Official Name: United Mexican States
Established: 16 September 1810 (Independence from Spain)
Population: 128,649,565 (2020 estimate)
Religion: 82.7% Roman Catholic, 6.6% Protestant, 1.4% Other Christian, 4.7% No religion
Capital: Mexico City
Order of Visit: Forty-Third
First Visit: 01 December 1986
Last Visit: 30 December 2012
Duration: 27 Days
– Cancun: Beaches, spas, pools, shopping and relaxing plus a visit to Xcaret Park (a combination zoo, amazement park and resort.
– Chichén Itzá: The brilliant and sometimes overwhelming Mayan ruins (spoiled a bit by so many vendors approaching you all the time).
– Merida: Swimming and enjoying the Cuzama water sink holes (a lot of fun)
– Mexico City: Basilica de Guadalupe (church built in 1500s), exploring the Teotihuacan ruins (pyramids built around 100 BC), tequila shots.
– Oaxaca: Magnificent countryside, Oaxaca Cathedral, nightclub drinking (hangover included!), exploring the Mitla Ruins (built 900 BC), relaxing in the Hierve el Agua pools, exploring the impressive Monte Alban Ruins (established 500 BC)
– Palenque: Enjoying the waterfalls at Aqua Azul and the impressive Misol Ha, exploring the very impressive Ruins of Palenque
– Playa de Carmen: Enjoying the beach, exploring the Tulum Ruins by the Caribbean Sea
– Puebla: Puebla Cathedral, exploring the Zocalo (city square), enjoying the entertaining Lucha Libre wrestling
– San Cristobal de Las Casas: The wild and dangerous 12 hour overnight bus ride, exploring Mayan traditional villages of Chomula and Zincantan, going on a cruise of the Sumidero Canyon, shopping and bargaining at a local market
– Tijuana: Family shopping for tequila during a day trip
Places Visited: Cancun, Chichén Itzá, Merida, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Palenque, Playa de Carmen, Puebla, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Tijuana
Mexico Journal Entries
History and Geography
Covering an area of 1,972,550 square kilometres Mexico is located in southern part of North America. Mexico is bordered to the north by the United States of America; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico.
The earliest human artefacts in Mexico are chips of stone tools found in the Valley of Mexico and are dated to around 8000 BC. The earliest complex civilization in Mexico was the Olmec culture, which flourished on the Gulf Coast from around 1500 BC.
In Central Mexico, the height of the classic period saw the ascendancy of Teotihuacán, which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area as well as north. Teotihuacan, with a population of more than 150,000 people, had some of the largest pyramidal structures in the pre-Columbian Americas.
During the early post-classic era (1000-1519), Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, and the lowland Maya area had important centres at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán – generally referred to as the Mayans. Towards the end of the post-Classic period, the Mexica established dominance, establishing a political and economic empire based in the city of Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico City), extending from central Mexico to the border with Guatemala.
Alexander von Humboldt popularized the modern usage of “Aztec” as a collective term applied to all the people linked by trade, custom, religion, and language to the Mexica state who came after the Mayans.
The Aztec empire was an informal or hegemonic empire because it did not exert supreme authority over the conquered territories; it was satisfied with the payment of tributes from them. The hegemonic nature of the Aztec empire was demonstrated by their restoration of local rulers to their former position after their city-state was conquered.
The Aztec of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mexico. The Aztec were noted for practicing human sacrifice on a large scale. Along with this practice, they avoided killing enemies on the battlefield.
The Spanish had established colonies in the Caribbean starting in 1493 however it was not until the second decade of the sixteenth century that they began exploring the coast of Mexico. The Spanish first learned of Mexico during the Juan de Grijalva expedition of 1518.
The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire began in February 1519 when Hernán Cortés landed on the Gulf Coast and founded the Spanish city of Veracruz. Around 500 conquistadores, along with horses, cannons, swords, and long guns gave the Spanish some technological advantages over indigenous warriors, but key to the Spanish victory was making strategic alliances with disgruntled indigenous city-states who supplied the Spaniards and fought with them against the Aztec Alliance.
While unintentionally introduced by the Spanish, a large range of old world diseases like smallpox, measles, and other contagious diseases became epidemics that greatly helped defeat the Aztecs. Death from this diseases might have reached 15 million (out of a population of less than 30 million). The native population declined 80–90% by 1600 to 1–2.5 million.
The 1521 capture Tenochtitlan and immediate founding of the Spanish capital Mexico City on its ruins was the beginning of a 300-year-long colonial era during which Mexico was known as Nueva España (New Spain).The two pillars of Spanish rule were the State and the Roman Catholic Church, both under the authority of the Spanish crown.
The rich deposits of silver, particularly in Zacatecas and Guanajuato, resulted in silver extraction dominating the economy of New Spain. Taxes on silver production became a major source of income for Spain. Other important industries were the haciendas and mercantile activities in the main cities and ports. Spanish forces, sometimes accompanied by native allies, led expeditions to conquer territory or quell rebellions through the colonial era.
Due to the importance of New Spain administrative base, Mexico was the location of the first printing shop (1539), first university (1551), first public park (1592), and first public library (1640) in the Americas.
On 16 September 1810, a “loyalist revolt” against the ruling junta was declared by priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato. This event, known as the Cry of Dolores is commemorated each year, on 16 September, as Mexico’s independence day.
On 24 August 1821 representatives of the Spanish Crown and Iturbide signed the “Treaty of Córdoba” and the “Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire”, which recognized the independence of Mexico.
The first thirty-five years after Mexico’s independence were marked by political instability and the changing form of the Mexican State, from a monarchy to a federated republic. There were military coups d’état, foreign invasions, ideological conflict between Conservatives and Liberals, and economic stagnation. Catholicism remained the only permitted religious faith and the Catholic Church as an institution retained its special privileges, prestige, and property.
When the 1824 Constitution was suspend by Santa Anna, civil war spread across the country. Three new governments declared independence: the Republic of Texas, the Republic of the Rio Grande and the Republic of Yucatán. The later U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1846 during the Mexican–American War resulted in Mexico losing much of its sparsely populated northern territories.
The overthrow of Santa Anna and the establishment of a civilian government by Liberals allowed them to enact laws that they considered vital for Mexico’s economic development. It was a prelude to more civil wars.
After the turmoil in Mexico from 1810 to 1876, the 35-year rule of Liberal General Porfirio Díaz (1876-1911) allowed Mexico to rapidly modernize in a period characterized as one of “order and progress”. The government encouraged British and U.S. investment. Commercial agriculture developed in northern Mexico, with many investors from the U.S. acquiring vast ranching estates and expanding irrigated cultivation of crops. The Mexican government ordered a survey of land with the aim of selling it for development. In this period, many indigenous communities lost their lands and the men became landless wage earners on large landed enterprises.
The Mexican Revolution starting in 1910 saw a decade of civil war. After this period the next quarter-century of the post-revolutionary period (1920-1946) was characterised by revolutionary generals serving as Presidents of Mexico.
Relations between the U.S.A and Mexico vastly improved during World War II, when Mexico was a significant ally, providing manpower and materiel to aid the war effort.
From 1946 the election of Miguel Alemán, the first civilian president in the post-revolutionary period, Mexico embarked on an aggressive program of economic development, known as the Mexican miracle, which was characterized by industrialization, urbanization, and the increase of inequality in Mexico between urban and rural areas. With robust economic growth, Mexico sought to showcase it to the world by hosting the 1968 Summer Olympics.
In 2000, after 71 years, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost a presidential election to Vicente Fox of the opposition National Action Party (PAN). In the 2006 presidential election, Felipe Calderón from the PAN was declared the winner, with a very narrow margin (0.58%) over leftist politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador then the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).
A new political party, National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), a leftist-populist party, emerged after the 2012 election and dominated the 2018 Mexican general election. Unlike many Latin American countries, the military in Mexico does not participate in politics and is under civilian control. To these day Mexico has major crime and corruption issues fuelled by the illegal drug trade and illegal immigration from Central American citizens into the U.S.A. from Mexico.
What I experienced
The second longest time I have spent in another country allowed me to explore and see a lot of Mexico, from beautiful beaches and resorts, to amazing Mayan Ruins, beautiful Churches and Cathedrals, memorable long public bus trips, to enormous forests. Mexico is are vast country with a complex and interesting history. While Mexico does have a lot of problems with major drug families and violence this was no a big problem in the various areas I visited. The few locals I interacted with were pleasant and helpful. I have to admit I spent a few days and nights enjoying a few drinks and just enjoying the company of my group.
The Lucha Libre wrestling was both colourful and enjoyable and to represent some of the colour and energy I found in some corners of Mexican society which you don’t always expect. It’s hard to overstate the beauty of Mexico, the forests, beaches, waterfalls, and cenatos (sinkholes) are all worth exploring and enjoying.
Mexico is a beautiful country with a rich history and as long as you can stay close a must country visit.