Study Guide

Spanish Colonization Timeline

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Oct 12, 1492

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.

Dec 19, 2019

Encomienda System

The encomienda system begins, granting Native Americans to Spanish encomenderos as slaves. The Spaniards are tasked with protecting the natives and teaching them Christianity. The system is rife with abuses.

Dec 19, 2019 - Dec 19, 2019

Magellan Circumnavigates Globe

Ferdinand Magellan's ships are the first to circumnavigate the globe. Magellan himself is killed by natives in the Pacific.

Nov 8, 1519

Cortes Captures Tenochtitlan

Fall of Tenochtitlan: Hernán Cortés and approximately 100 Spaniards capture the capital of the Aztec Empire.

Dec 19, 2019 - Dec 19, 2019

Cortes Conquers Aztecs

Cortés and his men conquer the entire Aztec Empire in what will later become Mexico.

Jun 7, 1494

Treaty of Tordesillas

The Treaty of Tordesillas is signed, dividing newly discovered overseas lands between Portugal and Spain.

Dec 19, 2019

America Named

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.

Dec 19, 2019

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.

Dec 19, 2019

Ponde de León Discovers Florida

Juan Ponce de León discovers Florida.

Jun 30, 1520

Night of Tears

La Noche Triste: The "Night of Tears" in which almost two thirds of Cortés' men—nearly 800 in total—are killed as they try to escape Tenochtitlan after the death of Moctezuma.

Dec 19, 2019

First African Slaves

The Spanish import the first African slaves to the territory that will later become the United States.

Dec 19, 2019

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.

Dec 19, 2019 - Dec 19, 2019

Native American Rights Debated

Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda debate the rights of Native Americans in the New World in Valladolid, Spain.

Dec 19, 2019

Pizarro Invades Peru

Francisco Pizarro invades the Incan Empire and begins the conquest of Peru.

Dec 19, 2019 - Dec 19, 2019

Printing Press

The first printing press is set up in Mexico City. Printing comes to the New World.

Dec 19, 2019

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 Native Americans.

Dec 19, 2019 - Dec 19, 2019

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.

Dec 19, 2019

Silver Discovered

Silver is discovered at Potosí in Bolivia. Spain begins to reap huge financial rewards from its New World colonies.

Dec 19, 1565

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.

May 14, 1607

Jamestown Founded

Jamestown is founded in Virginia, establishing the first permanent English settlement in America.

Dec 19, 2019

Santa Fe Founded

Santa Fe, the capital of present-day New Mexico, is founded.

Aug 13, 1680

Popé Rebellion

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.

Dec 19, 1692

Pueblo Indians Revolt

It takes 12 years of fighting for the Spanish to subdue the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico.

Jul 16, 1769

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, 50 miles north of San Francisco.

May 2, 1808

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.

Dec 19, 2019

Chilean Independence

Chile gains independence, beginning a cascade which will drive the Spanish out of America.

Dec 19, 2019

Simon Bolivar and South American 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.

Dec 19, 2019

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.

Dec 19, 2019

Mexican Independence

Mexico is founded with a Republican Constitution. Spanish rule in North America comes to an end.

Oct 2, 1835

Texas Revolution

The Texas Revolution begins with the Battle of Gonzales. Texas gains its independence from Mexico in 1836.

Oct 2, 1835 - Dec 19, 2019

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.

Dec 29, 1845

Texas Joins Union

Texas becomes the 28th state to join the Union.

Apr 25, 1846

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.

Feb 2, 1848

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

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.

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