50,000 years BC: The first inhabitants of the Americas migrate from Asia through what is known today as the Bering Straits.
1,500 BC to 300 AD: Rule of the Olmecs. The Olmecs, considered by some to be the mother culture of pre–Hispanic Mexico, were apparently the first Mesoamerican people to fathom the concept of zero, develop a calendar, and create a hieroglyphic writing system.
600 to 900 AD: The golden age of the Maya, the largest homogenous group of Indians north of Peru, who inhabited a vast area that encompasses Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and parts of the states of Tabasco and Chiapas, as well as Guatemala, parts of Honduras and El Salvador. Considered the most outstanding intellects of ancient Mexico, the Maya refined the exact sciences and the knowledge of astronomy and mathematics.
900 AD: Toltec warriors sweep in and conquer the central valleys of Mexico.
1200 AD: The Aztecs, also known as the Mexica, settle in the central valleys. They found their capital Tenochtitlan – or today’s Mexico City – on an island of the Texcoco Lake. Tenochtitlan soon became the capital city of a vast empire, a magnificent metropolis graced by great canals, colorful markets places and a large number of temples. It was inhabited by highly organized society, ruled by a king and dominated by a noble class of priests and tax collectors, a warrior elite and an active, vital merchant class.
By the early 1500s, the Aztecs and their emperor Montezuma II rule over an empire that stretches over most of central Mexico.
April 21, 1519: A small Spanish fleet of 6 galleons, 550 sailors and soldiers and 16 horses led by Hernan Cortes drops anchor near Veracruz. Cortes, playing off social tensions between rival factions within the Aztec empire, ultimately defeats the Aztec and their emperor Montezuma II. Spanish rule had begun and would last nearly 300 years.
17th & 18th centuries: The Spaniards convert the indigenous populations to Catholicism and use them to mine the central valleys for gold and silver and build splendid cities. Mexico was now one of the richest countries in the world but its wealth remained in the hands of a happy few.
1810-1836: The long fight for independence begins when the Creole led by Miguel Hidalgo join forces with the indigenous population. The first uprisings are quickly crushed by the Spanish army, but eventually a constitution is drafted and a federal republic comprised of 19 states and a district (Mexico City) is born. Guadalupe Vittoria becomes the first Mexican president followed by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna who drafts a new constitution.
1845: The United States annexes Texas, at the time part of Mexico, after the 30,000 citizens who live there request American intervention. Diplomatic ties between the two countries are severed and the U.S. launches a 2–year war that results in the loss for Mexico of nearly half of its territory.
1861: After roughly 50 different governments in nearly three decades, Benito Juárez is voted president. The country has amassed tremendous debt and faces its angry French, English and Spanish creditors. Juarez’s decision to cancel the debt ultimately leads to a joint intervention of all three countries led by France. Napoleon III installs Maximilien as emperor.
1876: General Porfirio Diaz takes power and rules the country for 35 years. During his tenure Mexico modernizes its economy while creating ever greater inequalities. Discontent grows and uprisings around leaders such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa lead to the Mexican Revolution.
1929: Different revolutionary factions join power to create the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) that governs without opposition for 71 years.
1976-1988: During this period Mexico nears bankruptcy, experiences political turmoil and suffers from rampant corruption.
1994: An insurrection led by the Zapatista guerillas demanding changes to agricultural laws begins in the state of Chiapas.
2000: The PRI loses the election to Vincente Fox, a member of the PAN (Party of National Action).
2006: Felipe Calderon, also a member of the PAN party, is elected president. His government initiates the war on drugs, deploying the military throughout the country to fight drug cartels.
United Mexican States (Estados Unidos Mexicanos)
1,964,375 km2 (or about 3x the size of Texas)
113,724,226 (July 2011 estimate)
Official spoken language:
Spanish (dialects are also spoken)
Catholic 76.5%, Protestant 6.3%, other 17.2%
Mexicain Peso (MXP)
Type of government:
Federal Replublic made up of 32 states and one Federal District (Mexico City)