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The 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.  

This 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. 

It 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.  

 Lars Svanström and Amelia Ramirez de Bylund.

50 000 B.C.

The first humans arrive to America from Asia via the Strait of Bering. 

12 000 B.C.
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.

8 000 – 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.

 7 000 B.C.
Probable start of a sedentary lifestyle and agriculture. The large game and the hunters disappear.

The 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.

 Postclassic period, 900  – 1521 A.D.
The theocratic 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               established there.

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               Mesoamerica.

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. 

The 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. 

Alfonso Álvarez 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 today symbolizes disloyalty with the Mexican origin (Malinche was also the name the Indians gave to Cortez). 

In 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. 

In 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 arrived 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 Narvaez 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 indians, 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 Spaniards.

The continuous fighting makes Cortez decide to leave Tenochtitlan. During the flight the Spaniards are discovered and at
tacked, 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.

After 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 Mexico in 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 added.


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; Cort
éz 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 catholicism.

Carlos V introduces the first ”Audiencia Real” in New Spain, which takes over the governmental power and destitutes Cortez.

Another 19
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”. This work is one of the most important studies of indian culture. 

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 priests. Thereby the 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 clergy.

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.

Mid 1700
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. 

The Jesuite Francisco Javier Clavijero, in exile in Italy, publishes the book “Historia Antigua de México”. Clavijero 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 nation.

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 his successor.



A conspiracy has been formed against the new Viceroy, who is seen as a traitor as he accepts the new
spanish 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 As
censio 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 monarchy.
The mayor 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”.
O´Donojú realizes that Spain cannot conserve its dominance over New Spain. He 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 revolutionaries support 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 City.

It is estimated that the country has 6-7 million inhabitants, 90 % living in the countryside.

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 1846-1848.

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. 

Agustín de Iturbide, unknowing that a law which makes specifically him lawless has been dictated, returns to Mexico. Directly after he has gone 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

1846-1848 The war against USA
The US 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
military coups.

Antonio López de Santa Anna is president at 11 occasions. The country lives in an environment of insecurity and the economic development is slowed down.

The US citizen William Walker, with support of troops from southern USA, intents to create an independent state in Sonora and Baja California.

The government of Santa Anna and USA signs the treaty ”El Tratado de la Mesilla”, which gives USA the right to free transit over the isthmus 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 Comonfort.

The revolutionaries triumph and Juan Àlvarez is appointed interim president. Because of health problems he soon resigns and is succeeded by Comonfort. The first reform laws, ”Leyes de Reforma”, are introduced. These 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 the
y 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 the 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 robbery.

The 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.

Both parties also agree that in the case a conflict come up the troops shall be retired to the coast.

An 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. 

 After the 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. 

1864-1867 The second Empire
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.

Maximilian ”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 refused. 

During his 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 hostilities are strengthened. Maximilian 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  National Day. 

Mexican 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.

The troops 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 Congress.  

Before 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. 

Under this 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. 

When the 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 ”El Porfiriato”
On an 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. 

Porfirio 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. 

Under “El Porfiriato” there is an upswing 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. Official 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. 

Porfirio 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 white-collar 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 reelection.

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.

In total 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 conciliatory attitude 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 allotment of land.

After a 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”. 

Other 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.

In the 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
With 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.

Immediately 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. 

The three 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 fighting between revolutionaries
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 disbandment 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. The 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 president. 

However, the antagonisms grow between the Carrancists and the government of the Convention. 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 common actions. 

In the 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, annihilate ”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.

Carranza becomes president 1915 and is acknowledged 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. 

Other 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.  

The president William Howard Taft (president 1909 – 1913) supports Huerta in order to protect the US economic interests in Mexico. Great Britain acts very actively in  similar manner. However, 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.

Venustiano Carranza demands that the US troops shall leave the country, while Fransisco Villa refuses to condemn the invasion. Carranza 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 revolutionaries. 

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.

The 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 Chihuahua mountains. The expedition ends rather in a fiasco. During this 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.

Johan Lind
Woodrow Wilson sends Johan Lind, born 1854 in Småland, Sweden, as a special envoy to Mexico1913 -1914. 

Germany 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.

The German 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. 

Foreigners 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. 

In a 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 in Tlaxcalantongo. The Congress 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 considers appropriate.

Francisco Villa is assassinated by Obregonists.

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 against Calles.

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 ”el Maximato”.

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 Camacho.

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 (PRM).


Other 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 encourage and benefit the creation of domestic 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 indians themselves.

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 sources.

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 Canada.

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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