a product message image
{' '} {' '}
Limited time offer
SAVE % on your upgrade

Page 1


MEXICO: THE COUNTRY, ITS HISTORY & THE MAYA WORLD By SWARUPA N. OVALEKAR Self-Published Edition Copyright © Swarupa N. Ovalekar 2010 All 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 of the copyright holder.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-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 eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to https://www.facebook.com/TheEpicBookMEXICO or the author’s blog at https://thegr8wall.wordpress.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Warning/Disclaimer This eBook is designed to provide information about the subject matter covered. It should be used only as a general guide and not as the ultimate source for information on Mexico. Although the author/publisher has used best efforts in preparing this book and making it as complete and as accurate as possible, no responsibility is assumed for errors or omissions. Furthermore, this book contains information 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 or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly 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


To my family for their love and support


CONTENTS ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

5

POLITICAL MAP OF MEXICO

6

GEOGRAPHICAL MAP OF MEXICO

7

1

INTRODUCTION TO MEXICO

29

2

ANCIENT MEXICO

52

3

THE MAYA WORLD

72

4

THE SPANISH CONQUEST

107

5

THE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT

117

6

INDEPENDENT MEXICO

120

7

THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION

126

8

MODERN MEXICO

131

PHOTO SECTION I

8

PHOTO SECTION II

63

PHOTO SECTION III

101


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Swarupa got into book writing in 2008. This was four months after her return from Mexico where she had spent nearly nine months, some of them travelling solo across the country. She dedicated a year and a half to her labour of love – an epic book on Mexico – which she finally completed in June 2010. Hoping to get her book ‘Mexico’ published in the traditional way, she waited 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 ‘The Blue-Eyed Prince Of Natlife’. In January 2012, she created a Facebook page for her book, got her book edited and converted it into a three book series on Mexico titled ‘Discovering Mexico’, ‘Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World’, and ‘A Guide To Mexican Cuisine’. In mid-September, she finally decided to self-publish all her books.

1


Apart from her books, Swarupa is an intrepid traveller and a polyglot. She speaks English, Spanish, German, French, Italian and Indian languages like Marathi and Hindi. She is a passionate 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 markets‌there 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


quick thinking, and ingenuity. When she explores new places and meets new people, she paints each of them with rich descriptions. Her incurable wanderlust leads her on a three-week adventurous trail covering 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 inexhaustibly interesting country. This immensely pleasurable and entertaining eBook falls into many categories…it is about Mexico, Mexican memoirs, Mexican travel, Mexican history and culture, Mexican food and drinks and of course – Mexicans! With more than 100 coloured photographs, black and white political and geographical sketch maps of Mexico, a black and white sketch map of Swarupa’s three-week trip, black and white sketch maps of the seven southern states and two extensive glossaries – of Spanish words used in this book and their Mexican 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


used in this book and their Mexican Spanish pronunciation – and a few simple and easy recipes of popular Mexican 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-eyed Sid Oberoi, is different. He doesn’t question her intelligence only her impulsive nature. She finds herself battling 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, he bolts. He’s not interested in commitment. So why does he harbour strong, unfamiliar feelings for the feisty Mexican? On learning about the bitter experiences of her past, he’s determined to ensure that she doesn’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 and room in his house. But, is he ready to offer her a place in his heart?

4


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This book is one of my three book series on Mexico, a labour of love and dedication that began in 2008. The long and lonely period of this project saw me working endless hours at the computer and I owe my eternal gratitude to my family for understanding and accepting this without a fuss. To my father who made my ‘Mexican Experience’ possible for me, without which 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 Honourable Gloria Guevara, Minister of Tourism for Mexico, for their warm appreciation and valuable support to my project. The photographs in this book have been used with the permission of their copyright holders. Credits have been given to all the photographs, except those of my own. My special thanks to the copyright holders for allowing me to reproduce their photographs: The Mexican Tourism 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


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

A view of Mexico City Photo credit: Š CPTM: Foto / Ricardo Espinosa-reo

The iconic cathedral of Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

Sand dunes of Bilbao in Coahuila Photo credit: © CPTM: Foto / Ricardo Espinosa-reo

The Sea of Cortez in La Paz, Baja California Sur Photo credit: © CPTM: Foto / Ricardo Espinosa-reo


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

A charro (Mexican cowboy) performing in a charreada, a Mexican rodeo competition Photo credit: Š Paty Rodriguez

TeotihuacĂĄn, the most-visited archaeological zone in Mexico


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

The archaeological zone of Templo Mayor in Mexico City Photo credit: © TravelerosMX

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, El Castillo (Castle) of Chichén Itzá, in Yucatán


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

1 INTRODUCTION TO MEXICO

What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you hear the word ‘Mexico’? Is it cactus and desert? Sombrero? Tequila? Cancun and Acapulco? Mexican food? Maya civilization? More than that, Mexico (México ‘meh-hee-koh’ in Spanish) is a multicultural country with gorgeous beaches, ancient pyramids, beautiful landscapes, natural and ecological wonders and a colourful history. The country boasts of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and about 24 UNESCO-declared World Cultural Heritage sites. It is also the most populous Spanishspeaking 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 traditions and modern industrialization. The country is part of the North American continent and is located directly 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 the west and south.

29


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

Covering almost two million square kilometres, the ‘United Mexican States’ (its official name) is the fifth-largest country in the Americas by total area and the 14th largest independent nation 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 the neighbouring country. Mexico has 31 states and a Federal District (Distrito Federal), where the capital, Mexico City, commonly called ‘DF’ (dey-efe) is located. The estimated population of the country is 111 million, of which approximately 75 percent live in urban areas. Over 20 million people live in the 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 state and government is the president, directly elected to a non-renewable six-year term. It has two legislative houses, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Since the establishment of the modern constitution in 1917, a single party, the PRI, ruled over the country till 2000, when the right-wing opposition party PAN won the national elections. In 2006, the PAN party again won the elections bringing the present President Felipe Calderón to power. The Mexican flag has three equal vertical bands of green, white, and red. The coat of arms, which has an eagle with a snake in its beak perched on a nopal (noh-pahl) – the prickly pear cactus, is centred in the white band. The Mexican peso (MXN $) was the first currency in the world to use the ‘$’ sign, which was later adopted by the United States dollar. It is by far the most traded currency in Latin America. As of June 12, 2010, the US$-MXN$ exchange rate was

30


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

12.6741 Mexican pesos against one US dollar.

Geography From swamp to desert and from tropical lowland jungle to high alpine vegetation, Mexico has it all. Over half the country is located at an altitude greater than 1000 metres. An extremely mountainous country, the varied topography and climate in different regions has led to its regional diversity and uneven economic development. The north is largely arid and semi-desert with an extreme climate of very hot summers and very cold winters. In some northern regions, it snows. The south is tropical and heavily forested, with a hot and humid climate. The central region of the country with its mild climate, is the most developed. At times, the temperate forests of the central region experiences snowfall at higher altitudes. Overall, the climate throughout much of Mexico is characterized by high temperatures and moderate to low rainfall, with the rainy season lasting from June to September. Geographically, Mexico is divided into different physical regions: the immense Central Plateau, the Pacific Lowlands, the Gulf Coast Plains, the Yucatรกn (yoo-cah-tahn) Peninsula, the Southern Highlands, the Chiapas (chee-ah-pahs) Highlands, and the Baja (ba-ha) California Peninsula. The Central Plateau, which begins from the northern border with the United States, is

31


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

flanked by two great mountain ranges – the Sierra Madre Occidental in the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental in the east – that run down parallel to the narrow coastal plains. More than halfway down, they are crossed by the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt that extends 900 km from west to east across the central-southern region. Mexico City lies in this volcanic highland area, as do 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 (5,452 m) and Iztaccíhuatl (5,386 m), both of which are located near Mexico City; and the country’s highest peak, Pico de Orizaba (5,747 m), located north-west of the city of Veracruz. Due to the frequent seismic activity, earthquakes are fairly common in the capital city. In 1985 a major earthquake 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, windswept plateau flanked by the Occidental and Oriental chains of the Sierra Madre. Most of the population is gathered in several large cities like Chihuahua (chee-wah-wah), an important industrial 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 Anáhuac Valley or the Valley of Mexico. Situated close to the capital are the ruins of the pre-Hispanic cultures of central Mexico: the massive Pyramids of Teotihuacán (teo-tee-wah-kahn) and the Toltec capital at Tula. The Central Highlands, north of Mexico City, boast of many colonial towns like the silver-mining towns of Zacatecas and Guanajuato (gwah-nah-hwa-toh) and

32


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

historic centres like San Miguel de Allende (san mee-gel deh ah-yen-deh) and Querétaro (kehreh-tah-roh). To the north-west lie the beautiful states of Jalisco (ha-lees-koh) and Michoacán (meecho-ah-kahn). Between them, these two states share some of the most scenic country sights in Mexico along with a reputation for producing some of the finest traditional crafts. The beautiful historical state capitals of Guadalajara (gwah-dah-lah-ha-rah) and Morelia are a testimony to its rich cultural heritage. The Pacific Lowlands which lie between the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Pacific Ocean (including the Gulf of California) are home to famous resort cities like Mazatlán. The Gulf Coast plain between the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Gulf of Mexico is characterized by swampy lowlands and numerous lagoons. The country’s most important port, Veracruz, is located in this region, which is also the site of many of Mexico’s petroleum discoveries. This region gets abundant rainfall and is frequently prone to hurricanes that often cause extensive damage. 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 region without surface rivers while the southern Peninsula gets abundant rainfall and is covered by dense tropical rainforests. The famous international tourist destination, Cancún, is located along the eastern coast of the Yucatán in the state of Quintana Roo (keen-tah-nah roh). The eastern

33


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

peninsula 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 southern states of Oaxaca (wah-ha-cah) and Chiapas. It runs parallel to the Pacific coast, creating a rugged coastline where the mountains meet the sea. This is where one finds coastal resort cities like 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 of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Colima and Jalisco. The beautiful mountainous state of Oaxaca is home to some of the largest populations of pure indigenous groups. Its capital, Oaxaca City is one of the most enticing destinations in the country with an extraordinary mix of colonial and indigenous life, colourful markets and fascinating 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 favourite tourist destination. The region’s heavy rainfall feeds its numerous scenic waterfalls and the lush surroundings offer plenty of opportunities for adventure tourism. The indigenous cultures prevalent in this region, the beautiful town of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the picturesque Maya ruins of Palenque together with a number of lesser-known Maya ruins continue to dominate the

34


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

itinerary of most tourists. The west coast of Mexico incorporates the Baja California Peninsula, comprising of the two states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Stretching from the U.S. border south-east for 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 numerous American 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. This border is the most frequently crossed international border in the world, with 250 million legal crossings per year. At the southern tip of the peninsula in the state of Baja California Sur, lies the scenic tourist resort of Los Cabos, the popular destination of the rich and famous, especially from the neighbouring United States. Mexico follows three time zones. Most of the country follows Central Standard Time which 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 California follows Pacific Standard Time. The Central Time Zone is two hours ahead of the Pacific Time Zone, one hour ahead of the Mountain Time Zone.

35


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

People & Culture Mexico’s varied population reflects its rich history. Mexican people are genetically distinctive among the world's populations. They belong to diverse ancestral genetic groups. Those of European blood are mostly descendants of the first Spanish settlers but there are others of French, Italian, Portuguese, Basque, German, Irish, Polish, Romanian, Russian, and British descent from more recent migration. The majority of Mexicans are mixed-race mestizos who make up the core of the country’s cultural identity. After the Spanish Conquest, the intermingling of races and cultures led to the emergence of 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 had large families. Before the 19th century, the indigenous people accounted for nearly two-thirds of the population of the country. But later, the racial composition began to change from the distinct Spanish and indigenous population, to one made up largely of mestizos. Shortly after the Conquest and over the course of the colonial period, an estimated 200,000 African slaves were brought into central Mexico (though there is strong evidence proving the existence of Africans in Mexico over thousands of year prior to the arrival of the Spanish). Racial mixing and intermarriage produced a sizable population of mulattoes (of Spanish and African descent), as well as zambos, who were people of African and native Indian descent. By the end of the 19th

36


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

century, the mestizos formed the largest ethnic group in Mexico. Post-independence, Mexico had to gradually create a national identity. Being an ethnically diverse country, the only common element amongst the newly independent inhabitants was Catholicism. In 1925, José Vasconcelos in his publication La Raza Cósmica (The Cosmic Race), defined Mexico as the melting pot of all races, extending the definition of the mestizo not only biologically but culturally as well. He rejected Charles Darwin’s views on the problems of race mixture and instead proclaimed mestizos to be the highest form of human evolution. This new nationalist ideology, called Indigenismo (een-dee-heh-nees-moh), brought about the revalorization of Mexico's native heritage, including its indigenous cuisine based on corn. This exalting of mestizaje (mehs-tee-sah-heh) was a revolutionary idea that sharply contrasted with the 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 indigenous ancestry and 9% of direct Spanish ancestry. The remaining one percent comprises Africans intermarried 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 legally recognized languages. More than ten million people speak an indigenous language of which more than 1.6 million people (of Aztec descent) speak Nahuatl, the largest spoken indigenous language of the country. This is apart from the numerous languages spoken by immigrant groups who settled in Mexico centuries ago. Today, the country is home to the largest number of US

37


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

citizens abroad, representing almost 1% of the Mexican population, and 25% of all the US citizens abroad. There are many Central and South American immigrants too with the Argentine community 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 their traditional attire which distinguishes them from mestizos who generally wear American-style clothes. The indigenous community is mostly concentrated in the central, southern, and southeastern 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. Male chauvinism is commonly reflected in their culture. They have a great feeling of patriotism which is strongly visible in their Independence Day celebrations with main squares, commercial centres, etc. dressed in patriotic decorations of reds, whites and greens – Mexico’s official colours. Excluding Mexico City and the large cities in the northern states, the rest of the country is deeply religious and conservative. One of Mexico’s most important religious holidays, is the Dia de los Muertos (diah deh lohs mwehr-tohs) or Day of the Dead, celebrated on the 2nd of November, to honour the deceased. The roots of this tradition go back to ancient times. Although the day is passionately celebrated throughout the country, the traditional fervour is high in small towns. In the month of December, from the 16th to the 24th, Mexicans celebrate the traditional Posadas (‘Inns’). On each of these nights, processions go from door to door to re-enact Joseph and Mary's search for

38


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

an 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 of January. 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 Mexican musical groups. The mariachi musicians dressed in silver-studded charro (Mexican horsemen) outfits – usually black – and matching wide-brimmed hats play melodies and sing traditional folk songs. They can be seen playing in plazas, at parties, restaurants and weddings. They are often hired to serenade women, to sing Las Mañanitas (lahs mah-nyah-nee-tahs) or the Mexican birthday song, and during occasions like a quinceañera (kin-seh-ah-nyeh-rah) – a girl's fifteenth birthday celebration which follows the colonial tradition of a coming-out party for girls. In the South-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 its handicrafts. Ancient indigenous arts such as ceramics, sculpture, and weaving with intricate designs and bright native colours were blended with Spanish art techniques to create a unique Mexican style. Many of Mexico’s most popular modern crafts such as textiles, pottery, silver jewellery and furniture borrow designs and techniques from the indigenous culture. Since pre-colonial times, Mexican painters, writers, and musicians have produced a rich cultural heritage. The best-known modern Mexican artists are the muralists, whose important work dates from the first half of the 20th century. Diego Rivera is the most well-known figure of

39


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

Mexican Muralism. Many of his works, as well as those of José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, can be seen in buildings throughout Mexico. The famous painters among others include Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo. Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes are two Mexican writers who have attained international recognition. Ballet Folklórico de Mexico, 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 commonly believed that soccer was introduced to Mexico at the end of the 19th century by miners from Cornwall working in the silver mines of Pachuca and Real (reh-ahl) de Monte. The Estadio Azteca (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 Cup twice, in 1970 and 1986. Other popular sports include the charreria, the central component of which 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 horses in a circular arena approximately 40 meters in diameter; lucha libre or professional wrestling which is the Mexican version of World Wrestling Entertainment; and los toros or bullfighting which runs from November to March. Almost all large cities have bullfighting rings. The 55,000-seated Plaza México in Mexico City is the largest bullfighting ring in the world. Baseball is very popular too, especially in the Gulf coast, Yucatán Peninsula and the Northern States.

40


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

Religion Catholicism has been the dominant religion of Mexico since its introduction during the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. During the colonial era, many native Indians and mestizos were forced to adopt the Spanish language and convert to Roman Catholicism, the religion of their conquistadores (con-kis-tah-doh-rehs) or conquerors, but the rural and indigenous people were never fully converted to Christianity, retaining some of their indigenous beliefs; local priests and bishops accepted the combination of some indigenous practices with Catholicism. The patron saint of Mexico, Nuestra Se単ora de Guadalupe, recognized as a symbol of all Catholic Mexicans, is said to represent both the Virgin Mary and the indigenous goddess Tonantzin (some claim she is Coatlicue, the Aztec mother goddess). This syncretism may have provided a way for the 16th century Spaniards to gain converts among the indigenous population of the New World as well as a method for 16th century indigenous Mexicans to covertly practice their native religion. The enormous Basilica de Nuestra Se単ora de Guadalupe built on the Tepeyac hill near Mexico City, at the spot where the Virgin Guadalupe is said to have appeared to an indigenous boy, 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 the New World or colonial Mexico. In pre-Hispanic times, the hill was crowned with a temple

41


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

dedicated 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 were forbidden to make pilgrimages to the sacred hill. Ten years later, after the appearance of the image of the Virgin (a young woman, her head lowered demurely wearing an open crown and flowing gown, standing upon a half moon) on Juan Diego's shawl, the bishop gave the orders for construction of the church. News of the miraculous apparition of the Virgin's image on a peasant's shawl, spread rapidly throughout the country. On learning that the mother of the Christian god had appeared to one of their people and spoken to him in his native language, thousands of indigenous people came from hundreds of miles away to see the image. The latter was to have a powerful influence on the advancement of the Church's mission in colonial Mexico. In only seven years, from 1532 to 1538, more than eight million Indians were converted to Christianity. The shrine, rebuilt several times over the centuries, 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 on Juan Diego's shawl preserved behind bullet-proof glass, hanging twenty-five feet above the main altar. On the 12th of December, the day of the apparition of the image, millions of devout pilgrims from all over Mexico visit the shrine, many crawling to the Basilica on their knees. The Virgin of Guadalupe has symbolized the Mexican nation since Mexico's War of Independence when rebel armies waged war with flags bearing the image of the Virgin Guadalupe. Today, her

42


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

image is found everywhere – in churches, houses, taxis, buses, hotels, restaurants, bullrings, etc.

Economy The 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, only one-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 wood products. Manufactured goods include processed foods, chemicals, automobiles, and electrical machinery. The country is the world's largest producer of silver, bismuth, and celestine and is also among the world's leading producers of many minerals, including, copper, gold, lead and zinc. Mexico is the sixth-largest oil producer in the world, with 3.7 million barrels per day. Its enormous petroleum reserves, most them in and along the Gulf of Mexico, are ranked amongst the 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 and distribution of petroleum products and petrochemicals. It is one of the largest companies in Latin America, making US $86 billion in sales a year. The United States is the largest trading partner of Mexico. The Mexican economy is of

43


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

major importance to the United States also, because of formal links through economic agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The level of dependence on exports to the United States is very high, nearly representing more than a quarter of 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 as maquiladoras which take in imported raw materials and produce goods for export. Since the early 1980s there has been considerable foreign investment in the maquiladoras, which take advantage of a large, low-cost labour force to produce finished goods for export to the United States. Remittances from Mexicans working, both legally and illegally, in the United States are also extremely vital for the economy. The country’s leading products include food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron and steel, refined petroleum and petrochemicals, textiles and clothing, motor vehicles, and consumer goods. 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 economic activities. The country is also known for its handicrafts, especially pottery, woven goods, and silverwork. As a regional power and currently the only Latin American member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1994, Mexico is considered a newly industrialized country and an emerging power. It has the 13th largest

44


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

nominal 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 around Mexico City. Ciudad Juárez, a large border city with the United States, in the state of Chihuahua (the largest state in the country) is a major source of trade and transportation with its sister city, El Paso in Texas. Despite being a growing industrial centre (with more than 300 maquiladoras or assembly plants), the city has the reputation of being ‘the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones.’ The Juárez-El Paso border is a major point of entry and transportation for the entire central north Mexico. The heavy presence of drug cartels has posed a major problem for 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 1000 unsolved murders of young women since 1993; the alleged involvement of police, government officials 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’s iron and steel industry. This third largest city (the second largest is Guadalajara), Monterrey is second only to the capital in its concentration of important, capital-intensive industries, and is a significant channel of commerce, linking Mexico to the United States. The country’s main ports include Tampico, Altamira, Tuxpan, Veracruz, Progreso,

45


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

Mazatlán, Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas. The Mexico City International Airport, also called Benito Juárez International Airport, is the largest and busiest airport in Latin America with a flow of 32 million passengers per year. Aeroméxico and Mexicana are two of Mexico’s internationally known airline companies. Most of the country’s passenger transportation is served 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 is available at Mexico City with the operation of the metro, as well as a suburban train connecting the adjacent municipalities of Greater Mexico City. It is also available to a small extent in Guadalajara and Monterrey. Mexico is the world’s second largest producer of construction materials. The Mexican automotive industry is also internationally reputed for its quality standards. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have been operating in the country since the 1930s, while Volkswagen and Nissan built their plants in the 1960s. Toyota, Honda, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz joined later. Many European and Asian parts suppliers have also moved to Mexico. In Puebla alone, around seventy industrial part-makers are clustered around the Volkswagen plant. Currently, the world’s richest man is Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, the owner of Grupo Carso, a top conglomerate of companies with holdings in mining; manufacture of metals, cables and 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 is Sanborns, the large department store chain and its restaurants which have been in business since

46


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

1903. Some of the other top Mexican business groups include Telmex, the top provider of telecommunication products and services; Cemex, the third largest cement conglomerate in the world; Grupo México, the country’s largest mining corporation and third largest copper producer in 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 Spanishlanguage content and Spanish-language media network in the world; FEMSA, the largest beverage company in Mexico which apart from owning breweries, OXXO (the biggest convenience store chain in Latin America) and C.F. Monterrey, a First Division Mexican soccer team, is also the second-largest Coca-Cola bottler in the world; Gruma, the largest producer of corn flour and tortillas in the world; and Grupo Bimbo, the biggest Mexican food corporation and fifth largest in the world, as well as the largest bakery in the world.

Education & Technology The largest and most prestigious public university in Mexico is the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) founded in 1910. Three Mexican Nobel laureates and most of Mexico's modern-day presidents are among its former students. The university is one of the most important institutes of higher learning in Mexico and apart from providing world class education in science, medicine, and engineering, it

47


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

also conducts an astounding 50% of the country’s scientific research. A global top ranking university, UNAM is also the highest ranked Hispanic university in the world and the highest ranked in Latin America. It has presence all across the country with satellite campuses and research centres. The second largest university in the country is the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, IPN (National Polytechnic Institute), also a public university. The oldest private university in Mexico is the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UAG), which was founded in 1935. One of the most prestigious private universities is the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, ITESM (Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education) commonly shortened as Tecnológico de Monterrey (Monterrey Institute of Technology) or Tec de Monterrey (Monterrey Tech). Based in Monterrey, the Institute is one of the largest private multi-campus universities in Latin America with 33 campuses in 25 cities throughout 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, the biggest scientific project developed in the country was the construction of the Gran Telescopio Milimétrico (Large Millimeter Telescope), the world’s largest and most sensitive single-aperture telescope in its frequency range. It was designed to observe regions of space obscured by stellar dust. 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 both domestic corporations and foreign companies such as AMD and Intel.

48


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

Tourism Mexico is the eighth most visited country in the world and the number one destination within the Latin American region with over 20 million tourists every year. Tourism helps to sustain the country’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 its numerous beach resorts, archaeological zones and the biosphere reserves. The country boasts of nearly 12% of the world's biodiversity with over 200,000 different species. Around 170,000 square kilometres have been declared as ‘Protected Natural Areas.’ Acapulco, Cancún, and Los Cabos are famous world-class beach destinations. Other favourite 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 activity with numerous archaeological zones and scenic landscapes. In the south-east region, the main attractions 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 are located in the Sierra Madre ranges, and in the rainy, tropical regions of the Yucatán Peninsula and the Chiapas Highlands. Mexico also boasts of two of the world's top three largest pyramids: The Pyramid of Quetzalcóatl in Cholula, near the colonial town of Puebla and the Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) in Teotihuacán.

49


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

The Central Highlands, the most populous region of Mexico has many colonial cities which were built near silver mines by the Spanish conquistadores. The main attractions of this region are the architecture, the views, and some excellent local cuisine. One of the most popular driving 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 major colonial cities in Central Mexico. The arid and sparsely populated north is heavily influenced by the neighbouring US and dominated by industrial cities such as Monterrey. The main attraction of this region is La Barranca del Cobre or the Copper Canyon (four times larger than the Grand Canyon in the United States) located in the south-western part of Chihuahua in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. The famous ‘Chepe’ train makes a spectacular 13-hour journey through this region.

Country’s Problems Like all other developing countries of the world, Mexico also suffers from many social problems like poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and lack of healthcare facilities. Moreover, it also faces serious issues like drug trafficking, rampant corruption and illegal immigration. The high level of urban crime in big cities is further aggravated by drug abuse and juvenile crime. Thousands of

50


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

skilled and unskilled workers migrate to the United States in search of employment, most of them illegally. Furthermore, it has to deal with thousands of impoverished Guatemalans and other 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 of narcotics. The government conducts the largest independent illicit-crop eradication program in the world, but Mexico continues being the primary transhipment country for US-bound cocaine from South America. Many major drug cartels, with links to some of the politicians and businessmen, control the narcotic-trafficking network in the country.

51


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

4 THE SPANISH CONQUEST

One of the first Europeans to explore the Americas, Christopher Columbus mistakenly referred to the natives of the Americas as Indians, thinking that he had arrived in India. Although he corrected himself subsequently, the natives continued to be called as ‘Indios’ or Indians. During the course of his third journey, Columbus came into contact with the Maya. In one of his earliest letters to the Queen of Spain, Christopher Columbus wrote: ‘Our European civilization will bring light to the natives in the darkness but for ourselves we will obtain gold and with gold we will be able to do what we want.’ For the Spaniards, Mexico was a new land to explore for gold and silver and also to spread Christianity. Their ardent lust for gold and the intense zeal to convert people to Catholicism led the Spanish to destroy the rich ancient civilizations of the Aztec, Maya and of the 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 rarely documented.

107


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

The Spanish expansion in the Americas began with the establishment of permanent settlements in the Caribbean Sea, including the city of Santo Domingo (now the capital of the Dominican Republic) and outposts on the island of Cuba. These settlements made it possible for the 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 told them of a powerful empire to the west. The tales of a powerful and wealthy native Indian empire located in the interior of Mexico, were relayed to Cuba. This resulted in the sailing of the expedition commanded by the conquistador Hernán Cortés. The conquest of Mexico, a great and tragic history, began on Good Friday, on the 22nd of April, 1519 when Cortés landed on the coast near present-day Veracruz City. His first move on landing, was to organize an independent government, renounce the authority of the Governor of Cuba and acknowledge only the supreme authority of the Spanish monarchy. In order to prevent any of his men from deserting because of these actions, Cortés destroyed his fleet. On the coast he met Malinche, a Spanish-speaking indigenous woman who soon became his lover and interpreter. She was soon to become one of the most important figures in the history of the Spanish Conquest. Cortés set off on the 200 mile march inland towards the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán with around 500 men, a few horses, attack dogs and cannons. His single mission: to defeat the Aztec and take their gold. Because of deep resentment against the Aztec rule, and internal strife within the far-flung

108


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

Aztec Empire, the Spanish conquistadores were able to form alliances with a number of indigenous groups, the most important among them being the people from Tlaxcala, a city east of the Tenochtitlán. The ruler of the Aztec Empire at the time of the Conquest, Moctezuma, had received reports of the earlier Spanish explorations and battles with the natives. He could have easily destroyed the Spaniards on their arrival. Instead he ordered his subjects along the region to greet the foreigners, offer them a large feast and gifts of gold and jewellery, and then ask them to leave. 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 angry Quetzalcóatl, their sacred god who had vowed to return and exact his revenge by destroying his enemies. Since the invaders were fair-skinned and bearded, as was Quetzalcóatl, and they had come from the east, where the deity had vanished, he thought that their God had arrived. He sent messengers bearing gifts of gold and jewels with the hope that they would leave, but the wealth further inflamed the greed of the Spanish. In October 1519, the Spaniards and several thousand of their allies, marched into Cholula, an ancient city devoted to Quetzalcóatl. With the assistance of the Tlaxcala army, they massacred more than 3,000 of the city’s inhabitants. When Cortés marched towards Tenochtitlán, his combined army of Spanish and native Indians was vastly outnumbered by the Aztec warriors. Nevertheless, Moctezuma chose not to fight them and instead invited them to the Aztec capital. On November 18, 1519, the Spaniards

109


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

entered Tenochtitlán as Moctezuma’s guests. The Spanish soldiers were put up in a building and were allowed to wander through the city, where they found a lot of gold and other treasures in the city’s storehouses. Despite the friendly reception given to the Spaniards, Cortés seized Moctezuma as a hostage, forced him to swear allegiance to the king of Spain, Carlos I, and demanded an enormous ransom in gold and jewels. Driven by lust for gold, they melted down irreplaceable works of art by the ton into gold slabs. In April 1520, Cortés received news about the arrival of an expedition on the Gulf Coast to arrest and send him back to Cuba. Leaving 200 men at Tenochtitlán under the command of Pedro de Alvarado, Cortés marched with a small force to the coast. He entered the Spanish camp at 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 a religious ceremony. This provoked their hosts beyond endurance and the soldiers were placed under siege in their quarters. According to Spanish records, Moctezuma was stoned to death by his own people while attempting to appeal for peace. Cortés, with his reinforcements, fought his way 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 treasure they attempted to carry out was abandoned or lost in the lake and canals. The Aztec pursued the retreating Spanish troops, but the survivors managed to find refuge in Tlaxcala where they

110


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

regrouped. The final assault on Tenochtitlán began in January 1521, with more supplies and fresh troops, tens of thousands of whom were from Tlaxcala and other regions. Cortés then began his return to the capital, capturing Aztec outposts along the way and subduing Aztec settlements around Lake Texcoco. By May 1521, the island capital of Tenochtitlán was isolated and surrounded. Artillery mounted on ships bombarded the city whose food and fresh water supplies had been cut. To make matters worse, the besieged city was ravaged by an epidemic of Smallpox brought by the Spaniards. The Aztec managed to hold out for three months under the command of the new king, Cuauhtémoc. On August 13, 1521, Tenochtitlán finally fell to the Spanish conquistadores.

The Post - Conquest scenario In less than two hours, Cortés is said to have slaughtered six thousand people who had gathered in a temple patio. All the Aztec nobles and elite were put to death. On his entry into the conquered capital, Cortés later wrote: ‘You could not put down your foot without stepping on an Indian corpse.’ More than 40,000 decomposed bodies littered the destroyed city and bloated corpses floated in canals and the lake. Destruction of the other Aztec cities soon followed and it was so complete that almost everything lay in ruins. A fabulous city and its empire had come to a

111


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

violent end. If the history of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica is obscure, it is because immediately after the conquest, the first Bishop of New Spain (Mexico), Juan de Zumarraga, burned all the historical records which were deemed ‘the work of the Devil.’ Religious fanatics destroyed all the temples and statues. Zumarraga wrote to his superiors in 1531 that he alone had five hundred temples razed to the ground and twenty thousand idols destroyed. The conquistadores not only destroyed almost all the records and literature of the Mesoamerican civilizations, but they also distorted its portrayal by focusing upon its bad features and magnifying them out of proportion. For instance, the human sacrifice practiced by the Aztec was repeatedly stressed without explaining its extenuating features. Human sacrifice was not unknown in Europe and Rome. The Spanish played this down or simply forgot to mention their own misdeeds and uncivilized inhuman behaviour against the indigenous people in Mesoamerica. After the conquest, the first tasks for the Spaniards were of reconstruction, appeasement and conversion. TenochtitlĂĄn was pillaged and burned to the ground and its people were driven out. In a deliberate policy of destroying all reminders of Aztec power, the remaining stones were used in the construction of the new city, Mexico City. Hundreds of towns were laid out according to a plan drawn up in Spain, with a plaza surrounded by a grid of streets. Catholic missionaries who had entered the country with the Spanish conquistadores immediately began the task of converting the native Indians to Christianity. Mass conversions became a daily

112


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

occurrence. The missionaries built many monasteries and converted millions of people to Catholicism. Thousands of churches were built (by 1800, the count reached 12,000), often in areas that had been sacred to the Indians, on top of their pyramids or on the foundations of those destroyed. When the Spaniards arrived, the native population of central Mexico was at least 25 million; by the beginning of the 19th century it dwindled to just six million and only half of these were pure-blooded natives. A majority of them died as a result of successive epidemics of diseases brought by the Spanish colonists against which the indigenous people had no natural immunity. With few survivors, the burden of labour placed on them kept increasing as the Spanish never did any manual labour themselves. Although Cortés conquered the Aztec in a year, it took another 25 years to conquer the Maya of Yucatán Peninsula. After the conquest, the burning of religious manuscripts began and continued for decades. The Maya library in Yucatán, which guarded invaluable ancient manuscripts, was reduced to ashes in 1562. In the same year, Fray Diego de Landa, a Franciscan monk made a huge bonfire of all Maya manuscripts and idols in the public squares of Mani in Yucatán. These books contained what would now be priceless information on ancient history, mythology, medicine, astronomy, science, religion, and philosophy. The destruction of icons and hieroglyphics obliterated the Maya language forever. Those who were unwilling to give up their faith even after tremendous torture were burned to death. According to early accounts, Spanish eye witnesses reported that ‘De Landa hung Mayas with big stones tied to their feet and flogged

113


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

them and if they still didn't renounce their tin gods, they were showered with burning wax’. His barbarities resulted in his recall to Spain, but he managed to return and went on to become the first Bishop of Yucatán. After his return, he wrote Relación de las cosas de Yucatán (‘Details of Yucatán’) 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 the Spanish Inquisition in the New World (or New Spain) in 1571. The Inquisition, a judicial institution established in Europe during the Middle Age, persecuted all those who held beliefs or opinions that disagreed with the official church doctrine. They were branded heretics and burned at the stake. The Inquisition also banned books that the church considered to be heretical. The Spaniards, through book burning and killings, successfully converted the Maya Indians leaving very little trace of their rich civilization. They found pleasure in inventing all kinds of odd cruelties. 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 a time in memory of Our Redeemer and his twelve apostles.’ He described butcher shops that sold human flesh for dog food (‘Give me a quarter of that rascal there,’ one customer says, ‘until I can kill some more of my own’). He wrote: ‘Slave ship captains navigate without need of compass or charts, following instead the trail of floating corpses tossed overboard by the ship before them. Native kings are promised peace, and then slaughtered. Whole families hang themselves in despair. The papacy empowered the two crowns (Spanish and Portuguese) to conquer and even enslave pagans inimical to the name of Christ.’

114


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

The plight of the Maya Indians was miserable. They were moved into villages and forced to pay heavy taxes. Still, they showed themselves to be very resistant to the Spanish rule – and later the newly-independent Mexican State – by resorting to periodic rebellions.

Colonial Mexico An important aspect of the economy of colonial Mexico was the exploitation of the indigenous people who performed much of the farming, mining, and ranching work in the colony. Although Spain had decreed that the natives were free and entitled to wages, they were often treated little better than slaves. Their plight was initially the result of the encomienda (the predecessor to the hacienda) system, by which Spanish settlers were granted land and native Indians to convert them (the native labour) to Christianity and to work them on their large land holdings. Another system of forced labour was the repartimiento (division) which required indigenous communities to supply a quota of workers that would be available for hire by the Spanish settlers. The natives slaved in the ports of Veracruz and Acapulco, and in mines, factories, plantations, and sugar mills. Some worked as household servants in urban areas. Because of their forced dependence on the landowners, and zero resistance to foreign ailments, the Indians were riddled with debt and disease even after Spain abolished slavery in 1548. Another characteristic of colonial Mexico was the position and power of the Catholic

115


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

Church 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 expanded Spanish control over the natives, introducing Spanish culture and language while converting them to Christianity. In the beginning, the Church championed indigenous rights but later it grew more 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 end of 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 were confined to the local elite and the imperialists in Spain. Ruled directly from Spain, it was heavily taxed and permitted absolutely no autonomy. The social class consisted of a caste system with gachupines (those born in Spain but living in Mexico) at the top, the criollos (crioh-yoh) or creoles, born in Mexico of Spanish blood in the next level, followed by the mixed-race mestizo population. At the bottom were the mass of indios and people of African descent. All the political and administrative positions as well as those of the Church, were occupied by the gachupines. Trade and industry were promoted with the philosophy of ‘what is good for Spain is good for Mexico.’ Infrastructure was inadequate and the only proper road in 1800 was the one that connected Acapulco with Mexico City and the port city of Veracruz. This made it easy to transport goods from the Spanish colonies in the Far East to Spain.

116


Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World

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 mexicobooks@gmail.com or thepicbookmexico@gmail.com

Cheers :-) Swarupa

to

send

an

email

Profile for Swarupa

Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World by Swarupa  

Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World is a comprehensive guide to the diverse aspects of Mexico, including its indigenous people...

Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World by Swarupa  

Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World is a comprehensive guide to the diverse aspects of Mexico, including its indigenous people...

Profile for swarupa7
Advertisement