IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > H. Latin America, 1500–1800 > 2. The Caribbean and the Isthmus, 1499–1531
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
2. The Caribbean and the Isthmus, 1499–1531
Santo Domingo, called Española, became the first seat of Spanish government in the Indies. The Indian population rapidly diminished as a result of warfare, overwork, enslavement, and disease.  1
Discovery of gold mines in Santo Domingo.  2
The crown authorized the African slave trade under its monopoly, giving permission to Flemish, German, Dutch, Genoan, and Portuguese merchants to engage in it.  3
Nicolás de Ovando assumed governorship of Santo Domingo. He brought 1,500 families to populate the island.  4
Ovando carried out a ruthless campaign to control the Indian population. He distributed Indians in encomiendas (See Administration), to work essentially as slaves in gold mines for the Spaniards. The conquerors founded 15 towns on the island.  5
Juan Ponce de León conquered Puerto Rico, founded San Juan, and discovered gold. Juan de Esquivel settled Jamaica. Conquerors organized enslavement expeditions to the nearby islands. First sugar mills established on Española.  6
Establishment of the audiencia of Santo Domingo (royal tribunal and government), the first in America.  7
Diego Velázquez conquered Cuba. Colonizers founded Baracoa (1512), Bayamo (1513), Trinidad (1514), Puerto Príncipe (1514), Havana (1514), and Santiago de Cuba (1515). They quickly defeated Indians and subjected them to such exploitation that it led to their extermination within a few years. Havana was relocated to the north coast (1519).  8
Alonso de Ojeda, with royal authorization, founded a colony on the east coast of the Isthmus of Panama. Diego de Nicuesa founded Nombre de Díos on the Isthmus. Ojeda's settlers later united with those of Nicuesa, under the governorship of Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1474–1519). Balboa claimed discovery of the Pacific Ocean (South Sea) and declared it a possession of the Crown of Castile (1513).  9
A jurisdiction independent of Española, Castilla del Oro (Darien), was created in the region of the Isthmus. Pedro Arias de Ávila (1442–1531) was named royal governor and brought some 1,500 colonists from Spain.  10
Ávila dispatched expeditions by land and sea to adjacent areas. He founded Panama as the seat of government, refounded Nombre de Díos, and cleared a route across the Isthmus. Balboa continued explorations on the Pacific coast. He clashed with Governor Ávila, who ordered his execution.  11
Under independent authority, Gil González Dávila and Andrés Niño led a combined land and sea expedition westward from the Isthmus. Dávila conquered the area around the Gulf of Nicoya and Lake Nicaragua, and Niño sailed to Fonseca Bay. Governor Ávila then dispatched Francisco Hernández de Córdoba to conquer Nicaragua.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.