The geography of Meso America stretched from southern Mexico into part of Central America. The Meso America's landscape divided into highlands and lowlands. Their main crop to grow in the highlands was maize. Farmers in the low land grew cacao trees which were made to make chocolate.
The Olmec's culture began around 1200 B.C. The development of this culture led to the birth of Mesoamerica's first civilzation. Around 400 B.C the Olmec civilization disappeared and archaeologists are not sure why.
The Zapotec people would build one of the first major cities in Mesoamerica, but their beginnings were humble. They devolped their society in the Oaxaca Valley, a large open area where three smaller valleys meet. Around 500 B.C the center of power shifted when the Zapotec built a city known as Monte Alban. The site over looked the Oaxaca valley.
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. The Maya farmers developed successful agricultural practices. The upper classes lived in stone buildings and wore colorfully decorated clothes and jewelry. The farmers wore plain clothes and lived in mud huts.
Around A.D 1300 Aztec nomads migrated inot the Valley of Mexico. The Aztec built Tenochtitlan on two islands in a swamp in the western part of Lake Texcoco. The Aztec had strong armies that marched steadily through Mesoamerica, forcing small city states to surrender to Aztec Rule.
They had constant rebellions and wars, which kept the Aztec empire unstable. The unrest in the empire was made worse by the rule of of Moctezuma ll, who became emperor in 1502. He considered himself an equal to the gods. He also kept pressuring defeated peoples for more and more tribute to pay for his luxurious, wasteful lifestyle. That year conquistadors arrived from Europe. They overpowered the Aztec with superior weapons, such as guns and cannons, as well as horses. The Spanish surrounded and systematically destroyed the great city.