Before the powerful Atztec empire, there were at least three major civilizations in what is now Mexico – Mayans, Olmecs, and later the Toltecs. From 1519 to 1521 the Aztecs fought against the Spaniards under Hernando Cortés, but were ultimately defeated. Spain ruled Mexico as part of the viceroyalty of New Spain for the next 300 years until the first Mexicans revolted on September 16, 1810. Mexico gained independence in 1821.
From 1821 to 1877 there were two emperors, several dictators and presidents, and each government was only in office for an average of nine months. Mexico lost Texas (1836) and after the defeat in the war against the USA (1846 – 1848) with the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo also an area that is now California, Nevada and Utah, most of Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming as well as parts of Colorado are located. In 1855 the Indian patriot Benito Juárez begana series of reforms, including the expropriation of the Catholic Church, which owned large estates. The civil war that followed was interrupted by the French invasion of Mexico (1861) and the coronation of M aximilian of Austria as emperor (1864). However, he soon lost his power and was executed under Juarez. In 1867 Juarez became president again.
The years after the fall of the dictator Porfirio Díaz (1877-1880 and 1884-1911) were full of bloody politico-military clashes with the United States which culminated in the unsuccessful US hunt for the revolutionary Pancho Villa in northern Mexico (1916-1917). After a brief civil war in 1920, Mexico saw a period of gradual agricultural, political, and social reforms. The Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR; National Revolutionary Party), shaped by revolutionary and reformist politicians from northern Mexico, was founded in 1929. It was the determining power in Mexico during the 20th century, in 1946 it was renamed the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party). Relations with the USA were disrupted in 1938 when all foreign oil wells were expropriated an agreement was reached on compensation.
After World War II, the government focused on economic growth. In the mid-1970s, under President José López Portillo, Mexico became an important oil producer. By the end of Portillo’s tenure, however, Mexico was building up huge foreign debt as the government borrowed too much money despite its oil revenues. After the collapse in oil prices in 1986, Mexico’s export earnings also fell. In January 1994 Mexico joined the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), in January 1996 the country became a founding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In 1995 the US pledged to prevent Mexico’s private banks from collapsing. In return, the US was given a virtual right of veto over Mexico’s economic policy. In the 1997 elections (which observers called the freest elections in Mexico’s history), the PRI lost control of Mexico City. To strengthen democracy, President Ernesto Zedillo declared in 1999 that he would not personally choose the next PRI presidential candidate. A few months later, the first presidential elections took place in Mexico. They were won by former Interior Minister Francisco Labastida, Zedillo’s closest ally.
In the elections on July 2, 2000, the PRI lost power in the country after 71 years of one-party rule. The new president, Vicente Fox Quesada of the Conservative Party of National Action (PAN), promised tax reform, reform of the legal system and a reduction in the power of the central government. By 2002, Fox had implemented little of its ambitious reform program. Dissatisfaction with Fox became evident in the 2003 general election, and the PRI recovered from its previous election failure.
In 2004, a two-year investigation into the “dirty war” waged against its opponents in Mexico’s authoritarian government in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in charges against former President Luis Echeverría. In 1971 he ordered a student demonstration to be bombarded. However, those charges were later dropped.
In 2005, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the popular mayor of Mexico City, ran as a presidential candidate for the left-wing Democratic Revolution party. It seemed likely that López Obrador would beat the party of the deeply unpopular incumbent Vicente Fox. In October 2005, however, Felipe Calderón became and not the successor chosen by Fox, unexpectedly, the presidential candidate of the National Action Party (PAN). In the spring of 2006, Felipe Calderón caught up with López Obrador in the opinion polls. In the July 2006 election, Calderón received 35.9% of the vote, a wafer-thin majority against López Obrador, who received 35.3%. López Obrador doubted the election, but on August 28, Mexico’s highest court rejected the fraud allegations. This decision was accompanied by massive protests by PAN supporters. On December 1, 2006, Calderón swore the oath of office.
On February 26, 2008, according to Extrareference, new regulations were enacted restricting smoking in public places. Violators are punished with heavy fines and up to 36 hours in prison. The government reported that smoking-related diseases cost Mexico’s health care system an annual $ 642 million.
In May 2008, Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora announced that more than 4,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Calderon took office, 1,400 of them in 2008 alone.
In August 2008, hundreds of thousands demonstrated across Mexico for the more than 2,700 dead and 300 abductees who have been victims of drug-related violence since January 2008. As of December 2, 2008, the number of murders had risen to 5,376, an increase of 117% from last year. In November 2008 alone there were 943 drug-related homicides.
In December 2008, the United States supported Mexico in the fight against the drug cartels (known as the Merida Initiative) by assuming 197 of the 400 million US dollars.