Mexican history since independence...

In 1808 Napoleon overthrew the King of Spain changing the course of Mexican history.

With direct orders no longer coming from Spain, rivalries between Spanish elites and local criollo elites boiled over throughout the Americas.

In 1810 Hidalgo made his famous speech, one of the most famous in Mexican history, the Grito de Dolores, (The Shout/Cry of Pains) calling for the end to Spanish rule.

By 1821, after long fighting, Mexico was independent.

But not stable.

The presidency changed hands 36 times in the next 22 years of Mexican history, finally ending up in the hands of Santa Ana.

The Greedy Gringos

In 1845, the United States annexed the rebellious Mexican state of Texas.

Soon after, the United States launched the Mexican-American War, which ended in the US seizing a total of more than half of Mexico's national territory, what is today almost the entire American West.

The US deepened the suffering and humiliation by occupying Mexico City for three years.

Later in the century, the United States also twisted Mexico's arm in order to "purchase" land that is now part of New Mexico and Arizona.



Road to Democracy in Mexican History

After the United States left, Benito Juárez was elected president.

As a Zapotec, he is still one of the very few indigenous heads of state in the history of the Americas.

He is also widely regarded as the best Mexican president ever, though sadly, it has been argued that there has not been strong competition for that title.

Unfortunately, even Juárez's strong leadership could not save the country from its crushing foreign debt.

In 1862, while the US was mired in civil war, the governments of Britain, France, and Spain, took the opportunity to invade and try to collect.

France stayed, installing the Austrian Archduke Maximilian of Hapsburg as the "Emperor" of Mexico.

Constant insurgent fighting by forces loyal to President Juarez, and the insistence of the reunified United States, forced France to abandon Maximilan, who was killed by invading freedom fighters.

Sadly, Mexico's brief period of stable democracy was ended by Porfirio Díaz, a dictator who ruled from 1878 to 1911.

Under the "porfiriato", Mexico became a technologically modern country, one of the first in the world to have electricity and telephones.

However, the economy was oriented toward export, often quite cheap, to the United States and Europe, the source of the funds for the vaunted improvements.

The average Mexican, particularly the rural indigenous people, was as poor as ever.

Criticism of the government and business was usually crushed by a ruthless army.

Elections were essentially staged shows.

The Mexican Revolution began with the end of the porfiriato in 1910.

The main fighting lasted until 1920, during which 1.5 to 2 million people, one in eight Mexicans, was killed.

From 1934 to 2000, the country was ruled by a single party, which came to be called the PRI, el Partido de la Revolucion Institucionalizada. The PRI began as a reform party focused on ending corruption and redistributing land.

But it came to be known as the world's most perfect dictatorship.

During the PRI's reign, Mexico's economy developed in fits and starts, with periods of relative prosperity and relative depression. Still, the majority of people were relatively poor all the time.

In the 1960s, in the run up to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, there were massive student protests, and a another bloody chapter of Mexican history was written.

Months before the Olympics, the government massacred around 2000 people at a demonstration in Tlateloco in Mexico City.

In the 1970s, the discovery of oil during the OPEC embargo meant a cash windfall.

But the country borrowed heavily on future oil earnings, and could not pay back the debts when the oil prices fell at the end of the OPEC embargo. It signalled a bleak and difficult period of Mexican history.

As the economy spiraled downward over the next twenty years of Mexican history, there was increasing opposition to the PRI.

It is widely believed that the PRI lost the 1988 presidential election to Cuatémoc Cardenas, candidate of the recently formed Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD).

Numerous ballots were found floating in rivers and in garbage dumps in the days after the PRI-appointed election commissioners handed victory to Salinas, the PRI candidate.

In 1994, Salinas pushed through Mexican participation in NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Under the agreement, hundreds of thousands of poor farmers were stripped of their water rights and even their land, which were handed over to multinational agribusinesses.

On the day NAFTA was enacted, the Zapatistas, a rebel group composed almost entirely of Mayans, took control of San Cristobal de las Casas, an town in Oaxaca steeped in Mexican history.

The federal army retook the city soon after, but the fighting continues in fits and starts to this day.

Also in 1994, Zedillo of the PRI narrowly defeated Cardenas in an election marked by fraud and irregularities, but still widely believed to be one of the most honest in Mexico's history.

Meanwhile, the country's economy deteriorated rapidly, and immigration to the United States reached 2.5 million a year.

In 2000, Vincente Fox of the Partido de Accion Nacional (PAN) won the presidency, and was actually allowed to take office, marking one of the very few peaceful and fully democratic transitions of power in Mexican history.

The PRI have become the main opposition party. The PRD have a strong position in Mexico City, but their support has eroded almost everywhere else.


Check out Pre-independence Mexican history, Aztecs, Mayas, the arrival of the Spanish and Cortes. The demise of Montezuma.

More information on Mexico
Learn Spanish in Mexico | Info on Mexico | Mexican Flag | Map of Mexico |
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