Mayan History

While many traditional histories of the Mayan people begin with the Spanish Conquest, Mayan history can be traced back much further in time through archaeological investigations and the oral traditions of the Mayan people. Below is a very brief outline of Mayan history which includes these other perspectives. Much of the focus of this outline is on Mexico and Guatemala.

Choose an event to learn more about it.


Classic period 200 AD - 900 AD


Post-Classic Period 900 AD - 1519

Columbus encounters Mayans in Honduras - 1502
Arrival of the Cortez in Mexico - 1519

Beginning of the Spanish Conquest


Fall of the Aztec empire - 1521


1523 - Invasion of Guatemala by Alvarado


Colonial period in Mexico 1519 - 1821


1523 - 1821 - Colonial period in Guatemala


Mexico & Guatemala win independence from Spain
Porfirio Diaz comes to power in Mexico - 1876
The Mexican Revolution - 1910 - 1920
Reform period in Mexico - 1920 - 1940

Mexico creates Instituto Nacional Indigenista
a state agency to support indigenous
culture and traditions - 1949
1945 - 1954 - Reform period in Guatemala, known affectionately as the Ten Years of Spring
1954 - Rebels overthrow Guatemalan government. Beginning of Guatemala's civil war.
Sna Jolobil, an indigenous weaving cooperative, formed in Chiapas, Mexico - 1977
1984 - I, Rigoberta Menchu, the life story of a Guatemala human rights activist, is published.
1992 - Rigoberta Menchu wins Nobel Peace Prize.
The North American Free Trade Act passes.
In Chiapas, Mexico, the Zapatistas begin rebelling in response to NAFTA and against the Mexican government - 1994
1996 - End of the Guatemalan Civil War.