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The Americas

Caribbean Islands


Hispaniola / Kiskeya (Spanish Empire)
AD 1492 - 1691

When Christopher Columbus first landed in the Bahamas on 12 October 1492 he began a process of colonisation and empire-building on the part of Spain. By 5 December 1492, Columbus had arrived at western Hispaniola, where he founded the colony of La Navidad and became its first viceroy. Then he sailed to eastern Cuba. This became the launch pad for the creation of New Spain, created after the greatest Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, was defeated in 1521. European colonisation of central and South American could begin in earnest.

The name Hispaniola comes from the Spanish 'La Espanola' ('the Spanish island'). Hispaniola was home to the first permanent European settlements in the Americas. Cuba, lying to the west, while not technically a part of Hispaniola, was closely linked to it, and was used as a launch pad for the conquest of Mexico. While it formed the springboard for Spanish Colonial conquests on the American mainland, once those conquests had been made, interest in Hispaniola noticeably waned. It did, though, continue to govern a swathe of the Caribbean which included Jamaica.

Today Hispaniola is an island within the Greater Antilles, the most populous and the second-largest of its islands, with Puerto Rico lying to the east and Jamaica to the west. Politically, the island is divided between Haiti (the western third of the island) and Dominican Republic (in the east).

(Additional information from The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual, C E Bosworth (2004).)

Caribbean Islands

c.AD 600?

The seafaring Taino people, a division of the Arawak group of American natives, probably arrive on the island around this date, possibly displacing earlier inhabitants. They name the island Kiskeya or Quisqueya, 'mother of the earth', and survive through a mixture of hunting, fishing, and farming.


On the eve of the arrival of the first Europeans, the Taino people have a settled society which is divided into five chiefdoms.

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


Christopher Columbus first lands in the Bahamas on 12 October in a three-ship expedition from Spain. He is initially credited with being the first European to reach the Americas, although he uses a route that sailors have been aware of for at least a generation.

Later, the Icelandic Viking, Leif Ericson, is credited with the discovery around 1003. (The undocumented voyage of Prince Madog of Gwynedd is placed at 1170, making him the second discoverer of the Americas.)

By 5 December, Columbus arrives at western Hispaniola, where he founds the colony of La Navidad as the initial part of the Spanish Colonies. Then he sails to eastern Cuba.

1492 - 1499

Christopher Columbus

First Spanish viceroy or governor of the Indies.

pre-1492 - 1500?

Chief Guacanagari

Taino chief in west (Haiti). Refused to support Taino revolts.


On his second voyage, Christopher Columbus lands in eastern Hispaniola. La Navidad's inhabitants having been massacred and the settlement abandoned, he founds the first permanent Spanish colony of La Isabela. After initial friendliness from the Xaragua chiefdom, the Taino revolt against the newcomers, and these revolts are put down one by one:


The Treaty of Tordesillas of 7 June 1494 effectively divides half the known world, including the New World, into Spanish and Portuguese areas of influence. It ignores all other European powers in the process, so they ignore the treaty in return.

It gives Portugal the opportunity to exploit Brazil, and also serves to confirm Portuguese domination in Morocco, amongst many other places, while meaning that the Spanish Colonies can pursue their own New World interests without interruption (or so they think).

pre-1496 - ?

Chief Behechio of Xaragua

Chief in south-west (Haiti).

pre-1496 - 1504

Chief Anacaona of Xaragua

Sister, equal, and successor. Executed in front of her people.

1499 - 1502

Francisco de Bobadilla

Spanish governor of the Indies. Killed at sea.

1500 - 1502

Columbus is stripped of the titles and privileges he had been granted for his explorations, following accusations of tyrannical governorship, and is replaced as governor of the Indies. At the age of fifty-three he is chained and shipped back to Spain where he and his two brothers are cleared and restored.

Columbus is never again allowed a command in the Indies, although he is allowed to sail again, skirting the coast of Nicaragua and claiming Panama for the Spanish Colonies in 1502.

The governate of New Andalusia is created and maintained between 1501-1513, centred largely on what is now Venezuela - or at least its coastal strip. That is absorbed into the Spanish settlement region of Castilla de Oro from its official incorporation in 1513 (roughly northern Columbia and western Venezuela), only to be downgraded with the creation of the province of Nicaragua in 1524.

fl c.1500

Chief Caonabo of Maguana

Husband of Anacaona. Chief in centre & south (Haiti).

Chief (or cacique) Caonabo is captured by the Spanish for an attack and is shipped off to Spain. Along the way the ship is wrecked and Caonabo is lost. Soon after, while a feast is underway in honour of Anacaona, the Spanish set fire to the meeting house. Anacaona and other Taino nobles are arrested and executed, with the queen being hanged in front of her people at the age of 29.

Chief Guama

Taino rebel chief. Possibly the same as in Cuba?

1502 - 1509

Nicolas de Ovando y Caceres

Spanish governor of the Indies.

1502 - 1503

In 1502 the new Spanish governor, Nicolas de Ovando y Caceres, arrives at Hispaniola on a fleet of thirty ships which carries 2,500 colonists. With him is conquistador Francisco Pizarro. The following year another conquistador, Hernan, or Hernando, Cortes, also arrives from Spain.

1504 - 1508

Following his arrival in the Americas in 1493 and a possible return to Spain, in 1504, Juan Ponce de Leon is made governor of part of eastern Hispaniola. Between 1506-1508, lured by reports of fertile land and rivers of gold, he explores Puerto Rico and is made its first governor by the Spanish crown.


Cortes takes part in the Spanish conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba, receiving a large estate as his reward.

1509 - 1518

Diego Columbus

Son of Christopher. Spanish governor of the Indies (viceroy 1511).

fl c.1510

Chief Hatuey

Fled to Cuba to help fight the Spanish settlers there.


Cortes supports Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, aide to the governor of Hispaniola, in completing the conquest of Cuba. Manoeuvring himself out of the viceroy's control, Diego Velazquez is made the first governor of Cuba for the Spanish Colonies. The island of Jamaica also gains its first Spanish governor in this year.


Vasco Nunez de Balboa (governor of Panama) and Francisco Pizarro (later governor of Peru) cross the Isthmus of Panama, leading the first European expedition to see the Pacific from the west coast of the New World. Once there, Balboa claims the Pacific Ocean and all the lands adjoining it for Spain.

1513 - 1514

An expedition to discover rumoured lands to the north under Juan Ponce de Leon gets underway on 4 March 1513. On 2 April land is sighted which is named Florida. Eventually Ponce de Leon makes landfall on the western coast, probably in the vicinity of Charlotte Harbour or Tampa Bay. After returning briefly to Puerto Rico and then Spain, Ponce de Leon is confirmed as governor of Florida.

1517 - 1521

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.

The somewhat unreliable Spanish conquistador Hernan, or Hernando, Cortes is elected captain of the third expedition to the mainland from the Spanish Colony of Cuba, just west of Hispaniola, an expedition which he partially funds.

He and his force of six hundred land in the Yucatan peninsula in Mayan territory in 1519, but they soon arrive at Tenochtitlan where they show their true nature and are chased out amidst heavy fighting.

Also in 1519 Panama City is founded on the mainland and within two years the focus of Spanish attentions passes to the west and New Spain is born. By now the number of Taino natives on Hispaniola has been drastically cut to a little under six per cent of their original number due to the import of European disease and Spanish mistreatment. The labour shortage caused by this prompts the colonists to begin to import slaves from Africa.

1518 - 1524

Diego Velazquez de Cuellar

Also lieutenant-governor of Cuba.

1519 - 1533

Chief Enriquillo

Nephew of Anacaona and probably her successor.

1521 - 1535

Cuba experiences an exodus of settlers as they flood into New Spain's mainland territories. By 1535 a political reorganisation of the Indies places Cuba under the direct administration of New Spain, ending the Spanish Colonial governorship of the Indies. Cortes himself is the first governor of the conquered Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.

1522 - 1533

After being orphaned by the Spanish during the attack which had killed his father and which had led to the execution of his aunt, Anacaona, in about 1504, Taino chief Enriquillo is raised in a monastery. As a rebel chief, he fights the Spanish in the Baoruco Mountain Range and is moderately successful. The Taino there remain free for some time.


The Spanish move the capital of Santiago (Jamaica) from Sevilla Nueva to Spanish Town (to which they refer as St Jago de la Vega). The Spanish never settle Jamaica in great numbers because they do not find any gold there. Instead they establish plantations to supply Spanish ships with food.


The Spanish king orders the population to move towards the capital, Santo Domingo, in an attempt to avoid their interaction with the ever-increasing number of Caribbean pirates. In fact, this leaves much of the island empty for Dutch, English, and French pirates to establish new bases.

1627 - 1634

Diego de Acuna

Former captain general of Guatemala (1627-1634).


Spain has not settled the Bahamas, although it had enslaved and deported a substantial number of natives to work in Cuba and Hispaniola until that population had dwindled to nothing by 1515. Now the first permanent European settlement is established there by English Puritans who are known as the 'Eleutheran Adventurers'.


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. In 1655 England launches an amphibious operation in the Caribbean which results in the capture of Jamaica and Hispaniola from the Spanish Colonies.


King Louis XIV officially recognises French colonies on the island. From 1691, French governors control the colony of Saint-Dominigue which is ceded to France by Spain in 1697 under the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick.

French Saint-Dominigue
AD 1691 - 1803

Hispaniola had left the door open for non-Spanish colonists from 1606, when it withdrew its citizens from the countryside. In 1665, the French King Louis XIV officially recognised newly established French colonies on the island, and from 1691, French governors controlled the colony of Saint-Dominigue. It was officially ceded to France by Spain in 1697 under the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick, and this section of the island quickly became the richest and most prosperous, under the nickname, 'Pearl of the Antilles'. It also set the division of the island in stone, with those divisions remaining in place today as Haiti and Dominican Republic.

1691 - 1700

Jean-Baptiste Ducasse

First French governor.


As part of the Treaty of Ryswick, Spain formally cedes the western third of the island to France. The French rule it as Saint-Domingue (modern Haiti), and it prospers far more than the eastern section of the island which the Spanish retain under the name of Santo Domingo (modern Dominican Republic).

Jean-Baptiste Ducasse
Jean-Baptiste Ducasse, the first French governor of Saint-Domingue in 1691

1700 - 1703

Joseph d'Honon de Gallifet

Acting governor.

1703 - 1705

Charles Auger

1705 - 1707

Jean-Pierre de Charritte

Acting governor.

1707 - 1710

François Joseph

1710 - 1711

Jean-Pierre de Charritte

Second term of office.


Laurent de Valernod

1711 - 1712

Nicolas de Gabaret

1712 - 1713

Paul François de La Grange

1713 - 1714

Louis de Courbon

1714 - 1717

Louis de Courbon

First French governor-general.

1717 - 1719

Charles Joubert de la Bastide

1719 - 1723

Léon, marquis de Sorel

1723 - 1731

Gaspard Charles de Goussé

1731 - 1732

Antoine Gabriel


Étienne Cochard de Chastenoy

Acting governor.

1732 - 1737

Pierre, marquis de Fayet


Étienne Cochard de Chastenoy

Second term of office as acting governor.

1737 - 1746

Charles de Brunier

1746 - 1748

Étienne Cochard de Chastenoy

Third term of office as acting governor.

1748 - 1751

Hubert de Brienne

1751 - 1753

Emmanuel Auguste de Cahideux du Bois

1753 - 1757

Joseph Hyacinthe de Rigaud

1757 - 1762

Philippe François Bart

1762 - 1763

Gabriel de Bory de Saint-Vincent


Armand, vicomte de Belzunce

1763 - 1764

Pierre André de Gohin

Acting governor.

1764 - 1766

Charles Henri

1766 - 1769

Louis Armand Constantin de Rohan

1769 - 1772

Pierre Gédéon


De la Ferronays

Acting governor.

1772 - 1775

Louis Florent


Jean-François, comte de Reynaud

Acting governor.

1775 - 1776

Victor Thérèse Charpentier

1776 - 1777

Jean-Baptiste de Taste de Lilancour

Acting governor.

1777 - 1780

Robert, comte d'Argout


Jean-Baptiste de Taste de Lilancour

Second term of office as acting governor.

1780 - 1781


Second term of office.

1781 - 1782

Jean-Baptiste de Taste de Lilancour

Third term of office as acting governor.

1782 - 1785

Guillaume de Bellecombe

1785 - 1786

Gui Pierre de Coustard

1786 - 1787

César Henri

1787 - 1788

Alexandre de Vincent de Mazade

1788 - 1789

Marie Charles


Alexandre de Vincent de Mazade

Second term of office as acting governor.

1789 - 1790

Louis Antoine Thomassin

1790 - 1792

Philibert F Rouxel de Blanchelande


Adrien Nicolas


Jean Jacques P d'Esparbès de Lussan

1792 - 1793

Donatien M Joseph de Vimeur


Léger Félicité Sonthonax



François Galbaud du Fort

1793 - 1796

Étienne Maynaud Bizefranc


Britain occupies areas of the island as part of its war efforts against Revolutionary France. The commanders in charge of the island are shown here in red. However, they faced constant armed opposition from former slaves led by Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe. By 1798, the British have been forced to withdraw and Toussaint Louverture is virtual master of the island.

1793 - 1795

John Whitelocke

1795 - 1796

Adam Williamson


The French Directory is established on 3 November 1795, headed by Paul Barras. France's Revolutionary Wars against the monarchies of Europe begins to carve out a new empire for the country, both at home and abroad, where the entire island of Hispaniola is gained from Spain under the terms of the Treaty of Basel. The Netherlands is also invaded and the puppet Batavian Republic set up, and subsequently a peace agreement is sealed with Prussia and Spain. Hessen-Homburg falls under near-constant French military occupation, having to pay contributions to the French war effort. Slaves on Hispaniola under the command of Toussaint Louverture are soon in revolt against their new French masters.

1796 - 1797

Gordon Forbes

1796 - 1797

Léger Félicité Sonthonax

Second term of office as commissioner.


John Graves Simcoe

1797 - 1798

John Whyte


Thomas Maitland

1797 - 1802



Gabriel M Théodore-Joseph Hédouville


1801 - 1804

Toussaint-l'Overture (or Louverture) captures Santo Domingo from the French and takes control of all of Hispaniola. An army is sent by Napoleon Bonaparte to regain the island, and Louverture is sent back a prisoner. His successors, aided by the ever-present threat of yellow fever, regain the west of the island in 1804. The French are expelled and the independence of Haiti is declared. The French manage to recover Santo Domingo in the east.


Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc

1802 - 1803

Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur

Second term of office.


Jean-Jacques Dessalines

Became first governor-general of Haiti.

1808 - 1810

Following the French invasion of Spain, the people of Santo Domingo revolt against French rule. They manage to restore Spanish control with help from Britain, but this removes any surviving Haitian controls in the east of the island.

1810 - 1822

Jose Nunez de Caceres

Governor of Spanish Santo Domingo.

1821 - 1822

Various plots to make Spanish Santo Domingo independent have already failed when on 30 November 1821 Jose Nunez de Caceres declares the colony to be independent as the state of Spanish Haiti (Haiti Espanol). He quickly joins his country to the new republic of Gran Colombia.

Nine weeks later, in 1822, Haitian forces invade and annexe the colony, bringing to an end over three hundred years of mostly Spanish rule. The state of Haiti now encapsulates the entire island of Hispaniola. Slavery in the east is abolished, but Haitian monopolisation of government and power provokes permanent suspicion amongst the local population.

1822 - 1844

The future division of the two countries will be marked by constant tension. Throughout this century, inequity widens between the lighter-skinned elite, those who speak French and are based in the cities, and the darker-skinned rural Creole-speaking peasants. Rural areas are totally ignored, with services, business, and communications all being concentrated in urban areas.

In 1844 all this bubbles up when the former Santo Domingan eastern two-thirds of the island revolt against Haitian rule. Independence is gained thanks to a Dominican rebel movement called La Trinitaria, and the nation state of Dominican Republic comes into being.

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