Spanish colonization of the Americas began with the arrival in the Americas of Christopher Columbus in 1492. He had been searching for a new route to the Asian Indies and was convinced he had found it. Columbus was made governor of the new territories and made several more journeys across the Atlantic Ocean. He profitted from the labor of native slaves, whom he forced to mine gold; he also attempted to sell some slaves to Spain. While generally regarded as an excellent navigator, he was a poor administrator and was stripped of the governorship in 1500.
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2 Effect on Natives
3 Spanish colonies
4 New World Trade
5 Northern extent of Spanish influence
7 See also
Early settlements by the Spanish were on the islands of the Caribbean. On his fourth and final voyage in 1502 Columbus encountered a large canoe off the coast of what is now Honduras filled with trade goods. He boarded the canoe and rifled through the cargo which included cacao beans, copper and flint axes, copper bells, pottery, and colorful cotton garments. He took one prisoner and what he wanted from the cargo and let the canoe continue. This was the first contact of the Spanish with the civilizations of Central America.
The Treaty of Tordesillas was an attempt to solve the disputes with the Portuguese colonizers. It split the mostly unknown New World into two spheres of influence; however, when it was fully charted almost all the land fell in the Spanish sphere.
It was 1517 before another expedition from Cuba visited Central America landing on the coast of the Yucatán in search of slaves. This was followed by a phase of conquest: The Spaniards (just having finished a war against the Muslims in the Iberian peninsula) replaced the Amerindian local oligarchies and imposed a new religion: Christianity. (See also: Conquistador, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, Bartolomé de las Casas, Spanish Conquest of Yucatan)
Effect on Natives
European diseases and cruel systems of work (the famous haciendas and mining industry's mita) decimated the Amerindian population under its government. African Negro slaves began to be imported. On the other hand, the Spaniards did not impose their language in the same measurement and the Catholic Church even evangelized in Quechua, Nahuatl and Guarani, contributing to the expansion of these Amerindian languages and equipping them with writing systems.
The initial years saw a struggle between the Conquistadores and the royal authority. The Conquistadores were often poor nobles that wanted to acquire the land and labourers (Encomienda) that they couldn't achieve in Europe. Rebellions were frequent (See Lope de Aguirre).
- Argentina - Buenos Aires was settled in 1580; independence was formally declared in 1816.
- Bolivia - La Paz founded in 1548. Independent in 1825.
- Chile - In 1541, the Spanish conquered the Incas. Chile won its independence from Spain in 1818
- Colombia - In 1510 Spaniards founded Darien, the first permanent European settlement on the mainland of the Americas. In 1538 they established the colony of New Granada. Independence in 1824.
- Ecuador - Conquistador Francisco Pizarro conquered the land in 1532; left Spain in 1809 to form Greater Columbia.
- Paraguay - Asuncion, Paraguay was founded in 1537. Independent from 1811.
- Peru - Conquered from the Incas in 1531. Independent in 1821.
- Uruguay - Taken by Spain from Portugal in 1778. Part of Brazil from 1821-1828. Independence in 1828.
- Venezuela - Caracas was founded in 1567. Independent in 1821.
1821 during Mexico's war of independence.
- Florida including parts of modern Alabama and Mississippi
- California and New Mexico - In the west the extent of Spanish colonies was formally set in 1819 by the Adam-Onis Treaty to replace nebulous boundaries. Most of the interior was not permanently inhabited by Spain. This included all or some part of the modern U.S. states of: California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming.
- Louisiana territory - Spain controlled this territory from 1762-1803. Most of the north and interior was not inhabited by Spain. French settlers made up most of the inhabitants and new immigrants. This included land in the present U.S. states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, and Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
New World TradeThe precious metals were subjected to the Quinto Real tax, a fifth of everything seized. The silver of America (especially the mines of Zacatecas and Potosí) went to pay the enormous debt brought by the wars against the Reformation led by the Spanish kings.
Mexico served as a base for the later colonization of the Philippines (see Galeón de Manila)
Northern extent of Spanish influence
In 1720 a small expedition from Santa Fe met and attempted to parley with French allied Pawnee in what is now Nebraska. Things did not go well and a battle ensued; the Spanish were badly defeated, only 13 managing to return to New Mexico. Although this was a small engagement, it is significant being the furthest penetration of the Spanish into the Great Plains, setting the limit to Spanish expansion and influence there.
In 1781, a Spanish expedition during the American Revolutionary War left St. Louis, Missouri, then under Spanish control and reached as far as Fort St. Joseph at Niles, Michigan where the captured the fort while the British were away. Spanish territorial claims based on this furthest north penetration of Spain in North America were not supported at the treaty negotiations.
During the Peninsula War, several assemblies were established by the creole to rule the lands in the name of Ferdinand VII of Spain. This experience of self-government and the influence of Liberalism and the ideas of the French and American Revolutions brought the struggle for independence, led by the Libertadores. The colonies freed themselves, often with help from the British empire, which aimed to trade without the Spanish monopoly.
Still, the early 20th century saw a stream of immigration of poor people and political exiles from Spain to the former colonies, especially Cuba, Mexico and Argentina. After the 1970s, the flow was inverted.
Currently, the Iberoamerican countries and Spain and Portugal have organized themselves as the Comunidad Iberoamericana de Naciones.