Lat/Long: 23.0000, -102.0000
Mexico officially became a nation when it secured its independence from Spain on August 24, 1821, after over a decade of rebellion. Initially ruled as an imperial monarchy by Agustín de Iturbide, republicans installed their own government after a revolt in 1823. Mexico remained a fairly unstable and divided nation throughout this period but was able to abolish slavery in 1829. In 1834, Antonio López de Santa Anna, then president, began centralizing power to himself and ruling as a dictator. When he suspended the republican constitution, rebellions started throughout Mexico and several regions formed their own governments, including the Republic of Texas. Although Santa Anna attempted to bring Texas back under his control by force, the Texans were able to successfully secure their independence on May 14, 1836. In 1838, Mexico declared war on France after the French blockaded Mexican ports in retaliation for Mexico’s refusal to pay reparations for damages done to a French pastry cook’s property during a revolt in Mexico City. The ensuing Pastry War lasted until March, 1839, and was ended by the British, who forced the Mexicans to pay the original reparations amount if the French withdrew. The war, however, provided Santa Anna with another opportunity to seize power, and he again unsuccessfully attempted to recapture Texas in 1842.
As the United States moved to annex Texas, tensions with Mexico increased and open hostilities broke out in 1846. The Mexican War lasted for two years and Mexico was badly defeated. In the subsequent Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Mexico ceded all of its territory north of the Rio Grande to the United States - almost half of its total size. Republican forces overthrew Santa Anna in 1855, beginning a period of liberal reform and modernization known as La Reforma. Resistance from conservative forces resulted in the Reform War of 1858 to 1861 but the liberals were able to maintain control of the government. Badly in debt, Mexico suspended interest payments to its European creditors in 1861, which France used as an opportunity to invade again and install a member of the Austrian royal family, Maximilian Ferdinand, as Emperor of the Mexican Empire. As a result, Mexico effectively remained in a state of civil war under Maximilian’s rule. The United States was unable to intervene in any meaningful way due to its own internal rebellion.
Timothy E. Anna, Forging Mexico, 1821-1835 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998); T. R. Fehrenbach, Fire and Blood: A History of Mexico (New York: Macmillan, 1973).