Events in Hispanic American History, 1492 – 1600
The Spaniards land on an island called San
Salvador — either present-day Watling Island or Samana Cay in the
October 27, 1492. Columbus and his crews land on the
northeastern shore of Cuba.
On his second voyage, Columbus discovers
the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
After establishing Isabela on La Española (Hispaniola), the
first permanent European settlement in the New World, Columbus sets sail
and encounters Jamaica.
Juan Ponce de León sails in a small caravel for Puerto Rico,
where he establishes friendly relations with the native chieftain,
Agueibana, who presents him with gold.
Ponce de León is appointed governor of Puerto Rico.
Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar departs with more than 300 men to
conquer Cuba, and lands at Puerto Escondido. Arawak chieftain Hatuey leads
several deadly raids against the Spanish, but the Spanish defeat their
Velázquez is commissioned governor of Cuba. That same year the
Cuban Indians are subjected to the encomienda system, in which each
Spaniard is given land and Native American slaves to work it.
The Jeronymite Fathers in La Española decide to save the
decimated Arawak population by gathering them into missions. Soon,
missions spread like wildfire throughout the Spanish Empire.
Juan Ponce de León lands on the shores of Florida, exploring
most of the coastal regions and some of the interior. At the time, there
were an estimated 100,000 Native Americans living there.
Ponce de León is granted a patent, empowering him to colonize
the island of Bimini and the island of Florida.
Diego Velázquez becomes a virtual feudal lord of Cuba, and establishes
what are to become Cuba's two largest cities, Santiago and Havana. He also
directs the explorations of the Mexican Gulf.
Hernán Cortés sets out from Cuba to explore the mainland of
Mexico in order to confirm reports of the existence of large, native
civilizations in the interior.
Alonso Alvarez de Pineda claims Texas for Spain.
Hernán Cortés lands on the coast of Veracruz, Mexico.
Explorer Alvarez de Pineda settles the question of Florida's
geography: He proves it is not an island, but part of a vast continent.
July 1. Under the leadership of Cuitlahuac, the Aztecs force the
Spaniards out of Veracruz, just a year after the Spaniards had come into
the city. The Spaniards called this La noche triste (The Sad Night). Aztec
chief Moctezuma was stoned to death by his own people during this debacle.
Continuing their maritime adventures, the Spanish explorers
cruise along the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico, seeing Alabama,
Mississippi, and Texas, and also sailing up the Atlantic coast to the
Cortés and his fellow Spaniards level the Aztec empire's city of
Tenochtitlán, and begin building Mexico City on the same site.
King Charles establishes the Council of the Indies, designed to
oversee the administration of the colonies of the New World.
In Mexico City rumors were that Cabeza de Vaca and his companions
had discovered cities laden with gold and silver in the American
Southwest, reviving the legend of the Seven Cities, which dated from the
Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca returns to Spain and spends some
three years writing La relación, an account of his wanderings in the
North American continent. Published in 1542, La relación is a document of
inestimable value because of the many first descriptions about the flora,
fauna, and inhabitants of what was to become part of the United States.
From Havana, Cuba, Hernando de Soto sets sail for
Florida and begins exploring the present-day U.S. Southeast
There are an estimated 66 Pueblo villages in the area of New
Mexico, growing such crops as corn, beans, squash, and cotton.
Coronado sets out to reach Quivira-thought to be
the legendary Cities of Gold-near present-day Great Bend, Kansas.
The New Laws are proclaimed, designed to end Spain's feudal
September 28.. Juan Rodríguez de Cabrillo, a Portuguese sailor
commissioned by the viceroy to sail north of Mexico's west coast in search
of treasures, enters what he describes as an excellent port-present-day
San Diego, California.
Spanish missionaries introduce grapes to California.
Saint Augustine, Florida, the earliest settlement in North
America, is founded. It remains a possession of Spain until 1819.
The Franciscan order arrives in Florida to establish missions,
which a century later would extend along the east coast of North America,
from Saint Augustine, Florida, to North Carolina and westward to
Diseases have all but wiped out the Indians of Puerto Rico.
Juan de Fuca navigates his ships to the northern coast of the
current state of Washington.
Portuguese sailor Juan de Oñate begins the colonization of New
Mexico and introduces livestock breeding to the American Southwest.