Mexico has a long and rich history, and has been home to some of the greatest civilizations, such as the Maya and the Aztecs, who were known for practising human sacrifice on a large scale. • The Aztec empire was effectively vanquished by the spread of small pox, which killed much of its population and led to an easy defeat by the Spanish in the early 16th century. • The country then became part of the Spanish Empire, called ‘New Spain’. • Much of the current identity, traditions and architecture of modern day Mexico were created during this 300 year period of Spanish rule. • The country gained its independence from Spain in 1810, but lost half its territory to America following a two year war in 1846.