6 Things You Should Know About Mexican History
When you think of Mexico, you likely think of the country as it is today. Vibrant and established as a modern country. But did you know that people have been living in what is today Mexico for tens of thousands of years? And that much like the United States, the country is actually only a couple of hundred years old?
Join us on a journey through Mexico’s past while learning 6 important things about Mexican history.
People have lived in Mexico for thousands of years
While the country of Mexico was founded in 1821, people have lived in what is now Mexico for millennia.
While it was first thought that there were traces of human activity going back 40,000 years, the remains of a 21,000 year-old campfire in the Valley of Mexico is now widely considered to be the first sign of human activity in the area.
As time went on, these native people began farming maize plants. There is even evidence that selective breeding practices were being used around 8,000 BC. Intensive maize farming and other signs of advanced civilization development began around 1800-1200 BC.
Mexico has had multiple major civilizations
Once advanced agricultural practices were developed, more advanced civilizations started to propagate.
These include major civilizations such as:
In addition to agriculture, these civilizations had many accomplishments, including building intricate and massive pyramids and temples, as well as advancing and developing mathematical principles, medicine, and astrology. These incredible civilizations used these advancements to inform their culture’s growth, including helping inform their architecture and war strategy.
In addition to these accomplishments, these civilizations fostered cities that were at their time some of the biggest in the world. This includes the cities of Teotihuacan, Tenochtitlan (what is now Mexico City), and Cholula. These cities were major cultural centers that were extremely modern, serving as hubs for the population’s economy, philosophy, art, and science.
The Spanish have only been in Mexico for 600 years
While the western world had a presence in South America for years, Spain’s first endeavor into Mexico was in 1517 on a trip to explore the southern shores of Mexico. This expedition ended with most of the men being killed by the Mayan army. In 1519, the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortés led the successful domination of the area’s native populations. Most notably, Cortés took the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán and eventually conquered the whole of the Aztec population, the area’s most powerful and large civilization.
After Cortés’ successful conquest, a 300-year period of colonial rule began. This colonial territory during this period was known as “New Spain” and was Spain’s largest colony.
Silver is an important economic and cultural pillar
Silver has been an important material for as long as people have been living in the area we know as Mexico. It’s also been an economic fuel that helps dictate the direction of all of these populations.
Early civilizations mined silver and made jewelry and cultural items that were extremely important to their culture. Aztec rulers would wear jewelry made of silver and detailed, intricate items were created and left as offerings for Aztec gods.
Once the Spanish arrived in Mexico, silver was quickly seen as a major way to fund the newly-created New Spain and generate wealth. Silver mines were built and communities created around the country to mine silver, including right here In Taxco. This served as a major fueler of economic and cultural growth and helped establish New Spain, and later Mexico, as an economic force.
William Spratling and the reemergence of silver jewelry
While the tradition of intricate and soulful jewelry that native populations created prior to Spanish rule was lost, this tradition returned in a big way!
In the 1920s, an American named William Spratling befriended Diego Rivera and after moving to Taxco, became fascinated with the pre-Columbian and Aztec silver jewelry. He then began creating beautiful silver jewelry inspired by the original items made by the native people. This turned Taxco into a hub for silver jewelry and showed off the wonders of pre-Columbian silver jewelry to a modern world.
See for yourself the beauty of authentic Mexican silver jewelry. Mexican Silver Store works with some of the top jewelry makers and modern artisans in Mexico.
Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821
Inspired by American independence, Mexican revolutionaries saw an opportunity when Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808.
Led by Miguel Hidalgo, revolutionaries fought the war of independence. The war began on September 16, 1810, when Hidalgo went to the town of Dolores. There he informed his followers he was taking up arms to fight the Spanish for independence and urged them to do the same. It’s now known as the “Cry of Dolores,” and the day is now celebrated as Mexican Independence Day.
The War of Independence lasted 11 years before the Revolutionaries and the final Viceroy, Juan O’Donojú, signed the Treaty of Cordoba, which granted Mexico independence and equality for Spaniards and Mexican-born citizens.
The Mexican revolution set the stage for modern Mexico
Set off by the sadistic and authoritarian rule of Porfirio Díaz, The Mexican Revolution set the stage for today’s Mexico.
The Mexican Revolution lasted from 1910-1920 and was a direct reaction to Díaz’s rule. Following a rigged election in which Díaz won, Francisco I. Madero’s (the godfather of the revolution) revolted. Armed conflict broke out in 1910 and Díaz was eventually ousted in 1911, but peace did not come for over a decade. While at first control teetered back and forth between the government and the revolutionaries, the conflict eventually turned into a civil war between many different political factions. A new constitution was developed in 1917, though fighting remained through 1920.
Despite the violence and unrest (or maybe because of it), The Mexican Revolution is known as a culturally vibrant time in Mexico’s history. In fact, much of Mexico’s most famous artwork was created during this time by some of Mexico’s most famous artists. It is also known as a time of great social change, with living conditions greatly improving after the revolution.
Remember Mexico’s history with a historically-inspired piece of silver jewelry
At Mexican Silver Store, we offer authentic Mexican silver jewelry at great prices. Your purchase will be supporting the artisans of Taxco and helping to maintain the traditions of Mexico’s past.