History of Mexico

By | March 22, 2021

The many testimonies of the exciting history of Mexico today invite you every step of the way to delve deeper into the various epochs of the country’s development and to deal with them fundamentally.

Special features of the country’s history

The cave of La Pintada, Baja California Sur

The cave of La Pintada, Baja California Sur

Since the revolution, the Mexican state has been using symbols from the country’s history and creating and propagating myths in order to establish a national identity. The different Indian high cultures are merged with the colonial times, the war of independence, the revolution, the democratization process and the entry into the modern age in search of a common denominator of Mexico, a country located in North America according to usaers.

To this day, this has led to an undifferentiated, clichéd and patriotic understanding of history in broad strata.

Historical epochs

The pre-colonial period, which ends with the conquest of Mexico by Spain, can be divided into three epochs: Pre-Classical (2500 BC – 200 AD), Classical (200 AD-1100 AD) and Post-Classical (AD 1100-1519).

The Route of the Spanish Conquerors

The Route of the Spanish Conquerors

Examples of pre-classical cultures: Olmeca, Zapoteca

Examples of classical cultures: Teotihuacán, Maya, Tolteca, Mixteca

Examples of post-classical cultures: Náhuatl (Aztecs), Tarasca

Feathered serpent, Teotihuacan pyramid

Feathered serpent, Teotihuacan pyramid

Pyramid of the Totonaca Culture

Pyramid of the Totonaca Culture

Pre-Hispanic era

The advanced cultures of the pre-colonial period have many similarities in terms of their social organization, worldview, religion, art, economy, architecture and urban development. In the architecture, the erection of pyramid-like temples is remarkable. The cultivation of maize as the most important food in the entire region is also characteristic. The first indications of maize cultivation and use as a cultivated plant have already been established for around 9000 BC. Gods like Quetzalcóatlor Tlaloc, which played an important role in various high cultures for centuries, still have their place in the symbolism of Mexico today. The first violent, cultural amalgamation of the region between what is now northern central Mexico and Central America (so-called Mesoamerica) was enforced by the Aztecs, often with excessive force. Varieties of the Aztec language, Mexica or Náhuatl, are still spoken in Mexico and El Salvador to this day.

Conquest and Colonial Era

The bloody conquest of the region by the Spaniards from 1517 to 1521 could only be accomplished with the support of indigenous peoples who rejected the tyranny of the Aztecs. The arrival of the Spaniards introduced a new economic and political management system, new social structures, a new religion and a cultural fusion. The concept of “landed property”, unknown to the pre-Hispanic cultures, was reintroduced. Due to the forcible enforcement of new structures of rule and a new belief, but also the introduction of new diseases, the indigenous population was reduced by half in just a few years. Important, impressive witnesses of the conquest and the founding of the viceroyalty of “New Spain” are the writings of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún and Bernal Díaz del Castillo.

In the viceroyalty of New Spain, the Spaniards introduced a kind of racist class society that guaranteed them to essentially keep to themselves. A distinction was made between Spaniards who came directly from Spain (Peninsulares), Spaniards who were born in the Viceroyalty (Criollos), descendants of the connection between Spaniards and Indígenas (Mestizos) and indigenous peoples (Indígenas).


Influenced by the French Revolution and US independence, the Criollos ushered in independence from Spain in 1810. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (now known as “el padre de la Patria”) called at dawn on September 16, 1810 with the so-called “Grito de Dolores” or “Grito de la Independencia” (cry of independence) to fight against the Spanish crown on. Even today, Mexican Independence Day begins with a symbolic shout from the incumbent president. Hidalgo’s student and successor José María Morelos y Pavón (also known as “el Rayo del Sur”) conquered several southern states and wrote the first draft constitution.

Neither Hidalgo nor Morelos saw the end of Mexico’s independence from the Spanish crown in 1821. 800,000 people died during this war. For the first years after Spain gained independence, Mexico remained a monarchy ruled by Emperor Agustín de Iturbide, a former royalist. A federal republic with its own constitution, as it exists today, was only proclaimed in 1824.

From 1824 to 1861 there was chaos and instability. Mexico had 27 rotating presidents between Conservatives and Liberals during this period.

Changes in the national territory

As early as 1823, efforts for independence in the south led to the secession of the area from Guatemala. The USA profited from the political uncertainty and greed of the rulers: between 1835 and 1848 Mexico lost the present-day states of Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado, all areas north of the Río Grande.

Creation and fall of the new imperial empire

The most revered and only indigenous president of Mexico was the liberal Benito Juárez, who was elected in 1858 and ruled repeatedly as president until 1872. Juárez, a former Zapoteca shepherd from Oaxaca, carried out powerful liberal reforms that resulted in the Conservatives seeking to be disempowered, with the support of Europe. On the pretext that Mexico was not paying its debts, France, Spain and the United Kingdom occupied the country and installed the Austrian Prince Maximilian von Habsburg as Emperor of Mexico. The ultra-conservative, Catholic, political class in Mexico was disappointed by Maximilian’s liberal views. The European powers eventually withdrew their support. The United States helped Benito Juárez to win the war, which was achieved in 1867 with the shooting of Maximilian.

In 1876 Porfirio Díaz, a former general who fought for Benito Juárez against the French, was elected president. With a brief interruption, he ruled the country with dictatorial hand until the revolution broke out in 1910. His ruthless industrialization and modernization policies and the preservation of social peace through the use of the military divided the country and exacerbated social inequality.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910

The revolution of 1910 was only promising because it was supported from several sides at the same time: in the north by the adventurer Pancho Villa (with the División del Norte), in the south by the peasant leader Emiliano Zapata (with the Ejército del Sur), on the bourgeoisie Page by Francisco I. Madero. The Flores Magón brothers, living in exile, had already provided the intellectual fuel from the USA. The dictator Díaz fled into exile in Paris.

In 1917 a new constitution came into force, which, among other things, introduced land reform or land redistribution in favor of the peasantry. The church, representing the interests of conservative large landowners, calls for resistance. The three-year Catholic counter-revolution (La Guerra de Cristeros), which lasted from 1926 to 1929, claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The interests of all revolutionary wings could not be reconciled in the years that followed the revolution and internal disputes kept the country in constant turmoil, until 1929 the PNR (National Revolutionary Party), which was renamed PRI (Party of Institutionalized Revolution) in 1946 who took the strings in hand and consolidated a new model of society.