|Nation Overview||Strategic Overview||CtW Information||History|
The Aztecs began as a nomadic tribe called the Mexica, a crude people driven from place to place before they finally found refuge on a marshy island in the middle of Lake Texcoco in the 12th century. The native inhabitants of the region could not be bothered to settle there, on account of its miserable state, yet the indomitable will of the Aztecs eventually transformed this poor piece of land into an impressive city which when the Spanish, having arrived much later, thought it could rival any of the great cities they had seen in Europe. It was from this city that the Aztecs based their empire and waged ritualistic war against their neighbors to take captive for their religion of human sacrifice, which they believed was required to prevent the end of the world. For in the years that the Aztecs achieved empire, they created a lot of enemies who resented their dominance. So it was in 1521 A.D. that the last of the Aztec Emperors surrendered the city and its empire to a coallition of tribes, with the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez at the helm. Although the Aztec empire was effectively destroyed, its culture continued to persist and eventually blended with the Catholic Spanish culture brought in by Europeans, forming the unique and idiosyncretic ethos of present-day Mexican culture.
Rise of the AztecEdit
By the early 15th century, the Mexica came into their own as a century of service as the hired soldiers of other city states made them more and more powerful and militarily skilled. It was then that they began to develop their chief city, Tenochtitlan, with great fervour. Building great temples, causeways, roads and even aqueducts to supply the needs of the growing city. They began creating more sophisticated gstructures of government, and assimilated the deities of other cultures in the region into their own. Under king Itzacoatl, the Mexica began conquering the various tribes and city-states of Central America, forming what was called the "Triple Alliance" with two other city-states, Tezcoco and Tlacopan. By the end of the next century they extended their sphere of influence from a small island to an empire stretching from the Gulf coast to the Pacific and as far south as Guatamala, and began to call themselves Toltec, which in the Nahuatl language means "wise ones" or "craftsmen", and the culture that dominated the peoples of the empire was called Aztec, after the mythological land of Atzlan which they believed to have originated from. They possessed a highly advanced calendar that was even more accurate than our modern calendar, a thriving trade economy, and even developed hydroponics, taking advantage of the location of Tenochtitlan in a swamp.
Aztec society, however, was as compartmentalised and bellicose as other cultures across the Atlantic, consisting of two main social castes, "commoners" and nobility. One could advance in station by displaying great skill and bravery in war. The nobility was taught governing or priestly duties and rituals, and all male children were taught Aztec religion, history, a trade or craft, civics, and the art of war and combat. Warriors aspired to the ranks of the Elite Eagle or Jaguar Warrior. The predominant aspect of the Aztec religion was human sacrifice to appease the pantheon of gods, dominated by the trio of Huitzilopochtli, Tezcatlipoca and Quetzacoatl. It was believed that the gods would only nourish humanity with the riches of the earth if they were in turn nourished by the blood and flesh of human sacrifices. It was further believed that there are gods in conflict with each other, and the gods of the creation needed to be kept strong to ward off the destruction of the world, and so offerings of human hearts were made to nourish them. These religious beliefs thus led the Aztecs to go on widespread campaigns of conquests and ritualistic warfare.
Aztec conquests were thus initiated to create a regional hegemony for the purpose of obtaining a pool of victims for their religious sacrifices, and to exact tribute, but did little to endear them to their beleagured neighbours. It was for this reason that when the Spanish arrived in 1519, they were able to find native allies among these subject peoples, in particular the Tlaxcaltec to join them against the Aztecs Empire. Indeed even the Tezcoco who were of the "Triple Alliance" defected to the Spanish when they were converted to Christianity en masse, many willingly and others by force. Upon hearing of the arrival of the Spanish, the Aztec ruler Montezuma II sent forth many missions to find out more about the nature of these strange visitors, and to somehow deter them from coming to Tenochtitlan through occult means, but eventually believed them to be gods.
Montezuma gave them a warm welcome hoping to appease them, but the "gods" instead installed themselves at Montezuma's palace and placed him under house arrest, demanding of him treasures and provisions. During an Aztec celebration in honour of their patron deity, the Spanish massacred the participants. This resulted in a siege of the palace, and the death of Montezuma, but the Spanish were finally repulsed. Soon, however, a great plague struck the city and many perished. After almost a year, this time the Spanish returned and besieged the Aztec capitol. The fighting was furious with the Spanish making incursions from their ships, which they had brought into Lake Texcoco to aid in the siege, in a gruelling conflict that caused much misery for the inhabitants. Of the 300,000 warriors who defended the city, only 60,000 were left. Eventually the Aztecs were forced to capitulate and surrender. Hence, the Aztec Empire passed into history, creating what became the Viceroyalty of Nueva España, its people and land being exploited ruthlessly by the new Spanish overlords and their former victims who abetted in the regime.
The Struggle for IndependenceEdit
Spanish hegemony throughout continental South America would be maintained for the better part of three centuries, and when independence came, it was not due to the efforts of the colonials themselves, but due to the French. When the French under Napoleon came to occupy the Iberian heartland of the Spanish Empire, this divided the peoples of Spanish America as well into "patriots" and "loyalists".
The first shots of the war against Spanish hegemony were fired in Venezuela. Eventually, it fell to a nobleman of Caracas - Simon Bolivar - to eventually liberate the whole of Spanish America from her colonial overlords. Back in the north, the drive for an independent Mexico was inspired by the renegade priest Miguel de Hidalgo, following the arrest of his brother in 1810 and although Hidalgo was arrested and met a gruesome end at the hands of Spanish executioners, the war continued with isolated bands of rebels harassing Royalist forces.
It feel to the most unlikely of all people, however, to end the war and grant Mexico independence: Agustin de Iturbide, a disgruntled Royalist military officer who eventually switched sides, because of the discriminatory treatment of "colonials" and "criollos", or "half-breeds", by the Spanish government. Iturbide was nevertheless a charismatic man who could bridge the gaps between the now-emergent factions of "liberals" and "conservatives" in Mexico, and led the patriots to victory.
However, even though Spanish hegemony was well destroyed, the old political practices of the old regime continued to dominate the politics of the new Latin American states. Thanks to the French revolution, Mexicans woke up to discover themselves now bitterly divided into liberals and conservatives: once the country had overthrown the Spanish, a new "Empire of Mexico" was declared, with the victorious Iturbide as its interim Emperor until a suitable European prince could be found to rule. This in turn disgruntled the more liberal-minded factions who wanted a complete abolition of monarchical rule in Mexico, and a revolt overthrew the Empire in 1822, and Iturbide was forced to flee.
Despite being free of Spanish domination after almost three centuries, this however would not end the many external challenges the new nation faced. One of the biggest challenges to the new government was economic growth. Thus, it was decided that colonists from the United States could be settled in Texas to grow food and build infrastructure.
However, the Texans had other ideas: they would rather grow cotton, which could only be successfully cultivated using manual labour, in other words, via the use of slaves, which was also against the law in Mexico. Naturally, the Texans resented this government intervention and took to arms in 1836. Despite British and French advice to recognise Texas, Mexico stubbornly continued, its government issuing an ultimatum with the United States that any attempt to annex Texas would result in war, which broke out in 1846 with the 1845 inclusion of Texas as one of the American states, but Mexico obtained more than she bargained for: American troops invaded Mexico, and imposed a humiliating treaty, the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo, which forced Mexico to cede Texas and other territories to the United States of America. Overnight, Mexico was shorn of almost one-third of its territory, a humiliation which Mexican irredentists have not forgotten to this day.
The Americans, despite being victors, were not spared either. The brutality and horror of the long 9-year conflict between Mexico and her Texan and American opponents horrified the American public, but the worst was yet to come: annexing slave-holding Texas resulted in the battle over pro-abolitionist and pro-slavery factions in the United States, and suspicions began to mount into general unrest. Northerners feared the expansion of influence by slave-owning states in government; while southerners rebelled against preceivedly ultra vires interference by the Federal government, sparking off the American Civil War, the very first conflict of the industrial era: a bloody and bitter conflict whose scale of devastation would even dwarf the wars of old Europe.
At the same time, France was seeking for itself a new global role, and its president-turned-Emperor Napoleon III turned his attention outwards towards Asia and America.
Ploughing the Sea: Insurrections and Social ProblemsEdit
Even after independence, however, the political culture of the old colonial masters continued to dominate the scene, and the indigenous peoples of the new nations still continued to suffer oppression and discrimination.
This left Mexico impoverished, war-weary and devastated due to internal and external political pressures. By 1847, this led the Mayan peoples of Mexican Yucatan to rebel and sparked off what would then be called the War of the Castes, and by 1850, the rebels had founded what would be known as the Maya Free State in present-day Quintana Roo state in Mexico, which would even be recognised by the British government present across the sea in Belize and Jamaica. The Free State would collapse with the Mexican army taking its capital, Huaan Santa Cruz, in 1901. Nearly ten years later, an even bigger insurrection would engulf the nation, resulting in the Mexican Revolution. Although much blood was spilt and even the United States was forced to intervene, the conflict did little to achieve anything, and the lot of the people, desperate and destitute since the arrival of the Spaniards, continued to remain as terrible as it had been for the past few centuries well into the 20th century.