Viceroyalty of New Spain – History, territory and economy

We explain what the Viceroyalty of New Spain was, how long it existed, its origin, territory, economy and political organization.

Viceroyalty of New Spain
Viceroyalties were created by Spain as part of colonial control.

What was the Viceroyalty of New Spain?

The Viceroyalty of New Spain It was a political and territorial entity established by the Spanish Empire in North America 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 it 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. His first viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, sent from Europe (as colonial viceroys always were).

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

As in the rest of the Spanish colony in America, the internal dynamics of the Viceroyalty of New Spain were controlled from Europe, limiting the capacities 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 triggered the Mexican War of Independence.

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

Duration of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

Viceroyalty of New Spain agustin de iturbide
Agustín Iturbide led the insurgents that put an end to the viceroyalty.

The Viceroyalty of New Spain was officially created on March 8, 1535. It took the name that Cortés himself already used to name the lands conquered in 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 since the end of the 18th century, the viceroyalty It lasted for just over three centuries, until its abolition in the Cadiz Constitution of 1812.

Later, in 1820, it was reestablished by Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca (1754-1835). Nevertheless, in 1821 it had its 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.

Territories of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

The original territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain was immense: it was spread in the North America and the center, covering the current territory of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize, 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 part coastal British Columbia of Canada, and also of the present territory of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands, Carolinas and Marianas.

Political organization of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

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

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

Broadly speaking, there were several types of administrative units:

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

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

Captaincy General they were governed by a captain general and a governor, and were as follows:

  • Captaincy General of Santo Domingo, with the capital Santo Domingo, it encompassed 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 Yucatan, with the capital Mérida, it encompassed the territories of the current Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo, as well as Petén and Belize.
  • Captaincy General of the Philippines, capital Manila, encompassed 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 the capital San Juan, created in 1582, and which encompassed the current territories of the island of Puerto Rico, Isla la Mona and other surrounding areas.
  • Captaincy General of Cuba, 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 lordships

  • The Marquisate of the Oaxaca Valley, 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 Viceroy José Sarmiento de Valladares Arinés in 1708.

Also existed Provinces What:

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

Economy of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

Viceroyalty of New Spain economy
Commerce was the activity that had the greatest restrictions on the part of Spain.

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

What’s more, livestock was introduced by Europeans, and was practiced trade, although this last activity was the one that had the greatest restrictions and controls on the part of the European metropolis.

Many of the economic activities of New Spain demanded 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 the European colonists.

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

Most important events of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

AntonioMendoza-Viceroyalty of New Spain
Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco was the first viceroy of New Spain.

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

  • The creation of the Viceroyalty in 1535, once the Aztec Empire was defeated and the colony established.
  • In 1565 the colonization of the Philippine islands was completed and its territory was added to the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
  • The indigenous chief Gaspar Yanga rose in a indigenous rebellion in 1609.
  • In 1611 the “Nao de China” trade route was established. between New Spain and Japan.
  • The work of the Franciscans allowed the founding of Paso del Norte in 1682. Today there is Ciudad Juárez.
  • In 1693 the first newspaper was published on the role of the viceroyalty: Flying mercury.
  • In 1770 Jacinto Canek takes up arms against the Spanish crown, in Yucatan.
  • 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.
  • Reforms were introduced in the organization of the Viceroyalty, known as the Bourbon reforms of King Charles III in 1786.
  • In 1798 the conspiracy of the machetes is unleashed against Viceroy Miguel José de Azanza.
  • Between 1800 and 1808 the political crisis of the Viceroyalty broke out, which will lead to the beginning of the independence movement in 1811.