A Brief History of Mexico by Lynn V. Foster

By Lynn V. Foster

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Some Maya regions were depopulated, not to recover until the 20th century. The possible causes of these various collapses have been the subject of considerable archaeological study. Near the Gulf coast, cities, which may have been very large, have been rediscovered in the 1990s. At the same time, the Pacific coast is being more closely examined for sites and cultural affiliation. Excavations in these areas will surely change archaeologists’ understanding of Mesoamerica. For now, it is only the better excavated and better understood cities that can be described.

Like the Bible, the creation myths of Mesoamerica explained the genesis of the world and prescribed correct social and political behavior. Irreverence would result, not in hell, but in the destruction of the maize world, by earthquake according to the Aztecs. Although a few late versions of these myths have been preserved through the Spaniards’ contact with the last Mesoamerican civilizations, older ones have recently been deciphered in the hieroglyphic texts of the ancient Maya. Even earlier, these myths can be identified in the art of the Olmec, dating from three millennia ago.

At the time Christopher Columbus proposed his voyage, Spain was in an unusually strong position to consider overseas expansion. Isabella 47 A BRIEF HISTORY OF MEXICO was captivated by the promise of new souls for the church as much as Ferdinand was interested in a new trade route for exotic spices and silks from the Orient. After so many centuries of war, the nation had a ruined economy and little standing among European trading nations. Fighting holy wars, however, had become a Spanish specialty.

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