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Mexican History

Before the Spanish arrived in 1521, Mexico was home to the once proud Mayan civilisation, which was advanced in religion and mathematics and was at its peak of power around 800 AD. Teotihuacán was the capital of Mayan civilization and it had a population of over 150,000 at its peak, which was the biggest in Latin America at the time. After the Mayans downfall the next great civilization to rule this area was the Aztecs, also known as the Mexica, created there capital Tenochtitlán in 1325. By the mid 15th century the Aztecs were the most advanced in the region and they formed the Triple Alliance with two other states in the area, which were the Texcoco and Tlacopan. This alliance combined 38 provinces and a total population of over 5 million.

Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, but it wasn’t till 1519, that a Spaniard named Hernan Cortés arrived on the coast of Cozumel. He tried to take over the Aztec Empire and was repelled at first, but within two years he managed to destroy an ancient civilization of over 2,000 years. In the years after the conquest the Spanish bought Christianity to the area and made the local civilization slaves and second rate citizens. The Spanish renamed Tenochtitlán ‘Mexico’ and made it Nueva Espana (New Spain’s) capital. This new territory ranged from present day Panama in the South to California and Texas in the north.

Life under Spanish rule, the local culture was suppressed and native traditions were discouraged. The local population’s hate of the Spanish boiled over and it led to a war between them during 1810 – 21 and the end result was Mexico gaining there independence. The new Mexican government abolished slavery and Santa Anna, became a local hero after he managed to defeat the Spanish in 1829. He later went on to become leader of the country in 1833.  In 1836, Texas declared independence from Mexico, which led to Santa Anna leading an army to defeat the rebellion at a mission in the Alamo at San Antonio. He later was later defeated a couple of weeks later, which led to the Americans annexing Texas in 1845. The American president at the time wanted more of Mexico and this led to AmericanMexican War (1846-48). The Mexicans were no match for the Americans, as they were to far advanced, which led to the signing of Treaty of Guadalupe. This treaty gave Americans possession of New Mexico, California, Texas, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

After losing their territory, Mexico was broke and never fully recovered from this defeat. It led to the economy crashing and to constant civil wars and instability. It wasn’t till the 1960s when the country developed a largely oil based economy that the world started to look positively at them again. The country went bankrupt again and it wasn’t till the 1980s that the new government embarked on a major economic reform programme comprising a package of devaluation, tax reform, privatisation and deregulation. The programme, dubbed ‘Cactus Thatcherism’, included an application to join GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, forerunner of the World Trade Organisation) and also a free-trade treaty with the USA and Canada. This eventually led to the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which was ratified by the three countries during 1993. After this agreement there have been arguments whether it helped Mexico’s economy, or not, as many people saw the living standards fall dramatically.

Today, Mexico City has a population of over 20 million and is the world’s second biggest city. It’s officially known in Mexico as the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico and the area covers almost 5,000 square kilometres. The city has one of the highest murder rates per capita then any other city in the world and during the 1990s it had problem with kidnappings. The problems are still there, as with such a big population and high employment it’s tough to keep the crime down, as two-thirds of the cities population are under 30 years of age, which makes creating jobs more of a priority. The city is starting to succeed though as in recent years some polls taken show that children are more educated then ever before, as more than 95 per cent of 6-14 year olds and more than 60 per cent of 15-19 year olds attend school. This is a sharp increase to what it used to be and with these figures it can only be positive for the future. Another fact to come out is that Mexico City is now the eighth-richest city in the world and has one of the fastest growing economies outside of China and is set to double its GDP by 2020. These are positive figures, but the only problem is that the wealth is only going to a select few.



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