Spanish colonization of the Americas

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The Spanish colonization of the Americas began under the Crown of Castile and was spearheaded by the Spanish conquistadors. The Americas were invaded and incorporated into the Spanish Empire, with the exception of Brazil, British America, and some small regions of South America and the Caribbean. The crown created civil and religious structures to administer the vast territory. The main motivations for colonial expansion were profit through resource extraction[1] and the spread of Catholicism through indigenous conversions.

Beginning with the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and gaining control over more territory for over three centuries, the Spanish Empire would expand across the Caribbean Islands, half of South America, most of Central America and much of North America. It is estimated that during the colonial period (1492–1832), a total of 1.86 million Spaniards settled in the Americas, and a further 3.5 million immigrated during the post-colonial era (1850–1950); the estimate is 250,000 in the 16th century and most during the 18th century, as immigration was encouraged by the new Bourbon dynasty.[2]

By contrast, the indigenous population plummeted by an estimated 80% in the first century and a half following Columbus's voyages, primarily through the spread of disease, forced labor and slavery for resource extraction, and missionization.[3][4][5][6][1] This has been argued to be the first large-scale act of genocide in the modern era.[7][8][9]

In the early 19th century, the Spanish American wars of independence resulted in the secession and subsequent division of most Spanish territories in the Americas, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico, which were lost to the United States in 1898, following the Spanish–American War. The loss of these territories ended Spanish rule in the Americas.