Tlaxcala is the smallest, but also one of the most densely populated states of Mexico. It is surrounded on three sides by the state of Puebla, on the west by the Estado de México and on the north by Hidalgo. This high-lying countryside, covered in forests and fields, has a pleasantly cool climate. The 4461 m (14,636 ft) high mountain of La Malinche (Malantzín) is the fifth highest peak in Mexico. For the archaeological sites see Cacaxtla.
Among the relatively few pre-Hispanic sites those of Tizatlán, Cacaxtla and Xochitécatl should be mentioned.
Very little is known of the early history of what is now the state of Tlaxcala. Between AD 650 and 800 the Olmeca-Xicalanca brought their culture to present-day Tlaxcala. Around the middle of the 14th c. Nahua Indians from the tribe of Tlatepotzca came from Texcoco and interbred with the Otomí Indians living here. From this developed Tlaxcala, a kind of republic, which consisted of four autonomous ruling entities. Tlaxcala played an important part in the struggle against the Aztecs (Mexica) who ruled in Tenochtitlán. After a temporary expansion as far as the Gulf coast the Tlaxcaltecs were pushed back into their tribal area by the Aztecs during the second half of the 15th c. and besieged there for decades. At the beginning of the 16th c. the Aztecs concluded a treaty with the undefeated Tlaxcaltecs which limited hostilities to the occasional skirmish, the aim of which was merely to take prisoners for religious sacrifices ("flower battle" = Xochiyáoyotl).
The Spanish who invaded in 1519 were initially met with fierce resistance by the Tlaxcaltecs, but the latter soon formed an alliance with Cortés against the hated Aztecs. Only Xicoténcatl the Younger, a son of one of the four rulers, turned down this alliance and as a result was executed two years later by the Spanish. Even after the first unsuccessful attempt by the Spanish to conquer Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital ("Noche Triste" = sad night), the Tlaxcaltecs maintained their support. Cortés and his troops prepared themselves in Tlaxcala for the final siege of Tenochtitlán. Thus it was here that the first brigantines were built which were to make possible the decisive attack from Lake Texcoco against the Aztec capital. These, coupled with the help that he received from thousands of Tlaxcaltecs, enabled Cortés and his conquistadors to succeed in taking the Aztec capital in 1521 and destroying it. In gratitude for its help the Spanish crown conferred various privileges on Tlaxcala and these offered some relief to the lives of the Indian inhabitants. Later on the ties of friendship between Tlaxcala and Spain proved to be so strong, that there was opposition here to the movement towards independence, which broke out in 1810. At the time of the French invasion and the battle between the conservatives and liberals (Guerra de Reforma) there were several pitched battles on Tlaxcaltec soil between 1862 and 1864. A peasant revolt, which broke out in 1910 against the president Porfirio Díaz, led to the revolution of the following years.
The rural economy of the region is concentrated mainly on cereal-growing, the cultivation of maguey agaves and cattle-rearing. The skilled and technical production of woollen fabrics and clothing also plays an important role, along with pottery manufacture.