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Mexico historical facts in a nutshell

I am not including here all the intricated historical events which you can easily find on Wikipedia or in any books. I just want to highlight some important facts that to my knowledge have been pivotal for the development of the present Mexican culture.

  • The Mexican territories have been colonized by the Spaniards in 1519 and declared Mexico the New Spain.
Puebla city
  • The actual date of the conquest is 1521 when the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (the actual Mexico city) fell into the Spanish troops led by Hernan Cortez. That was the beginning of the Spanish invasion that extended all the way south to the Yucatan Peninsula and west to the Baja California. 
  • The pre-hispanic cultures developed complex rituals and solar calendars, they had a significant understanding of astronomy and created elaborated forms of written communication in the form of glyphs.
Queretaro Museum
  • The Hispanic conquerors, not only destroyed the local culture and subjugated the local population, and killed uncountable numbers of people, but also plundered all their mineral resources, treating the indigenous population as inferior and unworthy.
  • The history of the colonization times is one of the saddest and deplorable ones, which I am not going to elaborate on this occasion. Suffice to know that it has marked the Mexican culture forever.  You can find a lot about this topic on the book, the Labyrinth of Solitude by Nobel prize Octavio Paz
  • The military invasion has been actually called the “spiritual conquest of Mexico” as the Spanish king sent friars from the Franciscan, Dominican, and Augustinian orders, to convert the indigenous to Christianity.
Merida Mexico - Things to do in Merida
  • If there is one positive element of this brutal conquest was that many of the Franciscans and Dominicans, learned the native languages and recorded aspects of native culture, providing a principal source for the little we know about them today. 
  • Sometimes you can still perceive some resentments towards their conquerors even 5 centuries later. In fact, the recently elected Mexican president AMLO ( Lopez Obrador ) asked the king of Spainand the pope a public apology for the atrocities committed during the invasion.
  • Cities like PueblaQueretaro, Zacatecas or Merida among others well represent the synchronicity among the Spanish and Mexican culture with its colonial buildings and traditional craftsmanship, such as the Talavera in Puebla or the Haciendas in Yucatan, for example.
  • A group of American-born Spaniards started to believe that Mexico should be independent of Spain and the first who actually took action was a Catholic priest Father Miguel Hidalgo who marched to the capital city with a very unorganized army while shouting “Independence and death to the Spaniards!”. It was easy prey for the Spanish who decapitated the poor faithful priest. It was 16 September 1810 and up to now this date is considered the independence day and celebrated with the famous “Grito de Dolores” (“Grit”o means shout)
  • In reality, the independence of Mexico was signed on September 27, 1821, when the Treaty of Cordoba was signed and Spain granted the demanded freedom and finally withdrew. 
  • The years between 1821 through 1829 were not easy. The Spanish attempted to re-conquer Mexico and the internal politics were a total mess. General Agustin de Iturbide, whose actions were crucial in the race towards independence, was now declaring himself Emperor of Mexico and was acting as a dictator.
  • In 1824 Mexicans of all classes were tired of the impossible situation and overthrew him, establishing the United Mexican States with a new constitution, which was still struggling with political confusion and difficulties.
Puerto Vallarta church
  • Between 1846 and 1848 the Mexican-American war took place and Mexico lost the territories of what is now California (previously named Alta California), New Mexico, and Texas (previously called Tejas). As illustrious linguist and historian, Noam Chomsky said in his staggering book “Latin America from colonization to globalization”, the US actually stole Mexican its territories. The book tells you a lot of truths but it’s more about US foreign politics than anything else. And it’s not flattering.
  • After a couple of decades of struggle mainly to fight the dominant role of the church in establishing a conservative education and society in general, finally, liberalism was established thanks to notable liberal politicians whose names are still honored up to these days,  including Benito Juárez, President of Mexico  Juan Álvarez, Ignacio Comonfort, Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, Melchor Ocampo, José María Iglesias and Santos Degollado.
  • From 1978 for almost 3 decades, Mexico saw a lot of improvement in all aspects, from education to social distribution and foreign politics, thanks to his new liberal president Porfirio Diaz, a military leader and liberal politician whose government is known up to these days as the Porfiriato. He is remembered for his rigorous way to rule by the low, the suppression of violence, and his striving to create a modern society and efficient economy. , suppression of violence, and modernization of all aspects of the society and economy. To him goes also the merit for the creation of great infrastructure, public health, and safety, among others. In his times Mexican economy took off and reached the world standards of those times.
Oaxaca colorful street
  • Despite the economic growth during his government, lasted 31 years, Díaz became unpopular among a huge part of the society mainly because his economic policies largely benefited his circle of allies as well as foreign investors, besides helping only a few circles of wealthy landowners while leaving the “campesinos” (field workers) in very difficult conditions. 
  • 1910-1920 The Mexican Revolution – The discontent created by the government and the final difficulties in creating a smooth succession were the main cause of The Mexican Revolution known also like the Mexican civil war which lasted almost a decade and ended with important changes in Mexican culture and society. I leave you this link where you can read all the details.
  • Among the main changes brought by the Mexican revolution was the improvement of the standard of living in the cities where the landowner moved, escaping from the rural turmoil created by the “campesinos” tired of their unsustainable situation. I spoke about this in my post on the Haciendas of Yucatan which well represents the overall situation of the rural populations. There is in fact where the greatest changes happened.  The agrarian reform was one of the main outcomes of the revolution and gave workers the right to own lands, as ejidatarios, a term that is still used nowadays.
Oaxaca Santo Domingo
  • These improvements were not enough to raise the standard of living of the rural population who were still living in poor houses, normally sleeping on the floor or on hammocks and with a poor diet based on tortilla beans and rice. That’s when many peasants decide either to migrate to other regions or to other states in search of a better life.
  • Unfortunately, nowadays even if Tourism has brought a lot of jobs there is still a huge unbalance in the distribution of wealth in the Mexican society with a very low minimum salary and an abundance of very low-paid jobs. But this topic would open a long discussion that we are not going to start on this occasion.

Mexico historical facts Sources