Week 1: UNAM-CEPE Intensive History

Today I began my intensive history class, taught by my Fulbright advisor, Maestro Juan Pablo Vivaldo (top left,p ictured in the middle). The class focuses on the Porfiriato Era leading up to the Mexican Revolution (1884-1920). This is the period in Mexican history that defines what Mexico’s culture, society, and economy are like now. The two close-ups from the famous murals of David Siquieros (top right) depicting Porfiro Días and the Mexican Revolutionaries. Of course, all this historical backdrop is helpful for my project!

I’ll be adding more about his topic in the weeks ahead. It should be a pleasant journey!

Week 1: Pre-columbian, Mesoamerican history in Mexico

Week 2: Porfiriato, part 1 Rise to Power

Week 3: Porfiriato, part 2 Society & Culture

Week 4: Porfiriato, part 3 Fall from Grace; Revolution, part 1 Rumblings

Week 5: Revolution, part 2 Momentum from North and South

Week 6: Revolution, part 3 Pancho Villa & Emiliano Zapata

Week 7: Final comments; class presentations

Week 1: Pre-columbian History

Who was in Mesoamerica before Christopher Columbus ran into it?

Today’s post seeks to dispel the common misconception that the Mayan, Aztecs and Incas were the only empires that existed in the Americas before European settlers arrived.

Today’s lecture was about who was already populating the territory called Mesoamerica, which today is in the country of Mexico. Pause: Click on a link to maps of Mesoamerica: en español and in English. What do notice about the territory of Mesoamerica compared to what is Mexico now?

Pre-Classic Period (2000-400 B.C.)

The Cultures Before the Olmecas

Before the Aztecs founded Tenochtitlan (today’s Mexico City) in the year 1325 A.D., there were four important civilizations tooling around the area, even before the first one (Olmecas) came to the scene around the 1200’s B.C. First there were the Hohokams (Southeast U.S.) from 2000 B.C. and the Adenas (midwest U.S.), then the Mogollons (Arizona-New Mexico), and the Anazai (Colorado-New Mexico).

The reason these were important was their abilities to organize their communities as social heirachy in settled areas with agriculture, build dwellings, and develop trade routes. (I’m not an archeologist; I’m merely condensing what I’m learning in class, museums, and books!)


Olmeca Culture (1000-600 B.C.)

The Olmecas were in present-day Veracruz. They reached their splendor between 1000-600 B.C. mainly because they luckily settled in an area made fertile by favorable rain patterns. They created great commercial centers based in La Venta (find a map on the Internet) and organized their society into castes of priests (who administered) and warriors (who kept the order).  This made them the most important in Mesoamerica during the Pre-Classic period. Also, this is the culture that is famous for creating the huge heads of stone.

World perspective: During the long reign of the Olmecas, these were events also happened: Carthage founded (814); First Olympic Games (776); Height of Assyria (750’s); Rome founded (752); Boo-duh born (563); and Confusions born (551).

More about the fascinating Olmecas (en español), please click link.

Classic Period (400-900 B.C.)

Teotihuacan civilization

Together with the Mayans (in present-day Guatemala-Yucatán) [along with Romans (in present-day Italy) and Hans (in present-day China)], the Teotihuacan civilization flourished after the Olmecas, their height of splendor from 100-600A.D.

Notice that the demarcation of time for "Periods" are Maya-centered, so there are overlaps with other civilizations.

The Teotihuancans was based just northeast of present-day Mexico City, an area that the Aztecs eventually sacked because of its agricultural potential, strategic trade routes from the valley basin to the gulf, many caves considered sacred, and obsidian mines (a highly-valued mineral). Two other rising civilizations coexisted: Monte Albán in present-day Oaxaca and El Tajín in present-day Veracruz.

Did you know? Despite their majestic civilization, the Teotihuacans did not have a system of writing!

Growth Phases I: 150-200 B.C. Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun (and Cholula Pyramid both) started to be built. II: 200-400 Moon Pyramid. III: 400-600 Height of population at 125,000.

(insert pic of timeline here)

The Mayan civilization (400-900 A.D.)

Mention Roman Empire (26BC-476AD)

Post-Classic Period (900-1521 A.D.)

The Toltecs, then the Aztecs, Incas, and Mongols (Wha-what?!)

Toltec Empire

Dominates much of Central Mexico (900-1100)


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