Spanish Colonization Timeline
How It All Went Down
Columbus Reaches America
Columbus arrives in the Bahamas. Europeans are in the Americas to stay. Columbus eventually makes four voyages to the New World, but dies dejected and forgotten in Valladolid, Spain in 1506.
The encomienda system begins, granting Indians to Spanish encomenderos as slaves. The Spaniards are tasked with protecting the natives and teaching them Christianity. The system is rife with abuses.
Magellan Circumnavigates Globe
Ferdinand Magellan's ships are the first to circumnavigate the globe. Magellan himself is killed by natives in the Pacific.
Cortes Captures Tenochtitlan
Fall of Tenochtitlan: Hernán Cortés and approximately 100 Spaniards capture the capital of the Aztec Empire.
Cortes Conquers Aztecs
Cortés and his men conquer the entire Aztec Empire in what will later become Mexico.
Treaty of Tordesillas
The Treaty of Tordesillas is signed, dividing newly discovered overseas lands between Portugal and Spain.
Geographer Martin Waldseemüler is first to use the name "America" to refer to newly-discovered continents, after Italian merchant, explorer, and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci. Columbus loses out on lucrative naming rights.
Balboa Reaches Pacific
Vasco Nuñez de Balboa becomes the first European to gaze upon the Pacific Ocean after cutting his way across the Isthmus of Panama.
Ponde de León Discovers Florida
Juan Ponce de León discovers Florida.
Night of Tears
La Noche Triste: The "Night of Tears" in which almost two thirds of Cortés's men (nearly 800 in total) are killed as they try to escape Tenochtitlan after the death of Moctezuma.
First African Slaves
The Spanish import the first African slaves to the territory that will later become the United States.
Virgin of Guadalupe
Juan Diego, a Mexican peasant, has an apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Before long, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe becomes the patron saint of the New World.
Indian Rights Debated
Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda debate the rights of Indians in the New World in Valladolid, Spain.
Pizarro Invades Peru
Francisco Pizarro invades the Incan Empire and begins the conquest of Peru.
The first printing press is set up in Mexico City. Printing comes to the New World.
Ignatius Loyola Founds Jesuits
A Basque army veteran named Ignatius Loyola founds the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. Their mission is to become an "Army of God" under papal authority to root out heresy and Protestantism. They set up missions throughout the New World in an effort to win souls for Catholicism by converting Indians.
Seven Lost Cities of Gold
Francisco Vázquez de Coronado leads an expedition in search of El Dorado, the mythical Seven Lost Cities of Gold. He travels for two years through the territories that will later become the American Southwest. He finds much desert but no gold.
Silver is discovered at Potosí in Bolivia. Spain begins to reap huge financial rewards from its New World colonies.
St. Augustine Founded
St. Augustine, the first permanent Spanish settlement in what will later become the United States, is founded in what is now Florida.
Jamestown is founded in Virginia, establishing the first permanent English settlement in America.
Santa Fe Founded
Santa Fe, the capital of present-day New Mexico, is founded.
The Popé rebellion begins as Pueblo Indians under Native American Chief Popé attack Santa Fe, driving the Spanish from the area. Spanish colonists react by ending the encomienda system in 1717, allowing Pueblos to own land, and baptizing babies at birth.
Pueblo Indians Revolt
RANGEEND_PUEBLO_REVOLT It takes twelve years of fighting for the Spanish to subdue the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico.
Junipero Serra and California Missions
Junipero Serra founds the first mission in Alta California at San Diego. By 1823, 21 missions will be established along El Camino Real, stretching from San Diego to Sonoma, fifty miles north of San Francisco.
Spanish War of Independence
Madrid rises against Napoleon's occupying troops, beginning the Spanish War of Independence. Spanish colonies in South America use the opportunity to start agitating for independence themselves.
Chile gains independence, beginning a cascade which will drive the Spanish out of America.
Simon Bolivar and South American Independence
RANGEEND_INDEPENDENCE After several years of fighting, liberators Simon de Bolivar and José de San Martín complete the South American independence movement. Spain is left with only Cuba and Puerto Rico as colonies.
Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail opens as a group of American traders from Independence, Missouri, led by William Becknell, reaches the Spanish city. The Santa Fe Trail will become the most important link between northern Mexico and the United States prior to the Mexican-American War in 1846.
Mexico is founded with a Republican Constitution. Spanish rule in North America comes to an end.
The Texas Revolution begins with the Battle of Gonzales. Texas gains its independence from Mexico in 1836.
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo begins. Mexican troops under General Santa Anna defeat the American garrison occupying the mission church in San Antonio, Texas, but the Alamo will inspire Texan forces to victory in subsequent battles.
Texas Joins Union
Texas becomes the 28th state to join the Union.
Mexican-American War Begins
Boundary issues between Mexico and the new American state of Texas ignite full-scale war between the United States and Mexico.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
RANGEEND_MEXICAN_WAR The treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo is signed, ending the Mexican-American War. The United States annexes all or part of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada and Wyoming. The land area of the United States grows by nearly a third in one day.