History, Spanish Conquest
peninsulares, colonial governments, subsistence farming, Spanish colonies, Creoles
In 1502, on his last voyage to the Americas, Italian Spanish navigator Christopher Columbus explored a section of the Caribbean coast that was part of the empire of the Chibcha people. He was followed by a number of Spanish conquistadores, who conquered the Chibcha. The Spanish established the settlements of Santa Marta in 1525 and Santa Fe de Bogota (commonly referred to as Bogota) in 1538. In 1549 the Spanish included the former Chibcha Empire in the Audiencia of New Granada, which was ruled by a colonial governing body that served as both a judicial court and an administrative council. Between 1717 and 1739 the Audiencia of New Granada and the territories that later became Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama were included in the Viceroyalty of New Granada. Under the Viceroyalty of New Granada, the Spanish government appointed a viceroy, or royal governor (usually a member of a high-ranking Spanish noble family), to rule over the colony.
The Spanish conquerors and their descendants divided the best land among themselves. They set up large estates, and with the labor of Native American and mestizo agricultural workers and black slaves they practiced subsistence farming and stock raising. However, many Spaniards were primarily interested in mining salt, emeralds, and precious metals and in panning for gold from the rivers and smaller streams.
Under colonial governments, native-born New Granadans were intensely hostile to Spanish rule because the Spanish kept them from progressing economically. The Spanish also discriminated against them socially and politically. The Spanish relied upon peninsulares (those born in Spain) to fill positions of authority while barring the Creoles (those born in the Americas) from responsible posts. Because the peninsulares were committed to Spain rather than to the colonies, dissatisfaction grew among Creoles, who believed the Spanish government was ignoring their economic and political interests. Toward the end of the 18th century the inhabitants of the Spanish colonies, including New Granada, grew increasingly receptive to new political and intellectual ideas. Inspired by the success the American Revolution and the French Revolution of the late 18th century, the people of New Granada joined the revolutionary movement for independence that swept over Spainís western empire in the early 19th century.
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