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The Americas

South American Colonial Settlements


New Kingdom of Granada (Spanish Empire)
AD 1538 - 1717

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 within the Spanish Colonies, formed when the greatest Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, was defeated in 1521. European colonisation of central and South American could begin in earnest.

The 'New Kingdom of Granada' (as opposed to the old kingdom of Granada in Spain) was created to encompass those territories which cover modern northern and central Colombia, almost all of Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Panama, northern Venezuela, and north-western Guyana. These were conquered from native peoples which included the Inca, Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona between 1509 and 1520 and collectively termed Nueva Reino de Granada, or simply Nueva Granada. On 29 July 1525, Santa Marta was founded, on 1 June 1533 Cartagena de Indias, and on 6 August 1538 Fe de Bogota. The latter became the capital of the new administration which was confirmed in 1543. Initially it was administered from Peru, until it became part of the viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717.

It was natives from either Columbia or Ecuador around AD 1200 who had contact with Polynesian islanders (of later French Polynesia). The location of the interaction is uncertain - whether it was on the South American coast or on the islands is impossible to tell without some archaeology to provide those clues - but DNA evidence (and the presence of the humble potato at both ends of the linking route) published in 2020 shows that the interaction took place around the given date.

Ships of the Spanish empire

(Additional information from External Link: Indigenous Americans had contact with Polynesians 800 years ago, DNA reveals (The Guardian).)

1538 - 1539

Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada y Rivera

First governor of Granada.

1539 - 1542

Hernan Perez de Quesada

1542 - 1545

Alonso Luis de Lugo


The province of Guatemala is defined by the establishment of a royal audiencia, superseding the authority of Panama over the southern Central American region. This region includes the provinces of Chiapas, Costa Rica (gained from New Granada), El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Farther south, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela, all part of the 'New Kingdom of Granada', fall permanently under the Spanish Colonial administration of Peru.

The port of Mompos in Colombia
The port of Mompos was founded by the Spanish in 1537 on the banks of the Rio Magdalena


Luis Montalvo de Lugo

1545 - 1547

Pedro de Ursua

1547 - 1550

Miguel Diez de Armendariz

1549 - 1554

On 17 July 1549 the royal audiencia of Santa Fe de Bogota is founded as an extension of the viceroyalty of Peru. From 1550 the kingdom of Granada is governed by audiencia until a new governor and president of the audiencia can be appointed.

1564 - 1574

Andres Diaz Venero de Leiva

First governor-president of the audiencia of Granada.

1574 - 1575

Gedeon de Hinojosa


Francisco Briceno

Died 1575.

1575 - 1578

Granada is governed by the royal audiencia until a new governor can be selected.

1578 - 1580

Lope Diez Aux de Armendariz

1580 - 1582

Juan Bautista Monzon

1582 - 1585

Juan Prieto de Orellana

1585 - 1590

Francisco Javier Guillen Chaparro

1590 - 1597

Antonio Gonzalez

1597 - 1602

Francisco de Sande Picon

Died 1602.

1602 - 1605

Nuno Nunez de Villavicencio

1605 - 1628

Juan de Borja y Armendia

1628 - 1630

Granada is governed by the royal audiencia until a new governor can be selected.

1630 - 1637

Sancho Giron de Narvaez

1637 - 1645

Martin de Saavedra Galindo de Guzman

1645 - 1654

Juan Fernandez de Cordoba y Coalla

1654 - 1659

Dionisio Perez Manrique

1659 - 1660

Juan Cornejo

1660 - 1662

Dionisio Perez Manrique

Second term of office.

1662 - 1664

Diego de Egües y Beaumont

Died 1664.

1664 - 1666

Francisco de Leyva

Acting governor.

1666 - 1667

Diego del Corro y Carrascal

1667 - 1671

Diego de Villalba y Toledo

Spanish governor of New Granada (and of Cuba 1647-1653).


The English privateer Henry Morgan takes the Peruvian port of Chagres, before capturing and sacking Panama City. The city is subsequently destroyed by fire. Several complaints are made to the Spanish crown against Villalba's administration and he is replaced by Melchor Linan y Cisneros, and later charged with robbing the dead.

1671 - 1674

Melchor Linan y Cisneros

Interim governor of New Granada (and viceroy of Peru 1678-1681).

1674 - 1678

Granada is governed by the royal audiencia until a new governor can be selected.

1678 - 1685

Francisco del Castillo de la Concha

Died 1685.

1685 - 1686

Sebastian Alfonso de Velasco

1686 - 1691

Gil de Cabrera y Davalos

1691 - 1694

Jose Merlo de la Fuente

Acting governor.

1694 - 1703

Gil de Cabrera y Davalos

Second term of office.

1703 - 1710

Diego de Cordoba Lasso de la Vega

1710 - 1711

Francisco Cossio y Otero

1711 - 1712

Diego de Cordoba Lasso de la Vega

Second term of office.

1712 - 1715

Francisco Meneses Bravo de Saravia

1715 - 1717

Nicolas Infante de Venegas

Acting governor.


Francisco del Rincon

Archbishop of Santa Fe de Bogota, and acting governor.


Nicolas Infante de Venegas

Second term of office as acting governor.

1717 - 1718

Francisco del Rincon

Archbishop of Santa Fe de Bogota, second term of office.


The viceroyalty of New Granada is created from Peru's northern Spanish Colonial territories, Bogota, Panama, and Quito.

Viceroyalty of New Granada (Spanish Empire)
AD 1717 - 1810

The Spanish viceroyalty of New Granada was created out of some of the northern territories of Peru on 27 May 1717, namely Bogota, Cartagena de Indias, Guyana, Merida-La Grita, Panama, Popayan, Quito (modern Ecuador), Santa Marta, and Venezuela. It also extended briefly into Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru. The new Spanish Colonial administration became effective in 1718 but its initial existence was short-lived. Following sixteen years of reincorporation into Peru it was permanently re-established in 1740.

1718 - 1719

Antonio Ignacio de la Pedrosa

Acting viceroy.

1719 - 1724

Jorge de Villalonga


The viceroyalty is terminated and New Granada is reincorporated back into Peru until 1740.

1724 - 1731

Antonio Manso Maldonado


1731 - 1733

The civil commissioners of the Audiencia, Jose Martinez Malo, Jose Quintana Acebedo, Jorge Lozano y Peralta, and Jose Castilla, govern Granada.

1733 - 1737

Rafael de Eslava y Lazaga

Died 1737.

1737 - 1738


Acting governor-president, name unknown.


Antonio Gonzalez Manrique

Died 1738.

1739 - 1740

Francisco Gonzalez Manrique


The viceroyalty is permanently re-established.

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

1740 - 1749

Sebastian de Eslava y Lazaga

First re-established viceroy.

1749 - 1753

Jose Alfonso Pizarro

1753 - 1761

Jose Solis Folch de Cardona

1761 - 1773

Pedro Messia de la Cerda

1773 - 1776

Manuel de Guirior

Spanish viceroy of New Granada (and of Peru 1776-1780).

1776 - 1781

Manuel Antonio Flórez Maldonado

Spanish viceroy of New Granada (and of New Spain 1787-1789).


Juan de Torrezal Diaz y Pimienta

Died 1782.

1782 - 1789

Juan Antonio Caballero y Gongora


Francisco Gil de Taboada y Lemos

1789 - 1797

Jose Manuel de Ezpeleta

Spanish viceroy of New Granada (and of Cuba 1785-1789).

1797 - 1803

Pedro Mendinueta y Muzquiz

1803 - 1810

Antonio Jose de Amar

President of the supreme governing junta (from 1810).


Various wars of independence break out across the Spanish Americas, including New Spain and Guatemala. Peru serves as a centre for the royalist opposition to these revolts. The viceroy, Abascal, reincorporates the Spanish Colonial provinces of Chile, Cordoba, La Paz and Potosi (both in modern Bolivia), and Quito (part of New Granada). Spanish governors remain in nominal command of Granada, but in opposition to the United Provinces, and 'governing' from Panama.

United Provinces of New Granada
AD 1810 - 1816

The independence of New Granada was declared on 20 July 1810, and after two false starts a congress of the United Provinces was convened in late 1811. On 4 October 1812 the United Provinces of New Granada (Nueva Granada) were made official as a federation which was governed by a parliamentary system with a capital at Tunja. It consisted of Bogota (at the centre of modern Colombia), Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), Guyana (to the east of Venezuela), Merida-La Grita (eastern Venezuela), Panama, Popayan, Quito (modern Ecuador), Santa Marta, and Venezuela itself. Quito remained a Royalist stronghold throughout the wars of 1810-1821, which was natural enough as it bordered Peru, which remained the base of Royalist operations until the end of Spanish suzerainty in the Americas.

1810 - 1812

Antonio Jose de Amar

Former viceroy of New Granada.

1812 - 1814

Jose Camilo Clemente Torres Tenorio

President of the congress.


A three-member executive power is appointed to govern, with the presiding member heading the administration.

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


Jose Maria Eusebio Carlos del Rosario

First presiding member of the executive power (acting).

1814 - 1815

Jose Custodio Cayetano Garcia Rovira

First full presiding member of the executive power.


Jose Miguel Pey y Garcia de Andrade


Manuel Juan Robustiano

1815 - 1816

Jose Camilo Clemente Torres Tenorio


Jose Luis Alvaro Fernandez Madrid


Liborio Jose Apolinar Mejia Gutierrez

Acting. Died 1816.


Jose Custodio Cayetano Garcia Rovira

Second term of office.


Manuel Fernando Serrano y Uribe

1815 - 1816

The United Provinces are re-conquered by Spain on 18 December 1815. Much of Granada is reincorporated back into Spanish colonial possessions, with the viceroyalty being re-established to govern it.

Viceroyalty of New Granada
AD 1816 - 1819

When the United Provinces were formed in 1810, the Spanish viceroy became the first president of the supreme governing body. The Spanish governorship retreated to Panama where Benito Perez Brito was appointed in opposition to the parliamentary federation that was based in Tunja, although he wasn't officially sworn in until March 1812. The title of viceroy was revived by Spain in 1816, and on 18 December 1815, Granada was regained by Spain and the viceroyalty was re-established. However, it never managed to assert its authority over the entire territory and instead spent its short existence fighting a war against rebels who were determined to throw off Spanish rule forever.

1810 - 1813

Benito Perez Brito

Held governorship from Portobelo, Panama. Died 1813.

1813 - 1818

Francisco Montalvo y Ambulodi Arriola

Governor and captain-general until 1816, then viceroy.

1818 - 1819

Juan Jose de Samano

1819 - 1821

Juan de la Cruz Mourgeon y Achet

Titular viceroy only. Died 1822.

1820 - 1821

On 8 September 1820, the Liberation Expedition of Peru is organised in Chile and lands on the beach near the city of Pisco in Peru. Lima is occupied on 21 July 1821 and the independence of Peru (and therefore Spanish America) from Spain is proclaimed on 28 July. The republic of Gran Colombia is formed just four months later.

Gran Colombia
AD 1821 - 1831

The republic of Gran Colombia was formed by nationalist hero Simon Bolivar on 28 November 1821 after the fall of the Spanish administration of the colonies. Immediately the new administration of Panama, under Colonel Jose del Fabrega, opted to join the republic, while the Mexican empire was soon formed on Panama's northern border. Bolivar became the new state's president between 1821-1830. He also became president of Peru between 1824-1826, and Bolivia in 1825-1826. Trying to prevent the break-up of Gran Colombia, he proclaimed himself dictator on 27 August 1828, but he resigned on 27 April 1830 after an assassination attempt dented his confidence.

The name 'Gran Colombia' (Great Columbia) is one coined after the fact by historians to describe the state which encompassed modern Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela, rather than the territory of a subsequent republic of New Grenada, which held only modern day Colombia and Panama (1831-1858) (and not to be confused with the Caribbean island of Grenada). Gran Columbia also - briefly - included the island of Santo Domingo in 1821-1822.

1821 - 1830

Simon Bolivar

Also president of Peru & Bolivia.

1828 - 1829

In trying to prevent the break-up of Gran Colombia, Simon Bolivar proclaims himself dictator of Bolivia on 27 August 1828, but he resigns on 27 April 1830 after an assassination attempt dents his confidence.

As Bolivar's dream of a united independent state of former colonies crumbles. Peru fights Gran Colombia over the latter's claim that its territory extends beyond the Andes mountain range to the River Amazon, also including the Amazonian basin. The war is ended with the Battle of Tarqui and the Treaty of Gual-Larrea being signed on 22 September. The treaty specifies that the Colombian-Peruvian border is to retain the line it bore under Spanish colonial control. (The later state of Ecuador continues the disagreement.)

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


Internal stresses and strains prove too much for Gran Colombia, so Ecuador, Venezuela and other territories leave, although Panama remains.


Domingo Caycedo y Sanz de Santamaria

Acting president-liberator.


Joaquin Mariano de Mosquera

1830 - 1831

Rafael Jose Urdaneta Faria

Acting president-liberator.


Domingo Caycedo y Sanz de Santamaria

Second term of office as acting president-liberator.


Following the departure of Ecuador and Venezuela from Gran Colombia, in July 1831 General Juan Eligio Alzuru proclaims the independence of Panama. Under Colonel Tomas Herrera, Gran Colombia's military forces defeat and execute Alzuru and forcibly reincorporate Panama. However, the dissolution of Gran Colombia is made official on 21 November 1831 when Ecuador, New Granada and Venezuela all form new republican governments.

Modern Colombia (Grenadine Confederation / New Granada)
AD 1831 - Present Day

Located in South America, the constitutional republic of Colombia borders Panama to the north, Venezuela to the east, Ecuador and Peru to the south-west, and Brazil to the south-east. The capital is Santa Fe de Bogota. The country's constitutional republican origins date back to 1831, making it the oldest such government in South America.

Colombia emerged from the disintegration of Gran Colombia in 1830-1831, which itself was a surviving portion of the Spanish colonial possession of the 'Kingdom of New Granada'. On 21 November 1831, Colombia formed the 'State of New Granada', which included Panama and which was headed by an elected president. On 20 April 1843 this was renamed the 'Republic of New Granada', but more name changes were to follow. The republic was dissolved and on 22 May 1858 replaced by the 'Grenadine Confederation'. On 18 July 1861, the confederation became the 'United States of New Granada'. Just two months later it was renamed the 'United States of Colombia', on 20 September 1861. Finally, on 5 August 1886, the USC became the 'Republic of Colombia'.

Panama remained a Columbian province until 1902-1903, when the USA decided to intervene in order to secure its own interests in the region, namely the Panama Canal. Panama was encouraged to declare itself a republic which was independent of Colombia and was protected by US troops.

It was natives from either Columbia or Ecuador around AD 1200 who had contact with Polynesian islanders (of later French Polynesia), as shown by DNA evidence in 2020.

(Additional information from External Link: Indigenous Americans had contact with Polynesians 800 years ago, DNA reveals (The Guardian).)

1840 - 1841

Panama again declares its independence under the leadership of General Tomas Herrera (the anti-hero of 1831), becoming the Free State of the Isthmus. The end of the civil conflict which allows this breakaway in 1841 also allows the peaceful reincorporation of the isthmus into New Granada.

Map of Central America in the 1830s
The Federal Republic of Central America was formed of Chiapas, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This lasted from 1823-1841, by which time Mexico had grabbed much of Chiapas and the republic itself dissolved into the separate nation states known today - although Nicaragua did not control the independent Mosquito Coast until the end of the century, and British troops occupied eastern Belize (click or tap on map to view full sized)


On 20 April the State of New Granada is renamed the Republic of New Granada.


The signing of the Bidlack Mallarino Treaty between New Granada and the USA ensures that Panama will remain within the republic, with both parties joining together to put down liberalist attempts to create an independent state, with the USA gaining rights to build railways and roads through the isthmus in return.


The republic is dissolved and the Grenadine Confederation formed in its place, in which the provinces of the confederation are organised as sovereign states with their own local rulers.

1861 - 1863

After a two-year civil war the Granadine Confederation becomes the United States of New Granada on 18 July, modelled on the format used by the USA. Just two months later, on 20 September, it is renamed again as the United States of Colombia. It includes the territories of Antioquia, Bolivar, Boyaca, Cauca, Cundinamarca, Magdalena, Panama, Santander and Tolima, and the territories of Caqueta, San Martin, Nevada and Motilones.


The USC has never been stable, wracked by internal differences and civil wars, so a new constitution is proclaimed by the ruling party, and the United States of Colombia is abolished in favour of the Republic of Colombia on 5 August.

Republic of New Granada coin
Issued during the period 1837-1846, this sixteen pesos coin was struck at Bogata and Popayan and declares itself to be coinage of the 'Republic of New Granada'

1899 - 1902

The Thousand Days War ignites between the country's Liberal and Conservative political parties when the latter are accused of retaining power through rigged elections. The Liberals are defeated, but the Conservatives also lose their appetite for the conflict, and peace is regained with the signing of a treaty in 1902.

1902 - 1903

The USA decides to take control of and complete the abandoned French work on the Panama Canal. The Colombian government is naturally reluctant to allow that level of control to fall outside its hands and refuses permission. The US decides to support Panamanian demands for independence and in 1903, the isthmus separates and becomes the republic of Panama, with a small US military force preventing Colombia from sending troops by sea to regain its province.

1917 - 1918

Unlike many of its neighbours in the Americas, Colombia remains neutral during the First World War against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire.

1922 - 1930

With the signing of the Treaty of Salomon-Lozano, Peru agrees the borders with Colombia by ceding all territory between the Putumayo and Caqueta rivers. The treaty is only published in 1930.

1932 - 1933

By the end of September 1932, the Treaty of Salomon-Lozano has been declared null and void and Peru and Colombia prepare for war, although it is never announced as such. Before hostilities can commence, the president of Peru is assassinated and his replacement negotiates peace with Colombia (by 1934).

1943 - 1945

Following the declaration of the United Nations in 1942, Colombia joins the Second World War as an ally of the USA and Great Britain on 26 July 1943, against Japan, Germany and Italy.


Powerful drugs cartels emerge in the country towards the end of the decade and develop during the following decade, most notably the Medellín Cartel.

FARC rebels
Colombia became notorious in the late twentieth century for its long-running war against various rebel groups, this one being FARC, and its huge levels of drug trafficking


A new constitution is ratified after being drafted by the Constituent Assembly of Colombia.

1998 - 2002

The president, Andres Pastrana, attempts to negotiate a solution to the conflict between the state and the FARC guerrilla insurgency. Large swathes of land are demilitarised in return for peace, known as the Plan Colombia initiative, although as drug cartels continue to launch attacks from the demilitarised zones, the plan's effectiveness is diminished.

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