North America 1496: Colony of Santo Domingo
Having secured a base at La Isabela, Columbus began searching Hispaniola for gold, extorting and enslaving the Taíno in an attempt to make his colony profitable. After defeating organized Taíno resistance in 1495, the Spanish gained effective control over the island and in 1496 established the new settlement of Santo Domingo in the south. Better-placed than the disease-ridden and overcrowded La Isabela, Santo Domingo immediately became the center of Spanish operations in the New World.
20 Jan 1494–20 Nov 1542 Taíno genocide▲
In January 1494 Christopher Columbus dispatched two expeditions into the interior of Hispaniola in search of gold, beginning a largely Spanish campaign of aggression and enslavement which would, accompanied by the arrival of Old World diseases such as smallpox, see the indigenous Taíno population of the Antilles fall from several million to perhaps a few thousand by 1542 (when the Spanish crown introduced the New Laws to protect the indigenous peoples of the Americas). Raided for slaves, the Bahamas were emptied of Lucayan Taíno by 1520, with the Taíno of Puerto Rico disappearing at about the same time; Spanish governors regarded the Taíno of Hispaniola as extinct by 1535; the Taíno of Cuba were largely destroyed by 1550; and there were just 74 Taíno in Jamaica by 1611. Nonetheless, remnants of the Taíno lived on, with a number surviving in the Caribbean to this day.
7 Jun 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas▲
Displeased with Pope Alexander VI’s Inter caetera yielding the lands 100 leagues or more west of the Azores to the Spanish, King John II of Portugal opened direct negotiations with the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. At the Treaty of Tordesillas (June 1494) the two powers agreed to shift the demarcation line to 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands—about halfway between the Portuguese Cape Verde islands and Columbus’ discoveries in the New World—and agreed that the lands to the east of the line would belong to Portugal and those to the west to Spain. The Spanish and Portuguese ratified the treaty later that year, with Pope Julius II following suit in 1506.
26–27 Mar 1495 Battle of Vega Real▲
In 1495 Caonabo of Maguana led a general Taíno uprising in the face of increasing Spanish oppression on Hispaniola, but was defeated and captured by Alonso de Ojeda when he attacked the year-old inland Spanish fort of Santo Tomás in late March. Upon learning of Caonabo’s capture, the other chiefs prepared to attack La Isabela but were pre-empted by Columbus, who marched inland with 200 troops, 20 horsemen, and many fighting dogs to defeat them at what would be called the Battle of Vega Real. With this final Spanish victory, indigenous resistance collapsed and the remaining Taíno chiefdoms acknowledged Columbus’ authority.
1496? Aztec Xoconochco▲
Sometime in the 1490s the Aztec emperor Ahuitzotl conquered Xoconochco (Soconusco), a remote but wealthy region on the Chiapas coast on the borders of what is now Guatemala. Xoconochco was then required to send tributes of cotton clothing, bird feathers, jaguar skins, and cacao, but remained restive into the following decade, with Moctezuma Xocoyotzin forced to send in troops in 1502 and 1505.
4 Aug 1496 Colony of Santo Domingo▲
With Christopher Columbus’ original colony at La Isabela facing overcrowding and disease, his brother Bartholomew—in charge while Columbus was back in Europe—established the new settlement of Santo Domingo de Guzmán on the south coast of Hispaniola in August 1496. The discovery of gold nearby cemented Santo Domingo’s position as the Spanish capital in the New World and La Isabela was soon abandoned altogether. Enslaved to work in the mines—and suffering from imported diseases and mass-killings—the indigenous Taíno population of Hispaniola rapidly collapsed from several hundred thousand at first contact to what Spanish governors reported as “none” by 1535.