Viceroyalty of New Spain – History, Map, Territory and Economy

Viceroyalty of New Spain History, Map, Countries, Definition, territory, and Economy – We explain what the Viceroyalty of New Spain was, how long it existed, its origin, territory, economy and political organization.

What was the Viceroyalty of New Spain?

The Viceroyalty of New Spain was a political and territorial entity established by the Spanish Empire in North and Central America, as part of the Spanish colonization of the continent. It was the largest of the four viceroyalties created by the Spanish crown in America, and existed between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Established after the defeat of Mexico-Tenochtitlán and the Aztec Empire by the troops of Hernán Cortés in 1521. Its first viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, sent from Europe (as colonial viceroys always were).

Its capital was established in the current Mexico City, founded on top of ancient Tenochtitlán, and constituted one of the first and main centers of Westernization in pre-Hispanic America.

As occurred in the rest of the Spanish colony in America, the internal dynamics of the Viceroyalty of New Spain were controlled from Europe, limiting the capabilities of the colonial ruling class to trade outside the Empire. These limitations, among other political and historical factors, led to the crisis of the 19th century that sparked the Mexican War of Independence.

Once ties with Spain were broken and the last viceroy, Juan José Ruiz de Apodaca y Eliza (1754-1835), was deposed, the viceroyalty ceased to exist and the First Mexican Empire was born in its place, governed by the Mexican military man and politician Agustín Cosme. of Iturbide and Arámburu, known as Agustín I.

Duration of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

The Viceroyalty of New Spain was officially created on March 8, 1535. It took the name that Cortés himself already used to name the conquered lands on the new continent: “the new Spain of the Ocean Sea.”

At that time, the Aztec Empire had already fallen to the invading Spanish troops and the first evangelizing religious orders had been established, the Franciscans (in 1524), followed by the Dominicans, Augustinians, and Mercedarians.

Although there were rebellions and uprisings against Spanish rule from the end of the 18th century, the viceroyalty was sustained for just over three centuries, until its abolition in the Constitution of Cádiz of 1812.

Later, in 1820, it was re-established by viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca (1754-1835). However, in 1821 it came to a definitive end, against the insurgent forces of Agustín Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero. After the fall of the viceroyalty, the Mexican Empire was established with Iturbide on the throne.

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Territories of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

The original territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain was immense: it extended across North and Central America, covering the current territory of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize, and Costa Rica.

It also spread throughout the southeastern and southwestern United States: California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, in addition to the part coastal area of British Columbia, Canada, and also the current territory of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine, Carolina and Mariana Islands.

Political organization of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

From the beginning, the immense territory of the viceroyalty was politically and administratively organized in a confusing manner, given its dimensions and the fact that large geographic portions were hostile for decades.

Many structures were founded de facto, in an authoritarian and despotic manner, and then recognized bureaucratically. Throughout the history of the viceroyalty, many changed their name and/or administrative distribution.

Broadly speaking, there were several types of administrative units:

The kingdoms were in the hands of a president-governor and were the following:

  • Kingdom of Mexico, capital of Mexico, which encompassed the current Mexico City and the Mexican states of Mexico, Guerrero, Puebla, Michoacán, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Querétaro, and part of Jalisco.
  • Kingdom of Nueva Vizcaya, with capital Durango, which covered the territory of the current Mexican states of Durango, Coahuila, and Sinaloa.
  • Kingdom of Nueva Galicia, with capital Guadalajara, which included the current Mexican states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and Colima.
  • Nuevo Reino de León, with capital Monterrey, covered the territory of the current Mexican state of Nuevo León.
  • Kingdom of Guatemala, with capital Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala, which covered the current territory of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, as well as the Mexican state of Chiapas.

The general captaincies were governed by a captain general and a governor, and were the following:

  • Captaincy General of Santo Domingo, with the capital Santo Domingo, covered the current territories of Nicaragua, the islands of the Hispanic Caribbean, Venezuela, and the islands of Trinidad (since 1591) and Puerto Rico (since 1582).
  • Captaincy General of Yucatán, in the capital Mérida, covered the territories of the current Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, as well as Petén and Belize.
  • Captaincy General of the Philippines, with capital Manila, covered the current territory of the Philippine archipelago, the Guam Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
  • Captaincy General of Puerto Rico, with capital San Juan, was created in 1582, and covered the current territories of the island of Puerto Rico, La Mona Island, and other surrounding areas.
  • Captaincy General of Cuba, with the capital Havana, gained its political authority in 1724 with the Bourbon reforms. It included as its territory the current islands of Cuba, Jamaica (until 1655), and the American provinces of Florida and Spanish Louisiana.

The manors

  • The marquisate of the Valley of Oaxaca, the exclusive property of Hernán Cortés and his descendants, encompassed the Mexican territories of Oaxaca, Morelos, Veracruz, Michoacán, and Mexico.
  • The duchy of Atrisco, conferred on the viceroy José Sarmiento de Valladares Arinés in 1708.

There were also Provinces such as:

  • Nueva Navarra, founded under the jurisdiction of the Royal Court of Guadalajara between 1565 and 1821. Its territory encompassed the current Mexican states of Sonora, Sinaloa and part of Nayarit, as well as Arizona of the United States.
  • Santa Fe de Nuevo México existed between the 16th and 19th centuries, and encompassed the American territories of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma, although its borders varied greatly over time.
  • Las Californias, founded in 1697 and encompassed the territories of the Mexican states of Northern and Southern California.

Economy of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

The economy of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, as well as in the rest of the Hispanic colony in America, was of an extractive type, focused on the exploitation of precious minerals (silver, above all), agriculture (corn, cocoa and other typical products of the Mesoamerican culture, as well as vines and olive trees introduced by the colonizers).

Furthermore, livestock farming was introduced by Europeans, and trade was practiced, although this last activity was the one that had the greatest restrictions and controls by the European metropolis.

Many of the New Spanish economic activities required the incorporation of slave labor from Africa, due to the drastic demographic reduction of the American aboriginal peoples caused by the war of conquest and the diseases introduced by European colonists.

Mining had its golden age in the 17th century, and had an important protagonist in the Valenciana mine, in Guanajuato. On the other hand, the port of Veracruz was the main trading center of the viceroyalty in the Atlantic Ocean, and the port of Acapulco in the Pacific Ocean.

The most important events of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

A short list of the most notable events in the history of the Viceroyalty of New Spain would include the following:

  1. The creation of the Viceroyalty in 1535, once the Aztec Empire was defeated and the colony was established.
  2. In 1565 the colonization of the Philippine Islands was completed and its territory was added to the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
  3. The indigenous chief Gaspar Yanga rose up in an indigenous rebellion in 1609.
  4. In 1611 the “Nao de China” trade route was established between New Spain and Japan.
  5. The work of the Franciscans allowed the founding of Paso del Norte in 1682. Today Ciudad Juárez is located there.
  6. In 1693 the first paper newspaper of the viceroyalty was published: El mercuriovolante.
  7. In 1770 Jacinto Canek took up arms against the Spanish crown in Yucatán.
  8. Under the reforms of enlightened despotism in Spain, the viceroyalty founded the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1773, the College of Mining in 1783.
  9. Reforms were introduced in the organization of the Viceroyalty, known as the Bourbon Reforms of King Charles III in 1786.
  10. In 1798 the Machete Conspiracy broke out against the viceroy Miguel José de Azanza.
  11. Between 1800 and 1808, the political crisis of the Viceroyalty broke out, which led to the beginning of the independence movement in 1811.

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