The written history of Mexico spans more than three millennia. First populated more than 13,000 years ago, central and southern Mexico, (termed Mesoamerica), saw the rise and fall of complex indigenous civilizations. Uniquely in the Western Hemisphere, Mesoamerican civilizations developed glyphic writing systems, recording the political history of conquests and rulers. Mesoamerican history before Europeans arrived is variously called the prehispanic era and the precolumbian era.
The Spanish conquest of Mexico that toppled the Aztec Empire in 1521 with the aid of indigenous allies, created a political entity known as New Spain, now usually called "colonial Mexico." The Spanish victories were followed by expanded regions into the Spanish Empire. The Spanish crown established the Viceroyalty of New Spain with the site of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan becoming Mexico City. Mexico City became and remains the center of political rule. During the colonial era, Mexico's indigenous culture mixed with European culture, producing a hybrid culture highlighted in the local use of language: the country is both the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and home to the largest number of Native American language speakers in North America. The legacy of three centuries of Spanish rule (1521-1821) is a country with a Spanish-speaking, Roman Catholic, and largely Western culture. The three main institutions of the early colonial era were the Roman Catholic Church and the civil hierarchy of the State, both controlled by the Spanish monarchy. In the late eighteenth century, the crown created a standing military to protect its sovereignty over territory and prevent foreign invasions. The royal army and militias became a way for American-born Spaniards (criollos) to achieve upward mobility when other paths to advancement were blocked by the Spanish crown's preference for Iberian-born Spaniards (peninsulares) for high civil and ecclesiastical offices. Because of crown policies, Mexico had no tradition of leadership or self-government. After a protracted struggle (1810–21) for independence, New Spain became the sovereign nation of Mexico, with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba.
National language Spanish