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A Brief History of Mexico

May 16, 2019 at History Essays

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Mexico had complex indigenous civilizations. During its history, after pre-Columbian era, the Spanish conquered Mexico in the 16th century. The capital Mexico City is the former Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Nowadays, it is still the city with the highest population rate in the country. Aztec empire was conquered in 1521 and, therefore, it became a part of the Spanish empire with colonial rule. As a result, endemic civilizations became Spanish-speaking and mixed with Europeans.The Treaty of Cordoba  marked the beginning of sovereign nation of Mexico after 11 years (from 1810 to 1821) of fighting for independence. The following period was the First Mexican Empire when monarch ruled over the country from 1821 to 1823. In 1824, a federal constitution became the base for the Republic of Mexico. During 1824-1829, first racial categories and then slavery were eliminated. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 proclaimed Mexico as a federal republic.


Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna started to rule from the late 1820s. In 1846, the United States provoked the Mexican American War that let Mexico cede most of its territory via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to the United States (Foster, 2009). Santa Anna returned to office despite the defeat, but in 1854, Mexican liberals overthrew him. The Liberal Reform and The Mexican Constitution (1857) set the major liberalism principles that included legal separation of church and state as well as equality before the law. That Reform provoked the beginning of the civil war between liberals and conservatives who were defeated.

The French Intervention started in 1861 with the aim to collect the defaulted loans to the liberal government of Benito Juarez, that turned into Mexican conservatives seeking to restore monarchy and to set Maximilian I as the state’s head. At the end of the civil war in the United States that lasted from 1861 to 1865, the US helped Mexican liberals to fight against Maximilian's ruling. In 1867, France stopped supporting Maximilian. This fact marked the end of his regime.

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Benito Juarez and Porfiriato

Benito Juarez was the President of the Restored Republic from 1867 to 1876. Later, the power was regained by Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada. The successor of Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada was Porfirio Diaz who brought stability, prosperity, the influx of foreign investments as well as the modernization of economics, industry, and infrastructure to Mexico during 1876-1911. The period of his presidency is called Porfiriato. It is remarkable for bringing considerable advancements in public health, transportation, safety, foreign trade, and finances. The period ended in 1910 with the Mexican Revolution (Foster, 2009).

Constitution of 1917

Within 1910-1920, there were military actions in Mexico's north and in the central part under leaders such as Pancho Villa, Alvaro Obregon and Emiliano Zapata. The revolution caused mass migration to the U.S. and diminished Mexico’s population. Besides, it terminated the system of haciendas, that is large plantations with dwelling houses, which appeared with the Spanish Conquest. One of the results of the revolution was the Constitution of 1917, which strengthened measures to limit the power of the Roman Catholic Church, gave Mexico right to expropriate owners, and advanced labor unions' rights (Garcia, 2010).

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The Post-Revolutionary Period

The post-revolutionary period had changes in both foreign and internal policies and brought amendments to the 1917 Mexican Constitution. There was Cristero Rebellion from 1926 to 1929 (La Cristiada), namely, a struggle in central-western Mexican states against the secular, anti-Catholic, and anticlerical policies of the Mexican government (Garcia, 2010). After the rebellion, domestic policy was under control of Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). In the 1930s, the party transferred the oil industry from private to state ownership PRI underlined the national character of the ideology proclaiming the permanent continuation of the Mexican Revolution till the full implementation of its ideals: the sovereignty, freedom, democracy and social justice.

World War II

After the beginning of World War II, all the nations of Latin America including Mexico maintained the neutrality and adopted the Declaration of Neutrality. During WW II, Mexico was a strong ally of the United States supplying metals for the country to make weapons This particular time is called Mexican Miracle – a period of urbanization, wealth and political stability when the population grew rapidly after the war.Later, Mexico started regional integration processes that resulted in the North American Free Trade agreement aimed at lowering trade barriers among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico starting from 1986.

After the fraudulent 1988 presidential elections, the Institutional Revolutionary Party won the presidential election. The new President, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, started implementing neoliberal reforms, which presupposed the amendment of the constitution, diminishing the power of the Mexican state in regulation foreign business enterprises. However, the role of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico was slightly increased.


Since 1994, The Zapatista Army of National Liberation has been in a declared war “against the Mexican state” which initially wanted to start a revolution throughout Mexico. However, nowadays its strategy is civil resistance (Foster, 2009). After the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, the political situation aggravated. The reaction of the Mexican stock exchange brought state to the last position in the list of 24 largest world exchanges, resulting in capital outflows from the country. About 20 thousand companies went bankrupt; 700 thousand people became unemployed; the credit system suffered from crisis. Stagnation in production and growth of the trade deficit made Mexico unattractive to foreign investments (Foster, 2009).

Vicente Fox

In 2000, Mexico elected Vicente Fox from the Partido Accion Nacional as its new President. Felipe Calderon, who took the President’s office after Fox, was combating drug mafias in Mexico in extremely violent way. In 2006, Mexicans protested after election of him as a President but the official results were confirmed. Thus, Felipe Calderon is still the current President of Mexico.

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