Mexico: key historical events
Page last modified 1/8/2019
Pancho Villa 1878-1923
Mexican War 1846-48
Click Here for maps of growth of Mexico City from 1700, shrinkage of Lake Texcoco from 1519
Click Here for map of Mexico City 1932 (source, p.59, Great City Maps, ed S Atkinson, Dorling Kindersley, 2016)
10/2004, An arrest warrant was issued for Luis Echeverria, now aged 82.
2/2002, Mexico began to accept and deal with its bloody past few decades. Newspapers carried pictures of those shot on 2/10/1968.
7/2000, Mexicans, disillusioned with the previous decades of government by the PRI, elected Vicente Fox, National Action Party, as President.
19/12/1994, A financial meltdown began in Mexico, unleashing the ‘Tequila Crisis’ on world markets. Mexican consumer price inflation rose to over 50%, and interest rates soared to over 100%, impoverishing many poor,indebted, Mexicans. The Clinton administration bailed out Mexico with US$50,000 billion.
1/1/1994, In Mexico’s Chiapas State, near the Guatemalan border, campesinos, mostly indigenous peoples, rebelled. They named themselves Zapatistas, after Emilio Zapatista, a hero of the 1910 Revolution. They seized control of some large estates and turned them into communal farms. Chiapas was the poorest State in Mexico. 26.4% of its people were of Mayan origin (average for Mexico was 7.5%). The State had large areas unserved by electricity, despite containing dams that generated it for other areas of Mexico, A third of the people in Chiapas did not speak Spanish, and nearly 60% of Chiapas workers earned under US$3.33 an hour in 1990, the National Minimum Wage for Mexico at that time. 19% of the labour force were unwaged, working on subsistence agriculture. The main cash crop, coffee, had fallen in price considerably. 1/1/1994 was the day NAFTA came into effect, and the Zapatistas described NAFTA as the ‘death certificate’ for Mexico, unable to compete with US and Canadian enterprises. The army was deployed to counter the rebellion; casualties were low by past Mexican standards, with some 150-400 killed. Eventually Salinas entered negotiations with the rebels.
1993, The Mexican economy was in serious trouble, with an average annual decline in output of 0.5%, 1980-93.
22/4/1992, Gas leaked into sewers in Guadalajara, Mexico, then exploded, killing 230.
19/9/1985, Major earthquake in Mexico resulted in 4,700 dead and 30,000 injured. The quake measured 8.1 on the Richter Scale, killing 9,000 people and injuring a further 30,000. 95,000 were made homeless. A second quake the following day hampered rescue operations. The political fall-out from this was that Cuauthemoc Cardenas, son of the Reverend Lazaro Cardenas, broke with the ruling PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) and formed a Centre-Left coalition. He then challenged the PRI candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Cardenas had considerable support but two days before the election two oif his key aides were murdered; the crimes were never solved. A few hours after the voting closed, the computers counting the votes crashed. When they came back online, Salinas had won the elction with just over 50% of the vote; a few months later, the PRI destroyed the ballot papers.
19/11/1984, An explosion at the PEMEX chemical plant at Ecatepec, Mexico, killed 540.
8/1982, Mexico was unable to service its massive foreign debt, triggering the Latin Amreican debt crisis.
1976, Jose Lopez Portillo succeeded Luis Echeverria as President. By 1976 Mexico’s foreign debt had risen to US$ 20 billion. However the oil price boom of the 1970s enabled Mexico, with its huge oil reserves, to borrow yet more money; another US$ 60 billion debt was taken on by the time Portillo left power in 1982.
1970, Luis Echeverria, who was Interior Minister during the 2/10/1968 massacre, became President. In the late 1960s the Mexican Government had bought up bankrupt enterprises in oerer to preserve jobs. Whilstbpassing laws to restrict foreign investment, Mexico had borrowed money from abroad to fund these buyouts. By 1970 Mexico’s foreign debt stood at US$5 billion.
2/10/1968, Large demonstration by tens of thousands, mostly students, in Tlatelolco Plaza, Mexico City, against police brutality, political corruption and economic hardship. The army responded with force, shooting at least 300 civilians. This was ten days before the Olympic games began in Mexico City; athletes and visitors could see tanks deployed on the city streets.
27/12/1951, Ernesto Zedillo, President of Mexico, was born.
7/7/1946, M|iguel Aleman, a civilian, was elected as President of Mexico. This led to closer ties between the US and Mexico.
1938, PEMEX, Petroleos Mexicanos, was created by President Lazaro Cardenas. He seized the assets of foreign (mainly British) companies to create PEMEX, the companies being compensated in Mexican Government Bonds, after they failed to implement a Mexican wage agreement. PEMEX was virtually autonomous within Mexico until the 1982 Debt Crisis.
2/3/1937, Mexico nationalised the oil industry.
2/7/1934, The Populist candidate Lazaro Cardenas was elected President of Mexico. He held post until 1940. He speeded up land redistribution (see 1910) but this was halted after 1937, when army Generals complained that he had gone too far. Cardenas then, 3/1938, attempted to focus popular discontent on external agencies, especially the US and European companies who owned large parts of the Mexican economy, expecially in the oil sector. Mexico had to pay US$ 200 million compemnsation to the oil companies.
17/7/1928, Alvaro Obregon, newly-elected President of Mexico, was assassinated before taking office. Congress appointed Emilio Portes Gil as successor.
27/9/1924, Following Mexican elections, Plutarcho Calles became President of Mexico. He took office on 1/12/1924.
10/7/1923, Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa, Mexican revolutionary leader, born 1878, son of a farm worker, was shot dead. His killers were members of the Herrera family, four of whom Pancho had executed during the Revolution.
1/12/1920, Alvaro Obregon became President of Mexico, bringing stability after a decade of civil conflict.
5/9/1920, Alvaro Obregon was elected President of Mexico; he took office on 1/12/1920.
21/5/1920, Venustiano Carranza, President of Mexico, was assassinated; in response the USA suspended diplomatic relations. Adolfo de la Huerta became provisional President.
16/1/1916, Supporters of Pancho Villa in Mexico killed 16 US citizens near Chihuahua.
2/7/1915, Porfirio Díaz, 29th President of Mexico (born 1830) died.
13/8/1914, In Mexico, interim president Francisco S. Carvajal officially resigned from office to make way for the inauguration of Venustiano Carranza.
13/6/1914, Pancho Villa defeated President Huerta’s troops at Zacatecas.
2/1/1914, The Battle of Ojinaga. An estimated 1,000 casualties were reported as the battle moved into its second day, with Pancho Villa’s troops under the command of Gen. Toribio Ortega Ramírez slowly gaining against defending Federal troops in Ojinaga, Mexico in spite of constant artillery bombardment. Many Federal troops deserted and crossed the U.S. border into Presidio, Texas where the United States Army assisted the Red Cross in setting up a mobile hospital to treat wounded while at the same time disarming and turning away hundreds of others.
15/11/1913, In Mexico, rebel leader Pancho Villa took Ciudad Juarez.
3/11/1913, The US demanded the removal of General Huerta from Mexico.
23/2/1913, Madero, the deposed President of Mexico, was assassinated.
18/2/1913, In Mexico the army commander, Victoriano Huerta, joined rebel soldiers and forced President Madero to resign. Huerta declared himself President; civil war broke out, and the US refused to recognise Huerta.
3/3/1912, Mexican General Pascual Orozco, who had helped Francisco Madero win the revolution of 1911 and become President of Mexico, declared a revolt against the Madero government after having been denied a major role. Orozco and his followers, the "Orozquistas", then assisted Victoriano Huerta in overthrowing Madero.
6/11/1911, Madero made himself President of Mexico.
25/5/1911, The Mexican dictator Portofirio Diaz was ousted after 45 years rule.
11/5/1911, The Mexican rebel Francisco Madero established a new capital at Ciudad Juarez.
1910, Mexico was a very unequal country, with 96% of rural households possessing ni land at all, whilst less than 850 families owned 97% of Mexico’s arable land. The new post-Revolution 1917 Constitution promised land reform, but before the Presidency of populist candidate Lazaro Cardenas (1934-30), fewer than 10% of rural families had benefitted from any land redistribution.
8/8/1879, Emiliano Zapata, Mexican revolutionary, was born.
5/6/1878, Pancho Villa, Mexican revolutionary, was born.
19/6/1867, Emperor Maximillian of Mexico was executed by firing squad, despite international appeals for clemency. Born in Vienna, brother of Emperor Francis Joseph and Archduke of Austria, he became Emperor of Mexico in 1864, following France’s invasion of Mexico in 1862. Mexicans opposed his rule, and further resentment arose from Maximillian’s lavish lifestyle, and the corruption and inefficiency of his regime. In October 1866 he fled Mexico, intending to abdicate, but was persuaded to return, then arrested and court-martialled.
21/6/1867, Santa Anna, Mexican leader, died.
15/5/1867, Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, surrendered to Juarez’s forces.
11/1/1867, Mexican President Benito Juarez returned to Mexico City following the defeat of French forces.
12/2/1866. Invoking the Monroe Doctrine, the USA called for the withdrawal of French troops from Mexico. Maximilian, having failed to secure recognition of his regime from the US, now sought help from Napoleon III and the Pope, but his cause was hopeless.
12/6/1864, Maximilian arrived in Mexico City. French troops helped him drive Juarez’s forces over the border into the USA.
10/4/1864, Maximillian, an Austrian archduke, was made Emperor of Mexico.
7/6/1863, French forces occupied Mexico City.
5/5/1862. A French army was defeated at Puebla, Mexico. Napoleon III of France had maintained a military presence in Mexico after the withdrawal of Spanish and British troops, and had hoped to establish a Mexican Empire for France.
8/4/1862, British and Spanish troops were withdrawn from Mexico as it became clear that Napoleon III intended to set up a French Catholic Empire there.
1848, The Republic of Yucatan, which had maintained independence from the rest of Mexico since 1841, rejoined the country – but not before considering following Texas in seceding from Mexico and joining the USA>
2/2/1848. Mexico finally collapsed after nearly 2 years of war with the USA, in which 13,000 US soldiers were killed. Under the Treaty of Hidalgo, signed at Vera Cruz, Mexico surrendered Texas, New Mexico, and California for a payment of US$15million. The size of the USA was thus increased by nearly a third. The Mexicans feared US occupation of their own country and had no money left to fund the war.
14/9/1847. US troops stormed and captured Mexico City, ending the US war with Mexico. With US forces capturing Texas, New Mexico and California, Mexico lost a third of its territory.
18/4/1847, US troops under General Winfield Scott defeated Mexican forces under Santa Anna at Cerro Gordo.
See also USA for Mexican War 1846-48
23/2/1847, US forces under General Zachary Taylor defeated the Mexicans under Santa Anna at Buena Vista. The US had ambitions to occupy the entire North American continent (the Manifest Destiny), including possibly Mexico itself. The US had taken what is now New Mexico and California (Upper California to Mexico).
7/1846, Santa Anna became President of Mexico again, in a revolution against Paredes. Paredes was suspected of wanting to import a foreign, European, monarch to make Mexico a Kingdom. Then, he hoped, the European powers would join to crush back the resurgent USA.
9/5/1846, Battle of Resaca de la Palma. Mexico was heavily defeated, and withdrew across the Rio Grande.
8/5/1846, Battle of Palo Alto. US General Zachary Taylor defeated a Mexican force of 6,000 soldiers with his 2,000 troops.
13/1/1846, US troops were directed to advance to the Rio Grande, in anticipation of the failure of negotiations with Mexico.
12/1845, General Paredes, backed by the military, overthrew Herrera. Herrera had become despised for his willingness to negotiate with the USA. However Paredes proved to be too autocratic and he soon became unpopular.
8/1845, General Herrera was elected President of Mexico by an overwhelming majority.
29/5/1845, Under an amnesty, Santa Anna was allowed to depart from Mexico for Cuba, with his wife and daughter. A provisional government was established under General Herrera. Mexicans rejoiced in the streets at Anna’s departure.
29/3/1845, The UK and France laid proposals before Mexico, that Texas should become independent but should not seek to ally with any other country; they were concerned about the rapid growth of the US (see 1/3/1845)
28/3/1845. Mexico severed relations with the USA following America’s ratification of the annexation of Texas on 1/3/1845, after an almost unanimous vote in favour by the Texas electorate. On 29./12/1845 Texas became the 28th state of the USA.
4/1/1845, Santa Anna was deposed as President of Mexico in a coup by Paredes. Santa Anna attempted to flee towards the coast but was captured at the village of Jaco, to be arrested and held at Jaco.
1/1844, The Mexican Congress agreed to pay 4 million dollars for President Santa Anna’s effort to reconquer Texas. Santa Anna, however, asked for 10 million dollars, a sum rejected by Congress as they feared it would be wasted on government favouritism and nepotism. Santa Anna then retired from the Presidency to his estate at Manga de Clavo; his friend Don Valentin Canalizo stepped in as interim President.
21/10/1842, The US returned Monterrey to Mexico, Commodore Jones having concluded that the threat to the Californias was untrue.
19/10/1942, Commodore Jones, in the frigate United States, along with Captain Stribling in the Cyane, arrived at Monterrey, Mexico. They demanded the surrender of Monterrey to the US; this was in response to events of 5/9/1842.
7/9/1842, Commodore Jones set sail for Mexico.
5/9/1842, Rear Admiral Thomas, British, set sail from Callao in the Dublin with secret orders. Commodore Jones of the US believed he was going to Panama to link up with troops from the West Indies to take possession of the Californias, as reported in the Boston media, 19/4/1842.
19/4/1842, The New Orleans Advertiser asserted that Mexico had offered to cede the Californias to England in return for seven million dollars. See 5/9/1842.
1841, John Lloyd Stephens’s book, Incidents of travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, was published. The book reported on the relics of ther Mayan civilization, and sparked great interest in the Maya in the US and Europe.
25/8/1837. The Government in Washington refused to admit Texas to the Union. The US was anxious to maintain its neutrality in the dispute between Texas and Mexico, and did not want to, therefore, take the step of admitting one of the belligerents to the Union.
20/8/1837, The US President demanded reparations from Mexico for alleged incursions and damages. By 1840 these damages had been quantified by the US at just over US$ 2 million.
2/10/1835, Texan-Americans started their campaign for independence from Mexico by starting an armed rebellion against the government of Antonio de Santa Anna in the town of Gonzales. Americans had settled the area from 1825, when Texas was largely undeveloped and there was little interference from the Mexican Government. However the current administration was changing Mexico from a federation of states into a centralised state.
8/1835, US President Jackson, seeking to ensure the US had a Pacific Coast presence and usage by the US Navy of San Francisco Bay, began to attempt to force Mexico to cede territory east of the Rio Grande, also north of 37 latitude, so as to give California to the US.
1833, The Mexican state of Texas, having been promised a separate constitution in May 1824 if it applied for one, now did apply but was refused by the Mexican Government.
6/7/1832, Emperor Maximillian, Austrian Archduke and Emperor of Mexico, was born in Vienna, the half-brother of Franz Joseph. He was made Emperor of Mexico by the French.
26/6/1832, Mexico began to assert a more authoritarian rule over the US colonists in its territory of Texas. On this day the US colonists rebelled, and captured the Mexican Army fort of Velasco.
6/4/1830, Mexico passed a law forbidding further settlement by immigrants from the US.
4/10/1824, Mexico became a republic.
8/1824, Mexico passed a General Colonisation Law permitting foreign settlement in Coahuila and Texas.
18/2/1823, Permission for the colony in what is now Texas (see 17/1/1821) was withdrawn by Mexico, following the accession of Iturbide.
1822, English antiquarian William Bullock explored the ruins of Teotihuacan and other Aztec cities. He brought back relics of these cities for an exhibition in England in 1824, which sparked interest in New World ancient civilizations.
25/7/1822, Agostin de Turbide was crowned Emperor of Mexico. He wanted to use military force to bring other newly-independent Latin American states into his empire.
27/9/1821, Mexico achieved independence under General Iturbe, who proclaimed himself Emperor as Augustin I.
24/2/1821, Augustin de Iturbide, an officer in the Mexican Army, published his plan for an independent Mexico.
17/1/1821, Mexico granted permission for emigrants from the US east coast to found a colony in what is now Texas. See 18/2/1823.
1819, The US concluded a treaty with Spain substituting the River Sabine (present day boundary between Louisiana and Texas) for the Rio Grande as boundary between them. Spain/Mexico thereby gained the right to govern what is now Texas.
6/11/1813. Jose Maria Morelos proclaimed Mexican independence from Spain at the Congress of Chilpancingo.
16/9/1810, The Mexican Revolution, a campaign for independence from Spain, began.
21/2/1794, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the Mexican revolutionary who freed his country from Spanish rule, was born.
1605, The indigenous population of central Mexico, which had stood at 25 million when Cortez landed, but had shrunk to 6 million in 1550, now stood at just 1 million. New diseases brought in by Europeans to which the indigenous population had no resistance, were mainly to blame. The Europeans saw this decimation as a judgement of God against non-Christians.
2/12/1547, Hernando Cortez, Spanish conqueror of Mexico in 1521, died near Seville.
1546, Spanish explorers found silver near Zacatecas, NW of Mexico City. This made the region a huge source of wealth for Spain, but the indigenous Indians, forced to labour 12 hours a day in the mines, suffered greatly.
28/2/1525, Aztec Emperor Cuahtemoc was executed by Hernando Cortez.
1480, The last Aztec Emperor, Montezuma II, was born.
1469, Axayacatl became ruler of the Aztec empire; ruled until 1481.
1425, Mayan domination of the Guatemala region began.
13/3/1325, The founding of Tenochtitlan on a small island in Lake Texcoco by the Mexica empire at the dawn of the day. The Aztec capital became Mexico City in 1521.
978, The Toltec and Maya kingdoms merged in the Yucatan Peninsula.
805, The Mayan city of Copan was abandoned.
694, The 13th Mayan ruler of Copan, 18-Rabbit, began a 44-year reign. Numeral-animal names were derived from the person’s date of birth.
683, End of the reign of Pacal the Great.
29/7/615, Queen Sal K’uk was succeeded by her son Pacal the Great as ruler of the Maya city state Palenque (Mexico). He began a building program at his capital that produced some of Maya civilization's finest art and architecture.
550, The Toltec people overran the Teotihuacan culture on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
374, Spearthrower Owl became Emperor of Teotihuacan.
350. Mayan cities, which emerged around 200 BC, were at the peak of their power.
150, Construction of the Great Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan began.
50 BCE, Teotihuacan was now the largest city in the Americas, with a population of 50,000.
200 BCE. Urban centres emerged in the Maya region of Mexico. See 350 AD.
1,200 BCE, Olmec rule began in western Mexico. Chavin culture emerged in the Andes, see Peru.
3,372 BCE, First date in the Mayan calendar.