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Mexico's History

MEXICO | Tuesday, 18 October 2011 | Views [1501]

A brief overview of Mexico’s History:

Going as far back as before Christ, Mexico has seen the times of the Olmecs, Classic Maya, the Toltecs, and the Aztecs. All of these civilisations believed in many different gods and they built their cities according to their beliefs. Living used to be just about survival, then it was about religion and later, it became about power.

The Mayans believed that they were at the centre of the universe with the heavens having 13 layers and the underworld having 9. They thought the earth was a giant reptile floating in a pond. Their main gods were of fire (also their creator), rain, corn & vegetation, life & fertility, and death. Rulers were believed to be descended from the gods. They built the 3rd largest pyramid in the world (70m high) – Teotihuacan. (The first is in Cairo, Egypt and the second is also in Mexico, although it is no longer as impressive as it once was due to poor maintenance.)

Teotihuacan is 50km from Mexico City. Building commenced in the 1st century AD and continued over 600 years as the city grew to have a population of 125,000 people.  The main fixtures were the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon with many large alters, palaces and temples. This was the centre of the biggest pre-Hispanic Mexican empire. Unfortunately in the 8th century, the area was abandoned. We visited this magnificent place during our stay in the city. The pyramids are now just blocks of stone but it is still spectacular.

A lot of you may know about the Mayans prediction that the world will end on December 21st, 2012 (there was a movie based on it). But this is actually incorrect. The Mayan calendar followed the cycle of bak’tun which is roughly cycles of 400 years, in which there are 13 in each creation. They believed there were 3 creations before the one we are currently living in and that 2012 is the end of the 13th buk’tan for this fourth creation. After that, the calendar resets. They believe that the end of each major cycle were signs of renewal and transformation, not the end of the world.

The Aztecs were originally nomads until they came across an eagle standing on a cactus devouring a snake, which was the sign that they were at the centre of the universe and should build a city there. That city became Tenochtitlan and some of the ruins remain in the heart of Mexico City today. The symbol of the eagle and snake is still the emblem on Mexico’s flag. Tenochtitlan and an adjoining Aztec city named Tlatelolco grew to a population of 200,000 inhabitants. Most of what is now Mexico City was actually then completely under water except for these 2 small cities. By 1910 the water was gone and Mexico City continued to grow to the size it is today.

The Aztecs were different from the Mayan’s, they believed that we were living in the fifth world and that the four predecessors were destroyed by the death of the sun. Human sacrifices were designed to keep the sun alive. They did however, believe in 13 layers of heaven and 9 hells. Those who died from being sacrificed, fighting in battle, merchants travelling and women giving birth to their first child went to heaven to be companions of the sun. Everyone else went to hell.

Mexican civilisation, nearly 3000 years old, was shattered in 2 short years by the Spanish. In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the Bahamas and Cuba. In 1519, Hernan Cortes makes his way to Mexico.  He happened to arrive at a time that a previous Toltec leader was meant to return so he was welcomed with open arms but later was attacked and driven out. In 1521 the Spanish captured Tenochtitlan and rebuilt it as Nueva Espana (New Spain) and introduced the church. Bit by bit, they took over the whole of Mexico and now, their native languages are almost extinct. Mexico’s indigenous population was estimated to be around 25 million, but the Spanish brought new diseases with them in which only a little over a million survived.

In 1810 a War of Independence is launched and 11 years later their independence was granted. In 1824, 19 states and 4 territories in Mexico were established and the first president was created. During 1821 to the mid 1860’s, Mexico was invaded by 3 countries and went through a change of 50 heads of state. 1845-48 was the period of the Mexican-American war in which America captured California, Texas, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. Profirio Diaz ruled from 1876-9011. In 1910 Mexico raises the Revolution to over throw him. 10 years of violence ended up killing 2 million people and shattering the economy. From 1920 to 2000, one political party ruled. In 1968, 400 protesters were killed at the Mexico City’s Olympic Games.

Even now there are constant protests in Mexico City against the government. It is corrupt and poorly run, even after coming such a long way. We stumbled across a protest of literally thousands of people and decided to march with them for a while!! They all had banners and were chanting along the roads that inevitably had to be closed from the city’s already congested traffic.

In 1985 a massive earthquake, 8.1 on the Richter scale, hit the city and killed 10,000 people. Even though you can’t see evidence of the damage today, certain areas have never recovered.

The drug culture is the biggest issue in Mexico today. The government launched a war against the drug cartels which resulted in 2000 people a year dying by 2006. This being inter gang related, police, children, journalists and anyone who got in the way. In 2007 it increased to 14,000. In 2009 the number of deaths was 2300. Most of this is congested around the American border as all drugs from South America come through Mexico to the States. Because of the deaths of journalists, not much about the on-going war is published in the papers. However, they don’t hold back on publishing grotesque and insensitive photos of other murders and car accident’s!

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