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History of Mexico Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kathryn Miedema Dominguez

Kathryn has taught elementary students for over ten years and has her master's degree in elementary education.

Mexico is a successful country with many tourist attractions. In this lesson, we'll learn about how Mexico became a country, the native civilizations, and the battles fought for land.

Mexico's History

Did you know the Mayan people built enormous pyramids in Mexico? The pyramids reached above the tree tops and had steep steps to climb to the top. They were used for religious ceremonies such as offering sacrifices to the gods.

Mayan Pyramid
Mayan Pyramid

Let's learn about how Mexico became a country.

Native People

Mexico had some of the most complex early civilizations who developed farming practices. Civilizations are organized groups of people who support development in their community. Four main early groups in Mexico were the Olmecs, Mayans, Toltecs, and Aztecs.

The Olmecs were present in Mexico between 1200 B.C. and 600 B.C. and were the first to farm squash. The Mayans were the main civilization between 250 A.D. and 900 A.D. They were more advanced than the Olmecs and built large pyramids. The Toltec civilization thrived between 900 A.D. and 1200 A.D.

The most recent civilization in Mexico was that of the Aztecs. The Aztecs joined with the Toltecs and Mayans to make a powerful empire. They conquered other small native groups and ruled five million people. The Aztecs ruled from the 1300s until the Spanish wiped them out.

Spanish Rule

In February 1517, the Spanish explorer Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba arrived in Mexico in search of new lands and natural resources. Instead, he encountered a Mayan army who attacked and killed fifty of his men.

In 1519, another Spanish explorer named Hernando Cortes sailed to Mexico with nearly 500 soldiers to attack the Aztecs. By 1521, Cortes and his men defeated the Aztec empire and built Mexico City on top of the Aztec's city. The Spanish then ruled this territory called New Spain and built many missions to convert the native people to Catholicism.

Mexican Rule

In 1810, the people rebelled against the Spanish to fight for their independence. After eleven years, they gained independence from Spain. The constitution of Mexico was written in 1823 when Antonio López de Santa Anna became president. There were nineteen states and four territories.

Mexican-American War

Before the Mexican-American War, Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836. Texas joined the United States in 1845. The United States wanted to expand westward, but Mexico would not sell its territories. The United States and Mexico went to war in 1846. In 1848, the United States won and gained present-day New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.

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