The Olmec culture was the earliest of the west Mexican cultures. They settled themselves in what are now the states of Veracruz and Tabasco . They flourished between 1200 and 600BC.Built cities and constructed massive stone head carvings, Olmecs were spread throughout central and southern Mexico , until their civilization mysteriously vanished.
In 1862 a colossal stone head was discovered in the state of Veracruz . In years to come, artifacts from the culture, turned up at widespread sites, with a number of characteristic theme. Though the Olmecs left behind relatively few artifacts, their influence on later cultures was profound.
In their wake came the Teotihuacán, the Zapotecs and Mixtecs of Monte Alban, the Maya of Yucatan, the Toltecs, Aztecs, and dozens of smaller groups. These were more complex societies. Hieroglyphics and complex calendrical calculation appeared. The true city or urban centre also came into being during the late formative period. The Mayas example, were so advanced in mathematics, and astronomy that their calendar was the world's most accurate until this century. They could even predict solar and lunar eclipses.
The Aztecs remain the most documented of all Amerindian civilizations. Fearless warriors and pragmatic builders, the Aztecs created an empire during the 15 th century. As early texts and modern archaeology continue to reveal, they had a highly specialized and stratified society. They had an elaborate trading network as well as a tribute system. Though the Aztecs were initially a marginal tribe living on the edge of Lake Texcoco , the site of present day Mexico city . But by 1473 after subjugating several neighboring tribes it became the largest empire Mexico had ever seen. Their capital of Tenochtitlan , set in the lake, was a picturesque city of pyramids.
In 1519 when a Spanish adventurer Hernan Cortez saw the rich city it was a vision perfectly meshed to his thirst for conquest. So in April a Cortez landed in Vera Cruz, about 200 miles from the Aztecs capital. The main aim of the conquest was to defeat the Aztecs and take their gold. To do so, he had less than 400 soldiers, 16 horses, 14 pieces of artillery, and 11 ships, plenty of guns and ammunition. His first act upon landing was to burn all but one of his ships - he wanted no turning back. The defeat of such a huge empire and his success was only a miracle.
According to an Aztecs myth, a fair skinned Quetzacuatl an important god had fled to the east, but would return one day. When the Aztec ruler beheld Cortes and his light skinned men in the capital, he believed them to be the emissaries of the great god Quetzacuatl. Cortes being an opportunist did not attempt to correct him. Cortes returned the emperor's hospitality by taking him hostage. The Aztecs disowned their cooperatives, captive emperor, who died a prisoner in his own palace. When the Aztecs finally laid siege to the palace, Cortes and his men snuck away at night and ran for the coast. On the way, over half his force was killed, but the survivors returned with thousands of Indian allies to conquer the city a year later.
Spain ruled Mexico as a part of the viceroyalty of New Spain for the next 300 years. Mexico was heavily taxed and ruled directly from Spain .the Spanish monarchs distributed the land to settlers. A caste system developed: there were Espanoles (Spaniards born in Spain ), criollos (Mexican-born, but with Spanish blood), mestizos (Spanish and Indian), and finally the indigenes, the Indians. Since the Indians were dependent on the land owners they were riddled with debt and disease long after Spain abolished slavery.
The seeds of rebellion were planted when napoleon conquered Spain in 1808. The French conqueror enthroned his brother and it was then that the Mexican elite began to talk of self rule. The man who turned words into action was a catholic priest father Miguel de hidalgo y Costilla led an armed rebellion in 1810.this led to a war of independence on September 27, 1821. Since 1821 to 1877 there have been 2 emperors, several dictators, and enough presidents and provisional executives to make a new government on an average of every nine months. Mexico lost Texas in 1836. Santa Ana a former rebel was Mexico 's first president and is often criticized for loosing half of the country to the US in a war that ended in 1948. Under the treaty of Guadalupe hidalgo he lost areas that are now California , Nevada , and Utah , most of Arizona and New Mexico , and parts of Wyoming and Colorado . Santa Ana was then exiled and his successor Ignacio comonfort abdicated the presidency in favour of Benito Juarez. Juarez was the principal influence in Mexican politics. In 1855, the Indian patriot began a series of reforms, including the disestablishment of the Catholic Church, which owned vast property. A federal form of government, universal male suffrage, freedom of speech, and other civil liberties were embodied in the constitution in 1857. The new constitution was criticized by conservative groups. And in 1858 a war of reform took place between the conservatives and liberals, though the juarist army won, the war left Mexico devastated.
Elected president in 1861, Juárez suspended interest payments on foreign loans incurred by preceding governments. Angered by his decree, France , Great Britain , and Spain decided to intervene jointly for the protection of their investments in Mexico . For a year French troops battled into Mexico City . In June 1862 Juarez and his cabinet fled. And a provincial conservative government proclaimed a Mexican empire and offered a crown to Maximilian, archduke of Austria . Juarez's forces retook Mexico after the French had been evacuated in 1867 and Maximilian was executed. Juarez attempted to restore order but was met with revolts.
In 1871 elections, Porfirio Diaz ran against Juarez for president but was defeated. Diaz, a sore loser led an unsuccessful insurrection. Juárez died in 1872 and was succeeded by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada (1827–89), head of the Mexican Supreme Court. In 1876, when Lerdo de Tejada sought reelection, Diáz led another revolt. Successful this time, he became president in 1877.
Diaz's iron fisted rule lasted almost 40 years, came to be known as the Porfiriato. He ruled Mexico as a despot until 1911. Mexico made tremendous progress in economic and commercial development. Railroad extension, industrial plants, public works, harbor improvement, and public building were part of the Díaz program. Many of these new undertakings were financed and managed by foreigners. This was a factor that led to discontentment among most Mexicans. Moreover, Díaz favored the rich owners of large estates, increasing their properties by assigning them communal lands that belonged to the Indians. He routinely suppressed his opponents with brutal force. The staunch dictator paid no attention to education, favoured the church, and paid little heed to the secularization policy. The spirit of revolt increased throughout Mexico .
For the election in 1910, Diaz announced that he would welcome an opposition candidate. This he did to prove his regard for democracy. He was ultimately challenged by Francisco I Madero. As Madero's influence grew, Diaz felt threatened an ordered his arrest. But soon Madero was acknowledged as the leader of a popular revolution. Though Diaz was re elected in 1910, he was forced to resign in 1911.
Madero was elected in 1911, but his presidency was short lived; rebel leaders particularly Emiliano Zapata and Fransico (Pancho) villa refused to submit to presidential authority. It was Madero's own military commander Victoriano Huerta, who assassinated him with the help of US in1913. Huerta became a dictator. Armed revolts ensued under Zapta, Villa, and Carranza. Huerta resigned in 1914, and Carranza took power in the same year. And villa at once declared war on him. Villa and Zapata drove him and Obregon from the capital. Carranza and Obregon retreated to Veracruz , where they quickly reassembled and then retook the capital when Villa and Zapata failed to organize a government. Carranza held power until the next elections, when it became clear that the popular Obregon would defeat him. Carranza staged a coup, but Obregon escaped, and his forces returned to kill Carranza, who escaped too. Villa was assassinated in 1923, and so was Zapata in 1919. The only man alive was Obregon, the president.
Though Obregon was re elected in 1928 but was assassinated months later by a religious fanatic. Mexico 's post-revolution history is marked by the tenacity of a single political party. Plutarco Elias Calles the founder of Partido Revolucionnario institutional (PRI) took over as president after Obregon. In 1934 General Lazaro Cárdenas in1934 came to power. He instituted wide spread land reforms, emphasized on agrarian reforms, social welfare, and education and even nationalized the petroleum industry. Mexico 's relations with the US were disturbed in 1938, when all foreign oil wells were expropriated. This expropriation seriously disturbed Mexican oil trade with US, Dutch, and the British. Mexico was forced to deal with Italy , Germany , and Japan . However trade with these nations was cut short by World War II in 1939.
In 1940, Manuel Avila Camacho became the next president. It was then that Mexico closely cooperated with the US , in commercial and military matters. As Mexico got more involved with the world war, it even allowed the US air force to use Mexican airfields and also agreed to export critical and strategic materials.
Cooperating with the US , Mexico severed ties with Japan , Germany , and Italy in 1941. In 1942 it even declared war on the Axis powers. In 1944 Mexican and US official developed a 20-year plan for the expansion of the government-controlled oil industry. In 1945 Mexico became the original member of UN, and in 1946 Miguel Aleman Valdes became the new president. Alemán continued close relations with the U.S. In 1947 the Export-Import Bank lent Mexico $50 million to be expended on public works and industrial development. In March 1949 for the first time since the expropriations of 1938, two US petroleum companies were permitted to drill for oil, though under supervision. The Mexican government stabilized the peso in June, with loans from the US .
By the 1950, the economic situations had improved considerably when Mexico obtained an export-import bank loan of $150 million, to finance projects to improve transportation, agriculture, and power facilities. The very next year the problem of Mexican labourers who entered US to seek seasonal farm employment became a matter of grave concern for both countries. The problem was worsened because the demand of the Mexican government for guarantees against the exploitation of it's citizens by US employers and by hostility of US farm labour organizations towards the competition of Mexican labourers willing to work for sub standard wages.
In 1952, former interior minister Adolfo Ruiz Cotines became the next prime minister of Mexico . The following year saw the extending of voting privileges to women. Adolfo Lopez Mateos succeeded Cortines A controversial constitutional amendment empowering the government to force businesses to share profits with workers was approved in 1962 during his tenure. Early in 1963 an Independent Peasants' Central party was formed to compete with the National Peasants Confederation in the dominant PRI. In 1964, PRI candidate Gustavo Diaz Ordaz took over as president emphasized on the need to alleviate the plight of farmers. In 1966 Diaz also announced a 5-year plan putting into effect a program of development and economic planning. In 1968, the government brutally suppressed a student protest, which threatened to prevent the Olympic Games.
In 1970, Luis Echeverria Alvarez was elected the president. It was during his tenure that ties with US were loosened and Alvarez negotiated economic accords with several Latin American nations. During 1970-74 the Mexican economy grew at a healthy pace. In 1976 José Lopez Portillo succeeded Alvarez, at this time Mexico became a major producer of petroleum. So, by the end of his term Mexico had accumulated a huge external debt because of the government's unrestrained borrowing on the strength of it's petroleum revenues. In1982 when Miguel De La Madrid Hurtado came to power, Mexico suffered a devastating earthquake, that disturbed the financial situation of the country.
In 1988 Carlos Salinas's government sped up the privatization of state-controlled corporations and modified restrictive trade and investment regulations to encourage foreign investment by permitting full control of corporations by foreign investors. In 1994, Mexico joined Canada and United States of America in the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 1996 it became a founding member of the world trade organization. In 1995, the U.S. agreed to prevent the collapse of Mexico 's private banks. In 2000 the PRI lost presidency, ending 71 year old hegemonic rule, bringing to power President, Vincent Fox Quesada of the national action party who emphasized on tax reform and reduction in the power of the central government.
In 2005 Andres Manuel Lopez, emerged as a presidential candidate or the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution. Felipe Calderón unexpectedly became the candidate of Fox's National Action Party (PAN), defeating Lopez Obrador. Calderon was sworn in on December 1.