MEXICO
Mexico, officially the United States of Mexico, is a huge country rich in cultural diversity where the past plays an important role in shaping the present day development. When “discovered” Mexico was home to 10 million people living in highly disciplined and organized societies. The native civilization became the foundation upon which the colonial empire was built. Mexico endured 300 years of colonial domination and has historically been exploited in one form or another by foreign powers ever since. Ancient Mexico had one of the world’s most advanced civilizations which included complex systems of mathematics, time measurement, architecture, communication, farming and astrology. Due to its geographical location, shape and climate, Mexico has a wide variety of ecological characteristics that is unique worldwide. They have a wealth of different soil and plant species as well as being rich in mineral resources. Mexico has a rich history in music and art and their culture is a rich, complex blend of Native American, Spanish and American traditions.
The people of Mexico were developing art and cultures long before the Spanish thought of “discovering” the “New World”. Their cultures were far ahead of any European cultures at that time. Many different peoples with their own ethnic differences coexisted. They had a cultural identity, for instance, they cultivated corn, they had a singular structure of government, they used the 365 day calendar, they built pyramids, they used similar rituals and worshipped the same gods and goddesses of the sky, of nature, of fertility and of war. The same concept of cosmic duality - the beginning and the end - appears in the religion and art of all early Mexican cultures. The strongest example of this shared belief is that they worshipped a feathered snake god, Quetzalcoatl. He was the god of ground and air. While there are many native cultures in Mexico, there are six that are considered to be the most influential. Each of these developed in a different time in the history of Mexico. They are the Olmecs, Teotihuacans, Toltecs, Mayans, Zapotec/Mixtec and the Aztecs. Mexico’s first established culture was the Olmecs. They were very advanced and were able to organize into groups and set up many cities and villages. Most of their people were skillful farmers. They were governed by rulers and priests and invented their own calendars, numbers and writing. They are very mysterious as little is know about where they came from or why they disappeared. The Teotihuacans built the largest ancient city, Teotihuacan (“City of the Gods”), ever found in the Americas. Their religious, political and economical influence covered a very widespread area. The Toltecs were mighty warriors and master craftsmen. This culture is believed to have developed from the Teotihuacan culture. They built one of Mexico’s most impressive cities and strongly influenced later Mayan and Aztec cultures. The Mayans controlled a huge empire. They created complex systems of mathematics and astrology and were skill traders. The Mayans were excellent artists, architects, farmers, mathematicians, and astronomers. Mayan mathematics included the discovery of the zero, the duration of the solar year, and a method of predicting solar eclipses. Their religious practices were complex and consisted of bloodletting from ears and tongues, human sacrifices, and dances. Sorcerers and medicine men were both prophets and inflicters or healers of disease. They used magic formulas, chants, and prayers for healing methods. One of the most famous wonders the Mayans built was a pyramid at Chichen-Itza which served as a temple and an elaborate Mayan calendar. There were 365 steps marking off the days of the year. Twice a year, during the spring and fall equinox, the sun creates a picture of a giant snake going down the steps. Then suddenly their civilization vanished and their disappearance is a mystery to us. Off all the indigenous cultures, the Mayans are considered to have been the most influential, every other early culture of Mexico is thought to have borrowed from them. The Zapotec and Mixtec cultures were master builders and artists who made great temples, burial chambers, pottery, and metal work. Eventually, the Mixtec culture conquered the Zapotecs. Remarkably, these two ancient cultures still survive today. The Aztec culture was very advanced in many ways. They were warlike people who had advanced warfare systems. They had advanced