The Conquest Struggle for Independence

The Viceroyalty of New Spain, 1538-1808

The Viceroyalty of New Spain, covering all of Mexico and Central America, was established in 1538. By that time it covered all of the Spanish Americas, including the Captaincy of Gracias (i.e. Central America), the Audiencia of Panama (which, until 1543 included all South America). It's territory was reduced wityh the establishment of the Viceroyalty of Peru (1550). The Captaincy of Guatemala (the successor of the Captaincy of Gracias) became a largely independent unit (it had lost Tabasco and Yucatan to New Spain). Yet, what was left, both the land under Spanish control and the land still to be taken, was vast by any standard.
Originally, Spanish control extended over the crucial port of Vera Cruz as well as over the central provinces of the former Aztec Empire, centering on Mexico City, as former Aztec capital Tenochtitlan was called under the Spanish.
The conquest of regions located in northern central and northern Mexico took decades. Lucrative silver mines were found, and the Mexican Peso became one of the world's most prominent coins. New Spain had a large Indio population, estimated at 25 million at the time of the Spanish conquest (1521). As a consequence of the war, brutal treatment of the native population, but mostly due to infectious diseases the native Americans were not accustomed to, the population declined to 6.3 million by 1548 and to 1.2 million by 1620 - a decline of 95 % in one century, an event unparalleled in recorded history. The effect on domestic economy, a sharp decline in agricultural and industrial production, is obvious.
In 1526 the Diocese of Tlaxcala was erected (transferred to Puebla in 1539), 1530 Diocese of Mexico City, 1534 Guatemala, 1535 Oaxaca, 1536 Michoacan, Chiapas 1546, Guadalajara 1548, Yucatan (1527) 1561. In 1545, the Archdiocesis of New Spain with seat in Mexico City was established, the dioceses beforementioned separated from Sevilla (Spain). The Diocesis of Manila (Philippines, 1581) was also placed under Mexico City. In 1743, Guatemala was elevated an Archdiocesis and Chiapas placed under it. Further dioceses founded under Mexico were Durango 1620, Monterrey 1777, Sonora 1779. In 1551, the University of Mexico was founded.
Despite the tremendous decline in numbers, the native population continued to form a sizeable factor in the country's population. As elsewhere the Spanish element was centereed in the cities. The Franciscans and other orders were given charge of converting the native population, a task they took on with vigour. When it was discovered that after initial baptism Indian religious practice was continued, the inquisitiion applied torture. In 1761, a revolt of the Maya population of Yucatan, lead by Capek, was suppressed.

Articles from Catholic Encyclopedia : Mexico, Mexico, Archdiocese of
Numismatic History of Mexico : Colonial Period, from Casa de Moneda, Mexico
Dale Hoyt Palfrey, Mexico's Colonial Era, from Mexico Connect
REFERENCE A Concise History of Mexico, by Brian Hamnett, 1999, 336 pp., Cambridge Concise Histories

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on October 30th 2005

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