The ancient inhabitants of Mexico were probably descended from Asians who crossed the Bering Strait in prehistoric times. Archeological evidence indicates that Mexico was populated by 10,000 B.C. The earliest known advanced culture was developed by the Olmec Indians about 1200 B.C. along the Gulf Coast. The civilization of the Mayas, in the Yucatan peninsula and other regions of southern Mexico, was at its peak in the seventh and eighth centuries a.d. The Toltecs flourished in the south-central plateau area from the 10th into the 12th century. In the early 15th century the Aztecs gained control of most of the central area. The Tarascans, who lived to the west, and the Zapotecs and Mixtecs, who lived in the southwest, maintained their independence.

Important dates in Mexico
c. 2000 B.C. Village life developed in the Valley of Mexico.
c. A.D. 250-900 Great Indian civilizations thrived during the Classic Period.
c. 900-1200 The Toltec empire controlled the Valley of Mexico.
c. 1325-1350 The Aztec founded Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City).
1519-1521 Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec empire for Spain.
1810 Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla began the Mexican struggle for independence.
1821 Mexico won independence.
1836 Texas won independence from Mexico.
1846-1848 The United States defeated Mexico in the Mexican War and won much Mexican territory.
1855 A liberal government under Benito Juarez began a period of reform.
1863 French troops occupied Mexico City.
1864 Maximilian of Austria became emperor of Mexico.
1867 Liberal forces led by Benito Juarez regained power.
1876-1880 and 1884-1911 Porfirio Diaz ruled Mexico as dictator.
1910-1911 Francisco I. Madero overthrew Diaz.
1917 A revolutionary constitution was adopted.
1920 The government began making revolutionary social and economic reforms.
1929 The National Revolutionary Party (now called the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI) was formed.
1934 The government began a major program of land distribution to farmers.
1938 Mexico took over foreign oil company properties.
1942-1960 Mexico's industries expanded significantly.
1953 Women received the right to vote in all elections.
1968 Government troops put down student demonstrations in Mexico City.
1970's Major new petroleum deposits were discovered on the Gulf of Mexico coast.
1985 Two earthquakes struck south-central Mexico, killing about 10,000 people.
1994 NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) took effect, providing for the gradual elimination of trade barriers among Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
1997 The Institutional Revolutionary Party lost its majority in the Chamber of Deputies for the first time.
2000 Vicente Fox Quesada of the National Action Party was elected president of Mexico. He became the first non-PRI candidate elected to that office in 71 years.