I live in Korea, but I am American from the South Western part of the U. S., but I have lived and traveled all over the world. My family is from Oklahoma for several generations back. I eat and cook a lot of what is deemed Mexican food. I took high school Spanish like many in America. I learned to speak Spanish. When I was teaching at a university in Ohio, there were soccer players from Mexico. When they met me, they acted like they were meeting someone from home because my roots are so close to Mexico. I have taught Spanish in a high school and in a university. I have studied Mexican history in school and traveled in Mexico so many times I can’t remember. I was a translator between English and Spanish when I was an ESL teacher in Texas and when I traveled with other Americans in Mexico. I have a Spanish Bible I read occasionally without a dictionary because I don’t need it. I have attended Spanish Bible classes and worship services in Texas and California. People have mistaken me for Mexican, but I am not Hispanic at all even if I have the right coloring and can sound like a Mexican. Needless to say, even if I haven’t lived in Mexico, I have got about as close as you could for many years without actually living there.
As most Americans know, the Mexicans are a mixture of Indian and Spanish. There were several Indian tribes in Mexico before the Spanish came. The first larger one was the Olmec who lived near the Gulf of Mexico from 1200 to 900 B. C. around San Lorenzo. Until 600 B, C., they lived at La Venta in Tabasco. After that, the Zaptec people came along until 300 B. C.
Between 250- 900 A. D., an extremely important tribe, the Mayans emerged in Mexico. They are the ones who constructed the pyramids that many Americans go to Mexico to see. I have climbed on the pyramids outside of Mexico City. They were erected to a god of the sun, a god of the moon, etc. The Mayan Indians invented a calendar and a writing system. If you study Indians, they are one of the Five Civilized Tribes like the Cherokee in America. Their society collapsed in the early 10th century A. D.
A Mayans group, the Zapotec people, began a city outside of what we think of as Mexico City today. They were traveling looking for a place to live. A holy man had told them that they were supposed to look for a place where there was a cactus with an eagle on top holding a snake. They came to swampy land and saw exactly what they were looking for, but the land was swampy. It didn’t stop them. They filled the land in and built a city in 100 B. C. to 700 A. D. called Tenochititlan. The population grew at that time to 200,000. If you see the Mexican flag, it depicts this scene. When I was in school in California, I was asked to draw this flag and color it as a class assignment because at one time California was part of Mexico as other American states were. In the 7th century, Tenochititlan was overthrown, but there is still a city there today. If I get any of these names wrong, forgive me. I struggled with them in school, and I still do.
After the Mayans, another tribe emerged that would upset a lot of us. They were the Toltec who came along in the 10th century. The reason why I say what they did would upset us is because they had human sacrifices. King Tezcattpooca ordered mass sacrifices of captive enemy warriors.
Finally, in 1427, the Aztecs came along. They made peace with the Mayans and the Toltec and became one people. Together, they conquered the smaller groups of Indians. Their population grew to five million people. They set up schools, temples, and governing councils in all the villages. They had an army. They had religious ceremonies with dances, parades, and again sacrifices.
In 1519, Hernando Cortes, one of the conquistadors, came along from Spain and conquered the Aztec empire. King Moctezuma mistook him for Quetzalcoatle, a serpent god. And invited him to Tenochtitlan. Cortes met a lot of people and made a lot of friends along their trip and learned a lot about the Aztec Indians and their lands. He used the information against them and attacked them in May 1521. Mexico became Nueva Espana. It was colonized, and the Aztec population became slaves. The Spanish brought a lot of diseases with them, including small pox. The Indians were too weak physically to be slaves. When people talk about the blacks being slaves in America, they weren’t the only ones. The first slaves in America were the Indians. Between 1521-1605, 24 million Aztec Indians died, mostly of diseases brought by the Spanish. In 1523, the Catholics began sending Catholic missionaries, and millions of Indians became Catholic. If you go up and down the California coast, you can visit some of these monasteries and church buildings the Spanish built. One of my favorites is San Juan Capistrano, the place all the birds go. If you go to Texas, you can also visit the Alamo, a church building that became a very sad place in history. and other places Spanish built when Texas belonged to Mexico. There are old Spanish homes you can tour that are extremely interesting. The Spanish also went into New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. How America acquired those states is a whole other story.