Archaeologists are unsure when mankind was first present in the area we know today as Mexico, but it is likely that there were settlements at least 13,000 years ago.
Before the Spanish arrived and conquered the area there were a number of highly sophisticated civilisations occupying different parts of the country. The Olmec appear to have been around between 1400 and 400 B.C. while the Teotihuacan in their magnificent city thrived from 100 B.C. to sometime into the 700s A.D. The Toltec were present between 800 and 1000 A.D.
But the two major civilisations which brought us magnificent cultural artefacts and buildings were the Aztecs who lasted from the 1100s to about 1520 A.D. and the Mayans who first appeared in the Yucatan Peninsula sometime around 2000 B.C. and thrived until the late 800s A.D. The Mayans were more decentralised than most and continued to be a formidable presence though until 1697 when the last of them were subdued by the Spanish.
The Spanish first appeared on the scene in 1519 when they took on the Aztecs. It took them several centuries to fully control the area, but by 1803 the Viceroyalty of New Spain spread from what is now Costa Rica in the south and far north into the present day United States of America.
By the late 1700s the natives were restless and the abortive Conspiracy of the Machetes in 1799 was only the precursor for a more violent rebellion. The Mexican War of Independence started in 1810 and was to last for eleven years. Along the way there were a number of charismatic leaders who lost their lives and many battles as well as guerrilla warfare. The final commander who was to bring victory to the Mexicans was Colonel Agustín de Iturbide who marched his rebels into Mexico City in a final show of force.
The Treaty of Córdova, which finally brought independence for Mexico, was signed on 24th August 1821. Soon after Congress declared Iturbide Emperor of Mexico. On 31st October Iturbide dissolved Congress but he was not to be emperor for long. In fact Iturbide lasted from 19th May 1822 to 19th March 1823 when republican forces demanded his abdication and exile. This he did and in March 1823 he reopened Congress and left for Europe. A year later he returned, was tried and executed as a traitor although subsequently his name was cleansed and today his remains rest in Mexico City Cathedral.
The United Mexican States was declared on 4th March 1824 which included the modern day US states of California, New Mexico and Texas. The next few years were epitomized by political unrest and coups.
There were also strong men who dominated the political scene. These include Antonio López de Santa Anna who saw off Iturbide, Benito Juárez who was five times the president of Mexico in the 1850s and 1860s and Porfirio Diaz who was president almost continuously from 1876 to 1911.
There were wars as well; the Texas War of Independence (1835 – 1836), the Mexican American War (1846 – 1848) which saw California and New Mexico go to the USA, the War of Reform (1857 – 1861) and the Franco Mexican War (1861 – 1867).
Porfirio Diaz, although a dictator did bring in a period of relative peace, but the Mexican Revolution saw his departure in 1911 and didn’t end until the early 1920s. The peace was short lived and in 1926 until 1929 the Cristero War shook the country.
In 1929 the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) came to power. They were to change their name to the Party of the Mexican Revolution (PRM) in 1938 and then the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 1946, the name they have retained ever since. From 1929 until 2000 the PRI were the Mexican government. They ruled virtually challenged until the 1980s and only then did their grip on power start to slip.
President Lázaro Cárdenas came to power in 1934 and was the architect of the PRIs rise to power for the next seventy years. From 1930 through to the 1970s Mexico’s economy boomed and is sometimes described as the ‘Mexican Economic Miracle’. From 1970 onwards, though, the economic miracle started to collapse, partly through poor economic management and partly through widespread corruption. The result was that the PRI started to be challenged electorally.
In 1988 they nearly lost the election, but in 1991 they recovered and it wasn’t until the election of 2000 that the PRI finally lost power to the Alliance for Change, an alliance made up of the National Action Party (PAN) and the Green Ecological Party of Mexico (PVEM). The Alliance for Change presidential candidate Vicente Fox became the new president and the Alliance for Change became the largest group in the upper House or Senate with 60 of the 128 seats and the lower house or Chamber of Deputies with 224 of 500 seats.
A year after the election the PVEM left the alliance and PAN has struggled since to maintain a parliamentary majority, with the PRI becoming the largest party in the Chamber of deputies in 2003 and in 2009. However the PAN candidate, Felipe Calderón, did win the 2006 presidential election albeit by a wafer thin majority.
The President is elected for a single six year term.
The bicameral parliament or congress is made up of the lower house 500 member of Chamber of Deputies elected for three years. 300 elected from single member constituencies and 200 selected from 5 multi-state, 40 seat constituencies by proportional representation. The majority party is limited to 300 seats. The upper house has 128 Senators elected to the Chamber of Senators to serve six year terms; 96 in three member constituencies and 32 by nationwide proportional representation.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Mexico at joint 123rd out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 30 (where 10 is least corrupt).