Thousand of years ago, advanced civilizations arose in Mesoamerica, Which stretches from southern Mexico into part of central America. Mesoamerica's is divided into two main geographic areas: Highlands, or land above the sea, and lowlands, or land that is low and level. Civilizations began to arise in Mesoamerica more than 3,000 years ago first the Omlec and later the Zapotec.
The Olmec culture began along Mexico's Gulf coast Around 1200 B.C. The development of this culture led to the birth of Mesoamerica's first civilizations. Archaeologist are not sure why, but around 400 B.C., The Olmec civilizations disappeared. However elements of the civilizations's legacy can be seen in the later civilizations.
The Zapotec people would build one of the first major cities in Mesoamerica, but their beginnings were humble. They developed their society in the Oaxaca valley, a large, open area where three smaller valleys meet. Around A.D. 750, Monte Alban's power began to weaken. By 900, the city had disappeared. Economic difficulties may have caused the decline, but no one for sure.
Cortez and the end of the Aztec Empire
The Maya emerged around the same time as the Zapotec. Their culture began to develop to the east of the Zapotec in areas of present-day southern Mexico and central America around 1500 B.C. These areas included lowlands in the north, highlands in the south. When Spanish conquers arrived in 1500s, only weakened city-states had been left behind-a shadow of their former glory.
Around A.D. 1300, Aztec nomads migrated into the valley of Mexico, a thriving and populous region in the central part Mexico. The Aztec built Tenochtitlan on two islands in a swamp in the western part of Lake Texcoco. The emperor was the most powerful person in Aztec society. He controlled all political and spiritual matters and served for life. When Spanish explorers arrived in 1519, they marveled at Tenochtitlan's size and splendor.
Aztec power depended on the empire's huge military, which conquered many people and then demanded tribute from defeated populations. The Spanish surrounded and systematically destroyed the great city. They rebuilt over the ruins, and that city became present day Mexico.