Sunday 10 December 2017

Spanish rule in Nicaragua

Spanish launched a campaign against the natives of the territory now incorporated into the modern Central American republic of Nicaragua during the colonisation of the Americas. Before European contact in the early 16th century, Nicargua was inhabited by a number of indigenous peoples. In the west, these included Mesoamerican groups such as the Chorotega, the Nicarao, and the Subtiaba. Other groups included the Matagalpa and the Tacacho. 


Christopher Columbus discovered the New World for the Kingdom of Castile and Leon in 1492. Private adventurers thereafter entered into contracts with the Spanish Crown to conquer the newly discovered lands in return for tax revenues and the power to rule. The Spanish founded Santo Domingo on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in the 1490s. In the first decades after the discovery of the new lands, the Spanish colonised the Caribbean and established a centre of operations on the island of Cuba.

Portrait of a man said to be Christopher Columbus

In the first two decades of the 16th century, the Spanish established their domination over the islands of the Caribbean Sea, and used these as a staging point to launch their campaigns of conquest on the continental mainland of the Americas. From Hispaniola, the Spanish launched expeditions and campaigns of conquest, reaching Puerto Rico in 1508, Jamaica in 1509, Cuba in 1511, and Florida in 1513.

Coast of Puerto Rico

In 1513, while exploring westwards, Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean, and in 1519 Pedrarias Dávila founded Panama City on the Pacific coast. Various expeditions were then launched northwards involving notable conquistadors such as Pedrarias Dávila, Gil González Dávila, and Francisco Hernández de Córdoba.

A church in Panama City

Gil González Dávila first entered what is now Nicaragua in 1522, with the permission of Pedrarias Dávila, governor of Castilla de Oro (modern Panama) but was driven back to his ships by the Chorotega. In 1524, a new expedition led by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded the Spanish towns of León and Granada. Within a century of the conquest, the native inhabitants had been all but eliminated due to war, disease, and exportation as slaves.

Granada, Nicaragua

Hernández was able to collect a substantial amount of gold in Nicaragua, collecting more than 100,000 pesos of gold in a single expedition. In May 1524, Hernández sent a brigantine back to Panama with the Royal fifth, which amounted to 185,000 gold pesos. By 1525, Spanish power had been consolidated in western Panama, and reinforcements had arrived from Natá, in Panama, which had become a key port of call for shipping between Nicaragua and Panama.

San Juan, Nicargua

In 1526, Pedrarias was replaced as governor of Castilla del Oro; Diego López de Salcedo, governor of Honduras, took advantage of the change in leadership to extend his jurisdiction to include Nicaragua. He marched to Nicaragua with 150 men to impose his authority. He arrived in León in spring of 1527. León became the capital of the Nicaraguan colony, and Pedrarias transferred there as governor of the province in 1527.

Leon, Nicargua

In 1530, an alliance of Matagalpa tribes launched a concerted attack against the Spanish, with the intention of burning the colonial settlements. In 1533, Pedrarias Dávila requested reinforcements to pursue the Matagalpa and punish their revolt, in order to discourage neighbouring peoples from allying with them against the Spanish.

Pedrarias Dávila

By 1543, Francisco de Castañeda founded Nueva Segovia in north-central Nicaragua, some 30 leagues from León. By 1603, the Spanish had established their dominion over seventeen indigenous settlements in the north-central region that the Spanish named Segovia. The Spanish drafted warriors from these settlements to assist in putting down ongoing indigenous resistance in Olancho, in Honduras.


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