Mexico Early History

The pre-Columbian Mexico

According to some, the most ancient traces of the presence of man in Mexico would be those found in Tlapacoya, on the central plateau, and date back to about 20,000 BC. However, absolutely certain and widespread evidence dates from the end of the Pleistocene, between 9000 and 7000 BC It was probably from this period that in the central-southern highlands of Mexico the bands dedicated to hunting and gathering began the slow process of domestication. of important food plants (corn, beans, amaranth, avocado, chilli pepper, pumpkin), adopting among other things sedentary forms of life, inventing agricultural techniques, ceramics and weaving; a process that culminated between the 4th and 2nd millennium BC, the period in which the archaic settlements of Tehuacán, Cuicuilco and Zohapilco (Tlapacoya) in the central plateau date back,

From 2000 BC to about 200 AD (the so-called formative period ), the first properly Mesoamerican high cultures arose in Mexico (see fig. ): in the northern part of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec the Olmec civilization established itself, which subsequently extended its influence over a large part of southern Mexico, along the Pacific coast and up to the central plateau; to it we owe the first great monumental constructions, canalization works, megalithic sculptures and, probably, the invention of ideographic writing and the calendar system. Other formative cultures were also affected by the Olmec influence, such as Chiapa de Corzo in Chiapas (probably occupied by Mayan people) and San José Mogote near Oaxaca. From the 5th century. BC to the 2nd century AD, Mexico experienced an era of regional ferments, in which irrigation, stone architecture, writing were developed and the centralized organization of society was definitively established; Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit, known above all for the valuable anthropomorphic and zoomorphic funeral pottery; but also the initial phases of Monte Albán, in the Oaxaca valley, and the first important Mayan centers in the S (in Chiapas, but above all in Guatemala). The most significant development took place in the Mexico Valley, first in the Cuicuilco site (devastated by a volcanic eruption around 100 BC) and then in Teotihuacán, which soon extended its political, commercial and cultural dominion over much of the Mexico and beyond, up to the main Mayan centers of Guatemala: Kaminaljuyú and Tikal. Between the 2nd and the 9th century. AD Teotihuacán reached its apogee: it is denoted by the vigorous demographic increase and the vastness of the urban area (around 200,000 residents on approx. 20 km 2), the grandeur of the monuments (the famous ‘street of the dead’, with the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon), the extension of the commercial network and the detectable influences on contemporary civilizations. In the same period, in fact, there was an extraordinary flowering throughout the central-southern Mexico: along the coast of the Gulf, where sites of great importance such as El Tajín arose, with sculpted spheristeri and pyramids with niches and steps; in the valley of Oaxaca, dominated until the 8th century. from Monte Albán; but above all in the extreme SE, in Mayan territory, where the city-states of Palenque and Yaxchilán arose, whose ruins preserve some of the greatest artistic achievements of pre-Columbian America (including splendid stuccoes and bas-reliefs of historical and sacred subjects).

After the decline of Teotihuacán (7th-8th century), Mayan influence spread to the central plateau and the Yucatán, developing the Puuc architectural and decorative style. In the 9th century. Ecological and social imbalances caused the collapse of the main Mayan centers to the south, the central regions were invaded by barbaric and warlike peoples (Chichimechi). Culture acquired great importanceof the Toltecs (950-1150), who dominated much of the plateau and whose fame was linked to social, technological, artistic and intellectual achievements. The fragmentation of political power and increased bellicosity led to the decline of Mayan city-states in the southeast, while new nomads arrived in the central plateau from the north. From the 14th century, with the subjugation of almost all central and southern Mexico, Aztec hegemony developed, arranged according to a stratified political organization where the aristocracy, under the guidance of the sovereign and the high priest, managed the religious, military and administrative activities. The demographic and economic prosperity enriched an extraordinary culture, of which artistic, archaeological, historical and literary testimonies remain. For Mexico history, please check

The colonial age

The Spaniards subdued the Aztec empire, with the expedition of H. Cortés, appointed captain general and governor of New Spain (1522). This was followed by the creation of the first continental audiencia (1527), a supreme judicial body with political powers. In 1529 Mexico was constituted as a viceroyalty and extended its domains to Central America, the Caribbean, California, Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. The first evangelization of the Indians was the work of the Franciscans, later emulated by Dominicans, Augustinians and Jesuits. With the merced de tierra system (free concession as a reward by the crown) the land was distributed among the conquistadors ; the institution of the encomienda was extended to Mexico, transforming itself into the possibility of exploiting the indigenous labor force; The mining industry was born thanks to the discovery (1531-50) of various silver deposits. The de facto enslavement of the Indians and the diseases imported from Europe caused a demographic crisis and a severe recession in the economy (17th century); large self-sufficient landed estates (haciendas) were formed which bound for life and subdued the Indians. Among the main landowners of the colony was the Church, favored by donations and bequests. In the 18th century, the advent of the Bourbons in Spain and their administrative, ecclesiastical, military, fiscal and commercial reforms aroused the opposition of the Creoles in Mexico.

When the Bourbons fell under Napoleon (1808), the Spaniards imprisoned the viceroy J. de Iturrigaray, considered too close to the Creoles who claimed independence. In 1810, the revolt against Spanish rule, led by the Creole priest Mexico Hidalgo y Costilla, moved the humblest classes of the population, who transformed the uprisings for independence into a violent social protest. The objectives of Hidalgo (abolition of slavery and taxes for the Indians, redistribution of the land, defense of Catholicism) were then taken up by another country parish priest, JM Morelos (1811); under his leadership the national congress of Chilpancingo he approved an ephemeral declaration of independence (1813) and promulgated the republican constitution of Apatzingán (1814). Defeated Morelos (1815), only a few guerrillas continued the fight against colonial rule in isolation.

The pre-Columbian Mexico

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