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Colin M. Author Bio Colin M. Beezley Mexicans in Revolution, — Nebraska William H. Beezley is a professor of history at the University of Arizona. Praise "MacLachlan Tulane Univ. William H. Beezley With a new preface by the author. Mexico's Crucial Century, Colin M. MacLachlan and William H. Mexicans in Revolution, William H. Beezley and Colin M. The large and complex civilizations of Mexico developed in the center and southern regions with the southern region extending into what is now Central America in what has come to be known as Mesoamerica.

The civilizations that rose and declined over millennia were characterized by: [2]. These civilizations arose in a region with no major navigable rivers, no beasts of burden, and difficult terrain that impeded the movement of people and goods. Indigenous civilizations developed complex ritual and solar calendars, a significant understanding of astronomy and developed forms of written communication in the form of glyphs.

The history of Mexico prior to the Spanish conquest is known through the work of archaeologists , epigraphers , and ethnohistorians scholars who study Indigenous history, usually from the Indigenous point of view , who analyze Mesoamerican Indigenous manuscripts, particularly Aztec codices , Mayan codices , and Mixtec codices. Accounts written by the Spanish at the time of their conquest the conquistadores and by Indigenous chroniclers of the post-conquest period constitute the principal source of information regarding Mexico at the time of the Spanish Conquest.

While relatively few pictorial manuscripts or codices of the Mixtec and Aztec cultures of the Post-Classic period survive, progress has been made in the area of Maya archaeology and epigraphy. The presence of people in Mesoamerica was once thought to date back 40, years, an estimate based on what were believed to be ancient footprints discovered in the Valley of Mexico ; but after further investigation using radiocarbon dating , it appears this date may not be accurate. The first people to settle in Mexico encountered a climate far milder than the current one.

In particular, the Valley of Mexico contained several large paleo-lakes known collectively as Lake Texcoco surrounded by dense forest.

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Deer were found in this central area, but most fauna were small land animals and fish and other lacustrine animals were found in the lake region. Indigenous peoples in western Mexico began to selectively breed maize Zea mays plants from precursor grasses e.

"Imagining the Conquest of Mexico" by Kevin Terraciano

The diet of ancient central and southern Mexico was varied, including domesticated corn or maize , squashes such as pumpkin and butternut squash, common beans pinto, kidney, navy and other common beans consumed today , tomatoes, peppers, cassavas, pineapples, chocolate, and tobacco. The Three Sisters corn, squash, and beans constituted the principal diet. The Mesoamericans had the concept of god and religion, but their concept was very different from Abrahamic concepts.

The Mesoamericans had a belief where everything, every element of the cosmos, the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, which mankind inhabits, everything that forms part of nature such as animals, plants, water and mountains all represented a manifestation of the supernatural. In most cases gods and goddesses are often depicted in stone reliefs, pottery decoration, wall paintings and in the various Maya , and pictorial manuscripts such as Maya codices , Aztec codices , and Mixtec codices. The spiritual pantheon was vast and extremely complex.

However, many of the deities depicted are common to the various civilizations and their worship survived over long periods of time. They frequently took on different characteristics and even names in different areas, but in effect they transcended cultures and time. Great masks with gaping jaws and monstrous features in stone or stucco were often located at the entrance to temples, symbolizing a cavern or cave on the flanks of the mountains that allowed access to the depths of Mother Earth and the shadowy roads that lead to the underworld.

Cults connected with the jaguar and jade especially permeated religion throughout Mesoamerica. Jade , with its translucent green color was revered along with water as a symbol of life and fertility. The jaguar, agile, powerful and fast, was especially connected with warriors and as spirit guides of shamans. Despite differences of chronology or geography, the crucial aspects of this religious pantheon were shared amongst the people of ancient Mesoamerica. Thus, this quality of acceptance of new gods to the collection of existing gods may have been one of the shaping characteristics for the success during the Christianization of Mesoamerica.

New gods did not at once replace the old; they initially joined the ever-growing family of deities or were merged with existing ones that seemed to share similar characteristics or responsibilities. A great deal is known about Aztec religion due to the work of the early mendicant friars in their work to convert the Indigenous peoples to Christianity. Mesoamerica is the only place in the Americas where Indigenous writing systems were invented and used before European colonization. While the types of writing systems in Mesoamerica range from minimalist "picture-writing" to complex logophonetic systems capable of recording speech and literature, they all share some core features that make them visually and functionally distinct from other writing systems of the world.

Although many indigenous manuscripts have been lost or destroyed, texts known Aztec codices , Mayan codices , and Mixtec codices still survive and are of intense interest to scholars of the prehispanic era. The fact that there was an existing prehispanic tradition of writing meant that when the Spanish friars taught Mexican Indians to write their own languages, particularly Nahuatl , an alphabetic tradition took hold.

It was used in official documents for legal cases and other legal instruments. The formal use of native language documentation lasted until Mexican independence in Beginning in the late twentieth century, scholars have mined these native language documents for information about colonial-era economics, culture, and language. The New Philology is the current name for this particular branch of colonial-era Mesoamerican ethnohistory. During the pre-Columbian period, many city-states, kingdoms, and empires competed with one another for power and prestige.

Ancient Mexico can be said to have produced five major civilizations: the Olmec, Maya, Teotihuacan, Toltec, and Aztec. Unlike other indigenous Mexican societies, these civilizations with the exception of the politically fragmented Maya extended their political and cultural reach across Mexico and beyond. They consolidated power and exercised influence in matters of trade, art, politics, technology, and religion.

Over a span of 3, years, other regional powers made economic and political alliances with them; many made war on them. But almost all found themselves within their spheres of influence. The Olmec first appeared along the Atlantic coast in what is now the state of Tabasco in the period — BC.

The Olmecs were the first Mesoamerican culture to produce an identifiable artistic and cultural style, and may also have been the society that invented writing in Mesoamerica. Maya cultural characteristics, such as the rise of the ahau , or king, can be traced from BC onwards. The egalitarian Maya society of pre-royal centuries gradually gave way to a society controlled by a wealthy elite that began building large ceremonial temples and complexes.

The earliest known long-count date, AD, heralds the classic period, during which the Maya kingdoms supported a population numbering in the millions. Tikal , the largest of the kingdoms, alone had , inhabitants, though the average population of a kingdom was much smaller—somewhere under 50, people. The Maya speak a diverse family of languages known as Mayan. Teotihuacan is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico , containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the Avenue of the Dead, and numerous colorful, well-preserved murals.

Additionally, Teotihuacan produced a thin orange pottery style that spread through Mesoamerica. The city is thought to have been established around BCE and continued to be built until about CE. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium CE, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. At this time it may have had more than , inhabitants, placing it among the largest cities of the world in this period.

Teotihuacan was even home to multi-floor apartment compounds built to accommodate this large population. The civilization and cultural complex associated with the site is also referred to as Teotihuacan or Teotihuacano. Although it is a subject of debate whether Teotihuacan was the center of a state empire, its influence throughout Mesoamerica is well documented; evidence of Teotihuacano presence can be seen at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya region.

The Aztecs may have been influenced by this city. The ethnicity of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan is also a subject of debate. Possible candidates are the Nahua , Otomi or Totonac ethnic groups. Scholars have also suggested that Teotihuacan was a multiethnic state. The Toltec culture is an archaeological Mesoamerican culture that dominated a state centered in Tula, Hidalgo , in the early post-classic period of Mesoamerican chronology ca — CE. The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors and described Toltec culture emanating from Tollan Nahuatl for Tula as the epitome of civilization; indeed, in the Nahuatl language the word "Toltec" came to take on the meaning "artisan".

The Aztec oral and pictographic tradition also described the history of the Toltec empire giving lists of rulers and their exploits. Among modern scholars it is a matter of debate whether the Aztec narratives of Toltec history should be given credence as descriptions of actual historical events. While all scholars acknowledge that there is a large mythological part of the narrative some maintain that by using a critical comparative method some level of historicity can be salvaged from the sources, whereas others maintain that continued analysis of the narratives as sources of actual history is futile and hinders access to actual knowledge of the culture of Tula, Hidalgo.

The Nahua peoples began to enter central Mexico in the 6th century AD. By the 12th century, they had established their center at Azcapotzalco , the city of the Tepanecs. They had migrated from the deserts north of the Rio Grande [ citation needed ] over a period traditionally said to have been years.

They may have thought of themselves as the heirs to the prestigious civilizations that had preceded them. In , they established the biggest city in the world at that time, Tenochtitlan. Aztec religion was based on the belief in the continual need for regular offering of human blood to keep their deities beneficent; to meet this need, the Aztec sacrificed thousands of people.

This belief is thought to have been common throughout the Nahuatl people. To acquire captives in times of peace, the Aztec resorted to a form of ritual warfare called flower war. The Tlaxcalteca, among other Nahuatl nations, were forced into such wars. In , the Aztec led a war against their rulers from the city of Azcapotzalco, which had subjugated most of the Valley of Mexico's peoples. The revolt was successful, and the Aztecs became the rulers of central Mexico as the leaders of the Triple Alliance.

The alliance was composed of the city-states of Tenochtitlan , Texcoco , and Tlacopan. At their peak, , Aztec presided over a wealthy tribute-empire comprising 10 million people, almost half of Mexico's estimated population of 24 million. Their empire stretched from ocean to ocean, and extended into Central America. The westward expansion of the empire was halted by a devastating military defeat at the hands of the Purepecha who possessed weapons made of copper.

The empire relied upon a system of taxation of goods and services , which were collected through an elaborate bureaucracy of tax collectors, courts, civil servants, and local officials who were installed as loyalists to the Triple Alliance. By , the Aztec capital, Mexico-Tenochtitlan , the site of modern-day Mexico City , was one of the largest cities in the world, with an estimated population between , and , The first mainland explorations were followed by a phase of inland expeditions and conquest. The Spanish crown extended the Reconquista effort, completed in Spain in , to non-Catholic people in new territories.

The conquest was of the Chibcha -speaking nations, mainly the Muisca and Tairona indigenous people that lived here. The first Europeans to arrive in what is modern day Mexico were the survivors of a Spanish shipwreck in He himself was injured, and died a few days shortly after his return to Cuba. This was the Europeans' first encounter with a civilization in the Americas with buildings and complex social organizations which they recognized as being comparable to those of the Old World.

In general the 'Spanish conquest of Mexico' denotes the conquest of the central region of Mesoamerica where the Aztec Empire was based. The Alliance ambushed indigenous ceremonies, such as during The Feast of Huitzilopochtli , which allowed the superior Spanish conquerors to avoid fighting the best Aztec warriors in direct armed battle.

Smallpox Variola major and Variola minor began to spread in Mesoamerica immediately after the arrival of Europeans. The indigenous peoples, who had no immunity to it, eventually died in the millions. A third of all the natives of the Valley of Mexico succumbed to it within six months of Spaniards arrival. Tenochtitlan was almost completely destroyed by fire and cannon shots. Those Aztecs who survived were forbidden to live in the city and the surrounding isles, and they went to live in Tlatelolco. The Spanish had no intention to turn over Tenochtitlan to the Tlaxcalteca. While Tlaxcalteca troops continued to help the Spaniards, and Tlaxcala received better treatment than other indigenous nations, the Spanish eventually disowned the treaty.

Forty years after the conquest, the Tlaxcalteca had to pay the same tax as any other indigenous community. The capture of Tenochtitlan marked the beginning of a year colonial period, during which Mexico was known as " New Spain " ruled by a viceroy in the name of the Spanish monarch.

Mexico's Crucial Century, 1810-1910

Colonial Mexico had key elements to attract Spanish immigrants: 1 dense and politically complex indigenous populations especially in the central part that could be compelled to work, and 2 huge mineral wealth, especially major silver deposits in the northern regions Zacatecas and Guanajuato. The Viceroyalty of Peru also had those two important elements, so that New Spain and Peru were the seats of Spanish power and the source of its wealth, until other viceroyalties were created in Spanish South America in the late 18th century.

This wealth made Spain the dominant power in Europe and the envy of England, France, and after its independence from Spain the Netherlands. Spain's silver mining and crown mints created high quality coins, the currency of Spanish America , the silver peso or Spanish dollar that became a global currency. Spanish conquerors did not bring all areas of Aztec Empire under its control.

After the fall of Tenochtitlan in , it took decades of sporadic warfare to subdue the rest of Mesoamerica , particularly the Maya regions of southern New Spain and into what is now Central America. The northern indigenous populations had gained mobility via the horses that Spaniards had imported to the New World. The desert in the north was only interesting to Spanish because of its rich silver deposits. The Spanish mining settlements and trunk lines to Mexico City needed to be made safe for supplies to move north and silver to move to south, to central Mexico.

The most important source of wealth in the first years after the conquest of central Mexico was the encomienda , a grant of the labor of a particular indigenous settlement to an individual Spanish and his heirs. Spaniards were the recipients of traditional indigenous products that had been rendered in tribute to their local lords and to the Aztec empire.

The first Spanish viceroy , Don Antonio de Mendoza has his name given to the title of an Aztec manuscript Codex Mendoza , that enumerates in glyphic form the types of tribute goods and amounts rendered from particular indigenous towns under Aztec rule. The earliest holders of encomiendas, the encomenderos were the conquerors involved in the campaign leading to the fall of Tenochtitlan, and later their heirs and people with influence but not conquerors. Forced labor could be directed toward developing land and industry in the area the Spanish encomenderos' Indians lived.

Land was a secondary source of wealth during this immediate conquest period. Where indigenous labor was absent or needed supplementing, the Spanish brought African slaves, often as skilled laborers or artisans, or as labor bosses of encomienda Indians.


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During the three centuries of colonial rule, fewer than , Spaniards, most of them men, settled in Mexico. Mestizos , people of mixed European-indigenous ancestry, constitute the majority of Mexico's population. The Spanish crown claimed all of the Western Hemisphere west of the line established between Spain and Portugal by the Treaty of Tordesillas.

Mexico's Crucial Century, 1810-1910: An Introduction

The viceroyalty of New Spain had jurisdiction over Spain's northern empire in the Americas. When Spain established a colony in the Philippines in the late sixteenth century, the Viceroyalty of New Spain had jurisdiction over it, since there was more direct contact between the two than the Philippines with Spain. During the 16th century, Spain focused on conquering areas with dense populations that had produced Pre-Columbian civilizations.

These populations were a disciplined labor force and a population to convert to Christianity. Territories populated by nomadic peoples were harder to conquer, and although the Spanish explored much of North America , seeking the fabled " El Dorado ", they made no concerted effort to settle the northern desert regions in what is now the United States until the end of the 16th century Santa Fe, Colonial law with native origins but with Spanish historical precedents was introduced, creating a balance between local jurisdiction the Cabildos and the Crown 's, whereby upper administrative offices were closed to natives, even those of pure Spanish blood.

Administration was based on a racial separation of the population among the Republics of Spaniards, Indians and Mestizos, autonomous and directly dependent on the king. The population of New Spain was divided into four main groups, or classes. The group a person belonged to was determined by racial background and birthplace. The most powerful group was the Spaniards, people born in Spain and sent across the Atlantic to rule the colony. Only Spaniards could hold high-level jobs in the colonial government. The second group, called creoles, were people of Spanish background but born in Mexico.

Many creoles were prosperous landowners and merchants. But even the wealthiest creoles had little say in government. The third group, the mestizos, were people who had some Spanish ancestors and some Indian ancestors. The word mestizo means "mixed". Mestizos had a much lower position and were looked down upon by both the Spaniards and the creoles, who held the belief that people of pure European background were superior to everyone else.

The poorest, most marginalised group in New Spain was the Indians, descendants of pre-Columbian peoples. They had less power and endured harsher conditions than other groups. Indians were forced to work as laborers on the ranches and farms called haciendas of the Spaniards and creoles.

In addition to the four main groups, there were also some black Africans in colonial Mexico. These black African were imported as laborers and shared the low status of the Indians. From an economic point of view, New Spain was administered principally for the benefit of the Empire and its military and defensive efforts. Mexico provided more than half of the Empire taxes and supported the administration of all North and Central America. Competition with the metropolis was discouraged; for example cultivation of grapes and olives , introduced by Cortez himself, was banned out of fear that these crops would compete with Spain 's.

To protect the country from the attacks by English, French and Dutch pirates , as well as the Crown's revenue, only two ports were open to foreign trade— Veracruz on the Atlantic and Acapulco on the Pacific. Pirates attacked, plundered and ravaged several cities like Campeche , Veracruz and Alvarado Education was encouraged by the Crown from the very beginning, and Mexico boasts the first primary school Texcoco , , first university, the University of Mexico and the first printing press of the Americas.

Indigenous languages were studied mainly by the religious orders during the first centuries, and became official languages in the so-called Republic of Indians, only to be outlawed and ignored after independence by the prevailing Spanish -speaking creoles. The syncretism between indigenous and Spanish cultures gave rise to many of nowadays Mexican staple and world-famous cultural traits like tequila since the 16th century , mariachi 18th , jarabe 17th , charros 17th and the highly prized Mexican cuisine , fruit of the mixture of European and indigenous ingredients and techniques.

American-born Spaniards creoles , mixed-race castas, and Indians often disagreed, but all resented the small minority of Iberian-born Spaniards who monopolized political power. By the early s, many American-born Spaniards believed that Mexico should become independent of Spain, following the example of the United States. He is remembered today as the Father of Mexican Independence. Inspired by the American and French Revolutions, Mexican insurgents saw an opportunity in as the king abdicated in Madrid and Spain was overwhelmed by war and occupation.

The rebellion began as an idealistic peasants' and miners' movement led by a local priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla who issued " The Cry of Dolores " on 16 September ; the day is celebrated as Independence Day. Shouting "Independence and death to the Spaniards! It was routed by the Spanish and Hidalgo was executed. Another priest, Jose Maria Morelos took over and was more successful in his quest for republicanism and independence. Spain's monarchy was restored in after Napoleon's defeat, and it fought back and executed Morelos in The scattered insurgents formed guerrilla bands.

The rebels formulated the " Plan of Iguala ", demanding an independent constitutional monarchy, a religious monopoly for the Catholic Church, and equality for Spaniards and creoles. On September 27, , Iturbide and the viceroy signed the Treaty of Cordoba whereby Spain granted the demands and withdrew.

After independence, Mexican politics was chaotic. The presidency changed hands 75 times in the next 55 years — The Spanish attempts to reconquer Mexico comprised episodes of war between Spain and the newly born Mexican nation. The designation mainly covers two periods: from to in Mexico's waters, and a second period of two stages, including a Mexican plan to take the Spanish-held island of Cuba between and , and the landing of Spanish General Isidro Barradas in Mexico to reconquer the territory.

Although Spain never regained control of the country, it damaged the fledgling economy. The newly independent nation was in dire straits after 11 years of war. No plans or guidelines were established by the revolutionaries, so internal struggles for control of the government ensued. Mexico suffered a complete lack of funds to administer a country of over 4. Mexico now had its own government, but Iturbide quickly became a dictator.

He even had himself proclaimed emperor of Mexico, copying the ceremony used by Napoleon when he proclaimed himself emperor of France. No one was allowed to speak against Iturbide. He filled his government with corrupt officials, who became rich by taking bribes and making dishonest business deals. By , Mexicans of all classes were fed up with emperor Agustin de Iturbide's corrupt and oppressive rule.

The new constitution was partly modeled on the constitution of the United States. It guaranteed basic human rights and defined Mexico as a representative federal republic, in which responsibilities of government were divided between a central government and a number of smaller units called states. It also defined Catholicism as the official and unique religion. The Federal Republic of Central America was allowed to re-establish its independence, which it had declared on 1 July However, most of the population largely ignored the new constitution.

When Guadalupe Victoria was followed in office by Vicente Guerrero , gaining the position through a coup after losing the elections, the Conservative Party saw an opportunity to seize control and led a counter-coup under Anastasio Bustamante , who served as president from to , and again from to The new republic's situation did not promote economic growth and development.

However, according to Hilarie J. Heath, the results were bleak:. In much of Spanish America soon after its independence, military strongmen or caudillos dominated politics, and this period is often called "The Age of Caudillismo". Elections were held thereafter, and Santa Anna took office in He served as president 11 times. Both areas sought independence from the central government. Then Santa Anna's army turned to the northern rebellion. They called themselves Texans and were led mainly by recent English-speaking settlers. The Mexican government refused to recognize the independence of Texas.

The northern states grew increasingly isolated, economically and politically, due to prolonged Comanche raids and attacks. New Mexico in particular had been gravitating toward Comancheria. In the s, when the United States began to exert influence over the region, New Mexico had already begun to question its loyalty to Mexico.

By the time of the Mexican—American War, the Comanches had raided and pillaged large portions of northern Mexico, resulting in sustained impoverishment, political fragmentation, and general frustration at the inability—or unwillingness—of the Mexican government to discipline the Comanches. In addition to Comanche raids, the First Republic's northern border was plagued with attacks on its northern border from the Apache people, who were supplied with guns by American merchants.

Soon after achieving independence from Spain, the Mexican government, in an effort to populate its northern territories, awarded extensive land grants in Coahuila y Tejas to thousands of families from the United States, on condition that the settlers convert to Catholicism and become Mexican citizens.

The Mexican government also forbade the importation of slaves. These conditions were largely ignored. A key factor in the government decision to allow those settlers was the belief that they would a protect northern Mexico from Comanche attacks and b buffer the northern states against US westward expansion.

The policy failed on both counts: the Americans tended to settle far from the Comanche raiding zones and used the Mexican government's failure to suppress the raids as a pretext for declaring independence.

Twentieth-Century Mexico - University of Nebraska Press : Nebraska Press

The war lasted from October 2, to April 21, However, a war at sea between Mexico and Texas continued into the s. War began in Texas on October 2, , with the Battle of Gonzales. Early Texian Army successes at La Bahia and San Antonio were soon met with crushing defeat at the same locations a few months later. The end of the war resulted in the creation of the Republic of Texas in In , the U.

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Congress ratified Texas's petition for statehood. In response to a Mexican massacre of a U. Congress declared war on May 13, ; Mexico followed suit on 23 May. In March , U. President James K. Polk sent an army of 12, volunteer and regular U. Army soldiers under General Winfield Scott to the port of Veracruz. The 70 ships of the invading forces arrived at the city on 7 March and began a naval bombardment.


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  5. After landing his men, horses, and supplies, Scott began the Siege of Veracruz. The city at that time still walled was defended by Mexican General Juan Morales with 3, men. Veracruz replied as best it could with artillery to the bombardment from land and sea, but the city walls were reduced. After 12 days, the Mexicans surrendered. Scott marched west with 8, men, while Santa Anna entrenched with artillery and 12, troops on the main road halfway to Mexico City.

    Scott pushed on to Puebla , Mexico's second largest city, which capitulated without resistance on 1 May—the citizens were hostile to Santa Anna. Many other parts of Mexico were also occupied. Some Mexican units fought with distinction. One of the justly commemorated units was a group of six young Military College cadets now considered Mexican national heroes , who fought to the death defending their college during the Battle of Chapultepec. Mexico's defeat has been attributed to its problematic internal situation, one of disunity and disorganization.

    After the war, Washington discovered that a much easier railroad route to California lay slightly south of the Gila River, in Mexico. This loss of still more territory provoked considerable outrage among Mexicans, but Santa Anna claimed that he needed money to rebuild the army from the war. In the end, he kept or squandered most of it. La Reforma was a period during the midth century characterized by liberal reforms and the transformation of Mexico into a nation-state. The younger generation of political leaders were shocked at Mexico's poor fight against the United States in , and saw modernization as a way to strengthen the nation.

    Their strategy was to sharply limit the traditional privileges and land holdings of the Catholic Church and thereby revitalize the market in land. However, no class of small peasants who identified with the Liberal program emerged. Many merchants acquired land and control over the associated tenant farmers.

    Many existing landowners expanded their holdings at peasant expense, and some upwardly mobile ranch owners, often mestizos, acquired land. The moderate Liberal Ignacio Comonfort became president. The Moderados tried to find a middle ground between the nation's liberals and conservatives. There is less consensus about the ending point of the Reforma. Liberalism dominated Mexico as an intellectual force into the 20th century.

    Liberals championed reform and supported republicanism , capitalism, and individualism; they fought to reduce the Church's conservative roles in education, land ownership and politics. Colonel Ignacio Comonfort became president in after a revolt based in Ayutla overthrew Santa Anna. Comonfort was a moderate liberal who tried to maintain an uncertain coalition, but the moderate liberals and the radical liberals were unable to resolve their sharp differences.

    During his presidency, the Constitution of was drafted creating the Second Federal Republic of Mexico. The new constitution restricted some of the Catholic Church's traditional privileges, land holdings, revenues and control over education. It granted religious freedom, stating only that the Catholic Church was the favored faith. The anti-clerical radicals scored a major victory with the ratification of the constitution, because it weakened the Church and enfranchised illiterate commoners.

    The constitution was unacceptable to the clergy and the conservatives, and they plotted a revolt. With the "Plan of Tacubaya" in December , Comonfort tried to regain the popular support from the growing conservative pro-clerical movement. The revolt led to the War of Reform December to January , which grew increasingly bloody as it progressed and polarized the nation's politics. Many Moderates, convinced that the Church's political power had to be curbed, came over to the side of the Liberals.

    For some time, the Liberals and Conservatives simultaneously administered separate governments, the Conservatives from Mexico City and the Liberals from Veracruz. They chose a member of the Habsburg dynasty, which had ruled Spain and its overseas possessions until Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria was installed as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico , with support from the Catholic Church, conservative elements of the upper class, and some indigenous communities.

    Although the French suffered an initial defeat the Battle of Puebla on May 5, , now commemorated as the Cinco de Mayo holiday , the French eventually defeated the Mexican army and set Maximilian on the throne. The Imperial couple noticed the inequality in Mexican society and pursued policies that favored the Upper Class white Mexicans over the Majority Mestizo and Indigenous peasants. They were also in favor of exploiting the nation's resources for themselves and their allies. This included favoring the plans of Napoleon III to exploit the mines in the northwest of the country and to grow cotton.