MEXICO: THE COUNTRY, ITS HISTORY                   & THE MAYA WORLD             By SWARUPA N. OVALEKAR                    ...
Warning/DisclaimerThis eBook is designed to provide information about the subject matter covered. Itshould be used only as...
To my family for their love and support
CONTENTS    ABOUT THE AUTHOR               1    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS               5    POLITICAL MAP OF MEXICO        6    GE...
ABOUT THE AUTHORSwarupa got into book writing in 2008. This was four months after her return from Mexicowhere she had spen...
Apart from her books, Swarupa is an intrepid traveller and a polyglot. She speaksEnglish, Spanish, German, French, Italian...
quick thinking, and ingenuity. When she explores new places and meets new people, she paints each ofthem with rich descrip...
used in this book and their Mexican Spanish pronunciation – and a few simple and easy recipes of popularMexican food and d...
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis book is one of my three book series on Mexico, a labour of love and dedication that beganin 2008. The...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldA view of Mexico CityPhoto credit: © CPTM: Foto / Ricardo Espinosa-reo   ...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldSand dunes of Bilbao in CoahuilaPhoto credit: © CPTM: Foto / Ricardo Espi...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldA charro (Mexican cowboy) performing in a charreada, a Mexican rodeo comp...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldThe archaeological zone of Templo Mayor in Mexico CityPhoto credit: © Tra...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World                                              1                  INTRODUC...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World       Covering almost two million square kilometres, the ‘United Mexican...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World12.6741 Mexican pesos against one US dollar.GeographyFrom swamp to desert...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldflanked by two great mountain ranges – the Sierra Madre Occidental in the...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldhistoric centres like San Miguel de Allende (san mee-gel deh ah-yen-deh) ...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldpeninsula also boasts of many magnificent Maya cities like Chichén Itzá a...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worlditinerary of most tourists.        The west coast of Mexico incorporates ...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldPeople & CultureMexico’s varied population reflects its rich history. Mex...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldcentury, the mestizos formed the largest ethnic group in Mexico.       Po...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldcitizens abroad, representing almost 1% of the Mexican population, and 25...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldan inn in Bethlehem. The Christmas party scene continues right till the D...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldMexican Muralism. Many of his works, as well as those of José Clemente Or...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldReligionCatholicism has been the dominant religion of Mexico since its in...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worlddedicated to the Goddess of Earth and Fertility as well as the Mother of ...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldimage is found everywhere – in churches, houses, taxis, buses, hotels, re...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldmajor importance to the United States also, because of formal links throu...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldnominal GDP and the 11th largest by purchasing power parity.       The pr...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldMazatlán, Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas. The Mexico City International A...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World1903. Some of the other top Mexican business groups include Telmex, the t...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldalso conducts an astounding 50% of the country’s scientific research. A g...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldTourismMexico is the eighth most visited country in the world and the num...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World          The Central Highlands, the most populous region of Mexico has m...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldskilled and unskilled workers migrate to the United States in search of e...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World                                               4                     THE ...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World       The Spanish expansion in the Americas began with the establishment...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldAztec Empire, the Spanish conquistadores were able to form alliances with...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldentered Tenochtitlán as Moctezuma’s guests. The Spanish soldiers were put...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldregrouped.       The final assault on Tenochtitlán began in January 1521,...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldviolent end.       If the history of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica is obscure...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldoccurrence. The missionaries built many monasteries and converted million...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldthem and if they still didnt renounce their tin gods, they were showered ...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World       The plight of the Maya Indians was miserable. They were moved into...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldChurch which affected virtually every aspect of life. Missionaries set up...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldA Big HI to all my readers! Thank you very much for reading the extracts ...
Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World (sample chapters) by Swarupa
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A Big HI to all my readers! Thank you very much for reading the extracts of this eBook. I’m sure you enjoyed reading the sample chapters :-) Now you can read the remaining 6 chapters of this eBook (of 140 pages) in PDF format at just US$ 7.97 or the equivalent cost in your currency. With over 75 coloured photographs, and black and white political and geographical sketch maps of Mexico, this insightful eBook will appeal to every person interested in learning about Mexico – aficionados, travellers and scholars.
Just click on https://thegr8wall.wordpress.com/mexico-the-country-its-history-the-maya-world
and go through the instructions.
To buy the eBook, click on the “Add To Cart” button on the sidebar. A new window will open displaying the cost of the eBook. If you’re interested in buying my other eBooks too, click on the relevant buttons. To make the payment, click on the “Checkout With PayPal” button and you will be directed to the PayPal site where you have to enter your credit card details. In case, you have a PayPal account you just have to log in to your account to complete the purchase.
On making the payment, you will receive the download link to the eBook through email.
For those in India, you may place your order for the eBook (at Rs 435) by sending an email to mexicobooks@gmail.com or thepicbookmexico@gmail.com along with your name, address, email and phone number.
If you’ve any questions, please do not hesitate to send an email to mexicobooks@gmail.com or thepicbookmexico@gmail.com

Cheers :-)
Swarupa

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Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World (sample chapters) by Swarupa

  1. 1. MEXICO: THE COUNTRY, ITS HISTORY & THE MAYA WORLD By SWARUPA N. OVALEKAR Self-Published Edition Copyright © Swarupa N. Ovalekar 2010All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced,stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission ofthe copyright holder.This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not bere-sold or distributed. If you would like to share this eBook with another person,please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this eBookand did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then pleasereturn to https://www.facebook.com/TheEpicBookMEXICO or the author’s blogat https://thegr8wall.wordpress.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you forrespecting the hard work of this author.
  2. 2. Warning/DisclaimerThis eBook is designed to provide information about the subject matter covered. Itshould be used only as a general guide and not as the ultimate source forinformation on Mexico. Although the author/publisher has used best efforts inpreparing this book and making it as complete and as accurate as possible, noresponsibility is assumed for errors or omissions. Furthermore, this book containsinformation on Mexico which is current only up to the date of book completion. This eBook is presented solely for educational and entertainment purposes.The author/publisher shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person orentity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly orindirectly by the information contained in this book. Other titles by Swarupa N. Ovalekar: Discovering Mexico A Guide To Mexican Cuisine The Blue-Eyed Prince of Natlife
  3. 3. To my family for their love and support
  4. 4. CONTENTS ABOUT THE AUTHOR 1 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 5 POLITICAL MAP OF MEXICO 6 GEOGRAPHICAL MAP OF MEXICO 71 INTRODUCTION TO MEXICO 292 ANCIENT MEXICO 523 THE MAYA WORLD 724 THE SPANISH CONQUEST 1075 THE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT 1176 INDEPENDENT MEXICO 1207 THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION 1268 MODERN MEXICO 131 PHOTO SECTION I 8 PHOTO SECTION II 63 PHOTO SECTION III 101
  5. 5. ABOUT THE AUTHORSwarupa got into book writing in 2008. This was four months after her return from Mexicowhere she had spent nearly nine months, some of them travelling solo across the country. Shededicated a year and a half to her labour of love – an epic book on Mexico – which she finallycompleted in June 2010. Hoping to get her book ‘Mexico’ published in the traditional way, shewaited for over two years looking for a publisher who could do justice to her hard work. Her book received warm appreciation from H.E. Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico. While she waited for responses from publishers, she wrote a romance fiction novel ‘TheBlue-Eyed Prince Of Natlife’. In January 2012, she created a Facebook page for her book, got her book edited andconverted it into a three book series on Mexico titled ‘Discovering Mexico’, ‘Mexico: TheCountry, Its History & The Maya World’, and ‘A Guide To Mexican Cuisine’. In mid-September, she finally decided to self-publish all her books. 1
  6. 6. Apart from her books, Swarupa is an intrepid traveller and a polyglot. She speaksEnglish, Spanish, German, French, Italian and Indian languages like Marathi and Hindi. She is apassionate foodie, a huge fan of salsa and ballroom dancing and a great lover of history,cosmology and world culture. She lives in Mumbai. CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR Facebook: http://facebook.com/TheEpicBookMEXICO Twitter: http://twitter.com/theepicmexico Blog: http://thegr8wall.wordpress.com OTHER TITLES BY THE AUTHOR Discovering Mexico is Swarupa’s chronicle which began with her new life in the Mexican city of Guadalajara and her wide exploration of the country she lived in for nine months in 2007-08. Cosmopolitan Mexico City, world-class beach resorts, charming mountain resorts, beautiful colonial cities, amazing archaeological zones, mesmerizing Maya ruins, colourful indigenous markets…there is never a dull moment for her as she explores each place with immense gusto. At each turn, new situations arise, requiring keen perception, 2
  7. 7. quick thinking, and ingenuity. When she explores new places and meets new people, she paints each ofthem with rich descriptions. Her incurable wanderlust leads her on a three-week adventurous trailcovering seven culturally-rich southern states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas,Oaxaca and Veracruz, the first five of which fall under the region of ‘the Maya world’.Discovering Mexico is both a celebration of the joys and revelations to be found in this inexhaustiblyinteresting country. This immensely pleasurable and entertaining eBook falls into many categories…it isabout Mexico, Mexican memoirs, Mexican travel, Mexican history and culture, Mexican food and drinksand of course – Mexicans!With more than 100 coloured photographs, black and white political and geographical sketch maps ofMexico, a black and white sketch map of Swarupa’s three-week trip, black and white sketch maps of theseven southern states and two extensive glossaries – of Spanish words used in this book and theirMexican Spanish pronunciation – this thoroughly informative eBook is a must-read for everyone. A Guide To Mexican Cuisine is a small no-frills guide with a big purpose: to briefly describe everything about Mexican cuisine to the readers. Native Mexican diet, staple ingredients, foreign influences on Mexican cuisine, daily meals and customs, popular meals, regional meals, festive meals, drinks and beverages, desserts and candies, a few popular recipes…this eBook has it all! From native Indian cuisine to the current flavours, this guide tells it all like never before with more than 65 coloured photographs, two extensive glossaries – of Spanish words 3
  8. 8. used in this book and their Mexican Spanish pronunciation – and a few simple and easy recipes of popularMexican food and drinks. A girl from Mexico City comes to Mumbai, discovers the joys of caring and sharing in a large house with seven other international trainees and falls in love with her suave Indian boss. 26-year old Mexican, Sara Velasquez, is the new international trainee at the corporate office of one of India’s top multinational companies, Natlife. Her blonde hair and good looks have always made most men treat her with benign condescension, unwilling to accept her managerial abilities. Experience has taught her not to trust men for this reason, but her tall and handsome Indian boss, the 27-year old blue-eyedSid Oberoi, is different. He doesn’t question her intelligence only her impulsive nature. She finds herselfbattling a deep and irresistible attraction between them only to succumb to it whole-heartedly.A past incident has shattered Sid’s trust in women. Whenever his girlfriends get too close or serious, hebolts. He’s not interested in commitment. So why does he harbour strong, unfamiliar feelings for thefeisty Mexican? On learning about the bitter experiences of her past, he’s determined to ensure that shedoesn’t get hurt again. Why does he feel so protective about her?When misfortune strikes, it brings them both closer than ever. Sid offers her a job in his new business androom in his house. But, is he ready to offer her a place in his heart? 4
  9. 9. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis book is one of my three book series on Mexico, a labour of love and dedication that beganin 2008. The long and lonely period of this project saw me working endless hours at thecomputer and I owe my eternal gratitude to my family for understanding and accepting thiswithout a fuss. To my father who made my ‘Mexican Experience’ possible for me, withoutwhich the three books on Mexico would never have been born; to my mother, brother and sisters. My particular thanks to Shri Krishna Singh for his goodwill and belief in my work. I’m greatly indebted to H.E. Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico, and the HonourableGloria Guevara, Minister of Tourism for Mexico, for their warm appreciation and valuablesupport to my project. The photographs in this book have been used with the permission of their copyrightholders. Credits have been given to all the photographs, except those of my own. My specialthanks to the copyright holders for allowing me to reproduce their photographs: The MexicanTourism Board (CPTM), the State Tourism Board of Jalisco (SETUJAL), Erick Alvarado –Owner/Founder of TravelerosMX, Sahid Cervantes and Paty Rodriguez. Last but not the least, thank you to Writer’s Side for editing this book. 5
  10. 10. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World
  11. 11. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World
  12. 12. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldA view of Mexico CityPhoto credit: © CPTM: Foto / Ricardo Espinosa-reo The iconic cathedral of Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico
  13. 13. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldSand dunes of Bilbao in CoahuilaPhoto credit: © CPTM: Foto / Ricardo Espinosa-reoThe Sea of Cortez in La Paz, Baja California SurPhoto credit: © CPTM: Foto / Ricardo Espinosa-reo
  14. 14. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldA charro (Mexican cowboy) performing in a charreada, a Mexican rodeo competitionPhoto credit: © Paty Rodriguez Teotihuacán, the most-visited archaeological zone in Mexico
  15. 15. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldThe archaeological zone of Templo Mayor in Mexico CityPhoto credit: © TravelerosMXOne of the New Seven Wonders of the World, El Castillo (Castle) of Chichén Itzá, in Yucatán
  16. 16. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World 1 INTRODUCTION TO MEXICOWhat is the first thing that crosses your mind when you hear the word ‘Mexico’? Is it cactus anddesert? Sombrero? Tequila? Cancun and Acapulco? Mexican food? Maya civilization? More than that, Mexico (México ‘meh-hee-koh’ in Spanish) is a multicultural countrywith gorgeous beaches, ancient pyramids, beautiful landscapes, natural and ecological wondersand a colourful history. The country boasts of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World andabout 24 UNESCO-declared World Cultural Heritage sites. It is also the most populous Spanish-speaking country and the second-largest Roman Catholic nation in the world. Mexico or the land of the Mexica (the Aztec, ‘meh-shee-ka’ in their Nahuatl language)enjoys a unique cultural blend of different indigenous cultures with colonial Spanish traditionsand modern industrialization. The country is part of the North American continent and is locateddirectly south of the United States. To the south-east, it is bordered by Guatemala and Belize.The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea lie on the east coast, and the Pacific Ocean on thewest and south. 29
  17. 17. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World Covering almost two million square kilometres, the ‘United Mexican States’ (its officialname) is the fifth-largest country in the Americas by total area and the 14th largest independentnation in the world. It extends all along the 3,100 km-long southern border of the United States,most of which is formed by the Río Bravo, a major river known as Rio Grande in theneighbouring country. Mexico has 31 states and a Federal District (Distrito Federal), where the capital, MexicoCity, commonly called ‘DF’ (dey-efe) is located. The estimated population of the country is 111million, of which approximately 75 percent live in urban areas. Over 20 million people live inthe metropolitan area of the capital. Two other major cities are Guadalajara and Monterrey. Under the amended constitution of 1917, Mexico is a federal republic whose head of stateand government is the president, directly elected to a non-renewable six-year term. It has twolegislative houses, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Since the establishment of themodern constitution in 1917, a single party, the PRI, ruled over the country till 2000, when theright-wing opposition party PAN won the national elections. In 2006, the PAN party again wonthe elections bringing the present President Felipe Calderón to power. The Mexican flag has three equal vertical bands of green, white, and red. The coat ofarms, which has an eagle with a snake in its beak perched on a nopal (noh-pahl) – the pricklypear cactus, is centred in the white band. The Mexican peso (MXN $) was the first currency inthe world to use the ‘$’ sign, which was later adopted by the United States dollar. It is by far themost traded currency in Latin America. As of June 12, 2010, the US$-MXN$ exchange rate was 30
  18. 18. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World12.6741 Mexican pesos against one US dollar.GeographyFrom swamp to desert and from tropical lowland jungle to high alpine vegetation, Mexico has itall. Over half the country is located at an altitude greater than 1000 metres. An extremelymountainous country, the varied topography and climate in different regions has led to itsregional diversity and uneven economic development. The north is largely arid and semi-desertwith an extreme climate of very hot summers and very cold winters. In some northern regions, itsnows. The south is tropical and heavily forested, with a hot and humid climate. The centralregion of the country with its mild climate, is the most developed. At times, the temperate forestsof the central region experiences snowfall at higher altitudes. Overall, the climate throughoutmuch of Mexico is characterized by high temperatures and moderate to low rainfall, with therainy season lasting from June to September. Geographically, Mexico is divided into different physical regions: the immense CentralPlateau, the Pacific Lowlands, the Gulf Coast Plains, the Yucatán (yoo-cah-tahn) Peninsula, theSouthern Highlands, the Chiapas (chee-ah-pahs) Highlands, and the Baja (ba-ha) CaliforniaPeninsula. The Central Plateau, which begins from the northern border with the United States, is 31
  19. 19. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldflanked by two great mountain ranges – the Sierra Madre Occidental in the west and the SierraMadre Oriental in the east – that run down parallel to the narrow coastal plains. More thanhalfway down, they are crossed by the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt that extends 900 km fromwest to east across the central-southern region. Mexico City lies in this volcanic highland area, asdo most of the country’s major peaks (several of them snow-clad all year long) and volcanoes(active as well as inactive). These include the two snow-capped volcanoes, Popocatépetl (5,452m) and Iztaccíhuatl (5,386 m), both of which are located near Mexico City; and the country’shighest peak, Pico de Orizaba (5,747 m), located north-west of the city of Veracruz. Due to thefrequent seismic activity, earthquakes are fairly common in the capital city. In 1985 a majorearthquake in Mexico City killed thousands and left nearly 30,000 homeless. The north-central part of the country is mostly a semi-arid desert: a vast, high, windsweptplateau flanked by the Occidental and Oriental chains of the Sierra Madre. Most of thepopulation is gathered in several large cities like Chihuahua (chee-wah-wah), an importantindustrial and commercial centre as well as capital of Mexico’s largest state of the same name,and Ciudad Juárez (syooh-dahd hwa-rehs), another important city in the same state. The large basin where Mexico City is located has been known historically as the AnáhuacValley or the Valley of Mexico. Situated close to the capital are the ruins of the pre-Hispaniccultures of central Mexico: the massive Pyramids of Teotihuacán (teo-tee-wah-kahn) and theToltec capital at Tula. The Central Highlands, north of Mexico City, boast of many colonialtowns like the silver-mining towns of Zacatecas and Guanajuato (gwah-nah-hwa-toh) and 32
  20. 20. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldhistoric centres like San Miguel de Allende (san mee-gel deh ah-yen-deh) and Querétaro (keh-reh-tah-roh). To the north-west lie the beautiful states of Jalisco (ha-lees-koh) and Michoacán (mee-cho-ah-kahn). Between them, these two states share some of the most scenic country sights inMexico along with a reputation for producing some of the finest traditional crafts. The beautifulhistorical state capitals of Guadalajara (gwah-dah-lah-ha-rah) and Morelia are a testimony to itsrich cultural heritage. The Pacific Lowlands which lie between the Sierra Madre Occidental and the PacificOcean (including the Gulf of California) are home to famous resort cities like Mazatlán. TheGulf Coast plain between the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Gulf of Mexico is characterized byswampy lowlands and numerous lagoons. The country’s most important port, Veracruz, islocated in this region, which is also the site of many of Mexico’s petroleum discoveries. Thisregion gets abundant rainfall and is frequently prone to hurricanes that often cause extensivedamage. In the south-eastern part of the country, the Yucatán Peninsula (extending toward Cuba)separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea. It comprises of the states of Quintana Roo,Yucatán and Campeche. The northern Peninsula is a hot and semi-arid flat, low-lying regionwithout surface rivers while the southern Peninsula gets abundant rainfall and is covered bydense tropical rainforests. The famous international tourist destination, Cancún, is located alongthe eastern coast of the Yucatán in the state of Quintana Roo (keen-tah-nah roh). The eastern 33
  21. 21. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldpeninsula also boasts of many magnificent Maya cities like Chichén Itzá and Uxmal (oosh-mahl)and exotic tourist zones like the beautiful Riviera Maya. The Southern Highlands consist of steep mountain ranges, deep valleys, and dry plateaus.The Sierra Madre del Sur, a continuation of the two northern ranges, runs through the southernstates of Oaxaca (wah-ha-cah) and Chiapas. It runs parallel to the Pacific coast, creating arugged coastline where the mountains meet the sea. This is where one finds coastal resort citieslike Huatulco (wah-tuhl-koh), Acapulco, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo (iks-tah-pah see-wah-tah-neh-ho),Manzanillo (man-sah-nee-yoh) and Puerto Vallarta (pwehr-toh vah-yahr-tah) in the states ofOaxaca, Guerrero, Colima and Jalisco. The beautiful mountainous state of Oaxaca is home to some of the largest populations ofpure indigenous groups. Its capital, Oaxaca City is one of the most enticing destinations in thecountry with an extraordinary mix of colonial and indigenous life, colourful markets andfascinating archaeological sites. The Chiapas Highlands are home to many high mountains and dense tropical forests.Some of its mountains rise to more than 9,000 feet. The beautiful mountainous state of Chiapas,best known as the centre of the Zapatista uprising of the mid-1990s, has remained a favouritetourist destination. The region’s heavy rainfall feeds its numerous scenic waterfalls and the lushsurroundings offer plenty of opportunities for adventure tourism. The indigenous culturesprevalent in this region, the beautiful town of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the picturesque Mayaruins of Palenque together with a number of lesser-known Maya ruins continue to dominate the 34
  22. 22. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worlditinerary of most tourists. The west coast of Mexico incorporates the Baja California Peninsula, comprising of thetwo states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Stretching from the U.S. border south-eastfor 1,300 km, the peninsula is extremely arid and mountainous, with a very narrow coastal plain.Its long coastline of fine white beaches, peaceful bays and imposing cliffs attracts numerousAmerican tourists. The largest city in the northern state of Baja California, Tijuana (tee-hwa-nah)is situated on the Mexico-US border adjacent to its sister city of San Diego, California. Thisborder is the most frequently crossed international border in the world, with 250 million legalcrossings per year. At the southern tip of the peninsula in the state of Baja California Sur, lies thescenic tourist resort of Los Cabos, the popular destination of the rich and famous, especiallyfrom the neighbouring United States. Mexico follows three time zones. Most of the country follows Central Standard Timewhich is six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. The northern states of Chihuahua, Nayarit,Sonora, Sinaloa and Baja California Sur follow Mountain Standard Time while Baja Californiafollows Pacific Standard Time. The Central Time Zone is two hours ahead of the Pacific TimeZone, one hour ahead of the Mountain Time Zone. 35
  23. 23. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldPeople & CultureMexico’s varied population reflects its rich history. Mexican people are genetically distinctiveamong the worlds populations. They belong to diverse ancestral genetic groups. Those ofEuropean blood are mostly descendants of the first Spanish settlers but there are others ofFrench, Italian, Portuguese, Basque, German, Irish, Polish, Romanian, Russian, and Britishdescent from more recent migration. The majority of Mexicans are mixed-race mestizos whomake up the core of the country’s cultural identity. After the Spanish Conquest, the intermingling of races and cultures led to the emergenceof a multiracial society comprising a mix of native Indians or indios, Europeans and Africans.The number of mestizos grew rapidly, as many Spanish men took native Indian wives and hadlarge families. Before the 19th century, the indigenous people accounted for nearly two-thirds ofthe population of the country. But later, the racial composition began to change from the distinctSpanish and indigenous population, to one made up largely of mestizos. Shortly after theConquest and over the course of the colonial period, an estimated 200,000 African slaves werebrought into central Mexico (though there is strong evidence proving the existence of Africans inMexico over thousands of year prior to the arrival of the Spanish). Racial mixing andintermarriage produced a sizable population of mulattoes (of Spanish and African descent), aswell as zambos, who were people of African and native Indian descent. By the end of the 19th 36
  24. 24. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldcentury, the mestizos formed the largest ethnic group in Mexico. Post-independence, Mexico had to gradually create a national identity. Being anethnically diverse country, the only common element amongst the newly independent inhabitantswas Catholicism. In 1925, José Vasconcelos in his publication La Raza Cósmica (The CosmicRace), defined Mexico as the melting pot of all races, extending the definition of the mestizo notonly biologically but culturally as well. He rejected Charles Darwin’s views on the problems ofrace mixture and instead proclaimed mestizos to be the highest form of human evolution. Thisnew nationalist ideology, called Indigenismo (een-dee-heh-nees-moh), brought about therevalorization of Mexicos native heritage, including its indigenous cuisine based on corn. Thisexalting of mestizaje (mehs-tee-sah-heh) was a revolutionary idea that sharply contrasted withthe idea of a superior pure race prevalent in Europe at the time. Today, about 60% of the population is mestizo while about 30% is of pure indigenousancestry and 9% of direct Spanish ancestry. The remaining one percent comprises Africansintermarried with indigenous people and mestizos, living in the coastal areas of Veracruz,Tabasco and Guerrero. Although the official language of Mexico is Spanish, there are about 63 legallyrecognized languages. More than ten million people speak an indigenous language of whichmore than 1.6 million people (of Aztec descent) speak Nahuatl, the largest spoken indigenouslanguage of the country. This is apart from the numerous languages spoken by immigrant groupswho settled in Mexico centuries ago. Today, the country is home to the largest number of US 37
  25. 25. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldcitizens abroad, representing almost 1% of the Mexican population, and 25% of all the UScitizens abroad. There are many Central and South American immigrants too with the Argentinecommunity forming the second largest foreign community in the country. How does one identify an ‘indigenous’ Mexican? A variety of factors are used – customs,language, dress, food, and residence, for example… The native Indians are often dressed in theirtraditional attire which distinguishes them from mestizos who generally wear American-styleclothes. The indigenous community is mostly concentrated in the central, southern, and south-eastern states, regions with indigenous civilizations at the time of the Conquest. Mexicans like to socialize and place a high value on family and traditional values. Malechauvinism is commonly reflected in their culture. They have a great feeling of patriotism whichis strongly visible in their Independence Day celebrations with main squares, commercialcentres, etc. dressed in patriotic decorations of reds, whites and greens – Mexico’s officialcolours. Excluding Mexico City and the large cities in the northern states, the rest of the countryis deeply religious and conservative. One of Mexico’s most important religious holidays, is the Dia de los Muertos (diah dehlohs mwehr-tohs) or Day of the Dead, celebrated on the 2nd of November, to honour thedeceased. The roots of this tradition go back to ancient times. Although the day is passionatelycelebrated throughout the country, the traditional fervour is high in small towns. In the month ofDecember, from the 16th to the 24th, Mexicans celebrate the traditional Posadas (‘Inns’). Oneach of these nights, processions go from door to door to re-enact Joseph and Marys search for 38
  26. 26. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldan inn in Bethlehem. The Christmas party scene continues right till the Dia de los Santos Reyes(diah deh lohs trehs reh-yehs) or Three Kings Day or Epiphany which is celebrated on the 6th ofJanuary. In Mexico, one can often hear music in the streets and plazas of towns and cities.Mariachi bands, made up of guitars, violins and trumpets, are the best-known kind of Mexicanmusical groups. The mariachi musicians dressed in silver-studded charro (Mexican horsemen)outfits – usually black – and matching wide-brimmed hats play melodies and sing traditional folksongs. They can be seen playing in plazas, at parties, restaurants and weddings. They are oftenhired to serenade women, to sing Las Mañanitas (lahs mah-nyah-nee-tahs) or the Mexicanbirthday song, and during occasions like a quinceañera (kin-seh-ah-nyeh-rah) – a girls fifteenthbirthday celebration which follows the colonial tradition of a coming-out party for girls. In theSouth-East and along the Gulf Coast, traditional music played on the marimba is very popular. Mexico’s blend of indigenous and Spanish influences has also enriched much of itshandicrafts. Ancient indigenous arts such as ceramics, sculpture, and weaving with intricatedesigns and bright native colours were blended with Spanish art techniques to create a uniqueMexican style. Many of Mexico’s most popular modern crafts such as textiles, pottery, silverjewellery and furniture borrow designs and techniques from the indigenous culture. Since pre-colonial times, Mexican painters, writers, and musicians have produced a richcultural heritage. The best-known modern Mexican artists are the muralists, whose importantwork dates from the first half of the 20th century. Diego Rivera is the most well-known figure of 39
  27. 27. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldMexican Muralism. Many of his works, as well as those of José Clemente Orozco and DavidAlfaro Siqueiros, can be seen in buildings throughout Mexico. The famous painters amongothers include Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo. Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentesare two Mexican writers who have attained international recognition. Ballet Folklórico deMexico, a folkloric ballet ensemble, is internationally acclaimed for its dance and music. The most popular sport in Mexico is association football or soccer. It is commonlybelieved that soccer was introduced to Mexico at the end of the 19th century by miners fromCornwall working in the silver mines of Pachuca and Real (reh-ahl) de Monte. The EstadioAzteca (Aztec Stadium) is the official home stadium of the Mexican national soccer team.Besides the XIX Olympic Games in 1968, the country has also hosted the FIFA World Cuptwice, in 1970 and 1986. Other popular sports include the charreria, the central component ofwhich is the charreada or Mexican rodeo, where men and women dressed in traditional charro(cowboy) clothing present their skills and styles in a series of events involving bulls and horsesin a circular arena approximately 40 meters in diameter; lucha libre or professional wrestlingwhich is the Mexican version of World Wrestling Entertainment; and los toros or bullfightingwhich runs from November to March. Almost all large cities have bullfighting rings. The55,000-seated Plaza México in Mexico City is the largest bullfighting ring in the world. Baseballis very popular too, especially in the Gulf coast, Yucatán Peninsula and the Northern States. 40
  28. 28. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldReligionCatholicism has been the dominant religion of Mexico since its introduction during the Spanishcolonization in the 16th century. During the colonial era, many native Indians and mestizos wereforced to adopt the Spanish language and convert to Roman Catholicism, the religion of theirconquistadores (con-kis-tah-doh-rehs) or conquerors, but the rural and indigenous people werenever fully converted to Christianity, retaining some of their indigenous beliefs; local priests andbishops accepted the combination of some indigenous practices with Catholicism. The patron saint of Mexico, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, recognized as a symbol of allCatholic Mexicans, is said to represent both the Virgin Mary and the indigenous goddessTonantzin (some claim she is Coatlicue, the Aztec mother goddess). This syncretism may haveprovided a way for the 16th century Spaniards to gain converts among the indigenous populationof the New World as well as a method for 16th century indigenous Mexicans to covertly practicetheir native religion. The enormous Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe built on the Tepeyac hill nearMexico City, at the spot where the Virgin Guadalupe is said to have appeared to an indigenousboy, Juan Diego in 1531, is one of the most revered religious places in the country. Its location,on the hill of Tepeyac, was a place of great sanctity long before the arrival of Christianity in theNew World or colonial Mexico. In pre-Hispanic times, the hill was crowned with a temple 41
  29. 29. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worlddedicated to the Goddess of Earth and Fertility as well as the Mother of the Gods, Tonantzin,who, like the Christian Guadalupe, was a virgin goddess, also associated with the moon.Following the Spanish Conquest in 1521, the shrine was demolished, and the native people wereforbidden to make pilgrimages to the sacred hill. Ten years later, after the appearance of the image of the Virgin (a young woman, herhead lowered demurely wearing an open crown and flowing gown, standing upon a half moon)on Juan Diegos shawl, the bishop gave the orders for construction of the church. News of themiraculous apparition of the Virgins image on a peasants shawl, spread rapidly throughout thecountry. On learning that the mother of the Christian god had appeared to one of their people andspoken to him in his native language, thousands of indigenous people came from hundreds ofmiles away to see the image. The latter was to have a powerful influence on the advancement ofthe Churchs mission in colonial Mexico. In only seven years, from 1532 to 1538, more thaneight million Indians were converted to Christianity. The shrine, rebuilt several times over thecenturies, is today an enormous basilica with space for 10,000 pilgrims inside. Every year, an estimated ten million pilgrims come to venerate the mysterious image onJuan Diegos shawl preserved behind bullet-proof glass, hanging twenty-five feet above the mainaltar. On the 12th of December, the day of the apparition of the image, millions of devoutpilgrims from all over Mexico visit the shrine, many crawling to the Basilica on their knees. TheVirgin of Guadalupe has symbolized the Mexican nation since Mexicos War of Independencewhen rebel armies waged war with flags bearing the image of the Virgin Guadalupe. Today, her 42
  30. 30. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldimage is found everywhere – in churches, houses, taxis, buses, hotels, restaurants, bullrings, etc.EconomyThe Mexican economy ranks thirteenth in the world and is mainly based on agriculture,manufacturing, and the extraction of petroleum and natural gas. Although the land is rich, onlyone-eighth of it is arable. The agricultural products include corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans,cotton, coffee, fruits and vegetables, sugar, tomatoes, beef, poultry, dairy products and woodproducts. Manufactured goods include processed foods, chemicals, automobiles, and electricalmachinery. The country is the worlds largest producer of silver, bismuth, and celestine and isalso among the worlds leading producers of many minerals, including, copper, gold, lead andzinc. Mexico is the sixth-largest oil producer in the world, with 3.7 million barrels per day. Itsenormous petroleum reserves, most them in and along the Gulf of Mexico, are ranked amongstthe top ten in the world. Pemex, the state-owned company is responsible for the exploration,extraction, transportation and marketing of crude oil and natural gas, as well as the refining anddistribution of petroleum products and petrochemicals. It is one of the largest companies in LatinAmerica, making US $86 billion in sales a year. The United States is the largest trading partner of Mexico. The Mexican economy is of 43
  31. 31. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldmajor importance to the United States also, because of formal links through economicagreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The level ofdependence on exports to the United States is very high, nearly representing more than a quarterof Mexico’s GDP which was 1.09 trillion US dollars in 2008 and 866 billion US dollars in 2009.The goods mainly exported include manufactured goods, crude oil, petroleum products, silver,fruits, vegetables, coffee, and cotton. Another important source of exports comes from the industrial assembly plants known asmaquiladoras which take in imported raw materials and produce goods for export. Since theearly 1980s there has been considerable foreign investment in the maquiladoras, which takeadvantage of a large, low-cost labour force to produce finished goods for export to the UnitedStates. Remittances from Mexicans working, both legally and illegally, in the United States arealso extremely vital for the economy. The country’s leading products include food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron andsteel, refined petroleum and petrochemicals, textiles and clothing, motor vehicles, and consumergoods. Agave species are widely grown, and are processed into alcoholic beverages like tequila,mezcal and pulque. Livestock raising, dairy farming and fishing are also significant economicactivities. The country is also known for its handicrafts, especially pottery, woven goods, andsilverwork. As a regional power and currently the only Latin American member of theOrganization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1994, Mexico isconsidered a newly industrialized country and an emerging power. It has the 13th largest 44
  32. 32. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldnominal GDP and the 11th largest by purchasing power parity. The principal industrial centres in Mexico are Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey,Ciudad Juárez, Tijuana, Veracruz, Durango, León, Querétaro, Tampico, Mérida (meh-ree-dah),and Puebla (pwe-blah). Most of the country’s manufacturing capacity is located in and aroundMexico City. Ciudad Juárez, a large border city with the United States, in the state of Chihuahua (thelargest state in the country) is a major source of trade and transportation with its sister city, ElPaso in Texas. Despite being a growing industrial centre (with more than 300 maquiladoras orassembly plants), the city has the reputation of being ‘the most violent zone in the world outsideof declared war zones.’ The Juárez-El Paso border is a major point of entry and transportation forthe entire central north Mexico. The heavy presence of drug cartels has posed a major problemfor the city which is a major centre of narcotics trafficking, linked to the powerful Juárez Cartel.It has largely been in the international news for the sexual violence and the more than 1000unsolved murders of young women since 1993; the alleged involvement of police, governmentofficials and local elites in the murders are cited as the main reason for the lack of justice. Monterrey located in the northern border state of Nuevo León, is the centre of Mexico’siron and steel industry. This third largest city (the second largest is Guadalajara), Monterrey issecond only to the capital in its concentration of important, capital-intensive industries, and is asignificant channel of commerce, linking Mexico to the United States. The country’s main ports include Tampico, Altamira, Tuxpan, Veracruz, Progreso, 45
  33. 33. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldMazatlán, Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas. The Mexico City International Airport, also calledBenito Juárez International Airport, is the largest and busiest airport in Latin America with aflow of 32 million passengers per year. Aeroméxico and Mexicana are two of Mexico’sinternationally known airline companies. Most of the country’s passenger transportation isserved by an extensive bus network with several dozen companies operating on different routes.Inter-city train service is very limited or almost non-existent while inner-city train service isavailable at Mexico City with the operation of the metro, as well as a suburban train connectingthe adjacent municipalities of Greater Mexico City. It is also available to a small extent inGuadalajara and Monterrey. Mexico is the world’s second largest producer of construction materials. The Mexicanautomotive industry is also internationally reputed for its quality standards. General Motors, Fordand Chrysler have been operating in the country since the 1930s, while Volkswagen and Nissanbuilt their plants in the 1960s. Toyota, Honda, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz joined later. ManyEuropean and Asian parts suppliers have also moved to Mexico. In Puebla alone, around seventyindustrial part-makers are clustered around the Volkswagen plant. Currently, the world’s richest man is Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, the owner of GrupoCarso, a top conglomerate of companies with holdings in mining; manufacture of metals, cablesand wires, plastic pipe, automobile tires and parts, tiles, paper tissues, cement, and cigarettes;computer-related services; and department stores and restaurants. Among its many acquisitions isSanborns, the large department store chain and its restaurants which have been in business since 46
  34. 34. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World1903. Some of the other top Mexican business groups include Telmex, the top provider oftelecommunication products and services; Cemex, the third largest cement conglomerate in theworld; Grupo México, the country’s largest mining corporation and third largest copper producerin the world; Grupo Modelo, the Mexican beer giant and the sixth largest brewer worldwide;Televisa, the largest Mexican television network which is also the largest producer of Spanish-language content and Spanish-language media network in the world; FEMSA, the largestbeverage company in Mexico which apart from owning breweries, OXXO (the biggestconvenience store chain in Latin America) and C.F. Monterrey, a First Division Mexican soccerteam, is also the second-largest Coca-Cola bottler in the world; Gruma, the largest producer ofcorn flour and tortillas in the world; and Grupo Bimbo, the biggest Mexican food corporationand fifth largest in the world, as well as the largest bakery in the world.Education & TechnologyThe largest and most prestigious public university in Mexico is the Universidad NacionalAutónoma de México, UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) founded in 1910.Three Mexican Nobel laureates and most of Mexicos modern-day presidents are among itsformer students. The university is one of the most important institutes of higher learning inMexico and apart from providing world class education in science, medicine, and engineering, it 47
  35. 35. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldalso conducts an astounding 50% of the country’s scientific research. A global top rankinguniversity, UNAM is also the highest ranked Hispanic university in the world and the highestranked in Latin America. It has presence all across the country with satellite campuses andresearch centres. The second largest university in the country is the Instituto PolitécnicoNacional, IPN (National Polytechnic Institute), also a public university. The oldest privateuniversity in Mexico is the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UAG), which was foundedin 1935. One of the most prestigious private universities is the Instituto Tecnológico y deEstudios Superiores de Monterrey, ITESM (Monterrey Institute of Technology and HigherEducation) commonly shortened as Tecnológico de Monterrey (Monterrey Institute ofTechnology) or Tec de Monterrey (Monterrey Tech). Based in Monterrey, the Institute is one ofthe largest private multi-campus universities in Latin America with 33 campuses in 25 citiesthroughout the country. It is also one of the top graduate business schools in Latin America. Mexico has made significant progress in science and technology. In recent years, thebiggest scientific project developed in the country was the construction of the Gran TelescopioMilimétrico (Large Millimeter Telescope), the world’s largest and most sensitive single-aperturetelescope in its frequency range. It was designed to observe regions of space obscured by stellardust. The Mexican Space Agency, Agencia Espacial Mexicana (AEXA) was formed in July 2010.Mexico is also a producer of microprocessors and chip sets producing these systems for bothdomestic corporations and foreign companies such as AMD and Intel. 48
  36. 36. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldTourismMexico is the eighth most visited country in the world and the number one destination within theLatin American region with over 20 million tourists every year. Tourism helps to sustain thecountry’s economic growth during times when growth is slow in other economic sectors. Mexico’s most important tourist destinations, other than the capital city itself, are itsnumerous beach resorts, archaeological zones and the biosphere reserves. The country boasts ofnearly 12% of the worlds biodiversity with over 200,000 different species. Around170,000 square kilometres have been declared as ‘Protected Natural Areas.’ Acapulco, Cancún, and Los Cabos are famous world-class beach destinations. Otherfavourite tourist centres include Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas, Tijuana,Guadalajara and Puebla. The central and south-east region attracts the bulk of tourist activitywith numerous archaeological zones and scenic landscapes. In the south-east region, the mainattractions are the remnants of the Maya World spread across the five states of Quintana Roo,Yucatán, Campeche, Tabasco and Chiapas. Some of the world’s largest forest reserves arelocated in the Sierra Madre ranges, and in the rainy, tropical regions of the Yucatán Peninsulaand the Chiapas Highlands. Mexico also boasts of two of the worlds top three largest pyramids:The Pyramid of Quetzalcóatl in Cholula, near the colonial town of Puebla and the Pirámide delSol (Pyramid of the Sun) in Teotihuacán. 49
  37. 37. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World The Central Highlands, the most populous region of Mexico has many colonial citieswhich were built near silver mines by the Spanish conquistadores. The main attractions of thisregion are the architecture, the views, and some excellent local cuisine. One of the most populardriving circuits is the one following the so-called Independence Route, a 1400 km long road,along which can be traced Mexico’s historic struggle for independence. It links all of the majorcolonial cities in Central Mexico. The arid and sparsely populated north is heavily influenced by the neighbouring US anddominated by industrial cities such as Monterrey. The main attraction of this region is LaBarranca del Cobre or the Copper Canyon (four times larger than the Grand Canyon in theUnited States) located in the south-western part of Chihuahua in the Sierra Madre Occidentalmountain range. The famous ‘Chepe’ train makes a spectacular 13-hour journey through thisregion.Country’s ProblemsLike all other developing countries of the world, Mexico also suffers from many social problemslike poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and lack of healthcare facilities. Moreover, it also facesserious issues like drug trafficking, rampant corruption and illegal immigration. The high level ofurban crime in big cities is further aggravated by drug abuse and juvenile crime. Thousands of 50
  38. 38. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldskilled and unskilled workers migrate to the United States in search of employment, most ofthem illegally. Furthermore, it has to deal with thousands of impoverished Guatemalans andother Central Americans who cross the border looking for work in Mexico and the United States. Drug trafficking is a major problem. Mexico is a major producer and supplier ofnarcotics. The government conducts the largest independent illicit-crop eradication program inthe world, but Mexico continues being the primary transhipment country for US-bound cocainefrom South America. Many major drug cartels, with links to some of the politicians andbusinessmen, control the narcotic-trafficking network in the country. 51
  39. 39. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World 4 THE SPANISH CONQUESTOne of the first Europeans to explore the Americas, Christopher Columbus mistakenly referredto the natives of the Americas as Indians, thinking that he had arrived in India. Although hecorrected himself subsequently, the natives continued to be called as ‘Indios’ or Indians. Duringthe course of his third journey, Columbus came into contact with the Maya. In one of his earliestletters to the Queen of Spain, Christopher Columbus wrote: ‘Our European civilization willbring light to the natives in the darkness but for ourselves we will obtain gold and with gold wewill be able to do what we want.’ For the Spaniards, Mexico was a new land to explore for gold and silver and also tospread Christianity. Their ardent lust for gold and the intense zeal to convert people toCatholicism led the Spanish to destroy the rich ancient civilizations of the Aztec, Maya and ofthe Inca in Peru. The barbarities perpetrated by the Spanish in the wake of their victories,including the inhuman torture publicly inflicted on the vanquished royalty, were rarelydocumented. 107
  40. 40. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World The Spanish expansion in the Americas began with the establishment of permanentsettlements in the Caribbean Sea, including the city of Santo Domingo (now the capital of theDominican Republic) and outposts on the island of Cuba. These settlements made it possible forthe Spaniards to explore the Mexican mainland and return back to their island outposts. One of the expeditions in the Gulf Coast encountered friendly Maya people who toldthem of a powerful empire to the west. The tales of a powerful and wealthy native Indian empirelocated in the interior of Mexico, were relayed to Cuba. This resulted in the sailing of theexpedition commanded by the conquistador Hernán Cortés. The conquest of Mexico, a great and tragic history, began on Good Friday, on the 22nd ofApril, 1519 when Cortés landed on the coast near present-day Veracruz City. His first move onlanding, was to organize an independent government, renounce the authority of the Governor ofCuba and acknowledge only the supreme authority of the Spanish monarchy. In order to preventany of his men from deserting because of these actions, Cortés destroyed his fleet. On the coasthe met Malinche, a Spanish-speaking indigenous woman who soon became his lover andinterpreter. She was soon to become one of the most important figures in the history of theSpanish Conquest. Cortés set off on the 200 mile march inland towards the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlánwith around 500 men, a few horses, attack dogs and cannons. His single mission: to defeat theAztec and take their gold. Because of deep resentment against the Aztec rule, and internal strife within the far-flung 108
  41. 41. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldAztec Empire, the Spanish conquistadores were able to form alliances with a number ofindigenous groups, the most important among them being the people from Tlaxcala, a city east ofthe Tenochtitlán. The ruler of the Aztec Empire at the time of the Conquest, Moctezuma, had receivedreports of the earlier Spanish explorations and battles with the natives. He could have easilydestroyed the Spaniards on their arrival. Instead he ordered his subjects along the region to greetthe foreigners, offer them a large feast and gifts of gold and jewellery, and then ask them toleave. He was heavily influenced by legends and religious omens predicting future destruction. The arrival of Cortés coincided with the predicted date for the return of the angryQuetzalcóatl, their sacred god who had vowed to return and exact his revenge by destroying hisenemies. Since the invaders were fair-skinned and bearded, as was Quetzalcóatl, and they hadcome from the east, where the deity had vanished, he thought that their God had arrived. He sentmessengers bearing gifts of gold and jewels with the hope that they would leave, but the wealthfurther inflamed the greed of the Spanish. In October 1519, the Spaniards and several thousand of their allies, marched intoCholula, an ancient city devoted to Quetzalcóatl. With the assistance of the Tlaxcala army, theymassacred more than 3,000 of the city’s inhabitants. When Cortés marched towards Tenochtitlán, his combined army of Spanish and nativeIndians was vastly outnumbered by the Aztec warriors. Nevertheless, Moctezuma chose not tofight them and instead invited them to the Aztec capital. On November 18, 1519, the Spaniards 109
  42. 42. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldentered Tenochtitlán as Moctezuma’s guests. The Spanish soldiers were put up in a building andwere allowed to wander through the city, where they found a lot of gold and other treasures inthe city’s storehouses. Despite the friendly reception given to the Spaniards, Cortés seized Moctezuma as ahostage, forced him to swear allegiance to the king of Spain, Carlos I, and demanded anenormous ransom in gold and jewels. Driven by lust for gold, they melted down irreplaceableworks of art by the ton into gold slabs. In April 1520, Cortés received news about the arrival of an expedition on the Gulf Coastto arrest and send him back to Cuba. Leaving 200 men at Tenochtitlán under the command ofPedro de Alvarado, Cortés marched with a small force to the coast. He entered the Spanish campat night, captured the leader, and persuaded the majority of the Spaniards to join his army. Meanwhile, in Tenochtitlán, a group of priests were killed by the Spaniards during areligious ceremony. This provoked their hosts beyond endurance and the soldiers were placedunder siege in their quarters. According to Spanish records, Moctezuma was stoned to death byhis own people while attempting to appeal for peace. Cortés, with his reinforcements, fought hisway back into the city but soon had to flee in the middle of the night. Fleeing across a causeway,the Spaniards were chased by Aztec warriors and attacked on both sides by the Aztec in canoes.More than half the Spaniards were killed, all their cannons were lost, and most of the treasurethey attempted to carry out was abandoned or lost in the lake and canals. The Aztec pursued theretreating Spanish troops, but the survivors managed to find refuge in Tlaxcala where they 110
  43. 43. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldregrouped. The final assault on Tenochtitlán began in January 1521, with more supplies and freshtroops, tens of thousands of whom were from Tlaxcala and other regions. Cortés then began hisreturn to the capital, capturing Aztec outposts along the way and subduing Aztec settlementsaround Lake Texcoco. By May 1521, the island capital of Tenochtitlán was isolated andsurrounded. Artillery mounted on ships bombarded the city whose food and fresh water supplieshad been cut. To make matters worse, the besieged city was ravaged by an epidemic of Smallpoxbrought by the Spaniards. The Aztec managed to hold out for three months under the commandof the new king, Cuauhtémoc. On August 13, 1521, Tenochtitlán finally fell to the Spanishconquistadores.The Post - Conquest scenarioIn less than two hours, Cortés is said to have slaughtered six thousand people who had gatheredin a temple patio. All the Aztec nobles and elite were put to death. On his entry into theconquered capital, Cortés later wrote: ‘You could not put down your foot without stepping on anIndian corpse.’ More than 40,000 decomposed bodies littered the destroyed city and bloatedcorpses floated in canals and the lake. Destruction of the other Aztec cities soon followed and itwas so complete that almost everything lay in ruins. A fabulous city and its empire had come to a 111
  44. 44. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldviolent end. If the history of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica is obscure, it is because immediately afterthe conquest, the first Bishop of New Spain (Mexico), Juan de Zumarraga, burned all thehistorical records which were deemed ‘the work of the Devil.’ Religious fanatics destroyed allthe temples and statues. Zumarraga wrote to his superiors in 1531 that he alone had five hundredtemples razed to the ground and twenty thousand idols destroyed. The conquistadores not only destroyed almost all the records and literature of theMesoamerican civilizations, but they also distorted its portrayal by focusing upon its bad featuresand magnifying them out of proportion. For instance, the human sacrifice practiced by the Aztecwas repeatedly stressed without explaining its extenuating features. Human sacrifice was notunknown in Europe and Rome. The Spanish played this down or simply forgot to mention theirown misdeeds and uncivilized inhuman behaviour against the indigenous people inMesoamerica. After the conquest, the first tasks for the Spaniards were of reconstruction, appeasementand conversion. Tenochtitlán was pillaged and burned to the ground and its people were drivenout. In a deliberate policy of destroying all reminders of Aztec power, the remaining stones wereused in the construction of the new city, Mexico City. Hundreds of towns were laid outaccording to a plan drawn up in Spain, with a plaza surrounded by a grid of streets. Catholicmissionaries who had entered the country with the Spanish conquistadores immediately beganthe task of converting the native Indians to Christianity. Mass conversions became a daily 112
  45. 45. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldoccurrence. The missionaries built many monasteries and converted millions of people toCatholicism. Thousands of churches were built (by 1800, the count reached 12,000), often inareas that had been sacred to the Indians, on top of their pyramids or on the foundations of thosedestroyed. When the Spaniards arrived, the native population of central Mexico was at least 25million; by the beginning of the 19th century it dwindled to just six million and only half of thesewere pure-blooded natives. A majority of them died as a result of successive epidemics ofdiseases brought by the Spanish colonists against which the indigenous people had no naturalimmunity. With few survivors, the burden of labour placed on them kept increasing as theSpanish never did any manual labour themselves. Although Cortés conquered the Aztec in a year, it took another 25 years to conquer theMaya of Yucatán Peninsula. After the conquest, the burning of religious manuscripts began andcontinued for decades. The Maya library in Yucatán, which guarded invaluable ancientmanuscripts, was reduced to ashes in 1562. In the same year, Fray Diego de Landa, a Franciscanmonk made a huge bonfire of all Maya manuscripts and idols in the public squares of Mani inYucatán. These books contained what would now be priceless information on ancient history,mythology, medicine, astronomy, science, religion, and philosophy. The destruction of icons andhieroglyphics obliterated the Maya language forever. Those who were unwilling to give up theirfaith even after tremendous torture were burned to death. According to early accounts, Spanisheye witnesses reported that ‘De Landa hung Mayas with big stones tied to their feet and flogged 113
  46. 46. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya Worldthem and if they still didnt renounce their tin gods, they were showered with burning wax’. Hisbarbarities resulted in his recall to Spain, but he managed to return and went on to become thefirst Bishop of Yucatán. After his return, he wrote Relación de las cosas de Yucatán (‘Details ofYucatán’) which gave a detailed account of the way of life of the Maya in Yucatán. Book burning and human torture gained momentum with the formal introduction of theSpanish Inquisition in the New World (or New Spain) in 1571. The Inquisition, a judicialinstitution established in Europe during the Middle Age, persecuted all those who held beliefs oropinions that disagreed with the official church doctrine. They were branded heretics and burnedat the stake. The Inquisition also banned books that the church considered to be heretical. TheSpaniards, through book burning and killings, successfully converted the Maya Indians leavingvery little trace of their rich civilization. They found pleasure in inventing all kinds of oddcruelties. A Spanish priest, Bartolome de las Casas in his book ‘The Devastation of the Indies’gave an eyewitness account of how men, women and children were burned alive ‘thirteen at atime in memory of Our Redeemer and his twelve apostles.’ He described butcher shops that soldhuman flesh for dog food (‘Give me a quarter of that rascal there,’ one customer says, ‘until Ican kill some more of my own’). He wrote: ‘Slave ship captains navigate without need ofcompass or charts, following instead the trail of floating corpses tossed overboard by the shipbefore them. Native kings are promised peace, and then slaughtered. Whole families hangthemselves in despair. The papacy empowered the two crowns (Spanish and Portuguese) toconquer and even enslave pagans inimical to the name of Christ.’ 114
  47. 47. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World The plight of the Maya Indians was miserable. They were moved into villages and forcedto pay heavy taxes. Still, they showed themselves to be very resistant to the Spanish rule – andlater the newly-independent Mexican State – by resorting to periodic rebellions.Colonial MexicoAn important aspect of the economy of colonial Mexico was the exploitation of the indigenouspeople who performed much of the farming, mining, and ranching work in the colony. AlthoughSpain had decreed that the natives were free and entitled to wages, they were often treated littlebetter than slaves. Their plight was initially the result of the encomienda (the predecessor to thehacienda) system, by which Spanish settlers were granted land and native Indians to convertthem (the native labour) to Christianity and to work them on their large land holdings. Anothersystem of forced labour was the repartimiento (division) which required indigenous communitiesto supply a quota of workers that would be available for hire by the Spanish settlers. The nativesslaved in the ports of Veracruz and Acapulco, and in mines, factories, plantations, and sugarmills. Some worked as household servants in urban areas. Because of their forced dependence onthe landowners, and zero resistance to foreign ailments, the Indians were riddled with debt anddisease even after Spain abolished slavery in 1548. Another characteristic of colonial Mexico was the position and power of the Catholic 115
  48. 48. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldChurch which affected virtually every aspect of life. Missionaries set up hospitals, monasteries,and schools in urban areas, and established missions all across the country. They expandedSpanish control over the natives, introducing Spanish culture and language while convertingthem to Christianity. In the beginning, the Church championed indigenous rights but later it grewmore concerned with money. Any attempt to treat the natives as humans was, in any case,violently opposed by the Spanish landowners to whom they were less than machines. By the endof the colonial era, the Church owned more than half of all the land and wealth in the country. Although colonial Mexico was the wealthiest of all the Spanish colonies, its riches wereconfined to the local elite and the imperialists in Spain. Ruled directly from Spain, it was heavilytaxed and permitted absolutely no autonomy. The social class consisted of a caste system withgachupines (those born in Spain but living in Mexico) at the top, the criollos (crioh-yoh) orcreoles, born in Mexico of Spanish blood in the next level, followed by the mixed-race mestizopopulation. At the bottom were the mass of indios and people of African descent. All thepolitical and administrative positions as well as those of the Church, were occupied by thegachupines. Trade and industry were promoted with the philosophy of ‘what is good for Spain is goodfor Mexico.’ Infrastructure was inadequate and the only proper road in 1800 was the one thatconnected Acapulco with Mexico City and the port city of Veracruz. This made it easy totransport goods from the Spanish colonies in the Far East to Spain. 116
  49. 49. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya WorldA Big HI to all my readers! Thank you very much for reading the extracts of this eBook. I’msure you enjoyed reading the sample chapters :-) Now you can read the remaining 6 chapters ofthis eBook (of 140 pages) in PDF format at just US$ 7.97 or the equivalent cost in your currency.With over 75 coloured photographs, and black and white political and geographical sketch mapsof Mexico, this insightful eBook will appeal to every person interested in learning about Mexico– aficionados, travellers and scholars.Just click on https://thegr8wall.wordpress.com/mexico-the-country-its-history-the-maya-worldand go through the instructions.To buy the eBook, click on the “Add To Cart” button on the sidebar. A new window will opendisplaying the cost of the eBook. If you’re interested in buying my other eBooks too, click on therelevant buttons. To make the payment, click on the “Checkout With PayPal” button and youwill be directed to the PayPal site where you have to enter your credit card details. In case, youhave a PayPal account you just have to log in to your account to complete the purchase.On making the payment, you will receive the download link to the eBook through email.For those in India, you may place your order for the eBook (at Rs 435) by sending an emailto mexicobooks@gmail.com or thepicbookmexico@gmail.com along with your name, address,email and phone number.If you’ve any questions, please do not hesitate to send an emailto mexicobooks@gmail.com or thepicbookmexico@gmail.comCheers :-)Swarupa

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