a gubernatorial race until 1989. It wasn't until July 2, 2000, that Vicente Fox of the opposition "Alliance for Change" coalition, headed by the National Action Party (PAN), was elected president. His victory ended the Institutional Revolutionary Party's 71-year-long hold on the presidency.
2. President Lázaro Cárdenas
President Lázaro Cárdenas came to power in 1934 and transformed Mexico. On April 1, 1936 he exiled Calles, the last general with dictatorial ambitions, thereby removing the army from power.
Cárdenas managed to unite the different forces in the PRI and set the rules that allowed his party to rule unchallenged for decades to come without internal fights. He nationalized the oil industry on March 18, 1938, the electricity industry, created the National Polytechnic Institute, granted asylum to Spanish expatriates fleeing the Spanish Civil War, started land reform and the distribution of free textbooks for children.
3. President Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho, Cárdenas's successor, presided over a "bridge" between the revolutionary era and the era of machine politics under PRI that would last until 2000. Ávila, moving away from nationalistic autarchy, proposed to create a favorable climate for international investment, favored nearly two generations earlier by Madero. Ávila's regime froze wages, repressed strikes, and persecuted dissidents with a law prohibiting the "crime of social dissolution." During this period, the PRI regime thus betrayed the legacy of land reform. Miguel Alemán Valdés, Ávila's successor, even had Article 27 amended to protect elite landowners. During his government, Manuel Ávila Camacho had to face the start of World War II, when mexican ships (Potrero del Llano and Faja de Oro) were sunk by german submarines (U-564 and U-160 respectively), as result, the mexican governmment declared war on the Axis powers on 22 May 1942, the Mexican Air Force's Escuadron Aereo de Pelea 201 (201st Fighter Squadron) was sent to fight during the liberation of Philipines together with the U.S. Fifth Air Force in the last year of the war.
During the next four decades, Mexico experienced impressive economic growth (albeit from a low baseline), and historians call this period "El Milagro Mexicano", the Mexican Miracle. This was in spite of failing foreign confidence in investment during the worldwide Great Depression. The assumption of mineral rights and subsequent nationalisation of the oil industry into Pemex during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas del Río was a popular move.
However, the economy collapsed several times afterwards. Although PRI regimes achieved economic growth and relative prosperity for almost three decades after World War II, the management of the economy collapsed several times, and political unrest grew in the late 1960s, culminating in the Tlatelolco massacre in 1968. In the 1970s, economic crises affected the country in 1976 and 1982, after which the banks were nationalized, having been blamed for the economic problems. (La Década Perdida) On both occasions, the Mexican peso was devalued, and, until 2000, it had been normal to expect a big devaluation and a recessionary period after each presidential term ended every six years. The crisis that came after a devaluation of the peso in late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century.
1. 1985 Earthquake
On September 19, 1985, an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale struck Michoacán, inflicting severe damage on Mexico City. Estimates of the number of dead range from 6,500 to 30,000. (See 1985 Mexico City earthquake.)
On January 1, 1994, Mexico became a full member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), joining the United States of America and Canada in a large and prosperous economic bloc. It is on this date that the Zapatista Army of National Liberation emerged, capturing several towns and sparking a brief conflict with the government. On March 23, 2005, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America was signed by the elected leaders of those countries.
Mexico has a free market economy that recently entered the trillion dollar class. It contains a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private sector. Recent administrations have expanded competition in sea ports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity generation, natural gas distribution, and airports. Per capita income is one-fourth that of the United States; income distribution remains highly unequal. Trade with the United States and Canada has tripled since the implementation of NAFTA. Mexico has 12 free-trade agreements with over 40 countries, including Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, the European Free Trade Area, and Japan--more than 90% of the country's foreign commerce is governed by free trade agreements.
The Fox administration was cognizant of the need to upgrade infrastructure, modernize the tax system and labor laws, and allow private investment in the energy sector, but has been unable to win the support of the opposition-led Congress. The current Calderón government that took office in December 2006 is confronting the same challenges of boosting economic growth, improving Mexico's international competitiveness, and reducing poverty.
Accused many times of blatant fraud, the PRI's candidates continually held almost all public offices until the end of the 20th century. Not until the 1980's did the PRI lose its first state governorship, an event that marked the beginning of the party's loss of hegemony. Through the electoral reforms started by president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and consolidated by president Ernesto Zedillo, by the mid 1990s, the PRI had lost its majority in Congress. In 2000, after 71 years, the PRI lost the presidential election to the candidate of the National Action Party (PAN — Partido Acciòn Nacional), Vicente Fox. He was the 69th president of Mexico. The continued non-PAN majority in the Congress of Mexico prevented him from implementing most of his reforms.
1. President Ernesto Zedillo
In 1995, President Ernesto Zedillo faced the economic crisis. There were public demonstrations in Mexico City and constant military presence after the 1994 rising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas. Zedillo also oversaw political and electoral reforms that reduced the PRI's hold on power. After the 1988 election, which was strongly disputed and arguably lost by the government party, the IFE (Instituto Federal Electoral –- Federal Electoral Institute) was created in the early 1990s. It is run by ordinary citizens, overseeing elections with the aim of ensuring that they are conducted legally and impartially.
2. President Vicente Fox Quesada
As a result of popular discontent, the presidential candidate of the National Action Party (PAN) Vicente Fox Quesada won the federal election of July 2, 2000, but did not win a majority in the chambers of congress. The result of this election ended 71 years of PRI hegemony in the presidency. Many people in Mexico claim that, even if Fox won the election, President Zedillo did not give his party (PRI) a chance to dispute the results of the election by making Fox's victory "official" by addressing the nation the same night of the election, a first in Mexican politics (and in other places, too, where it is more normal for the losing candidate to admit defeat, rather than the outgoing incumbent). One reason offered for this is that Zedillo sought a quick and peaceful election in 2000 to avoid another crisis after the change of government.
3. President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa
Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (also a member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN)) is the incumbent president of Mexico. The 2006 election was one of the most hotly contested in recent Mexican history; President Calderón won by a small margin of the vote. The runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador, candidate for the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) claimed after the election that Calderón had not actually won, and appointed himself the "legitimate president" of Mexico. He started traveling all over the country, along with his own cabinet; he still claims that the election was a fraud. Nevertheless, on September 5, 2006, the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) declared that Felipe Calderón met all the constitutional requirements to be elected, and declared him president-elect. He was sworn into office on December 1, 2006.
4. A New Struggle: The War Against Drugs
Mexico is a major drug-producing nation: a) an estimated 90% of the cocaine smuggled into the U.S. every year moves through Mexico and b) the country is a major supplier of heroin, a producer and distributor of ecstasy, and the largest foreign supplier of marijuana and methamphetamine to the U.S. market. Major drug syndicates control the majority of drug trafficking in the country, and Mexico is a significant money-laundering center. 
In 2007, there was a major escalation in the Mexican Drug War: a) Cultivation of opium poppy in 2007 rose to 17,050 acres, yielding a potential production of 19.84 tons of pure heroin or 55.12 tons of "black tar" heroin. Black tar is the dominant form of Mexican heroin consumed in the western United States. b) Marijuana cultivation increased to 21,992 acres in 2007, yielding a potential production of 17,416.52 tons.
The Mexican government conducts the largest independent illicit-crop eradication program in the world, but Mexico continues to be the primary transshipment point for U.S.-bound cocaine from South America.
"Adversity discourges no one except the contemptible." --Benito Juarez
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