History of Mexico
Mexico is the third largest country in Latin America. Latin America is made up of a string of countries connecting North American and South America. Today Mexico has more than 100 million people.
The Olmecs were the earliest known native people. They lived on the Gulf coast until about 600 B. C. The Zapotek people had small villages of farmers throughout the southern part of Mexico by 300 B. C. They had about 10,000 inhabitants. Between 100 B. C. and 700 A. D., the Teotihuacan civilization flourished. They built a huge city of the same name. There were 200,000 of their people across southern Mexico at the height of the Teotihuacan Empire. It was overthrown in the 600's, but its cities still exist.
Between 250 and 900 A. D., the Mayans were the leading empire in Mexico. They had a calendar and writing. Each of their cities was surrounded by small farming communities. Every city had a central plaza with pyramids and palaces around it. Their civilization fell due to overpopulation and lack of care for the land. They couldn't grow enough food for the people.
After this, the Toltec appeared in central Mexico. Their population was between 30,000-40,000. Their big city was called Tula. Many Toltec influences can be seen in another area of Mexico called the Yucatan. Experts think that the Toltecs may have fled to that area.
The Aztecs were the last of the great pre-Columbian civilizations in Mexico. Pre-Columbian peoples are those native peoples who lived there before Columbus came to the New World. 5 million Aztecs lived across the width of Mexico from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Ocean. The people lived in small governing units called calpulli which had their own schools, land, army and temple. They each had to give money to the grand leader of the Aztecs.
Hernan Cortes came to Mexico from Spain in 1519. The Aztec king, Montezuma II, thought Cortes was the god Quetzalcoatl. He invited him to the capital. As Cortes made his way across the country to the capital, he made friends. As a result, in 1521, Cortes conquered the Aztecs and took the country for Spain. He named it Nueva Espana, New Spain. He made most of the native peoples slaves. By 1574, Spain controlled most of the land of modern day Mexico. By 1605, 24 million native inhabitants had died from diseases brought over from Europe by the Spanish.
In 1523, the first Catholic missionaries arrived in Mexico. They wanted to spread the gospel to the native inhabitants. The church began to get more powerful. In the late 1700's King Carlos III of Spain expelled the Jesuit missionaries because he thought they had too much power.
In 1810 rebellion against Spain broke out. By 1821, Mexico had gained its independence from Spain. From 1823-1836 Santa Anna served as president. He defeated the Texan cause for independence from Mexico in 1836, but was defeated in the Mexican-American War. The French occupied Mexico in the mid 1800's. Porfirio Diaz was president from 1876-1909. He was a dictator who treated the poor badly.
In 1934, after the Mexican Revolution, Lazaro Cardenas became the president. The economy began to improve. World War II also was good for Mexico with the demands for products to be used in the war.
Today, Mexico still has an unequal distribution of wealth. The poor have no chance to improve their lives. The drug trafficking creates lots of crime, and living is dangerous. However, foreign-built companies and tourists are bringing money into the country.
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