The flag of Mexico, to remember the colors think of a watermelon, green on the outside, followed by white and red.
The Invasion by Cortés [top]
If there is one thing that Mexico has experienced more than just about any other country in the Western hemisphere, it is conquest. Starting with the Spanish under Cortés, the French under Maximilian, the US Army under General Winfield Scott, and finally at their own hands, under several bloody revolutions. I think that this history of conquest has left a legacy of fatalism and resignation to accept the status quo in today's Mexican population. It all started, as far as "European" history is concerned, with the arrival of Hernán Cortés in 1519. It is hard to believe that Cortés, starting with 400 men and a few horses
While this is technically true, it is certainly not the whole story. Cortes had a lot of help from local peoples who hated the Aztec rule. Also, the Aztec empire, while generally situated in what we now call Mexico, certainly did not extend to the current borders of Mexico. In particular, Mazatlán was not part of the Aztec Empire.
managed to conquer an empire of millions, but it happened. Even harder to believe is that the final battle, in which Cortés captured the Aztec capital, which is today the site of Mexico City, was essentially a naval battle. In the middle of Mexico, hundreds of miles from the ocean, Cortés built a bunch of boats to cut off the island city of Tenochititlan, and once cut off eventually starved and slaughtered the residents into submission.
Mexico under Spanish Rule [top]
The Spanish rule was a nightmare for the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Even though in theory they were "free men," practically they were forced to work for either nothing or next to nothing. You see, the problem was that the Spanish nobles and priests were granted huge tracts of land and jurisdiction over all Indian residents. Bad news for the Indians. The Roman Catholic church was an enthusiastic supporter of this system. It too had been granted huge tracts of land and exploited the Indians mercilessly. In 1859, when the holdings of the church was nationalized, they owned approximately one third of all the property and land of Mexico. This helps explain why even today, Rome is considered with great suspicion my Mexicans in general.
The Invasion by the United States [top]
As an American, for me the most surprising and I guess shocking discovery about Mexican history was the role that the United States played in conquering her southern neighbor. During the period from 1835 to 1853, Mexico wound up losing half of her territory to the US. It started when Mexico decided to outlaw slavery in a place called Texas, then part of Mexico. Well the folks in Texas wanted their slaves, and declared independence and in 1845 became a state in the Union. Fighting began in 1846, and in 1848 Mexico surrendered after General Winfield Scott occupied Mexico City. Believe me, Mexicans remember the Alamo a lot more vividly than we do. As a result of the war, Mexico lost what we today call California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. Not a small chunk, if I say so myself.
The Invasion by Maximilian of France [top]
After the American conquest, and Indian named Benito Juarez emerged to become the biggest influence in Mexican politics. He was liberal, which upset the very conservative church and high Spanish officials. As provisional president Juarez began reforming. He took away the Roman Catholic church's property, created a separation between church and state, promoted freedom of speech, and other civil liberties. Then, after being elected president in 1861, he decided to suspend interest payments on the foreign loans incurred by previous governments. (Sound familiar?) Well, ripping off the church and letting a bunch of peasants speak up is one thing, but welshing on your debts is quite another. A coalition of France, Great Britain, and Spain decided to jump in and "protect" their investments. The main force behind this was Napoleon III of France, who sent Maximilian, the archduke of Austria, to take over Mexico. Maximilian was installed by the French army, and some conservative Mexicans who had had enough of Juarez's reforms. Here another stranger than fiction event takes place. Maximilian insisted that he would only accept the crown if he was approved by the Mexican people. Puzzled by this request, the conservative Mexicans indulged him and promptly organized a plebiscite. With the French army watching, and the native population ignorant and apathetic, the election was held. Maximilian was pleased when the generals told him that his emperorship had been overwhelmingly approved. (Sound familiar?) We'll fast forward a few years later and find our emperor Maximilian at the wrong end of a firing squad. C'est la vie.
Mexico Today [top]
From here we will fast forward to today. Once again Mexico finds herself in the midst of a crisis. This time it is mainly economic, even though there is some military action going on in the state of Chiapas. My personal view is that Mexico will emerge a stronger and better country. The economic crisis is real, but is getting under control as we speak. I assure you that should you decide to visit Mexico, you will find a country not in turmoil, but a land of friendly, hard working people, doing the best they can with the resources they have available. The pace is slower, the selection of products is more limited, and people don't always show up when they promise, but the Mexico that I have seen is basically modern, hard working, gracious, and friendly.
A brief history of the Mazatlán Area [top]
Mazatlán was originally settled by the Spaniards in 1531, and was a major port and village on the Pacific coast. Before the Spanish, it was settled by the native Indians, called the Totorames. They were hunters and fisherman, and adept at making clay vases and figures. The Spanish put an and to all of that. A crazy Spaniard named Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, driven by an intense jealousy of Cortés, slaughtered the innocent natives of Mazatlán, for the greater glory of Spain. Next the conquistador Francisco de Ibarra discovered gold and sliver in the hills above Mazatlán. In 1603 pirates began dominating the waters around Mazatlán. There was hardly a better prize for the likes of Drake and Cavendish than a Spanish galleon filled with gold and silver from the mines of Copala, just outside Mazatlán. The city was incorporated in 1806, and a few years later, in the 1830s, the municipal government was established and Mazatlán began to grow as a seaport. A German immigration led to the growth of the port, and international trade blossomed. Even today there are many German names here in Mazatlán, and it is not uncommon to find Mazatlán residents whose second language is German. In 1847, during the Mexican, American war, the US army marched down the coast and closed the port. The French also bombarded the port in 1864, during their conquest. Since then it has become the home of one of the largest tuna and shrimp fishing fleets in the world. It is also a world class tourist resort, with nice hotels and restaurants opening all the time.

For a different slant on some Mexican history, you may wish to learn about the people who appear on the current crop of peso notes. They range from revolutionaries to nuns, and provide an interesting glimpse into the national heroes of Mexico.

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