spanish colonization



We explain what the Spanish colonization was, its causes, consequences and characteristics. In addition, the colonized territories.

Spanish colonization lasted between the 16th and 19th centuries.

What was the Spanish colonization?

Spanish colonization was the expansion of the Spanish Empire in search of new territories and resources in different regions from America, Africa, Asia Y Oceania. That was the way that many other nations from Europe they continued in the historical period between the 16th and 19th centuries, undertaking a process of colonization.

Thus, the Spanish Empire became one of the largest in the world ("the Empire where the sun did not set"), with a total area of ​​20 million square kilometers in the 18th century.

Imperial expansion and the colonialism were a common phenomenon in late-world Europe. medieval and the Modern age. In the case of Spain, it took its first steps after the unification of the nation and finally the reconquest of the territories occupied by the Moors, both in the 15th century.

Not content with expelling Muslims from their lands, the Spanish continued to expand over Mediterranean Africa (Oran, Tunisia, Algeria) at least until the reign of Carlos of Austria (Carlos I of Spain), who preferred to focus his efforts on the recently discovered America.

During later times, Spain controlled an immense portion of the American territories, along with the Philippine Islands, its surroundings and some specific regions of Africa. However, colonies Spanish women in the world did not last long. They were given to others powers of greater military capacity, negotiated as part of payment of debts, or finally lost through bloody wars of independence in the 19th century.

Characteristics of the Spanish colonization

Viceroys were born in Spain, never in the colonies they ruled.

The Spanish colonization, logically, had particular features depending on the territory to which we refer. Even so, in broad strokes it can be characterized by:

  • Like all colonizations, it consisted of military occupation and political, social and economic control of the colonized territories, subordinating them to the interests of the Spanish metropolis.
  • It was strongly influenced by the religion, given the ultra-Catholic character of Spain (cradle of the Counter Reformation) and their traditional fight against Islam. The expansion of Catholicism and the conquest of souls for the Church were an important part of the Spanish colony, especially in America.
  • Politically, Spain was still a medieval empire, whose notion of political power was brutally centralist and absolutist, tailor-made for the ancient Roman Empire.
  • In many territories, such as the American one, the system of conquest and colonization of the Spanish crown consisted of the encomienda and the encomendadores: private actors to whom the crown gave permission to appropriate land and to exploit the labor of the natives, as long as they imposed the Spanish political, social and cultural order in return.
  • Once the colonial political order was established, on the other hand, political power usually fell to the figure of the viceroys, absolute rulers of each Viceroyalty of the Spanish Empire, who were peninsular of origin and were in charge of maintaining colonial control.
  • The economic norms that governed the colonies benefited peninsular Spain, to the detriment of the interests of the citizens colonial. Despite the fact that the society was ethnically stratified, Spanish whites born in the colony were seen as second-class citizens compared to Spaniards born in Europe.
  • The American territories played a key role in the organization of the Spanish Empire, serving as a bridge between Asia and Oceania, and the European metropolis. Likewise, the African coasts and especially the Canary Islands were a key point of communication between Europe and America.

Causes of Spanish colonization

The European colonial expansion was due to numerous reasons, summarized in the fierce competence among the powers of the continent to accumulate resources, to the extent that the mercantilism built by the bourgeoisie laid the groundwork for the capitalism coming several centuries later. In the case of Spain, in particular, some of the causes of its colonial expansion have to do with:

  • The fight against Islam, initially to recover the Spanish territory occupied by the Moors, and later to expand European rule in Mediterranean Africa, securing the Christian borders of Europe.
  • The need to find new trade routes to China and other eastern territories, which did not subject Spain to transit through the territories of other rival powers, pushed them to explore seas unknown, thus stumbling continent American in a lucky mistake.
  • Obtain sufficient financial resources to invest in the religious fight against Protestant Reformation, that is to say, the Counter-Reformation, through the defense of Catholicism in Germany. This, at the same time, strengthened the hegemony of the Habsburgs in the German region.

Territories colonized by Spain

Spanish colonization spread a total area of ​​20 million km2.

Spanish colonization, at its peak, included the following territories:

In Africa:

  • The protectorate of Morocco, made up of two regions: the Rif area, which occupied the Moroccan Mediterranean coasts from Melilla to Tangier, and the Cape Juby area, which bordered the Spanish Sahara and Algeria.
  • The Ifni colony, in southern Morocco, occupied by Spain since 1476, and which returned to Moroccan hands in the 20th century, after the Ifni War.
  • The colony of Spanish Sahara, initially known as Río de Oro, located northwest of French West Africa, off the Canary Islands.
  • Spanish Guinea, in the Gulf of Guinea, current Equatorial Guinea, its limits were drawn up in the Treaty of Paris of 1901, and included the islands of Fernando Poo, Annobón, Elobey and Corisco.
  • The Canary Islands, the only Spanish colony in Africa that still conserves the European nation, is made up of eight islands: El Hierro, La Gomera, La Palma, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and La Graciosa, as well as five islets: Alegranza, Isla de Lobos , Montaña Clara, Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste. They were originally populated by the Guanches people, and the conquest of this territory culminated in 1496.
  • Ceuta, a Spanish city located on the Tingitana peninsula, on the African shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. Founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC. C., became part of the Spanish Crown in 1580.

In Asia and Oceania:

  • The Philippine archipelago, conquered by Spain in 1565, when the Captaincy General of the Philippines was established, of which the Palau Archipelago, the Carolinas, the Marshall Islands, the Mariana Islands and the Gilbert Islands were also part. Everything became part of the "Spanish West Indies", but evangelization and population Spanish really began to occur in the middle of the seventeenth century.
  • The island of New Guinea, especially in the Doberai peninsula, present-day Papua New Guinea.
  • The protectorate of Cambodia, ceded to Spain by the Portuguese in 1597, was briefly managed by the empire, it was eventually returned to Portugal in 1599.
  • Other settlements in the region, specifically in Indochina, Macao, Malacca, Goa, Indonesia and Nagasaki, inherited from the Portuguese empire and later lost when the Iberian union was dissolved.

In America:

  • The Viceroyalty of New Spain, founded in 1519 after the defeat and conquest of the aztecs and the other aboriginal nations Mesoamerican Y aridoamerican, covered the current territories of Mexico and the United States provinces of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Utah, Florida, Nevada, and part of Colorado, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma.
  • The Captaincy General of Guatemala, which included the territories of the current countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and the Mexican state of Chiapas.
  • Spanish Louisiana, ceded to Spain by France in 1762 and preserved until 1801, encompassed the present United States territories of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Missouri, and Iowa.
  • The Captaincy General of Venezuela, which covered the territories of the current countries of Venezuela, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and part of Colombia.
  • The Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada, one of the last to be created, encompassed the current territories of Colombia, Panama and Ecuador.
  • The Viceroyalty of Peru, founded after the defeat of the Inca Tahuantinsuyo (Inca Empire) in 1542, encompassed the territories of the current states of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and part of Brazil. Before the creation of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador were also part of it.
  • The Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, bordering the aboriginal Patagonia that was never controlled by Spain, this viceroyalty was the last to be created in 1777, and included the current territories of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and part of Bolivia.
  • The Captaincy General of Chile, originally called Nueva Extremadura, encompassed the nucleus of current Chilean territory, since the southern half of the country was in the hands of the Mapuche peoples until the 19th century.
  • Caribbean island territories such as today's Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas (until 1670), Antigua and Barbuda (until 1632), Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada (until 1674), Jamaica (until 1655), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica (until 1783), Barbados (until 1624) and Saint Lucia (until 1654).

Consequences of the Spanish colonization

The Spanish colonization had important consequences for both Spain and Europe, as well as for the colonized territories, many of which later passed into the hands of other colonial nations. The main consequences were:

  • The expansion of the Catholic religion and its permanent establishment in Hispanic America, as well as the Spanish language, adopted as its own in the former American colonies of Spain. Currently, Spanish is the second idiom with the most speakers in the world, after Mandarin Chinese.
  • The sudden and immense enrichment of Spain, especially with the gold and silver extracted in America, which however did not prevent the Empire from entering crisis in later centuries.
  • American colonization required the insertion of slave labor from Africa, which gave rise to the melting pot Latin American culture, where the tradition European, Aboriginal and African.
  • The subsequent delivery of many of the colonial territories to other military and economic powers, as punishment for the Spanish military failures against Great Britain, Holland, Germany and the United States, or as payment of debts.
  • The transmission of ideas illustrated Europe to the American colonies that allowed, during the decline of the Spanish Empire, the outbreak of independence in America that ended up taking control of its colonies from the metropolis forever, giving rise to the nations of Hispanic America.

Expulsion of the Spanish

In America, Spain lost most of its colonies in the 19th century.

The Spanish were militarily expelled from many of their colonial territories during the wars of independence that began at the end of the first decade of the 19th century, especially America.

On the other hand, in Africa they were faced by Moroccan forces, in various conflicts during the 19th and 20th centuries: the African War (1859-1860), the First Rif War (1893-1894) and the Rif War (1911 -1926), for example. However, the rest of the Spanish colonial territories in Morocco were later decolonized, thanks to the pressures of the UN.

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