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MEXICO’S HISTORY – A CHRONOLOGIC SUMMARY
history of Mexico contains a number of events that causes radical changes in
the development and direction of the country, as the rise and fall of the
different indigenous cultures, the conquest by Spain, the independence war,
the war against the USA, the reform war, the French occupation and the
revolution 1910 – 1917, to mention the most important. It includes periods
of insecurity and of stability, of development and of crisis – a context
that sometimes seems incomprehensible.
is an attempt to offer a simplified panorama of this complexity, by
presenting in chronological order the most important events that have
affected the historic and cultural development of the country.
should be mentioned that, as all histories, the Mexican history is subject
to different interpretations, official versions and myths, created to
support different political and personal interests. It is very difficult to
find a neutral or objective interpretation, but we have tried, within the
scope of our possibilities, to find such a line.
Svanström and Amelia Ramirez de Bylund.
The first humans arrive to America from Asia via the Strait of Bering.
The people of
Mesoamerica are nomads hunting large game. In 1949 a female skeleton from
this period is found in Tepexpan in the Valley of Mexico. It is given the
name “The Man from Tepexpan”. Her remains are the oldest found in Mexico.
000 – 4000 B.C.
First squash and
later maize and beans are domesticated. The cultivation of these, especially
maize, becomes a precondition for the development of the pre-Columbian
cultures in Mesoamerica. The domestication of maize happened probably in the
Tehuacan valley. The earliest cob has been found in a cave in the state of
Oaxaca and is dated to 4300 B.C.
Probable start of a
sedentary lifestyle and agriculture. The large game and the hunters
Archaic period 7 000 – 1 800 B.C.
The life in
villages and the cultivation of maize, squash and beans is beginning. The
manufacture of figures and vessels of clay starts.
Preclassic period 1
800 B.C. – 150 A.D.
The communities are
based on agriculture, complemented with fishing, collection and hunting.
Some villages are converted into ceremonial centers, the cult of fertility
appears. The Olmec culture rises in the south part of Veracruz and in
Tabasco. The most important ceremonial centers are La Venta, Tres Zapotes
and San Lorenzo and the Olmec culture has a great influence over all of
Mesoamerica. It can inclusively be seen as a “mother culture” for the coming
cultures. Parts of the Maya area are populated and the first buildings of
Monte Alban are constructed. At the end of this period the city of
Teotihuacan is planned and the Pyramid of the Sun is built.
Classic period, 150 – 900 A.D.
The urbanization is
intensified and powerful theocratic and warrior groups are created. The
height of the pre-Columbian civilizations. The main characteristics of the
Mesoamerican cultures are consolidated in arts, ceramics, writing and the
calendar. The number of deities increases. The florescence of Teotihuacan,
the Zapotec culture in Monte Albán and the Maya culture in Uxmal, Palenque,
Chichen Itza, Bonampak and Yaxchilán. At the end of the period Teotihuacan
is destroyed and the decline of the Maya culture begins.
period, 900 – 1521 A.D.
societies are militarized, use of metals begins. The Toltec culture in Tula
develops but is destroyed around 1200. The florescence of the Zapotec
culture in Monte Alban continues and a new centre is built in Mitla. The
Mixtec culture expands and at the end of the period the Mixtecs occupy most
of the Zapotec centers. The Aztec culture rises but after a brief period of
florescence itis destroyed
by the the Spanish conquerors.
Some important events in the development of the Aztec Empire:
1200 - 1300
The Aztecs arrive, according to their own legend, from their mythical origin
in Aztlan to the
Valley of Mexico, which they will dominate through war and alliances with
the nations already
1344 or 1345
The two largest cities, Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco are founded.
1400 - 1521
The Aztecs consolidates their power and their dominance expands to include
large parts of
The first contact
between Europeans and Maya Indians occurs. Christopher Columbus encounters a
canoe with Maya merchants off Honduras and sees cacao for the first time.
A Spanish vessel
sinks off Yucatan and the crew is caught by Maya Indians. Among them is
Gerónimo de Aguilar who later becomes an interpreter to the conqueror of
Mexico, Hernan Cortèz.
Hernandez de Cordoba explores the coast of Yucatan.
Juan de Grijalva sails from the island Cozumel along the coast to Cabo Roxo
at Laguna de Tamiahua (close to Tampico), and gets a first impression of the
greatness of Mesoamerica.
governor of Cuba, Diego de Velàzquez, decides to send an expedition with the
purpose to conquer the land seen by Cordoba and Grijalva, and elects Hernan
Cortèz as its commander. Very soon a series of conflicts arise between
Velázquez and Cortés.
Pineda sails along the coast from Florida to the river Pánuco (at Tampico).
Cortez sails from Cuba in February with eleven ships, 110 sailors, 753
soldiers, 16 horses and 10 cannons. At that time the indigenous population
of Mesoamerica is 25 million.
During the voyage Cortés encounters the priest Gerónimo de Aguilar, who has been
living among the Maya after a shipwreck 1511 and speaks the maya language. Cortez receives later as
a present an indian woman who speaks nahuatl and maya. She gets the name
Doña Marina and becomes an interpreter to Cortez, first with help from Aguilar.
She rapidly learns Spanish and gets a great importance for Cortez
expedition. She is now known as La Malinche, a name that
disloyalty with the Mexican origin (Malinche was also the name the Indians
gave to Cortez).
April Cortez lands north of the city Veracruz and founds the first Spanish
settlement, La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, and makes an alliance with the
Totonac indians. He destroys most of the ships and initiates
the march towards Tenochtitlan, followed by 800 Totonacs. During the march Cortez troops
battles the Tlaxcaltec and Otomi indians, and enters later an alliance with the Tlaxcaltecs,
enemies of the Aztecs.
November the Spaniards and their allies arrive to Tenochtitlan, Motecuhzoma
Xocoyotzin (often misspelled “Moctezuma” or ”Montezuma”) receives them
peacefully and lets them live in the palace of Axayácatl. Later Motecuhzoma
is made prisoner by Cortez, under pretext of an attack by the Indians
against the Spaniards that had stayed at the coast.
Diego de Velásquez sends Pánfilo de Narváez to substitute Cortés because of
the conflicts they have had. When Cortez gets to know that Narvaez has
to the coast
he leaves Tenochtitlan to fight Narvaez. Pedro de
Alvarado is left in charge in Tenochtitlan. He takes advantage of a
religious feast to attack the dancing, unarmed Indians, which results in a massacre
known as “the massacre at Templo Mayor”. After that Cortez has won over
and convinced his soldiers to join him, Cortéz
returns to Tenochtitlan where a series of bloody battles are
fought. Cortez convinces Motecuhzoma that he should try to calm the
but Motecuhzoma is fatally wounded by stones thrown by the Indians. There is
also information in the sense that Motecuhzoma in reality was killed by the
The continuous fighting makes Cortez decide to leave Tenochtitlan. During the flight the Spaniards are discovered and attacked,
the battle that ensues is known as “la batalla de la noche triste” where
hundreds of Spaniards are killed. Cortez
marches later to Tlaxcala to rest
and rebuild his forces.
Cortez has received reinforcements he attacks the
town Tepeaca, allied with
the Aztecs, a bloodbath also on civilians with the purpose to demoralize the
Aztecs. Cortez later establishes his headquarter in Texcoco in the valley of
order to continue the fight. In may he initiates a siege of Tenochtitlan.
The Spaniards uses boats to isolate the island and stop the transport of
supplies to Tenochtitlan. The diseases that the Spaniards brought, and to
which the Indians had never been exposed become an important factor, as they
cause a great number of deaths in Tenochtitlan.
Tenochtitlan falls the 13 of august, after a siege of 75 days. Cortez troops
enters the city and the Aztec empire has reached its end. The number of
Aztecs that died during the siege is estimated to between 120 000 and 240
000. To this a considerable number of deaths in other
indian nations must be
THE COLONIAL PERIOD
The day after the fall of Tenochtitlan the surviving Aztecs begin to leave.
It takes three days for the survivors to abandon the city, and Tenochtitlan
is left deserted. The Spaniards begin the destruction of the temples, and in
less than four years a new city is built on the Aztec ruins.
Cortez is appointed as governor over New Spain.
1522 – 1536
The Spaniards carries out a number of expeditions in order to secure and
expand the Spanish dominance; Cortéz to Panuco, Gonzalo Sandoval to
Coatzacoalcos, Luis Marin to Oaxaca and Chiapas, Pedro de Alvarado to
Guatemala, Olid to Zacatula and Michoacán, Nuño de Guzmán to the area in
the northwest, that later becomes the kingdom Nueva Galicia.
A group of 12 Franciscan monks arrives, ”the 12 apostles”, to convert the
Indians to the Catholicism. Cortez was deeply religious and one of his goals
was to christen the Indians. This is carried out with great fervor and in a
short time the elite level of the Indian religion is destroyed. But, within
the individual families much of the Indian beliefs are conserved, and many
ceremonies and beliefs will be integrated forever in the Mexican
Carlos V introduces the first ”Audiencia Real” in New Spain, which takes
over the governmental power and destitutes Cortez.
Franciscan monks arrive, among them Bernardino de Sahagún, who
later writes the great work “Historia General de las Cosas en la Nueva
España”, based on his manuscripts
“Códice Florentino” and
“Manuscrito de Tolosa”.
is one of the most important studies of indian
A political system with a Viceroy is introduced.
”El Colegio de Santiago de Tlatelolco” is founded by the bishop Zumarraga
with the purpose to educate sons to
indians from the old
indian elite class to
priests. In the beginning the school had great successes but the church
later forbade the
indians to become
Colegio loses its importance.
The Franciscan priest Jacobo Daciano, brother to Christian II, also known as
Christian el Tirano, king of Sweden and Denmark 1520 – 1521, arrives to New
Spain. Jacobo Daciano becomes an important defender of the Indians rights
and insists on their right to become priests and to receive the
sacraments. His standpoint creates a serious conflict between him and the
Franciscan order, and Jacobo is punished for his views. Jacobo Daciano is
still profoundly venerated by the Purépecha Indians in Michoacan.
The University ”Real y Pontificia Universidad de México” is founded and gets
the same privileges as the university in Salamanca, with five faculties and
with teaching in nahuatl and otomi.
The Spanish crown centralizes power, and the conquerors and their heirs
loose their privileges. They therefore decide to revolt. The uprising is led
by Martín Cortés (son to Hernán Cortés and Doña Marina) and is the first non-indian conspiration against the Spanish dominance.
The ”Tribunal del Santo Oficio” of the Inquisition is installed in New
Spain, in order to investigate and punish them who disobeys the bases of the
catholic religion, or practices Judaism or Protestantism.
The indigenous population of Mesoamerica is estimated to have been reduced
from 25 million in 1520 to maybe under 2 million.
The account of the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe is published for
the first time, in a book written by the priest Miguel Sanchez.
Sor Juana Inéz de la Cruz, a famous poet, is born in San Miguel Nepantla.
She chooses a life as a nun and writes several works of philosophy and
poetry, of which many focuses on the discrimination of women, and on the
contradictions between the religious duties and common sense. This creates a
conflict between her and large groups in society, especially with the
Under 1600 and 1700 there are many revolts among the
indians. In 1692 there
is a large revolt in Mexico City, provoked by the shortage and the price
increases of food. A crowd of indians, creoles and mestizos sets the
Vice-kings palace on fire.
A new antispanish patriotism is beginning to develop, where the conquest is
interpreted as the start of a period of imprisonment and exploitation, eased
by the priests. From this perspective the Mexican nation was born out of its
indian past and not of
the conquest. This patriotism has been called “Neo-aztecismo” or “The Aztec
revival”, and under 1700, 1800 and 1900 there are many manifestations of
this phenomena. These new thoughts contribute to that the conditions that
later give rise to the fight for independence are created.
The Jesuits are expelled from New Spain, as they are considered dangerous
because of their riches, their influence over the Indians and their
independence towards the government.
Jesuite Francisco Javier Clavijero, in exile in Italy, publishes the book
“Historia Antigua de México”.
describes the Aztecs as wise, cultivated and heroic, and means that their
current misery depends on that the Spaniards destroyed their way of life.
Fray Servando Teresa de Mier declares during a mass in the basilica of
Guadalupe that the Aztecs were Christian already before the conquest, as the
apostle Thomas in the form of Quetzalcoatl had converted the Indians to
Christianity several centuries earlier. They worshipped God under the name
of Tezcatlipoca, Jesus as Huitzilopochtli and the Virgin Mary as Coatlique.
He did also declare that the Virgin Mary never appeared at Tepeyac in the
year 1531 as no revelation was needed. His complex reasoning was part of an
attempt to create a cultural bridge between the pre-Columbian time with its
Indian heritage and the mixed population of the new time. Fray Servando was
imprisoned and expelled from New Spain, but returns and participates
actively in the fight for freedom and in the ensuing process to organize the
Benito Juárez, who will become the
first president of Mexico of indian origin is born on March 21.
Spain is occupied by France and the
king Ferdinand VII imprisoned. José Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon) is
crowned as the new Spanish king. The Mexican Viceroy Iturrigaray and a
group of followers consider that the new king is not legitimate, and tries
to liberate New Spain from the Spain that is occupied by France. However,
the atempt fails and Iturrigaray is imprisoned. An officer is appointed as
THE WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE
A conspiracy has been formed against the new Viceroy, who is seen as a
traitor as he accepts the new
king Jose Bonaparte, appointed by France. It
has its center in San Miguel el Grande (now San Miguel de Allende) and with
branches in Queretaro, Mexico City and other places. Among the more than
sixty conspirators in San Miguel are the officers in the Viceroy army
Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama and Mariano Abasolo and the priest Miguel
Hidalgo y Costilla. In Queretaro the judge Miguel Domínguez and his wife
María Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez take part. When María Josefa Ortiz gets to
know that the conspiracy has been betrayed she sends a message to Hidalgo in
San Miguel. The conspirators, that have already received another message
with the same content, decide to initiate the revolt immediately, before the
planned date. To ensure that the people will join the revolt the priest
Miguel Hidalgo is appointed as the spokesperson for the conspiracy.
On the 16 of September, at the church in Dolores (now Dolores Hidalgo)
Miguel Hidalgo urges the villagers to join the revolt. Thus begins the
independence war, a cruel civil war that will go on for 11 years.
It starts as a revolt against the french occupation government in Spain,
not as a revolt for freedom from Spain. The latter becomes the objective
first in 1813. The small
revolting force, with Hidalgo in charge, marches first to San Miguel el
Grande where the regiment ”los Dragones de la Reina” joins the cause.
La Virgen de
Guadalupe will be the symbol for the revolutionary army.
Very soon a
schism is created between Allende and Hidalgo.
After a several successes the revolutionary army is defeated at the end of
1811 by the royalist army under the command of Felix Maria Calleja in the
battles at Aculco and Puente de Calderon. The revolutionary army is
destroyed and the leaders are forced to flee to the north. On the way
Hidalgo is removed from his position by Allende, and at an ambush at Acatita
de Baján they are imprisoned by the royalists. Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama
and Abasolo are convicted to death. They are executed by a firing squad and
their heads are hung on the storage building Alhondiga de Granaditas in
Guanajuato. Still the fight for freedom continues.
A meeting called ”Las Cortes de Cádiz” is held in Cadiz in Spain in order to
write e new constitution, with 200 delegates, among them 53 persons elected
by the colonies in America, 16 representing New Spain. In the beginning of
1812 a new liberal constitution is approved, ”la Constitución de Cádiz”,
inspired by the French constitution from 1793. This fulfills many of the
demands made by the representatives from the colonies in America. Some
months later it is sworn in New Spain.
1812 – 1815
The armed rebellion continues under Ignacio Lópes Rayón, and later under the
priest José Maria Morelos. Morelos organizes a new army and gets to dominate
large areas of the south and central parts of the country. 1813 he organizes
a congress that is first assembled in Chilpancingo, and proclaims the
freedom of New Spain. A year later the congress, now moved to Apatzingan,
proclaims ”la Constitución de Apatzingan”, which is inspired by ”la
Constitución de Cádiz”. The military successes are however reversed, and the
revolutionary army is defeated by Félix Calleja, who has been appointed
Viceroy. Morelos is imprisoned and executed after having been condemned by
the Inquisition. Another victorious officer in the battles against the
revolutionaries is Agustín de Iturbide.
The misfortune of the revolutionaries depend, besides the military defeat,
also on the political situation; large groups of the society considered that
”la Constitucion de Cádiz” gave them a possibility to reach their goals
being part of a Spanish community
built on new principles.
1816 – 1819
After the death of Morelos the armed struggle is continued by some groups,
led by, among others, Vicente Guerrero, Pedro Ascensio and Francisco Javier
Mina, but without being a direct threat to the government. At the same time
the conditions that originally created the uprising prevail, and other
factors are added, such as an economic downturn and a discontent among the
military because soldiers are brought from Spain.
After the war between Spain and its ally Great Britain and USA, Spain is
forced to “sell” Florida to the USA. USA begins to investigate the situation
in New Spain and to maneuver ambiguously, with a territorial expansion in
sight, on the expense of the countries that are on their way to liberate
themselves from the European dominance.
Agustín de Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero meet in Acatempan (the meeting has
been called ”el abrazo de Acatempan”) and signs an agreement, ”El Plan de
Iguala” or ”Las Tres Garantias”. This agreement promises one religion, union
between all social groups and freedom for Mexico as a constitutional
part of the country, the people and the ruling class accept the plan.
Juan de O´Donojú arrives to New Spain in August, appointed ”Jefe politico
superior de la Nueva España” (the position as Viceroy had disappeared
through ”la Constitución de Cádiz”) and meets a situation where practically
the whole country, with the exception of Mexico City and some other cities,
already have accepted ”El Plan de Iguala”.
realizes that Spain cannot conserve its dominance over New Spain.
therefore meet with Iturbide in Cordoba and signs ”El Tratado de Cordoba”
which ratifies ”El Plan de Iguala”.
On September 27 ”el Ejercito Trigarante” enters Mexico City in triumph, with
Agustín de Iturbide at the front. The independence from Spain is fulfilled
with the signing of the freedom treaty, ”el Acta de Independencia”, on
September 28. The first independent government is appointed. However,
Mexico’s independence is not accepted by Spain.
1822 – 1823
The first Empire
Iturbide is crowned as Emperor with the name Agustín I. The use of the
expression ”Empire” comes from a search for continuity from the Aztec
Empire. It is said that Iturbide has ascended the throne of Motecuhzoma,
and his wife is portrayed in a feather headdress and a quiver with arrows,
expressions of the neo-aztecism. In the beginning of 1823 Antonio de Santa
Anna launches a proposal to convert to a republic and several of the earlier
him. In view of this new situation Agustín I
abdicates and leaves the country.
The independence is celebrated on two different days, liberals the 16 of
September, when the revolt was initiated; and conservatives the 27 of
September, the day when Iturbide and ”El Ejercito Trigarante” entered Mexico
It is estimated that the country has 6-7 million inhabitants, 90 % living in
USA sends an emissary to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett, who interferes in
internal issues. Poinsett acts in favor of a republic, and puts forward the
territorial ambitions of the USA, which are realized after the war
The provinces in Central America separate from Mexico.
The first federal republic is formed and the first constitution of Mexico is
proclaimed. Guadalupe Victoria is the first president.
Iturbide, unknowing that a law which makes specifically him lawless has been
dictated, returns to Mexico.
ashore he is detained and executed without trial.
Spain sends a force of 3000 soldiers in an attempt to reconquer Mexico, but
is defeated by Manuel Mier y Terán in Altamira.
A peace treaty is signed with Spain.
Inhabitants in Texas initiate a revolt with support of the USA. After the
battle at El Álamo Texas is declared independent by USA and later by France
and Great Britain. This is not accepted by Mexico, but Texas is in principle
an independent country until 1846 when it is integrated in the USA.
In Yucatan (that also included the current states Campeche and Quintana Roo)
a revolt for independence from Mexico starts. The Maya Indians, who are
promised land by the insurgents, join the movement. When the revolt is
crushed in 1843 the Maya Indians feel deceived and initiate a new
insurgency. The dominating group in Yucatan, the “criollos”, i.e. persons
born in Yucatan with European parents, and that call themselves “La casta
divina”, joins the revolt. The war is therefore becomes known as ”La Guerra
de Castas”. The revolt is supported by Great Britain, and in 1847 the
insurgents have occupied the whole state, except the towns Merida and
Campeche. The revolt ends 1848, and the repression against the Maya is
intensified. As punishment and to scare the
indians to submission Maya
indians are sold as slaves to other countries. Not until 1903 can Mexican
troops enter the Maya stronghold Quintana Roo
The war against USA
president James Polk takes a border squirmish as a pretext to
declare war against Mexico, with the purpose to annex the territories Alta
California, Nuevo México and La Mesilla (approximately the current states
California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New México). After that the troops of
Antonio López de Santa Anna have been defeated US forces occupy Mexico City.
The war ends February 2 1848 with the peace treaty ”el Tratado de Guadalupe
Hidalgo”, that is signed by the Mexican president Manuel de la Peña y Peña.
In this treaty Mexico admit the independence of these territories and of
Texas (in total 2 400 000 km2). As a compensation Mexico receives 15 000 000
pesos. The territory of Mexico has thereby been reduced to one half.
1821 – 1850
During this period 50 governments succeed each other, nearly all caused by
de Santa Anna is president at 11 occasions.
lives in an environment of insecurity and the economic development is slowed
The US citizen William Walker, with support of troops from southern USA,
intents to create an independent state in Sonora and Baja California.
government of Santa Anna and USA signs the treaty ”El Tratado de la
Mesilla”, which gives USA the right to free transit over the
of Tehuantepec. This treaty is modified 1859 in the treaty ”el Tratado
McLane-Ocampo”, and cancelled 1937.
Liberal forces, under the leadership of Juan Álvarez, starts a revolt
against the president López de Santa Anna and proclaim ”el Plan de Ayutla”.
The insurgents strive for a profound renewal of the political and social
situation in the country. Among the insurgents
are Benito Juárez and Ignacio
The revolutionaries triumph and Juan Àlvarez is appointed interim president.
Because of health problems
he soon resigns and is succeeded by Comonfort.
first reform laws, ”Leyes de Reforma”, are introduced.
cancel the voting rights of the priests and the special laws which gave
privileges to officers and the clergy. These groups are thus subject to the
same laws as the population in general.
On February 5 the new constitution is proclaimed, which establishes the
right to freedom of religion, education, profession and expression. All the
earlier special laws are also cancelled. The church reacts strongly, the
archbishop of Mexico orders that the priests shall refuse to give absolution
to they who swear the oath of fidelity to the constitution, and the pope Pio
IX opposes the freedom of religion.
In the elections Ignacio Comonfort is elected president and Benito Juárez
president for the Supreme Court.
At the end of the year
conservative leader, Félix Zuloaga, revolts with his troops in Tacubaya and
occupies the capital, proclaim ”el Plan de Tacubaya”
and cancels the constitution. Comonfort tries to mediate between the different interests, Benito Juárez
and others are imprisoned.
Several other revolts led by priests or officers occur, in protest against
that their privileges have been cancelled. In spite of this, several
important infrastructure projects are carried out, and the construction of
the railroad between Mexico and Veracruz is initiated.
1858 – 1860
The Reform War ”La Guerra de Reforma”
Comonfort is forced to leave the country, but before leaving he liberates
Benito Juárez. According to the law Juárez takes over the presidency and
moves the government to Guanajuato, where the coup of Zuloaga has not been
accepted. A civil war begins between the liberal government with Benito
Juarez at the head, and the revolting conservatives. This war will last
three years, called ”la Guerra de Tres Años” or “la Guerra de Reforma”. The
war is very cruel, with executions of prisoners, assaults on civilians and
conflict is watched over abroad and Mexico is subject to severe pressures;
Great Britain threats with an invasion to protect its interests and those of
France; USA, which acknowledges the government of Benito Juárez negotiates
the right of free transit at a possible crisis. After long negotiations the
treaty ”Tratado McLane-Ocampo” is signed in 1859. This gives USA an
unlimited right at a crisis to transit over the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; from
Nogales to Guaymas; and from Matamoros to Mazatlan. The treaty also includes
a specific declaration that these routes stay under Mexican sovereignty.
At the end
of 1860 the liberal government forces defeats the conservatives at
Calpulalpan and the first of January they enter the capital. Some days after
Benito Juárez proclaims peace and the authority of the liberal government in
the whole country.
The country is in a precarious economic situation and in June the payments
of the external debth are stopped for two years, but because of the protests
and threats of a military intervention from the creditor countries the
payments are begun again in November. France, Great Britain and Spain have
already made an agreement to act militarily in common to demand payment.
1862 – 1863
Troops from France, Great Britain and Spain arrives to Veracruz and the
Mexican government accepts that the troops are moved to Códoba, Orizaba and
Tehuacan because of the unhealthy environment at the coast.
parties also agree that in the case a conflict come up the troops shall be
retired to the coast.
agreement about payments is signed with Great Britain and Spain, while
France sends more troops with the direct order to initiate an invasion, with
the external debt as a pretext. In mid April France declares war against
Mexico and initiates a military campaign. At the battle of Puebla on May 5
1862 the French army is defeated by the Mexicans under General Ignacio
Zaragoza. This is an important victory, as it stops the advance of the
French army and delays the further advance with one year. It does also give
the Mexican government time to prepare the defense. In the French army a
group of Swedish officers participates.
French army has received reinforcements Puebla is occupied the 17th
of mars 1863 and thereby the road to Mexico lies open. Benito Juárez is
forced to move the government first to San Luis Potosi and later to El Paso
(now Ciudad Juárez).
At the end
of 1863 the most important cities are occupied by the French who gets
support from the conservatives. A group of citizens is organized
and decides to constitute Mexico as a monarchy. Maximilian, archduke of
Austria is proposed as Emperor. A committee, “Regencia”, is also appointed,
with the Generals Juan Nepomuceno Almonte (son of José María Morelos) and
José Mariano de Salas and the archbishop Pelagio Antonio de Labastida. ”La
Regencia” tries to cancel the liberal laws “las Leyes de Reforma” but
Napoleón III gives instructions to his envoys not to accept that the clergy
retakes their earlier position of power.
In April 1865 the conservatives, Napoleón III and Maximilian of Habsburg
sign an agreement, ”la Convención de Miramar”, which anticipates that the
French troops shall remain in the country while an imperial army is formed.
Mexico shall cover the costs for this, as well as the accrued costs for the
invasion. Thus the new government is born heavily indebted and dependent.
”accepts the throne of Motecuhzoma” and arrives to Veracruz in May 1864. He
invites Benito Juárez to participate in the government, but the offer is
regime Maximilian ratifies the liberal laws,”las Leyes de Reforma”, which
creates a conflict between him and the conservatives. He also requests the
Vatican and the Mexican clergy to accept these laws, but the request is
rejected and the
dismisses the conservative ministers and replaces them with moderate
liberals and the government dictates laws to improve the situation for the
Indians. Maximilian starts to study Nahuatl and decrees the 16th of
September as the Day of Independence and
troops and the popular guerilla with the so called “chinacos” fight
continuously against the French army. Internationally the opposition against
the French occupation increases. USA demands that the French troops should
not enter the border area and the liberal government of Benito Juárez is
installed in El Paso (now Ciudad Juárez). USA does also give a loan to the
Juárez government to buy arms. At the end of 1866 decides France to bring
the troops home in stages up to November 1867. Maximilian considers to
abdicate, but is convinced to stay on the throne by his wife Carlota.
loyal to Benito Juárez, with Porfirio Díaz och Mariano Escobedo at the
front, reconquers the country and already in March 1867 do the last French
troops leave Mexico. Maximilian retires to Queretaro which is taken by
Mariano Escobedo. Maximilian and his collaborators are imprisoned. On the 19th
of July Maximilian, Miguel Miramon and Tomás Mejía are executed. Benito
Juárez expresses in his reasoning to the death penalty of Maximilian that he
”represents those who tortured my ancestor, Cuauhtemoc”.
1867 – 1876
The Reinstated Republic, ”la Republica Restaurada”
The republic is reinstated with Juárez as president, but immediately a power
struggle arises between the army and the civilians. The purpose of Juárez to
strengthen the presidential power and adapt the organization of the
government to meet new requirements does also create a conflict with the
elections in 1871 there are three candidates, Juárez, Porfirio Díaz and
Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada. Juárez wins and Díaz accuses him of not
respecting the essence of the constitution and revolts. The uprising fails
however. Juárez dies 1872, and is substituted by Lerdo de Tejada. He
immediately declares a widespread amnesty, which calms down the situation in
the country. He also succeeds in creating a Senate and to integrate the
liberal laws, ”las Leyes de Reforma”, in the constitution. The later causes a
revolt among the clergy, with its centre in Michoacan.
period a number of revolts occur among Indians and pheasants. The most
notable ones happen in Chiapas, Nayarit and Yucatán. The first socialist
revolt occurs in Chalco in the valley of Mexico. All uprisings are crushed
with a great loss of life. The finances of the country are put in order,
partially by reducing the army from 80 000 to 20 000 men, and the first
railroad, between Mexico City and Veracruz is inaugurated.
elections of 1876 approaches Díaz initiates a revolt and proclaims ”el Plan
de Tuxtepec”. The elections are carried out, bur the President of the
Supreme Court, José María Iglesias, declares invalid the victory of Lerdo de
Tejada, and takes up the post as President himself. This is not accepted by
his adversaries and Díaz appoints himself as ”Jefe del poder Ejecutivo”,
calls for new elections and is elected President.
1876 – 1910
initiative of Díaz the Congress introduces in 1876 a ban against that a
president continues in office without interruptions. In 1880 the general
Manuel González, a good friend of Díaz, is elected president. This is the
first time the power is peacefully transferred in Mexico.
Díaz triumphs in the elections 1884 and the constitution is modified in such
a way that successive reelections are allowed. Díaz, and the majority of
ministers and governors, stay in power until 1910, when Díaz is forced to
leave the country.
Porfiriato” there is an
in the economy, an increased exploitation of mineral and oil deposits and
important public infrastructure projects are realized, many with foreign
investment. However, the economic development does not improve the living
conditions for the large masses which lives in misery, inclusively the
established middle class sees their situation deteriorate.
positions within the government, the industry and the commerce are in the
hands of a small elite, in the case of industry and the commerce many are
foreigners. The population increases from 10
to 15 million inhabitants.
Díaz establishes as a tradition to celebrate the national day ” el Día de la
Independencia” (16th of September) and adds the 15th of September, his own
birthday, to the calendar of official festivities.
The Mexican workers in a copper mine in Cananea, Sonora, which is owned by
US citizens, strikes in order to demand the same conditions as workers from
the USA. The strike is bloodily crushed by the federal army in conjunction
with US troops. The Magonists, a revolutionary force led by the brothers
Flores Magón, carries out armed attacks in several states.
A violent clash occurs between striking workers and
workers in a textile mill in
Rio Blanco, Veracruz. The workers are attacked by the army with many deaths
as the result.
Díaz declares in an interview that his legitimate successor should come from
an organization of Mexicans in real political parties, out of a free and
open election campaign. This statement causes that opposition parties are
formed. He also offers a change towards democracy through the popular
election of a vice president, but when Díaz imposes the minister of
interior, Díaz de Ramón Corral, as the vice president candidate for the
elections 1910 the opposition starts a battle against any attempt to
Francisco I Madero publishes his book ” La sucesión presidencial en México”
and is postulated as the candidate for the presidency by several groups in
opposition against Díaz, but is imprisoned by the government.
Madero is imprisoned during the election 1910, where Díaz declare himself
winner , but can later flee to the USA, where he formulates a revolutionary
plan, ”el plan de San Luis”, which can be summarized as “real voting right –
no reelection” (”Sufragio Efectivo, No Reelección"). Madero also promises
support to the peasants and that the cases where they have been deprived of
their land shall be reviewed.
”El Plan de
San Luis” gets a broad support among the opposition and the 20th of November
the armed revolution is initiated. In Chihuahua large revolutionary forces
are formed, with Francisco Villa and Pascual Orozco in the front In Morelos
the peasants revolt under the leadership of Emiliano Zapata.
approximately 40 different armed attacks are carried out in November 1910.
Among them the case of the family Serdán, which had been collecting weapons
for the revolution but are discovered and killed by the police, and the
Magonists who carries out attacks in 13 different states.
In spite of
the difficult situation Justo Sierra founds the ”la Universidad Autónoma de
México” in Mexico City.
1911 – 1913
The government of Madero
The revolutionaries win and on the 21st of May the treaty ”el Tratado de
Juárez” is signed by the government of Díaz and the cabinet of Madero. Díaz
leaves in exile and Madero becomes president after his victory in the
elections in October the same year. Madero shows a
towards those earlier in power
and the treaty does not include the promises to the Indians and
peasants regarding the land they have been deprived of. This causes that
many revolutionaries do not hand over their weapons and the Zapatists
requests an immediate
surprise attack by Maderos army against the Zapatists, Emiliano Zapata
proclaims ”el Plan de Ayala” and revolts against Madero under the motto
”Tierra y Libertad”.
revolts against Madero follow; by allies of Porfirio Díaz like Bernardo
Reyes and Félix Díaz (nephew to Porfirio Díaz), and by earlier supporters of
Madero like Pascual Orozco and the brothers Flores Magón. USA joins this
opposition and exercises a considerable
pressure to win
advantages for the US industry.
Bernardo Reyes and Félix Díaz are defeated and imprisoned.
beginning of 1913 several military forces in Mexico City revolt, Bernardo
Reyes and Félix Díaz are liberated and the revolting troops try to occupy
the National Palace. During ten days, called ”la Decena Trágica”, a battle
rages in the city. When the leader for the loyal forces is wounded Madero
appoints Victoriano Huerta as the successor. However, Huerta betrays Madero
and puts him in prison together with the vice president Pino Suárez. Members
of the international diplomatic corps tries to demand a guarantee from
Huerta for the security of Madero och Pino Suárez, but the attempt is
stopped by the ambassador of the USA. Both are murdered two days later.
1913 – 1914
The government of Huerta
support of USA and Germany Huerta is installed as president on the 19th of
Februari 1913, also supported by the supreme court, the governors and the
diplomatic corps, but rejected by the majority of the revolutionaries, the
peasants and the supporters of Madero. However, Huerta makes an agreement
with Pascual Orozco, who controls a large area along the northern border.
after Huertas takeover of the power the governor of Coahuila, Venustiano
Carranza revolts in order to reinstate the constitution from 1857, and
already in march 1913 have four armies joined the revolt; in the south ”el
Libertador del Sur”, zapatist; the one in northeast under Pablo González;
the army in northwest under Álvaro Obregón och Carranza; and the one in
north, ”la División del Norte”, of Francisco Villa.
forces in the north signs the treaty ”el Plan de Guadalupe”, in which they
appoint Carranza to the commander of the Constitutionalist army, ”Primer
Jefe del Ejercito Constitucionalista”, and ordain that he shall assume power
once Mexico City has been occupied. Zapata agrees with the plan, but does
not sign it.
The 14th of
August 1914 signs Huerta his unconditional capitulation, “los Tratados de
Teoloyucan” and the Constitutionalists have won.
1914 – 1916
Confrontations between the different groups of revolutionaries start
immediately. The agreement from Teoloyucan does not consider an end to the
battles against the Zapatists, nor a
of the federal forces that fight the Zapatists.
In a meeting
in Aguascalientes, ”la Convención de Aguascalientes”, in November 1914 the
different forces try to unite.
Convention declares that it is sovereign over the military forces, it
embraces the principles of ”el Plan de Ayala”, proclaimed in 1911 by Zapata;
it removes Carranza and Villa from office; and elects Eulalio Gutiérrez to
antagonisms grow between the Carrancists and the government of the
At the end of 1914 Carranza leaves the capital and the government of the
Convention is installed, without own military forces but supported by Zapata
with ”el Ejercito Liberador del Sur” and Villa with ”la División del
Norte”. Carranza, “El Primer Jefe”, establishes his headquarter in Veracruz,
supported by the Generals Álvaro Obregón and Pablo Gonzalez and starts a
campaign against the forces of Zapata and Villa. These do not unite in
beginning of 1915 Obregón wins over ”la División del Norte” de Villa in the
battles of Celaya and Aguascalientes, and in November comes the decisive
moment, when the forces of Obregón, supported by USA,
”la División del Norte” in Agua Prieta. The forces of Villa are disbanded
and reduced to a guerilla in Chihuahua. Thereby the government of the
Convention and the president Eulalio Gutiérrez has lost its military support
and Gutiérrez declares his office concluded. Later Obregón also defeats
Zapata, and in the middle of 1916 are also his forces reduced to a guerilla
that does not pose a threat to Obregón and Carranza.
becomes president 1915 and is
by USA, but does not succeed in his purpose to reintroduce the constitution
from 1857. In September 1916 an election is hold to elect a congress, which
starts its sessions late that year.
Two ideas are confronted in the congress, the purpose of Carranza to
reinstate the Constitution from 1857, and the struggle of the
revolutionaries to introduce a solution to the social requirements.
Generally the later triumph in important issues, largely because of the
support from Obregón and the threat from the guerillas of Villa and Zapata.
Among other things the reform laws (”las Leyes de Reforma”) are ratified
with their implications for the clergy; the right to land ownership is
limited and the ownership of the state regarding mineral, oil and other
natural resources is reinstated. Carranza is elected president for a period
that ends in November 1920.
comments 1910 – 1917
The position of USA
USA takes a varying position under the revolution. In the following some
of the many aspect and events are commented.
president William Howard Taft (president 1909 – 1913) supports Huerta in
order to protect the US economic interests in Mexico.
acts very actively in similar manner.
when the democrat Woodrow Wilson (president 1913 – 1921) comes to power the
US policy changes and USA exercises a pressure on Huerta to make him resign,
inclusively with a threat of an armed intervention. Later USA supports ”los
Constitucionalistas” and Carranza, but does also bring considerable pressure
in order to protect US interests, especially within the oil industry.
The occupation of Veracruz
Wilson has in April 1914 (during the Huerta government) plans ready for an
occupation of Tampico, Veracruz and Mexico City and a fleet lies ready on
Mexican territorial waters to carry out the invasion. However, on the first
of April Wilson gets to know that the German ship Ypiranga approaches
Veracruz with a cargo of weapons for Huerta’s army. Wilson gives order to
occupy Veracruz immediately to prevent that the weapons reach their
destination. The reaction in Mexico and the USA becomes more negative than
what Wilson had thought, and in spite of the recommendations from several
important officers to expand the invasion, decides Wilson not to continue.
Carranza demands that the US troops shall leave the country, while Fransisco
Villa refuses to condemn the invasion.
and Villa decide later in common that they shall not offer any resistance to
the US troops as long as these do not enter areas controlled by the
There is another interpretation of the reasons for the invasion of Veracruz,
in the sense that it was carried out as a reprisal for a diplomatic incident
in Tampico, an interpretation that does not seem likely.
The attack on Columbus
A detachment of Francisco Villa’s guerilla (he did not participate
personally) attacks in March 1916 the village Columbus in New Mexico, USA.
Villa thought that Carranza had accepted a plan that would make Mexico to a
US protectorate, and the purpose of the attack was to create a problem for
Carranza in his relations with USA.
Another theory has been presented, in the sense that the attack
was orchestrated and financed by German agents, with the purpose that is
commented below. Even if the news about the attack was received with
enthusiasm in Germany and Austria, this theory seems not to be correct.
response from USA was to send a punitive expedition under General Pershing,
which during ten months, without any success, tries to find Villa in the
ends rather in a fiasco.
period there are intensive diplomatic negotiations; USA tries inclusively to
force Mexico to accept a limitation of its sovereignty, which would give US
military forces the right to intervene in Mexico without any previous
notification or authorization by the Mexican government.
Woodrow Wilson sends Johan Lind, born 1854 in Småland, Sweden, as a special
envoy to Mexico1913 -1914.
and WW I
During the revolution there are intensive activities in Mexico by agents and
diplomats in order to watch over the interests of USA and different European
countries. Here the German activities and interests stand out, as Germany
maneuvers to create an open war between USA and Mexico, that would keep USA
out of WW I. It is worthwhile to mention one event in relation to this.
foreign minister, Alfred Zimmermann, sends in January 1917 a telegram to
Carranza (”el Telegrama Zimmermann”) with a proposal for an alliance that
would include a common war planning, a common peace treaty, and ”….an
agreement from our side …” that Mexico reconquers the territories that were
lost to USA 1848. The Mexican government declines this proposal in a series
of diplomatic maneuvers. The telegram is intercepted by the British
intelligence and is, together with the sinking of Lusitania, what makes USA
to enter WW I against Germany. The Zimmermann telegram could to an extent
have been a response to a request for military support sent by Carranza to
Germany in October 1916, when he was worried that the Pershing expedition
could be the beginning of a large scale invasion.
in the revolution
A considerable number of foreign mercenaries, adventurers and altruists
participate in the revolution, above all on the revolutionary side. This
fact is used in the propaganda against the revolutionaries by the Porfirio
Díaz and later the Huerta government.
Among them is the Swede and mercenary Ivor Thord-Gray who 1913 – 1914 participates first
as an artillery officer in Francisco Villa’s forces, and later as a cavalry
officer in Carranza’s army under Obregón. Thord-Gray takes part in the
Carrancist campaign until they occupy Mexico City. He later writes the
“Tarahumara-English Diccionary” and other books about Mexican archaeology.
1964 he publishes the book “Gringo Rebel” about his experiences in Mexico.
He expresses in this a strong empathy with the revolutionary cause, and a
profound admiration for the Tarahumara and Yaqui indians.
Mexican publication from year 2000 the theory that Thord-Gray was a US agent
is presented, and that one of his missions was to train
officers in the forces of first Villa and later Obregón, in order to support
the Constitutionalists. No proofs are shown and the theory can be brushed
aside as wrong.
Emiliano Zapata is assassinated in agreement with Carranza.
A revolt against Carranza, by a branch of the Carrancism in Sonora, break
out in Agua Prieta. Carranza tries to retire to Veracruz, but is assassinated
appoints Adolfo de la Huerta as interim president. He is later substituted
by Álvaro Obregón.
USA threatens with a military intervention to stop the application of
Article 27 in the Constitution, in which is declared that the land belongs
to the Nation and that the Nation has the right to give the land the use it
Francisco Villa is assassinated by Obregonists.
THE POSTREVOLUTIONARY MEXICO
Adolfo de la Huerta revolts against Obregón but is defeated. Plutarco
Elías Calles replaces Obregón.
The government of Calles adds a modification of Article 27 in the
Constitution, which confirms the jurisdiction of the national courts over
foreign companies and limits the rights of the oil companies. In response USA
threats with a military intervention.
A law is dictated, which further limits the influences of the priesthood,
is dictated. This causes a revolt, ”la Rebellión Cristera”, a bloody civil
war that continues for three years, with support also from the opposition
Álvaro Obregón is elected president, but is murdered shortly thereafter
by a ”cristero”. During the six years corresponding to the Obregón
presidential term, the presidency is held by Emilio Portes Gil, Pascual
Ortiz Rubio and Abelardo Rodríguez. However, Calles (called ”jefe Máximo de
la Revolución”) has the real power, and these six years are therefore called
The first official political party is founded, called Partido Nacional
Revolucionario (PNR) and will later be transformed to the current Partido
Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
Lázaro Cárdenas wins the presidential election and a change of the
country starts. The promises from the revolution about land allotments in
the countryside have not been fulfilled, only small areas of infertile land
have been allotted. Under the six years of Cárdenas this is radically
changed and large areas are transferred to peasants. However, the agrarian
reform is not carried out completely, many estates are conserved. The
process is slowed down especially by the governors Miguel Alemán and Ávila
On the 18th of March Lázaro Cárdenas declares the expropriation of the
oil industry, as the companies have instigated against the sovereignty of
the Mexican nation. The ”Compañía Exportadora del Petróleo Nacional” is
created. USA threatens
again with a military attack.
”Ferrocarriles Nacionales”, the state railroad, is handed over to the union
of railroad workers; one year after the company was nationalized.
PNR is reorganized and changes name to Partido de la Revolución Mexicana
THE MODERN MEXICO
comments 1900, ”El Indigenismo”
”El indigenismo” has a considerable influence in the development of the
Mexican culture and identity during the first half of 1900. ”El indigenismo”,
”the official attitude to
the creation of
values”, influences many of the painters and intellectuals, e.g. Diego
Rivera, and contributes to an expansion of the education in anthropology and
to that several new institutions are created, e.g. Instituto Nacional
Indigenista. The inauguration of the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City
1964 can be seen as the culmination. However, the movement does not lead to
a program of activities for an improved situation for the
Mexico declares war against Axis Powers. The Squadron 201 participates in
the battles of Luzern and Formosa together with US forces.
Mexico becomes a member of United Nations.
The political party PRM is restructured and changes its name to Partido
Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
Mexico becomes member of Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA).
The 2nd of October the army crushes violently the student
movement on Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlaltelolco in Mexico City,
with a large number of dead, estimated to between 200 and 2000 by different
The Olympics are held in Mexico.
The laws regarding political parties and election processes are reformed.
The President José López Portillo nationalizes the banks.
Mexico becomes member of GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs)
EZLN, Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, revolts the first of
January in Chiapas
and occupies the town of San Cristóbal de las Casas.
Under the presidential period of Carlos Salinas de Gortari the ”North
American Free Trade Agreement”, NAFTA, is signed between Mexico, USA and
On the 2nd of July PRI looses the presidential election for the first time since the
founding of the party in 1929. Vicente Fox from the right wing party Partido de
Acción Nacional, PAN, becomes president.
In the elections in July PAN wins over the left wing party PRD with a
minimal margin. First after a ruthless debate and accusations of electoral
rigging the victory is given to PAN. Felipe Calderón becomes president.
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