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The First Federal Republic of Mexico (Spanish: Primera República Federal de México) was established on 4 October 1824, after the overthrow of the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide (1783–1824). In the new constitution, the republic took the name of United Mexican States (Spanish: Estados Unidos Mexicanos), and was defined as a representative federal republic, with Catholicism as the official and exclusive religion.

However, most of the population largely ignored it. When Guadalupe Victoria (1786–1843) was followed in office by Vicente Guerrero (1782–1831), who won the electoral but lost the popular vote, the Conservative Party saw an opportunity to seize control and led a coup under Anastasio Bustamante (1780–1853), who served as president from 1830 to 1832, and again from 1837 to 1841.

This coup set the pattern for Mexican politics during the 19th century. Many governments rose and fell during a period of instability caused by factors including the control of the economic system by the large landowners; the struggle over the status of Mexico's northern territories, which issued in a devastating defeat at the end of the Mexican-American War; and the gulf in wealth and power between the Spanish-descended elite and the mixed-race majority.

The main political parties during this era were the Conservatives, favoring the Catholic Church (confessional state), the landowners, and a monarchy; and the Liberals, favoring secularism (secular state), the landless majority, and a republic.

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