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“Mexico from Early Recorded Time with Influence from Outside the Country”

Mexico from Early Recorded Time with Influence from Outside the Country (from 16th century till 1940 and beyond)

Before troops from the Spanish Empire set foot on Mexican soil in 1519, indigenous Indian groups that had different trade and social systems occupied majority of the lands that now form Mexico. In general, relatively small indigenous tribes that were largely involved in the hunting and gathering of food occupied the northern arid parts of the country. These tribes, were called Chichimecs, collectively, even though they were different in several cultural and linguistic aspects. By 1100, much of the central and southern parts of the country was occupied by the Toltecs. The Toltecs had their capital at Tula and were also known for their ability to build large cities. One of the famous cities built by the Toltecs is Teotihuacan near the present day capital of the country. The third most dominant group in Mexico, prior to the Spanish conquest of the lands was the Zapotecs. They occupied the Southern Mexico highlands and the Oaxaca valley. They were great builders and some of the cities and structures they built still stand to date in the Monte Alban and Mitla. The lands that they occupied were, however, conquered by a rival group, the Mixtecs, before the arrival of the Spanish troopsfootnoteRef:1.. 1: “History of Mexico – Mexico,” HISTORY.com, accessed June 8, 2016, http://www.history.com/topics/mexico/history-of-mexico.

Spanish Conquest

For about 200 years, Mexico was ruled by Spain as a colony. The man who led the Spanish conquest of the Mexican lands was Hernando Cortez. At the time when Cortez arrived in Mexico, he found that the Aztecs (a powerful coalition of indigenous Indian tribes) ruled most of the interiorfootnoteRef:2. After marching overland for several weeks, Cortex arrived at the Valley of Mexico with less than two hundred soldiers and only a handful of horses. He quickly formed alliances with indigenous tribes who were against the Aztecs and was able to use to organize their armies to deal a huge blow to the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan. Despite this blow, the Aztecs pulled together and were able to drive the Spanish troops and the allies out of their city and the surrounding region. However, two years later, the Spanish came back and defeated the Aztecs destroying their biggest city (Tenochtitlan). After the fall of Tenochtitlan, the rest of Mexico was quickly brought under Spanish control from the newly founded Mexico CityfootnoteRef:3. 2: Dale. H Palfrey, “The Spanish Conquest (1519-1521)?: Mexico History,” Mexconnect, last modified August 29, 2007, accessed June 8, 2016, http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1538-the-spanish-conquest-1519-1521. 3: “Mexico, A Brief History,” Http://history-World.org/mexico.htm, last modified 2007, accessed June 8, 2016, http://history-world.org/mexico.htm.

After conquering most of the country, the Spanish forcibly took away the lands owned by the indigenous tribes and gave it to Spanish soldiers and settlers in the form of land grants and tribute grants. In the very first contacts between the Spanish and the indigenous tribes, millions of indigenous peoples died from diseases of European origin such as smallpox and measles, for which they had no immunityfootnoteRef:4. 4: Ibid.

Independence

The Mexicans fought the Spanish and won their independence in 1810. The fight for Mexican independence begun on September sixteenth 1810 when a Mexican priest by the name Miguel Hidalgoy Costilla rang the bells of his Dolores Hidalgo church and exhorted the indigenous peoples to take back the lands that were stolen from their ancestors. Costilla was arrested and the Spanish hanged him few months laterfootnoteRef:5. Another priest by the name Jose Maria Morelos begun calling for the independence of Mexico from the Spanish. He called for a national congress of indigenous peoples and the congress declared that the country was no longer a colony of SpainfootnoteRef:6. Morelos was later arrested and executed by the Spanish. However, fighters loyal to him continued to agitate for independence under Vicente Guerrero. Later on, a Spanish officer Agustin Iturbide joined forces with Guerrero and the two worked a plan for independence that was referred to as the Plan of Iguala. Under the plan, the country became an empire under the leadership of Iturbide as emperor. However, the empire lasted for less than a year and Iturbide was later executed (History World International, n.d.)footnoteRef:7. However, by this time, the affairs of the country were largely in the hands of the locals and without any direct foreign influence. 5: Ibid. 6: Diana Serra Cary, “Mexican War of Independence: Father Miguel Hidalgo’s Revolt,” Military hisyory, HistoryNet, October 12, 2000, accessed June 8, 2016, http://www.historynet.com/mexican-war-of-independence-father-miguel-hidalgos-revolt.htm. 7: “Mexico, A Brief History.”

Mexican Revolution

The Mexican revolution took place during the reign of President Diaz. The revolution was caused by the fact that Diaz kept on appointing friends and cronies to top positions leaving common Mexicans with very little opportunity. The man who started the revolution was Fransisco Madero. Though born into a wealthy mining family, Madero could speak the ‘language’ of the masses. When Diaz won another election 1910, which many perceived as neither free nor fair, Madero started a revolutionary movement against the government. President Diaz, who was now old and sick, could not handle the pressure and resigned a short while later. Madero was elected in the subsequent elections. Though idealistic, Madero was not politically skilled. This resulted in a short and chaotic presidency. the military ousted him in 1913 and later executed in a rebellion led by Felix Diaz and Victoriano HuertafootnoteRef:8. 8: Ibid.

Counter-revolutions began in the north as soon as Huerta assumed presidency. General Venustiano Carranza, the governor of Coahuila and Madero’s follower, headed them with General Alvaro Obregon and Pancho Villa. Peasants in the south, having being disappointed with Madero’s unproductiveness, rallied behind Emiliano Zapata, a charming Indian revolutionary. Whereas the northern revolutionaries were greatly interested in access to power, Zapata together with the Zapatistas (his followers) demanded land and freedom for the peasantry.

Chaos and disorder reigned over the next few years. In 1915, Huerta was overthrown by Carranza to become president, however, Villa together with others were alienated in the process. Zapatas died shortly after Carranza assumed power, but his agrarian reform ideal remained as a foundation of the revolution. Villa went back to Chihuahua and attacked neighboring towns in the southwestern United States including Columbus, N.M, where several Americans lost their lives. John J. Pershing, an American General was sent to Mexico to arrest Villa but did not succeedfootnoteRef:9. 9: Ibid.

The main achievement of the Carranza era was the 1917 Constitution that aspired to do away with feudalism that had been existent in Mexico for about 400 years. After the assassination of Carranza in 1920, the presidency was assumed by General Obregon. He was a strong person; he was willing and capable of pushing through social reforms. General Plutarco, his longtime political partner, succeeded him in 1924. Apart from being strongly against the church, Calles was hostile to foreign capital investment. It was only via diplomatic intervention that he was convinced to re-open the churches that had closed and to become less unfriendly to the foreign governments, which he had estranged.

In 1928, Obregon was re-elected for a second term and was also assassinated in the same year. Calles, the founder of the National Revolutionary party, Institutional Revolutionary party’s (PRI) predecessor that is still in control of the country, filled the interim president’s office with three successive puppet presidentsfootnoteRef:10. 10: Ibid.

Peaceful Reforms

General Lazaro Cardenas’ election in 1934 shifted the politics of the country. Upon assuming power, Cardenas quickly came up with a six-year masterplan to develop Mexico. He re-allocated more land than all other Presidents put together, constructed rural schools, nationalized the oil industry and strengthened the unions footnoteRef:11 11: Ibid.

PRI’s domination of both of Mexico’s legislative houses, that begun in 1929 was ended in the mid-1997 elections as the two biggest opposition parties — PAN (National Action Party) and PRD (Party of Democratic Revolution) — won the majority in the lower house. Many political commentators argued that the outcomes of the elections showed that the political system of Mexico had started drifting away from single-party rule and towards real multiparty democracy. In no place was the shifting political landscape more obvious than in Mexico City, where Cuahtemoc Cardenas — the PRD leader — won the mayoral race with a huge marginfootnoteRef:12. 12: Ibid.

Recent Relations with the United States

Relations between Mexico and the U.S. changed during the 20th century. In 1963, a longstanding border disagreement was resolved, and in 1922 the two nations, together with Canada signed the biggest ever trade agreement in North America. A few decades later, in 1994, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) materialized. Additionally, Mexico and the U.S. have worked together in dealing with the flow of illegal narcotics traffic to the United States from Mexico. The treatment illegal immigrants receive in the United States and the issue of…

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