History Files
 

 

The Americas

Central American Colonial Settlements

 

 

 

New Spain
AD 1535 - 1821

The viceroyalty of New Spain was created when the greatest Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, was defeated in 1521, ending Aztec, or Mexica, civilisation. The first phase of Spain's conquest of the South American continent was complete and a form of governance for the massive new territories was required on behalf of the crown. The conquest was managed within a very short space of time, just four years or so from when the first expedition was sent into Mexica, but when it was complete, the former heartland of Spanish rule in the Americas, Hispaniola, lost much of its importance.

The process of establishing the viceroyalty took until 1535. To avoid the risk of an adventurous conquistador forming his own breakaway kingdom in the conquered territories (namely, Cortes), Charles I of Spain created the Council of the Indies in 1524, and in 1527 the administration of New Spain was taken out of the hands of Hernan Cortes. The new form of administration by Audiencia, essentially a royal committee, proved unwieldy, and in 1535 the first viceroy of New Spain was appointed. At its height, New Spain governed Spanish conquests in North and Central America, the Caribbean, and a few territories in the Asia-Pacific region.

1517 - 1518

Two expeditions are sent from Hispaniola by Diego Velazquez into the Aztec empire.

1519

The Spanish conquistador Hernan, or Hernando, Cortes is elected captain of the third expedition to the mainland from the colony of Cuba, just west of Hispaniola, an expedition which he partially funds. He and his force of 600 land in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mayan territory. They soon arrive at Tenochtitlan.

1520

The Aztec city of Azcapotzalco is conquered, and later becomes a Mexican administrative borough.

Spanish conquistador and native slaves
The Spanish conquest of the Americas delivered vast resources in labour and slaves

1521 - 1524

The greatest Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, is defeated and subsumed within the empire, ending Aztec, or Mexica, civilisation. With that, the first phase of the Spanish conquest of the South American continent is completed and New Spain is effectively born. Cortes becomes the first colonial ruler of the conquered territories until 1524, running his administration from Mexico City. Then the city is named as the capital of the Municipality of New Spain and control of the new territories passes through many hands before the king of Spain organises an official viceroyalty.

1527

The Audiencia, a royal committee, is created to govern the newly conquered territories, 'relieving' Cortes of his new domain.

1532

The Spanish governor of New Castile (the recently-discovered Peru) conquers the Inca empire, opening up vast new territories in South America.

1534 - 1535

In 1534, the new governate of Rio de la Plata is created to administer territories which are still overseen by Peru. The following year, with the Audiencia proving to be unwieldy, the king of Spain appoints the first viceroy to take command of New Spain.

1535 - 1550

Antonio de Mendoza

First Spanish viceroy of New Spain. (Viceroy of Peru 1550-1552.)

1540 - 1543

Antonio de Mendoza vigorously encourages the exploration of all of Spain's new territories in the Americas. New areas are discovered, settled and conquered under the control of the viceroy, including the south-west, the western coast of Alta California, and the Philippine Islands. In 1542, a new viceroyalty is created in order to govern the vast Spanish conquests in Peru. During the course of the century, many new towns are established in North and Central America. The province of Guatemala is established out of Chiapas, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. While formally subject to New Spain, the region is administered separately as a matter of practicality. To its south, the New Kingdom of Granada is created to encompass the territories covering modern northern and central Colombia, almost all of Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama, northern Venezuela, and north-western Guyana.

1550 - 1564

Luis de Velasco

Died in office.

1550 & 1560

There are two Zapotec uprisings against Spanish colonial authority on these two dates, and it takes considerable effort on the part of the new masters of Central America to restore control.

1564 - 1566

Francisco Ceinos

Dean of the Audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1566 - 1568

Gaston de Peralta

1567 - 1568

Alonso Munoz and Luis Carrillo

Royal Commissioners ruling temporarily.

1567 - 1568

Luis Carrillo

1568

Francisco Ceinos

Dean of the Audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1568 - 1580

Martin Enriquez de Almanza

Spanish viceroy of New Spain (and of Peru 1581-1583).

1580 - 1583

Lorenzo Suarez de Mendoza

Second cousin of Don Antonio.

1583 - 1584

Luis de Villanueva y Zapata

Dean of the Audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1584 - 1585

Pedro Moya de Contreras

Also archbishop of Mexico.

1585 - 1590

Alvaro Manrique de Zuniga

1590 - 1595

Luis de Velasco

Son of the first Velasco. Spanish viceroy of New Spain (& Peru).

1595 - 1603

Gaspar de Zuniga y Acevedo

Spanish viceroy of New Spain (and of Peru 1604-1606).

1603 - 1607

Juan de Mendoza y Luna

Spanish viceroy of New Spain (and of Peru 1607-1615).

1607 - 1611

Luis de Velasco

Second term after acting as viceroy of Peru.

1609

The governorship of Guatemala is raised to the position of captaincy general, in the hope that the region's greater level of autonomy will be able to halt increased pirate attacks.

1611 - 1612

Garcia Guerra

Also archbishop of Mexico. Died.

1612

Pedro Otarola

Dean of the Audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1612 - 1621

Diego Fernandez de Cordoba

Spanish viceroy of New Spain (and of Peru 1622-1629).

1617

The region of Yucatan is promoted as a captaincy general in its own right.

1621

Paz de Valecillo

Dean of the Audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1621 - 1624

Diego Carrillo de Mendoza y Pimentel

1624 - 1635

Rodrigo Pacheco y Osorio

1635 - 1640

Lope Diez de Armendariz

1635

Don Lope is the first 'Criollo', or European born in the colonies, to become viceroy of New Spain. In this case, Don Lope had been born in Peru in 1575.

1640 - 1642

Diego Lopez Pacheco Cabrera y Bobadilla

1642

Juan de Palafox y Mendoza

Also archbishop of Puebla & Mexico.

1642 - 1648

Garcia Sarmiento de Sotomayor

Spanish viceroy of New Spain (and of Peru 1648-1655).

1648 - 1649

Marcos de Torres y Rueda

Also bishop of Yucatan.

1649 - 1650

Matias de Peralta

Also dean of the Audiencia.

1650 - 1653

Luis Enriquez de Guzman

1653 - 1660

Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva

1655

English troops take Jamaica from New Spain, adding it to their New World Colonies and making it a hub for rum production and slave trading. It also allows renewed contact with the Mosquito Coast.

1660 - 1664

Juan de Leyva de la Cerda

1664

Diego Osorio de Escobar y Llamas

Also archbishop of Puebla.

1664 - 1673

Antonio Sebastian de Toledo

1673

Pedro Nuno Colon de Portugal

1673

Don Pedro is a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus, discoverer of the Spanish Americas and first viceroy of the Indies at Hispaniola. Unfortunately he dies just five days after taking up his post.

1673 - 1680

Payo Enriquez de Rivera

Also archbishop of Mexico.

1680 - 1686

Tomas Antonio de la Cerda y Aragon

1686 - 1688

Melchor Portocarrero y Lasso de la Vega

1688 - 1696

Gaspar de la Cerda Sandoval Silva

1691

Due to the threat of French encroachment from the New French colony of Louisiana, New Spain establishes its first presence in Texas, although these early missions quickly fail.

San Jose Mission
The mission at San Jose was one of Spain's attempts to colonise the region

1696

Juan Ortega y Montanes

Interim viceroy of New Spain, & later archbishop of Mexico.

1696 - 1701

Jose Sarmiento y Valladares

1701 - 1702

Juan Ortega y Montanes

Interim viceroy of New Spain, & archbishop of Mexico.

1702 - 1711

Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva Enriquez

First Spanish viceroy of New Spain appointed by Bourbon kings.

1711 - 1716

Fernando de Alencastre Norona y Silva

1715

The final uprising by the Zapotec peoples takes place against Spanish colonial authority.

1716

New missions are established in Texas to create a buffer zone between it and the New French colony of Louisiana. These are followed in 1718 by the first European settlement in Texas, at San Antonio.

1716 - 1722

Baltasar de Zuniga y Guzman

Viceroy of Sardinia (1704-1706).

1722 - 1734

Juan de Acuna

1734 - 1740

Juan Antonio de Vizarron y Eguiarreta

Also archbishop of Mexico.

1740 - 1741

Pedro de Castro y Figueroa

1741 - 1742

Pedro Malo de Villavicencio

Interim viceroy of New Spain, & president of the Audiencia.

1742 - 1746

Pedro Cebrian y Agustin

1746 - 1755

Juan Francisco de Guemes y Horcasitas

1755 - 1760

Agustin de Ahumada y Villalon

1760

Francisco Antonio de Echavarri

Also dean of the Audiencia.

1760

Francisco Cajigal de la Vega

Previously captain general of Cuba (1747-1760).

1760 - 1766

Joaquin de Montserrat

1763

The French cede the vast and wild Louisiana Territory (stretching from modern Louisiana to Canada) from New France to Spain, only to take it back again in 1800 under the Treaty of San Iidefonso.

1766 - 1771

Carlos Francisco de Croix

1771 - 1779

Antonio Maria de Bucareli y Ursua

1779

Francisco Roma y Rosell

Also regent of the Audiencia.

1779 - 1783

Martin de Mayorga

Previously captain general of Guatemala (1773-1779).

1783 - 1784

Matias de Galvez

Previously captain general of Guatemala (1779-1783).

1784 - 1785

Vicente de Herrera y Rivero

Also regent of the Audiencia.

1785 - 1786

Bernardo de Galvez y Madrid

1786 - 1787

Eusebio Sanchez Pareja y Beleno

Also regent of the Audiencia.

1787

Alonso Nunez de Haro y Peralta

Also archbishop of Mexico.

1787 - 1789

Manuel Antonio Flores

1789 - 1794

Juan Vicente de Guemes Padilla Horcasitas

1794 - 1798

Miguel de la Grua Talamanca

1798 - 1800

Miguel Jose de Azanza

1800 - 1803

Felix Berenguer de Marquina

1803 - 1808

Jose de Iturrigaray

Deposed, sent to Spain, and freed. Died 1815.

1806

The USA asks the viceroy to remove his Spanish troops from New Orleans in Louisiana so that it can take possession of the area up to the River Sabine. The viceroy agrees and the troops are removed. By this stage New Spain already encompasses Mexico, plus Arizona, California, parts of Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and areas of Colorado, Oregon, and Wyoming.

1808

The lack of a king in French-occupied Spain creates instability in New Spain, and at the end of a turbulent year, the viceroy is deposed. Pedro de Garibay is appointed by the Audiencia and recognises the authority of the Junta of Seville in Spain, following its directives while Joseph Bonaparte is puppet king of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. The coup against the viceroy is seen by the pro-independence party in New Spain as a final break with the old country, and agitation and political manoeuvring begins to edge the colony towards independence.

1808 - 1809

Pedro de Garibay

Controlled by the Audiencia. Died 1815.

1809

The Supreme Junta of Spain replaces Don Pedro with the archbishop of Mexico.

1809 - 1810

Francisco Javier de Lizana y Beaumont

Archbishop of Mexico.

1810

Pedro Catani

1810 - 1813

Francisco Javier Venegas

1810 - 1811

Two days after Don Francisco takes office, the insurrection against Spanish control of New Spain ignites with the cry, "Long live Independence! Long live America! Death to bad government!" The first phase of the war ends in defeat for the rebels and the execution of most of their leaders. However, new rebel leaders soon spring up and the countryside is full of armed groups.

1813 - 1816

Felix Maria Calleja del Rey

1815 - 1817

Following four years of occasionally heavy fighting, a new rebel leader appears in the south. Don Felix, his rule becoming ever more dictatorial, is relieved of his position. His replacement apparently ends the insurrection.

1816 - 1821

Juan Ruiz de Apodaca

Previously captain general of Cuba. Deposed by a royalist coup.

1818 - 1819

With the USA keen to support the rebels, William Robinson occupies Altamira and Tampico but is taken prisoner by royalists and is sent to Cadiz. He escapes at Gibraltar with British help but as a consequence Spain and the United States sign the Adams-Onis Treaty on 22 February 1819. This establishes the border between the two countries, with the US gaining Florida and renouncing its claim to Texas, and Spain renouncing its claim to Oregon.

1821

Francisco Novella Azabal Perez y Sicardo

Army general created interim viceroy.

1821

Juan O'Donoju

Captain general of New Spain. Died ten days after independence.

1821

New Spain as a whole achieves independence from Spain, bringing 300 years of governance of the colonies to an end. The name of the capital city, Mexico, is applied to the whole country. Juan O'Donoju uses diplomacy to withdraw Spanish troops with the minimum of bloodshed. Spain is left only with its Caribbean territories (including Cuba and Puerto Rico). Hispaniola is entirely lost in 1822 and Peru in 1824.

On 3 October 1821, the captaincy general of Guatemala (which is formed of Chiapas, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) is annexed to the Mexican empire.

Mexican Empire
AD 1822 - 1823

Mexico was born out of New Spain when the first rebellion began in 1810. Independence came in 1821 when all of Central America was freed from Spanish control. The last viceroy of New Spain in Mexico signed the Act of Independence on 28 September 1821. On 3 October 1821, the captaincy general of Guatemala (Chiapas, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) was also joined to the Mexican empire. Mexico therefore originally encompassed not only modern Mexico, but also Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, plus areas of Colorado and Wyoming and all of Central America except modern Panama (part of  Gran Colombia) and Belize.

1822 - 1823

Agustin / Augustin

First constitutional emperor of Mexico. Abdicated.

1823

Agustin has as his consort Charlotte (or Carlotta), daughter of Leopold I of the Belgians. Trying to run the country as he had previously run his military forces as a Spanish officer, he is forced to abdicate the throne in the face of increasing opposition. A republic is declared. Despite being threatened with death should he ever return to Mexico, he does so in 1824 in an attempt to calm growing instability in the country. He is immediately arrested and is soon executed. All the countries of the former captaincy general of Guatemala leave Mexican control, forming the federal republic of Central America.

Emperor Augustin
Augustin de Iturbide, a general of the Independence War, was selected by Congress to be the first emperor of Mexico

1824 - 1864

Prince Agustin Jeronimo

Heir and titular emperor upon his father's death.

1864

Prince Agustin approves the adoption of his nephews, Agustin and Salvador by Maxililian under the Mexican Second Empire.

Mexican Republic
AD 1824 - 1864

Mexico's empire lasted all of a year or so, before opposition to the rule of the emperor forced his abdication and a republic was declared. A republican constitution was drawn up with an elected president as the head of state. Opposite points of view about how the government should be organised led to constant strife until 1836 when General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna approved a radical amendment.

1836

General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna suspends the 1824 constitution, and civil war erupts in Mexico in opposition to his hard-line form of centralist dictatorship. The country begins to fragment, with Texas declaring itself an independent republic. Santa Anna's troops massacre the American garrison at the Alamo to ensure that Mexico retains most of Texas, but the north-eastern core becomes independent. Santa Anna does not retain permanent control of Mexico, despite repeated attempts to do so, but over the course of his two decades in politics he is usually to be found in control of the country.

1836 - 1855

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Dictatorial military president.

1840 - 1843

Mexico takes advantage of the civil war in the federal republic of Central America and grabs eastern Chiapas. However, elsewhere in Mexico, further fragmentation occurs when Rio Grande and Yucatan both declare themselves to be independent republics. Rio Grande rejoins Mexico in the same year, but Yucatan holds out until December 1843. After defeating Mexico in battle it negotiates a level of self-rule in return for rejoining the republic.

1845 - 1848

The US annexes the remaining disputed territory of Texas, triggering the Mexican-American War in 1846. Yucatan again proclaims its independence but suffers an internal revolt of its Mayan people. Mexico accepts defeat in the war in 1848, permanently losing Texas as a result. Under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico also loses Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, and a new, permanent border is drawn along the Rio Grande. Santa Anna's days as dictatorial ruler are also numbered, with the country re-introducing a federal form of government. That same government provides help to Yucatan and it rejoins the republic.

1861 - 1864

The country is invaded and occupied by France during the Franco-Mexican War (or French Intervention), with material support from Spain via Cuba, and by Britain. The invasion is successful, establishing a new empire in Mexico, but the British and Spanish quickly pull out when they realise this is France's aim.

Second Mexican Empire
AD 1864 - 1867

Mexico, a much reduced country following the defeat of 1848, was invaded by imperial France in 1862 under the pretence of collecting loans which were overdue. Then Ferdinand Maximilian, a Habsburg archduke from Austria, was established on the throne of a second Mexican empire by conservative elements who wanted to introduce a permanent monarchy. It was almost as short-lived as its predecessor, being beset by constant conflict and with the populace viewing their emperor as a French puppet. Benito Juarez, the last republican president, managed to reclaim his country and restore the republic just three years later.

1864 - 1867

Maximilian

Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria.

Agustín de Iturbide y Green

Grandson of Agustin. Named as Maximilian's heir.

1867

Maximilian is executed by firing squad on the orders of Benito Juarez in an attempt to dissuade any further foreign efforts to colonise Mexico. Shortly before being captured, Maximilian sends his two adopted heirs to safety where they form a Mexican royal family in exile. The Hereditary emperors continue to claim Maximilian's lost title.

Modern Mexico
AD 1867 - Present Day

Officially titled the United Mexican States, the modern federal republic borders the USA to the north and Guatemala and Belize to the south. It comprises thirty-one states and one federal district - the populous capital city itself. Following the Second Empire period, the beginnings of modern Mexico saw the country enjoy a stable economy alongside the less enjoyable spectre of inequality and repression.

When the Second Empire's ruler, Maximilian, adopted the grandsons of the First Empire's ruler, he established a royal house that would be able to claim the title long after his death and Mexico's permanent return to a republic. The head of the imperial house fled first to Britain and then to the USA, but the House of Iturbide still holds a claim to its former royal seat. Successive claimants to the throne are shown with a shaded background.

1867 - 1925

Prince Agustín

Grandson of Agustin. Died a professor of languages in USA.

1876 - 1911

This period sees Mexico recover from its period of occupation and greatly prosper under stable government.

1898

Spain loses the Spanish-American War. With that it also loses much of the Spanish Caribbean, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Spanish East Indies (including the Marianna Islands, and the Philippines to the USA).

1910 - 1911

The growing inequality and political repression in the country triggers the Mexican Revolution. New elections see a return to peace for just two years.

1913 - 1917

The new president (elected in 1911) is assassinated in a coup which is led by a conservative general named Victoriana Huerta. This re-ignites the civil war, involving now-legendary characters such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, each leading their own small armies. Another, official army led by Venustiano Carranza ends the war and introduces a reformist constitution in 1917. Mexico maintains neutrality during the First World War, fuelling suspicion that the government has been bribed by Germany. However, it ignores a German proposal which is made public on 1 March 1917 which offers Mexico the US states of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico if the US joins the Allies in the conflict.

1920 - 1928

Two more presidents are assassinated in 1920 and 1928, but the country essentially remains stable.

1925 - 1949

Princess Maria

Niece of Agustin. Played no political role.

1941 - 1945

During the Second World War, Mexico supplies raw materials to the USA as one of the allied nations in opposition to the Axis powers. Following the sinking of a Mexican tanker, the country declares war against Germany in June 1942.

1949

Royal claimant Princess Maria and her second husband die in mysterious circumstances shortly after being interned by the Romanian communist government. Her will passes the claim to the throne to her only grandson.

1949 - Present

Prince Maximilian

Grandson of Maria. Born 2 Mar 1944. Currently living in Australia.

1994

At least 150 people die during an uprising in the southern state of Chiapas, led by the Zapatista rebel movement.

2000 - 2006

For the first time since 1929 an opposition party wins the presidential election. The Institutional Revolution Party gains power for six years.

Mexico City
The heart of the historic colonial centre of Mexico City

2006

A bitterly-fought presidential election results in a return to victory for the conservative National Action Party after weeks of legal wrangling over the results.

Prince Ferdinand

Son of Maximilian and heir. Born 1992.