Little is known about Colima's early history except that the Otomi, Nahuatl, Tolteca, Chichimeca and Tarasca cultures flourished there between approximately 2000 B.C and 1000 A.D.
When the Spanish arrived in the area around 1525, much of West Mexico was under the political control of the Kingdom of Tzintuntzan, which was the second largest and most powerful Mesoamerican Empire. Its influence stretched from the state of Mexico into Guanajuato, around the shores of Lake Chapala and through part of Colima to the Pacific coast. The Purépechas, known as the Tarascans by the Spanish conquistadors, occupied the area from about 1100 A.D. to 1530 A.D. along with the Colimas Indians, who are closely related to the Tarascas. King Colimán, the leader of the Colimas, waged a successful war against the Purépechas just before the Spanish arrived, forcing the Purépechas to the southern part of the region.
Led by Juan Rodriguez de Villafuentes, Juan Alvarez Chico and Cristobal de Olid, the Spanish arrived at Colima in 1522. King Colimán, recognizing the threat presented by the conquistadors, resisted the incursion. The indigenous forces initially won battles at Trojes, Paso de Alima and Toluca, but in 1523 they lost a decisive battle against Gonzalo de Sandoval at Caxitlán. Sandoval immediately established a Spanish settlement, San Sebastián de Colima, in what is now the city of Colima. In 1524, Don Francisco Cortés de Buenaventura arrived and became the citys first mayor.
Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza visited the city of Colima in 1540 and ordered the construction of a royal road between Colima and Mexico City. The new route quickly made Colima a vital center of commerce. The port city of Manzanillo, with its central location on the Pacific coast, also played a key role in gathering and transporting goods for the Spanish crown.
When the fight for Mexican independence began in 1810, Colima priest José Antonio Díaz led a group of revolutionaries in support of Miguel Hidalgo. A relatively small number of royal troops occupied the region when hostilities began, and they were easily defeated by the rebels. Afterward, little military action took place in Colima. In 1821, the Plan of Iguala established the direction for an independent Mexico. When Spain signed the Treaty of Córdoba later that year, Colima and the other Mexican territories formally gained their independence.
Colima was made a Mexican state in 1857. Less than ten years later, Mexicos President Benito Juárez, refusing to recognize French authority, moved the seat of government to Colima (1864-1867) and other locations until the French were driven from power and the capital returned to Mexico City.
Porfirio Díaz served as president from 1877 to 1880 and again from 1884 to 1911. Under his leadership, the region saw great economic growth. Díaz ordered the construction of roads, railroads and communications networks. The improved infrastructure significantly strengthened Colimas economic ties with Mexico City.
The Mexican Revolution that began in 1910 brought political instability to Colima as factions loyal to various revolutionary and anti-revolutionary leaders operated throughout the state. In the 1920s, the military conflict subsided as the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) rose to power, dominating political life for the rest of the 20th century. Colima, along with the rest of the country, finally enjoyed some measure of peace.