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The Americas

South American Colonial Settlements

 

New Andalusia / Rio de la Plata (River Plate) (Spanish Empire)
AD 1534 - 1776

Isabella, soon-to-be queen of Castile and Leon, married Ferdinand II, heir to the throne of Aragon, Navarre, and Sicily, on 19 October 1469. This act laid the foundation for the political unification of all of Spain under their grandson, Charles. The union of two hard-fighting Reconquista states saw to it that the Nasrids of Granada were finally defeated in 1492, completing the Christian reunion of Spain. The Spanish immediately found a new direction in which to channel their combat-ready forces when, in their name, Christopher Columbus reached the western side of the Atlantic Ocean.

On 12 October 1492 Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas, beginning 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 America could begin in earnest.

Peopled since at least 10,500 BC by people of the Western Stemmed tradition, the Rio de la Plata (River Plate) estuary became the border between Spain's colony of Peru, of which early Argentina was part, and the Portuguese colony of Brazil. 'River plate' means 'river of silver' in Spanish. This describes the river itself rather than the estuary, where the rivers Paraná and Uruguay meet.

It was first discovered by Europeans in 1516 when the Spanish navigator, Juan Diaz de Solis, was killed by the indigenous people whilst exploring the Rio de la Plata. His death discouraged further European colonisation of what would become Uruguay for more than a century.

The Falkland Islands were also discovered in 1520 by members of Ferdinand Magellan's expedition (Magellan did not make landfall on the islands). The colony of Buenos Aires was founded in 1536. Temporarily abandoned, it was re-founded in 1580 by the then-governor of Rio de la Plata, Juan de Garay, and would go on to be one of the biggest cities in South America.

The governorate of New Andalusia was replaced in 1544 when the new governate of Rio de la Plata was established in its place. The new viceroyalty of Peru had been given territory which had previously been administered directly by New Spain, but this handover included Rio de la Plata which would now supervised by Peru, and also included early Paraguay until 1617. Between its creation and 1776, the province of Argentina within Rio de la Plata was administered separately from the neighbouring provinces of Bolivia, Paraguay, and the 'Eastern Strip' (Uruguay).

Ships of the Spanish empire

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual, C E Bosworth (2004), from Historical Dictionary of Argentina, Ione S Wright and Lisa M Nekhom (1978), from Colonial Latin America, Mark A Burkholder & Lyman L Johnson (Tenth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2018), from The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual, C E Bosworth (2004), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Explore Asuncion (Trip Advisor), and Welcome Uruguay.)

1529 - 1534

Pedro de Mendoza offers to explore South America at his own expense in 1529, intending to found colonies there. In 1534 his offer is accepted and this conquistador is made the first governor of New Andalusia.

This revives a title which had previously existed between 1501-1513, centred largely on what is now Venezuela - or at least its coastal strip. That had been 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 Spanish Colonial province of Nicaragua in 1524.

Rio de la Plata
The Rio de la Plata (River Plate, or 'river of silver') was first colonised by Europeans in 1536 with the founding of the settlement of Buenos Aires following an unsuccessful exploratory visit in 1516

1534 - 1537

Pedro de Mendoza

First governor and captain general of New Andalusia.

1536 - 1537

Pedro de Mendoza founds the colony of Buenos Aires in 1536, far to the south of his governorship of New Andalusia - although at this stage of Spanish Colonial development all land is up for grabs and organisation into official territories is frequently changing.

The Spanish encounter the Querandí natives and soon begin to take advantage of them, earning their enmity. Disappointed with the poor progress on the colony, Pedro de Mendoza sets sail for Spain, promising to send reinforcements. He dies during the voyage, while in 1537 the settlement region of Castilla de Oro is divided up between fresh colonial creations.

1537 - 1539

Juan de Ayolas

Governor of New Andalusia. Killed by Payagua natives.

1539 - 1541

Domingo Martinez de Irala

Acting governor of New Andalusia.

1541

The colony of Buenos Aires is abandoned due to the many difficulties being faced there, not least of these being a coalition of native tribes which has been formed against them as a result of a Spanish attack on them in 1536. The colonists move to Asunción, now the capital city of Paraguay.

Old postcard of Asunción, Paraguay
Asunción, the 'Mother of Cities', was founded in 1537, declaring independence from Spain in 1811 and honing its position as the gateway to the grassy Gran Chaco region

1541 - 1544

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

Governor of New Andalusia.

1544

The Spanish Colonial governate of New Andalusia is renamed. Initially covering a wide east-west band of South America from coast to coast, with Buenos Aires at its southern border with New Leon, subsequent land grants have forced New Andalusia to concentrate its colonisation efforts along the Rio de la Plata.

The greatest of those grants is the creation of the viceroyalty of Peru in 1542 which initially controls almost all of central and western South America (including New Andalusia). With that in mind, the governate of Andalusia's new name is Rio de la Plata.

1544 - 1556

Domingo Martinez de Irala

Former acting governor. Now governor of Rio de la Plata.

1556

During his period as acting governor of New Andalusia and then as governor of the newly-created governate of Rio de la Plata, Domingo Martinez de Irala has forcibly ensured the construction of new towns, forts, and churches, while subjugating the recalcitrant native population and ensuring the survival of the colony.

1556 - 1558

Gonzalo de Mendoza

Conquistador. Governor at Asunción (Paraguay).

1558 - 1569

Francisco Ortiz de Vergara

Conquistador. Governor at Asunción (Paraguay).

1569 - 1572

Felipe de Caceres

Conquistador. Arrested and sent to Spain for trial.

1572 - 1575

Juan Ortiz de Zárate

Died. Succeeded briefly by son-in-law and then nephew.

1576 - 1578

Diego Ortiz de Zárate

Nephew and acting governor.

1578 - 1583

Juan de Garay

Related to the de Zárate family.

1580

Having already founded two successful colonial settlements, using a sense of tact and diplomacy with the natives which few others of his generation seem to possess, Governor Juan de Garay now re-founds the colony of Buenos Aires, on 11 June 1580. The settlement will become the region's most important port.

Patagonia
The southernmost tip of both Argentina and Chile, Patagonia was first explored by Europeans in 1520, but witnessed little serious examination until the eighteenth century

1583 - 1587

Alonso de Vera y Aragon

De facto governor until 1592 from Asunción (Paraguay).

1587 - 1592

Juan Torres de Vera y Aragon

Son-in-law of Juan Ortiz de Zárate.

1592 - 1594

Hernando Arias de Saavedra

Conquistador. First governor of Rio de la Plata & Paraguay.

1594 - 1595

Fernando de Zárate

Conquistador.

1596 - 1597

Juan Ramírez de Velasco

Conquistador. Died shortly after being succeeded in office.

1597 - 1599

Hernando Arias de Saavedra

Second term of office. Son-in-law of Juan de Garay.

1599 - 1600

Diego Rodríguez de Valdes y de la Banda

Conquistador.

1600 - 1602

Frances de Beaumont

Appointment confirmed in 1601.

1602 - 1609

Hernando Arias de Saavedra

Third term of office. Now restricted the slave trade.

1607

Not one but two Spanish ships anchored near the shore at Buenos Aires are captured by English privateers. Hernando Arias de Saavedra orders that a larger fort replace the existing one, being built at the mouth of the River Matanza.

Spanish vessels in combat
Throughout the seventeenth century Spanish ships would face increasing perils on an ocean which they had almost owned in the early sixteenth century, especially from rival English and Portuguese vessels

1609 - 1613

Diego Martin de Negron

Conquistador.

1613 - 1615

Mateo Leal de Ayala

Conquistador. Later mayor of Buenos Aires.

1615 - 1618

Hernando Arias de Saavedra

Fourth term of office. Died in retirement in 1634.

1617 - 1620

The Spanish viceroy of Peru, Francisco de Borja y Aragon, divides the government of Rio de la Plata in two in 1617, creating Buenos Aires and Paraguay, both of which remain dependencies of Peru. The idea to divide the existing governate had been devised by Hernando Arias de Saavedra, but it requires royal confirmation (which it receives in 1618) before it can be officially enacted in 1620.

1618 - 1623

Diego de Gongora

Conquistador. Governed Paraguay only until 1620.

1623 - 1631

Francisco de Cespedes

Subdued the Charrúa people of Uruguay.

1624

The first permanent settlement is founded in the Eastern Strip (Uruguay), at Villa Soriano on the north bank of the Rio de la Plata and some way upriver from Buenos Aires. Governor Francisco de Cespedes of Rio de la Plata continues ongoing efforts to pacify the native Charrúa people of the region, still barely touched or even intruded upon by the Spanish settlers.

Native Charrúa people
The native Charrúa people were depicted in 1843 by J C Prichard in the publication Histoire Naturelle de l'Homme: Comprenant des recherches sur L'influence des agens physiques et morau (Natural History of Man: Including research on the influence of physical and moral agents)

1631 - 1637

Pedro Esteban Davila

Conquistador.

1637 - 1641

Mendo de la Cueva y Benavidez

Conquistador.

1641

Andres de Sandoval

Interim governor.

1641 - 1645

Luis Jeronimo Fernandez de Cabrera

Former viceroy of Peru (1629).

1645 - 1653

Jacinto Lariz

Conquistador.

1653 - 1660

Pedro Baigorri Ruiz

Conquistador.

1660 - 1663

Alonso Mercado y Villacorta

Previously & subsequently governor of Tucumán.

1663 - 1674

Juan Martinez de Salazar

Conquistador.

1674 - 1678

Andres de Robles

Conquistador.

1678 - 1682

Jose de Garro

Conquistador. Later governor of Chile (1682).

1680

Portuguese settlers from Brazil build a fort at Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. The move causes the Spanish administration to increase its own interest in the area, as it seeks to limit the expansion of Brazil. Garro launches a surprise attack on the fort which captures it in 1680, but it is returned by royal decree to the Portuguese in 1681 as the attack had been undertaken without royal permission.

Iguassu Falls, Brazil
Pedro Alvares Cabral found a rich and sometimes dangerous land which was ripe for colonisation - this would become the Portuguese imperial colony of Brazil

1682 - 1691

Jose de Herrera y Sotomayor

Governor ('conquistador' becoming outdated).

1690

The Falkland Islands, sighted in 1520 by Ferdinand Magellan but never set foot upon, is now explored by British naval Captain John Strong. He names the islands after Viscount Falkland, his patron, who shortly afterwards becomes 'First Lord of the Admiralty'.

1691 - 1698

Agustin de Robles

Governor.

1698 - 1701

Manuel de Prado y Maldonado

Governor.

1701 - 1707

Antonio Juan de Valdes y Inclan

Governor. Defeated Portugal at Colonia del Sacramento.

1702 - 1715

Spain is involved in the War of the Spanish Succession as Austria, Britain, and Portugal dispute the Bourbon accession. As part of that war, Governor Antonio Juan de Valdes y Inclan besieges the growing Portuguese settlement at Colonia del Sacramento. In 1705, defeated, the Portuguese are evacuated - troops, civilians, and all their possessions.

War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought to avoid a shift in the balance of power in Europe with the proposed unification of the Bourbon kingdoms of Spain and France

1708

Manuel de Velasco y Tejada

Purchased the office and was arrested.

1708 - 1714

Juan Jose de Mutiloa

Governor.

1713

The Treaty of Utrecht which concludes the War of the Spanish Succession sees the former Portuguese settlement of Colonia del Sacramento handed back. A fresh influx of settlers arrives there from Brazil. The colony subsequently changes hands many times.

1714

Alonso de Arce y Soria

Purchased the office and died 5 months later.

1714 - 1715

Jose Bermudez de Castro

Sergeant-major and interim governor.

1715 - 1717

Baltasar Garcia Ros

Subsequently lieutenant-governor under Zavala.

1717 - 1734

Bruno Mauricio de Zavala

Founded Montevideo.

1724

Governor Bruno Mauricio de Zavala founds a fortress which forms the basis for the later development of Montevideo. In this period it is purely a military stronghold, with de Zavala feeling that it is required in order to hold back Portuguese encroachment from Brazil. In time it becomes the capital of the independent republic of Uruguay.

Map of Montevideo
The city of Montevideo was founded between 1724 and 1726 by Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, a port city by nature which faces the Río de la Plata and which today consists of tree covered avenues, quiet neighbourhood streets, and green squares and parks

1734 - 1742

Miguel de Salcedo y Sierraalta

Governor.

1742 - 1745

Domingo Ortiz de Rozas

Governor.

1745 - 1756

Jose de Andonaegui

Governor.

1756 - 1766

Pedro Antonio de Ceballos Cortes

Later the first viceroy of Rio de la Plata.

1764 - 1774

A small French colony named Port Louis is established on East Falkland in 1764. The sizeable number of Bretons in the colony refer to the islands as a whole as Îles Malouines, from which the Spanish version is later produced - Islas Malvinas. The colony is handed to the Spanish three years later.

A British expedition reaches Port Egmont in West Falkland in 1765, and 'took formal possession of it and of "all the neighbouring islands" for King George III'. Another British expedition establishes a settlement of about a hundred people at Port Egmont in 1766 and, although it withdraws on economic grounds in 1774, 'sovereignty was never relinquished or abandoned'.

East Falkland
East Falkland was first settled by a short-lived Franco-Breton colony, but it was the British who populated the island in earnest, with the French Port Louis eventually being replaced as the capital by Stanley Harbour for its better anchorage

1766 - 1770

Francisco de Paula Bucarelli y Ursua

Governor.

1770 - 1777

Juan Jose de Vertiz y Salcedo

Later the second viceroy of Rio de la Plata.

1776

Spain is becoming increasingly concerned about the rise of rival world powers, notably the two greatest rival naval powers in the form of Great Britain and Portugal, both of which have an interest in the South American continent.

In order to be part of addressing their security concerns, the governate of Rio de la Plata is raised in rank, removing it from the southern territories which are administered by Peru, and renaming it the viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata. It gains independent control of the provinces of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata (River Plate) (Spanish Empire)
AD 1776 - 1810

Christopher Columbus landing in the Bahamas in 1492 began a process of colonisation and empire-building on the part of a newly-unified Spain. Colonies were quickly established on Hispaniola, Cuba, and then New Spain, formed when the greatest Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, was defeated in 1521. European colonisation of central and South America could begin in earnest.

The Rio de la Plata (River Plate) estuary became the border between Spain's colony of Peru, of which early Argentina was a part, and the Portuguese colony of Brazil. 'River plate' means 'river of silver' in Spanish, first being discovered by Europeans in 1516 when the Spanish navigator, Juan Diaz de Solis, was killed by the indigenous people whilst exploring there.

The colony of Buenos Aires was founded in 1536. Temporarily abandoned, it was re-founded in 1580 by the then-governor of the governate of Rio de la Plata, Juan de Garay, and would go on to be one of the biggest cities in South America. Between its creation and 1776, the province of Argentina within the viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata was administered separately from the neighbouring provinces of Bolivia, Paraguay, and the 'Eastern Strip' (Uruguay).

By the eighteenth century Spain had become increasingly concerned about the rise of rival world powers, especially Great Britain and Portugal, who both had an interest in the South American continent. To try and address security concerns, Rio de la Plata was raised to a viceroyalty in 1776 out of the southern territories of Peru, gaining independent control of the provinces of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The last such viceroyalty to be created, it quickly lost Chile, which became autonomous in 1789, and just thirty-four years after its creation it was ended by the wars of independence against Spanish Colonial control.

Ships of the Spanish empire

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The British Invasion of the River Plate 1806-1807: How the Redcoats Were Humbled and a Nation Was Born, Ben Hughes (Pen & Sword Book Ltd, 2014), from Gobernar la Revolución: Poderes en disputa en el Río de la Plata, 1810-1816, Marcela Ternavasio (Buenos Aires, 2007), from Historical Dictionary of Argentina, Ione S Wright and Lisa M Nekhom (1978), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Explore Buenos Aires (Trip Advisor).)

1777 - 1778

Pedro Antonio de Ceballos Cortes

Previously served as governor of Rio de la Plata.

1778 - 1784

Juan Jose de Vertiz y Salcedo

Previously governor of Rio de la Plata. Resigned.

1784 - 1789

Nicolas del Campo Maestre Cuesta

A capable administrator. Expanded Buenos Aires.

1789

Under Irish-born Captain-General Ambrosio O'Higgins the captaincy general of Chile becomes autonomous and is withdrawn from the control of the viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata. Chile is still relatively unadvanced when compared to Peru but that does not diminish the growing demands for independence from its colonial settlers.

Ruins of Quilmes
Seen here in its mountainside setting are the ruins of Quilmes, home to the native tribe in the Tucumán region which was defeated by the Spanish in the seventeenth century

1789 - 1795

Nicolas Antonio de Arredondo

Continued del Campo's good work before resigning.

1795 - 1797

Pedro Melo de Portugal y Villena

Died in office.

1797 - 1799

Antonio Olaguer y Feliu

Interim governor. Encouraged international trade.

1799 - 1801

Gabriel de Aviles y Fierro

Former governor of Chile (1796). Gained Peru (1801).

1801 - 1804

Joaquin del Pino y Rozas

Former governor of Chile (1799).

1804

Jose Fernando de Abascal y Sousa

Named viceroy but then handed Peru instead.

1804 - 1807

Rafael de Sobremonte Nunez

Accused of cowardice for 'fleeing' in 1806.

1806 - 1807

Following its victory at Trafalgar, Great Britain is still at war with Spain, and as part of its military efforts British troops attempt to take Buenos Aires. Montevideo in Uruguay is occupied at the start of 1807 for several months as they prepare for the attempt on Buenos Aires, and Rafael de Sobremonte Nunez leaves the city in advance, according to his orders. That attempt is defeated and the British withdraw, boosting the self-confidence of the colony.

Britannia between Death and the Doctors
Britannia between Death and the Doctors shows an ailing Britannia being approached by Death in the guise of Napoleon, while her politicians squabble (LC-USZC4-8794)

1807 - 1809

Santiago de Liniers y de Bremond

Replaced de Sobremonte prior to Spain's confirmation.

1809 - 1810

Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros y la Torre

Ousted by the citizens and militias of Buenos Aires.

1810

Following the French occupation of Spain and the subsequent weakening of the crown, various wars of independence break out across the Spanish Americas, including New Spain and Guatemala. Peru serves as a centre for the royalist Spanish Colonial opposition to these revolts.

On 25 May Buenos Aires revolts, so the viceroy, Abascal, reincorporates the provinces of Chile, Cordoba, La Paz and Potosi (the last two both in modern Bolivia), and Quito (part of New Granada) from Rio de la Plata. Fighting also takes place in Uruguay, although the province remains relatively secure.

1811

Francisco Javier de Elio y Olondriz

Last (self-declared) viceroy. Lost territory to rebellion.

1810 - 1811

The viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata effectively dissolves as a vehicle of governance in the region. A new administration is formed without Spain's influence or control. The Spanish settlement on East Falkland, which had been handed over to them by French settlers in 1767, is also withdrawn, 'leaving the islands without inhabitants or any form of government'.

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

Despite this and the subsequent British colonisation there, the newly-formed, and highly politically-unstable, United Provinces which replaces Rio de la Plata still claims the abandoned islands as part of the transfer of regional power from Spain.

 
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