History Files

The Americas

Central American Colonial Settlements


New Spain (Spanish Empire)
AD 1535 - 1821

The voyages of Christopher Columbus between 1492-1500 opened up what was known as the 'New World' for exploitation and colonisation by Western Europe. The sponsor for his voyages was the soon-to-be united throne of Spain, which was energetic and enthusiastic for conquest. The growing might of the Ottoman empire was closing off access routes to the east, so a new route was needed: to the west.

Columbus first landed in the Bahamas on 12 October 1492, beginning a process of colonisation and empire-building in the Americas for the burgeoning Spanish Colonies. On 28 October he made landfall on Cuba and, by 5 December 1492, he had reached western Hispaniola where he founded the colony of La Navidad.

This work became the launch-pad for the creation of New Spain when the greatest Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, was defeated in 1521 and Mexico City became the new home of European dominance. Colonisation work across central and South America could begin in earnest.

A now-united Spain had completed the first stage of its conquests, and permanent governance for the massive new mainland territories was required. Initial conquest had been completed in just four years or so from the first expedition arriving in Mexica. Once done, Hispaniola lost much of its importance.

The process of establishing the viceroyalty of New Spain was completed in 1535, with islands such as Trinidad being incorporated into it. To avoid the risk of an adventurous conquistador forming his own breakaway kingdom in the conquered territories (namely Hernan Cortes, conqueror of the Aztecs), Charles I of Spain created the 'Council of the Indies' in 1524, with Cortes losing his command of New Spain in 1527.

The new administration by audiencia, a royal committee, proved unwieldy. In 1535 the first viceroy of New Spain was appointed with the audiencia in support. At its height, New Spain governed Spanish conquests in northern, southern, and Central America, the Caribbean, and a few territories in the Asia-Pacific region, claiming territory from northern California to Argentina.

Aztec Hero

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Discovering the Chichimeca, Charlotte M Gradie (The Americas, Vol 51, No 1:67-88, 1994), from Codex Chimalpahin Vol 1: Society and Politics in Mexico Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, Culhuacan, and Other Nahua Altepetl in Central Mexico, concerning the writings of seventeenth century Nahua historian Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, otherwise known as Don Domingo Francisco de Antón Muñón, (Eds) Arthur J O Anderson, Susan Schroeder, & Wayne Ruwet (1997), from The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual, C E Bosworth (2004), from Enciclopedia de México, Bernardo de Gálvez (Mexico City, 1987, in Spanish), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Conquistadors sacrificed and eaten by Aztec-era people (The Guardian).)

1517 - 1519

Two expeditions are sent by Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, first Spanish lieutenant-governor of Cuba, in 1517 and 1518 towards the Yucatan peninsula to discover and then trade with the Mayans.

The first expedition, under Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, is perhaps surprised to witness the sophistication of the Mayans in comparison to the less developed natives the Spanish have so far encountered on the islands.

Hernan Cortes
Hernan Cortes parades before the defeated Aztecs following the final fall of the native empire and the beginnings of Spanish conquest of further regions of Central America


The somewhat unreliable 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, but they soon arrive at Tenochtitlan.

Emperor Moctezuma welcomes Cortes, thinking he is the legendary god-king, Quetzalcoatl, returned to claim his kingdom as he had prophesied. Some of his men claim that the city of Moctezuma (Montezuma) is one of the largest in the world, comparable to Paris and Venice.

Cortes' second-in-command, Pedro de Alvarado, orders the 'Massacre of the Great Temple', finally spurring the Aztecs into resisting the conquistadors. Moctezuma himself is killed during the breakout from the city by Cortes and his men.

1520 - 1530

The Aztec city of Azcapotzalco is conquered by the foreign invaders in 1520. The following year sees the greatest Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, also defeated and subsumed within the Spanish Colonies, 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.

Map of Aztec cities around Lake Texcoco AD 1519
This map shows the principle Aztec cities at the height of their power, but it also includes other cities such as Azcapotzalco which was largely a Tepanec stronghold by this time (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Cortes becomes the first colonial ruler of the conquered territories until 1524 (and afterwards through a puppet figure), 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.

However, the Chichimecs themselves fiercely resist Spanish dominance. Their initial resistance results, in 1530, in the death of Andres de Tapia Motelchiuh, Spanish interim governor of the conquered territories.


The audiencia, a royal committee, is created to govern the newly conquered Spanish Colonial territories from Mexico City. This serves to relieve Cortes of his new domain over which he has already displayed a certain degree of possessiveness. The audiencia eventually embraces much of the present-day republic of Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico coastal region, along with Florida.

1532 - 1533

Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish governor of New Castile (the recently-discovered Peru) conquers the Inca empire, opening up vast new territories in South America. Pizarro is accompanied by his siblings, Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro.

Spanish conquistador and native slaves
The Spanish conquest of the Americas delivered vast resources in labour and slaves, but introduced infectious diseases which killed thousands of people who had no immunity to them

1534 - 1535

The new governorate of Rio de la Plata is created to administer territories which remain overseen by Peru. The governor of Guatemala, Pedro de Alvarado, heads to the Andes, hoping to gain the rumoured riches of Peru, but he is warned off by the men of Francisco Pizarro.

In the following year, 1535, 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. 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 Colonial conquests in Peru and replacing the earlier governorship.

During the course of the century, many new towns are established in northern and Central America. The province (or kingom) of Guatemala is established out of Chiapas, modern El Salvador, Guatemala, the territories of Honduras, and those of 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 modern Ecuador and Costa Rica, plus the Panama territories, the northern areas of modern Venezuela, and north-western Guyana.

Incas confront conquistadors
The small number of conquistadors were able to defeat massively larger numbers in ferocious fighting thanks to their modern European weaponry

However, the going is not easy for the Spanish. The two year Mixtón War (1540-1542) sees the Caxcanes and other semi-nomadic natives of north-western Mexico fighting fiercely against the Spanish invaders and their allies, the Aztec and Tlaxcalan. The Caxcanes are usually categorised as Chichimecs.

The war is named after Mixtón, a hill in southern Zacatecas state in Mexico which is used as a stronghold by the natives. The Caxanes are defeated and incorporated into New Spain, but various areas of resistance continue, leading into the Chichimeca War in 1550.

1550 - 1564

Luís de Velasco

Formerly viceroy of (Upper) Navarre. 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. The Catholic Encyclopaedia regards these uprisings as attempts to revert to paganism.

1550 - 1591

Simultaneous to the Zapotec uprisings is the far more serious Chichimeca War. This sees the Spanish forces of New Spain fighting the Chichimec confederation in Mexico's lowlands, centred on the Bajio region.

Being triggered eight years after the conclusion of the Mixtón War, it is largely a continuation of that conflict and near-unbroken unrest and resistance in between. The defeated Caxanes are now incorporated into the Spanish forces.

The Chichimecs are excellent and highly-deadly archers who inflict heavy casualties upon the invaders and their allies, and Spain is unable to defeat them fully. Instead a new Spanish Colonial policy of gradual integration is pursued over the next three centuries, minimising organised resistance of this form.

Monte Alban
The Zapotec city of Monte Alban was founded around 500 BC as a new capital which overlooked the three valleys and gave its inhabitants a commanding position over them, remaining the Zapotec capital until around AD 1350 at the latest

1564 - 1566

Francisco Ceinos

Dean of the audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1566 - 1568

Gastón de Peralta

Recalled on false conspiracy charges. Acquitted.

1566 - 1568

Gastón de Peralta is falsely accused of sympathising with rebels who have been involved in conspiring to declare independence from Spain. On his way to take up his office he has some of the accused rebels saved from execution and sent back to Spain, while the military forces in Mexico City are largely stood down.

In 1568, two visitadores (royal commissioners) arrive from Spain - Alonso Muñoz and Luis Carrillo - to send Peralta back to account for his actions.

1567 - 1568

Alonso Muñoz & Luis Carrillo

Royal commissioners ruling temporarily.


Francisco Ceinos

Dean of the audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1568 - 1580

Martín Enríquez de Almanza

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

1571 - 1574

The Inquisition arrives in New Spain, while also simultaneously setting up in Peru. By 1574 it is ready to begin hearing cases, with around two hundred people being processed in that year in New Spain alone. Most of them are burned alive in various plazas around Mexico City or in secret chambers.

1580 - 1583

Lorenzo Suárez de Mendoza

Second cousin of Antonio de Mendoza, first viceroy. Died.

1583 - 1584

Luis de Villanueva y Zapata

Dean of the audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1584 - 1585

Pedro Moya de Contreras

First inquisitor-general. Now archbishop of Mexico.

1585 - 1590

Álvaro Manrique de Zúñiga

Made destitute for trying to control Guadalajara's audiencia.

1586 - 1587

English pirates continue to enjoy rich pickings from Spanish galleons which are heading home from the Philippines via Mexico. Sir Francis Drake himself captures Santa Ana on 15 October 1583, while the English corsair, Thomas Cavendish, take several more galleons and sacks Barra de Navidad (in Mexico's west coast state of Jalisco). As a way of combating at least some of these successes, the Pacific ports gain militia units and Spanish vessels become armed.

Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I of England turned a blind eye to English piracy around the New World, knowing full well that it was destabilising Spanish efforts to dominate the new continents (pictured by Steven van der Meulen and Steven van Herwijck, as seen at Tate Britain, London)

1590 - 1595

Luis de Velasco

Son of the first Velasco. Later viceroy of Peru (1596-1604).

1595 - 1603

Gaspar de Zúñiga 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.


Two years after promoting Cuba to the rank, the governorship of Guatemala is also 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. However, New Spain's grip on the Caribbean is gradually weakening.


The Japanese vessel, San Buena Ventura, arrives on Mexican shores, bringing with it an embassy which consists of the Franciscan friar, Luis Sotelo, and the Japanese trader and 'inventor', Tanaka Shōsuke.

Viceroy Luis de Velasco agrees to send the famous explorer, Sebastián Vizcaíno, with a side-brief to locate legendary 'gold and silver islands' which supposedly lie to the east of Japan. The Japanese vessel is confiscated, with Velasco worried about competition developing across the Pacific.

Dutch ships off Japan
Two Dutch ships shown in a reprinted Japanese woodblock, with Nagasaki their only permitted port of entry during the early modern Edo era


Vizcaíno sails on 22 March 1611 along with the emissaries from Japan. They arrive on 16 June 1611, and Vizcaíno journeys to Edo to meet the shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada, and then his cloistered father, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

On board the Japanese galleon, San Juan Bautista, Vizcaíno arrives back at Acapulco on 25 January 1614, accompanied by Hasekura Tsunenaga, the first Japanese ambassador to Spain.

1611 - 1612

García Guerra

Interim viceroy. Also archbishop of Mexico. Died.


Pedro Otarola

Dean of the audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1612 - 1621

Diego Fernández de Córdoba

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


The region of the Yucatan peninsula is promoted as a captaincy general in its own right within the Spanish Colonies. Once again the idea is to give it more autonomy than it has previously received through a local governor who had answered to Mexico City.

Another reason is to provide an extra layer of defence against possible incursion from enemy European powers. Puerto Rico has already been promoted in the same way and for the same reasons.

Aztec ruins in Mexico City
The Great Temple site in Mexico City - formerly Tenochtitlan and latterly the capital of New Spain - has revealed key discoveries about the lives and times of the Aztecs


Paz de Valecillo

Dean of the audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1621 - 1624

Diego Carrillo de Mendoza y Pimentel

Effectively overthrown by popular revolt. Fled.


Diego Carrillo de Mendoza manages to alienate almost all of his subjects by ordering work to cease on a major drainage project (the city floods at the next rains), and pursuing the archbishop of Mexico for apparently granting divorces too readily, although with a number of other complaints.

His intention to have the archbishop removed leads to a public showdown in which the archbishop excommunicates him and rioters burn part of the viceroy's palace after he takes prisoners. The viceroy flees the city and soon returns to Spain.

1624 - 1635

Rodrigo Pacheco y Osorio

Profiteered, while finally completing drainage works.

1635 - 1640

Lope Díez de Armendáriz

Died after reaching Spain at the end of his term.


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. His period in office sees some expansion of the completed drainage works - vital when Mexico City had only recently been flooded for several years - but is accused of some irregularities.

1640 - 1642

Diego López Pacheco Cabrera

Arrested due to Portuguese ancestry and sent to Spain.


The Portuguese aristocracy, frustrated by Habsburg rule from Spain, offers the crown to John of Braganza and the country reasserts its independence. The protracted Portuguese Restoration War (or Acclamation War) is triggered by John's accession to the throne. It only ends when Portuguese independence is fully recognised in 1668.

Battle of Monte Claros, 1665
The Battle of Monte Claros on 17 June 1665 took place in the third stage of the war between Portugal and Spain, when the Spanish king attempted a sledgehammer approach to cracking the Portuguese nut, although Monte Claros delivered Spain a very bloody nose which effectively terminated the prospect of any further major engamements


Juan de Palafox y Mendoza

Interim viceroy. Also archbishop of Puebla & Mexico.

1642 - 1648

García Sarmiento de Sotomayor

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

1648 - 1649

Marcos de Torres y Rueda

Interim viceroy. Also bishop of Yucatan. Died in office.

1649 - 1650

Matias de Peralta

Interim viceroy. Also dean of the audiencia.

1650 - 1653

Luis Enríquez de Guzmán

Spanish viceroy of New Spain (and of Peru 1655-1661).

1653 - 1660

Francisco Fernández de la Cueva

Son-in-law of Armendáriz. Later viceroy of Sicily (1668-1670).


England declares war on Spain (in 1654) over the growing commercial rivalry between the two nations. Each side attacks the other's commercial and colonial interests in various ways, such as through privateering and naval expeditions.

England launches an amphibious operation in the Caribbean in 1655 which results in the capture of Jamaica and Hispaniola. The former island is added to their New World Colonies and is made 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

Recalled due to accusations of greed and self-interest.


Diego Osorio de Escobar y Llamas

Interim viceroy, 4 mths. Also archbishop of Puebla.

1664 - 1673

Antonio Sebastián de Toledo

Spanish viceroy of New Spain. Died 1715.


The English pirate, Robert Searle, sacks and destroys the plaza of St Augustine in Spanish Florida. Amongst the items he seizes as booty is the payroll which had been intended for the garrison.

Viceroy Antonio Sebastián de Toledo reorganises the Armada de Barlovento (the coastal defence fleet) and organises the construction of newer, faster vessels. With the treasury already depleted by war against Britain, New Spain is almost bankrupted by the expense.

Taino native peoples
The Taino natives lived on Hispaniola, plus Cuba and Puerto Rica, for over nine hundred years before the coming of the Spanish colonists


Pedro Nuño Colón de Portugal

Died after five days in office - the shortest term ever.


Don Pedro Nuño Colón de Portugal is a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus, discoverer of the Spanish Americas and first viceroy of the Indies at Hispaniola. Unfortunately Don Pedro dies just five days after taking up his post, albeit having delayed taking it up by over two months, partially for reasons of health.

1673 - 1680

Payo Enríquez de Rivera

Spanish viceroy. Also archbishop of Mexico. Died 1684.

1680 - 1686

Tomás Antonio de la Cerda y Aragon

Spanish viceroy. Died 1692.


Tomás Antonio de la Cerda y Aragon takes up his post just in time for the Pueblo Revolt (or Popé's Revolt, the name of the revolt's leader). A total of 25,000 Pueblo Indians in New Mexico are involved, killing any Europeans they encounter. Despite mounting a surprise attack on the province's capital, Santa Fe, that is defeated.

The subsequent siege of ten days sees any remaining Spanish flee to Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua). It takes the Spanish twelve years to reconquer the region.

1686 - 1688

Melchor Portocarrero

Spanish viceroy of New Spain (and of Peru 1689-1705).

1688 - 1696

Gaspar de la Cerda Sandoval Silva

Spanish viceroy of New Spain. Died 1697 (aged 43).


The threat of French encroachment from the New French colony of Louisiana had become apparent in 1688, when a small band of French adventurers had been found building a fort in the Bay of San Bernardo (Espiritu Santo). Having halted that little scheme, New Spain now 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 Texas region in response to French interest from the Louisiana colony


Juan Ortega y Montañés

Interim viceroy of New Spain. Later archbishop of Mexico.

1696 - 1701

José Sarmiento y Valladares

Spanish viceroy of New Spain. Habsburg supporter.

1700 - 1702

By 1702 Spain has become involved in the War of Succession as Austria, Britain, and Portugal dispute the Bourbon accession of Philip V. The conclusion of the war in 1715 sees Spain giving up Milan, Naples, Sardinia, and the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium) to Austria, and Sicily to the duchy of Savoy.

However, the open supporter of the Habsburgs, Viceroy José Sarmiento y Valladares, has already been removed from his post and replaced by the archbishop of Mexico in his second term as interim viceroy.

1701 - 1702

Juan Ortega y Montañés

Interim viceroy of New Spain. Archbishop of Mexico.

1702 - 1711

Francisco Fernández de la Cueva

First Spanish viceroy of New Spain appointed by Bourbons.

1711 - 1716

Fernando de Alencastre

Spanish viceroy of New Spain. Died 1717.

1715 - 1718

The final uprising by the Zapotec peoples takes place against Spanish colonial authority. In the same year an insurrection breaks out in the garrison of San Juan de Ulúa, near Veracruz. The problem is infrequent wages due to the latter days of the War of Succession.

New missions are established in Texas in 1716 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.

However, New Spain will spend much of the eighteenth century weathering increasing attacks by the British primarily, but also by other Europeans who are now firmly established in the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the earliest Spanish areas of exploration in North America, Louisiana provided more of a challenge than had New Spain, with native groups proving quite hostile and New France eager to dominate there

1716 - 1722

Baltasar de Zúñiga y Guzman

Former viceroy of Sardinia (1704-1706). Died 1727.

1722 - 1734

Juan de Acuña

Spanish viceroy. Born in the New World. Died in office.

1734 - 1740

Juan Antonio de Vizarrón y Eguiarreta

Also archbishop of Mexico. Died 1747.

1740 - 1741

Pedro de Castro y Figueroa

Spanish viceroy. Killed by dysentery.

1741 - 1742

Pedro Malo de Villavicencio

Interim viceroy of New Spain. President of the audiencia.

1742 - 1746

Pedro Cebrián y Agustín

Spanish viceroy. Resigned due to illness. Died 1752.

1746 - 1755

Juan Francisco de Güemes

Spanish viceroy. Died 1766.

1755 - 1760

Agustín de Ahumada y Villalón

Spanish viceroy. Died in office.


Francisco Antonio de Echavarri

Also dean of the audiencia.


Francisco Cajigal de la Vega

Previously captain general of Cuba (1747-1760).

1760 - 1766

Joaquín de Montserrat

Spanish viceroy. Died 1771.

1762 - 1763

Spain had entered the Seven Years' War on the side of France in 1756. Now, in 1762, Havana on Cuba is seized and looted on 13 August by the British. The island is governed by the British between 1762 and 1763, but is restored to Spain on 6 July, in exchange for Florida.

General James Wolfe
General James Wolfe completed his victory over the French as part of the Seven Years' War, gaining New France for Britain as a result, but the war became a far wider conflict

Having been forced to admit defeat in New France and formally hand over its territory to Britain at the end of the Seven Years' War, the French cede its remnants - the vast and wild Louisiana Territory (stretching from modern Louisiana to Canada) to the Spanish Colonies, only to take it back again in 1800 under the Treaty of San Iidefonso.

1766 - 1771

Carlos Francisco de Croix

Spanish viceroy. Died 1786.

1771 - 1779

Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa

Previously capt-gen of Cuba (1766-1771). Died in office.


Francisco Romáy Rosell

Interim viceroy. Also regent of the audiencia.

1779 - 1783

Martín de Mayorga

Previously captain general of Guatemala (1773-1779).

1779 - 1783

Bernardo de Gálvez, governor of Spanish Louisiana and founder of Galveston, Texas, invades West Florida as soon as he can after Spain declares war on Britain on 21 June 1779.

He lays siege to Mobile's Fort Charlotte in March 1780, taking it after a strongly-defended thirteen day siege by former governor, Elias Durnford. Then Jose de Ezpeleta attacks the Pensacola garrison and Britain's native allies from Mobile.

As West Florida's last stronghold, Pensacola surrenders to Gálvez in May 1781, ending British rule there. The province is occupied for the next two years and as part of the Treaty of Paris which marks the end of the American Revolutionary War, Britain cedes West Florida back to Spain in 1783.

Britain takes Spanish Florida
In a complicated series of treaty exchanges, Britain effectively swapped the captured Spanish island of Cuba for Florida in 1763 while also being confirmed as masters of Canada

1783 - 1784

Matías de Gálvez

Previously captain general of Guatemala (1779-1783). Died.

1784 - 1785

Vicente de Herrera y Rivero

Interim viceroy. Also regent of the audiencia.

1785 - 1786

Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid

Son of Matías de Gálvez. Formerly in Louisiana. Died.

1786 - 1787

Eusebio Sanchez Pareja y Beleno

Interim viceroy. Also regent of the audiencia.


Alonso Núñez de Haro y Peralta

Interim May-Aug. Also archbishop of Mexico. Died 1800.

1787 - 1789

Manuel Antonio Flórez Maldonado

Former viceroy of New Granada (1776-1781). Died 1799.

1789 - 1794

Juan Vicente de Güemes

Son of Juan Francisco (1746). Born on Cuba. Died 1799.


After having one of the best viceroys in office - Güemes - New Spain now hosts its undisputed worst: Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca. His term of office is one of avarice and greed on his part, skimming funds from just about every source of income and seizing the property of all French colonists both in New Spain and Spanish Louisiana.

What he doesn't keep for himself during the disturbances caused by war against France he passes to his equally corrupt superior, Spanish Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy. The viceroyalty is taken on a downwards path from which it never recovers.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Las Lajas in Colombia
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Las Lajas in Ipiales is an example of early twentieth century architecture in ex-colonial New Granada, but it clearly continues an established tradition of colonial building

1794 - 1798

Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca

Spanish viceroy. Recalled due to dishonesty. Died 1812.

1794 - 1795

After becoming a member of the First Coalition against revolutionary France, Spain withdraws from the war once it sees which way the wind is blowing, with France seemingly unstoppable on the battlefield. As part of a separate peace deal which Spain agrees with France - the Treaty of Basel - the country is forced to cede the entire island of Hispaniola.

1798 - 1800

Miguel José de Azanza

Spanish viceroy. Died 1826.

1800 - 1803

Félix Berenguer de Marquina

Former governor-general of the Philippines. Died 1826.

1803 - 1808

José de Iturrigaray

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


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 (except the north, which is part of Russian America), parts of Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and areas of Colorado, Oregon, and Wyoming.

Mississippi Queen river boat
New Orleans and the Mississippi basin have been the home to very distinctive paddle boats, such as this one, the Mississippi Queen, since their invention by Robert Fulton in 1807


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.


The supreme junta of Spain replaces Don Pedro with the archbishop of Mexico after just ten months in office. New Spain is now rife with pro-independence and pro-Spain factions, each attempting to manoeuvre themselves into prime position, albeit without too great a degree of violence at this stage.

1809 - 1810

Francisco Javier de Lizana y Beaumont

Pro-Spain candidate. Archbishop of Mexico. Died 1815.


Pedro Catani

Interim viceroy after Lizana's removal. Audiencia member.

1810 - 1813

Francisco Javier Venegas

Withdrawn over differences with pro-Spanish. Died 1838.

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.

Spain's American colonies declare independence in 1811
Thanks to France's occupation of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars, Spain's colonies in the Americas quickly took the opportunity to declare their independence

1813 - 1816

Félix María Calleja del Rey

Rebuilt armed forces. Strengthened New Spain. Died 1828.

1815 - 1817

The coffers are empty, the Spanish army in New Spain is poorly paid (or not paid at all), and equipment is sorely lacking. General Félix María Calleja turns the situation around and rebuilds New Spain so that it can offer a strong defence against the increasingly vociferous and well-armed pro-independence groups.

However, 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 capt-general of Cuba. Deposed by 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.


Francisco Novella Azabal

Army general, created interim viceroy for 2 weeks.


Juan O'Donojú y O'Rian

Cpt-gen of New Spain. Died 10 days after independence.


New Spain as a whole achieves independence from Spain, bringing to an end three hundred years of governance of the Spanish Colonies. The name of the capital city and seat of the government of New Spain, Mexico, is applied to the whole country. Juan O'Donoju uses diplomacy to withdraw Spanish troops with the minimum of bloodshed.

Simon Bolivar
Simon Bolivar was proclaimed 'the Liberator' for his work in freeing much of South America from Spanish colonial control, although his attempts to forge a new 'super-state' from the former colonies came to nothing

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 newly-formed Mexican empire.

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