- Pre-Hispanic Mexico
- Pre-Classical Period
- Classical Period
- Post-Classical Period
- Spanish Conquest and Colonial Period
- Towards Independence
- War with the U.S. and Recolonization Attempts
- The Mexican Revolution
- The Zapatista Movement
- Mexico Today
Although it was Spaniard Hernan Cortés who eventually overthrew the empire the mighty Aztecs had built, he was not the first European to set foot in the region. That feat is attributed to Fernández de Córdoba in 1517, who began exploring in Yucatan. Cortés came along four years later, in 1521.
He first defeated the Tlascalans, a native people who were rivals of the Aztec civilization and then forced them into being allies to launch an attack on the mighty Aztecs. They had an initial easy time of getting into the Aztec stronghold due to a legend that prophesized the return of Quetzalcoatl, light-skinned, bearded god-king. The Aztecs believed it was Quetzalcoatl they saw when Cortés arrived and thus received him with honor and allowed his people to roam freely.
Cortés captured the Aztec leader Montezuma and declared the region to be the viceroyalty of New Spain in 1535. This was a time when the Spanish subdued many native people and exploited the wealth of the land. They began mingling with the native women, resulting in an increasing mestizo or mixed breed class. Gradually their power continued spreading. The Spaniards were the minority, but were regarded as the nobility, regardless of their social standing in Spain.