Timeline

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1492-93
Isabella I, Queen of Castile, wanted to claim the Spice Islands for Spain. She sent Christopher Columbus, an explorer and navigator, to find the fabled islands across the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus came ashore in the Bahamas with three ships, the Ninia, Pinta, and Santa Maria in October of 1492. Columbus claimed the lands for Spain and made the first European discovery of the Americas.
1494
The Catholic monarchs of Castile and Aragon and King John II of Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordisillas in 1494. The signed agreement divided the new world between the two navigational super powers. Thus set the legal base for the colonization of Brazil by the Portuguese. Spain was awarded all other lands lying 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. Neither country had fully explored the territory they were dividing.
1496
Santo Domingo becomes the oldest permanent city of the New World.
1499-00
Amerigo Vespucci was onboard several voyages that explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502. Vespucci was part of Pedro Alvares Cabral’s expedition that discovered the coast of Brazil in 1500. Portugal claimed this land in the Treaty of Tordesillas, signed in 1494. By 1502 two of Vespucci’s accounts were published, revealing new facts about the New World to the rest of Europe.
1513
Juan Ponce de Leon (Spain) discovers the coast of Florida from Mosquito Inlet to Charlotte Harbour. He left Puerto Rico on March 4 and arrived on the Florida coast on April 2, 1513 with three ships, the Santiago, the San Cristobal, and the Santa Maria de la Consolacion. He named his discovery La Florida, in honor of the Easter Season and Spanish festival of flowers (Pascua Florida).
 
Vasco Nunez Balboa crossed the mountainous Isthmus of Panama and was the first Spaniard to lay eyes upon the Pacific Ocean, which he recorded as the South Sea. His discovery, made on September 25, 1513, claimed the regions riches of gold and pearls for Spain. Balboa returned to Spain in 1518. The King, convinced by his advisors that Balboa was stealing, ordered Balboa beheaded for treason in January 1519.
1519-22
King Charles I of Spain contracted Ferdinand Magellan to find a westward route to the Spice Islands for Spain. Magellan’s expedition left in 1519 and was the first to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Magellan did not complete the entire journey; he was killed in the Philippines. Juan Sebastian Elcano led the rest of the expedition, arriving back in Spain by 1522. Only 18 of the original 237 men completed the entire voyage.
1519-23
Hernando Cortes was a Spanish conquistador who claimed Mexico for Spain and was responsible for the fall of the Aztec Empire. He was given the title, Marques del Valle de Oaxaca, though denied a prestigious position in the New World by the King of Spain. He returned to Spain in 1541 where he died. His heirs retained his title and estate in Mexico until 1811.
1521
Ponce de Leon returned to Florida in 1521. He planned on establishing a colony, between the Caloosahatchee River and Charlotte Harbor on the west coast of Florida. He took two ships and 200 colonists. The Calusa Tribe attacked the settlers as soon as they came ashore and a poisoned arrow hit Ponce de Leon in the leg. The colonists returned to Havana in July 1521, where Ponce de Leon died of his wounds.
1523
Frenchman Jean Fleury waylays a treasure fleet of Cortez on its way to Spain and captures two ships.
1525-27
Francisco Pizarro's (Spain) expedition to the Inca Empire in Peru.
1526
Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon established the first named Spanish settlement in North America, San Miguel de Guadalupe on October 8, 1526. Ayllon’s party consisted of 600 settlers and around 100 horses. Sickness, Indian attacks, and low supplies plagued the settlers and Allyon died along with many others. 150 survivors returned to Hispaniola in 1527, abandoning the first Spanish settlement forever. The exact site of San Miguel has not yet been discovered by modern scholars.
1527
Panfilo de Narvaez, Spanish Conquistador, led a failed expedition to Florida in 1527. Narvaez's expedition landed at Tampa Bay with 500 men in April 1528. Most of the expedition died, including Narvaez, due to Indian attacks, starvation, and sickness. Only 4 members of the original party returned to Spanish colonies in Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca, a junior officer of the expedition recalls the 8-year journey in his account, Naufragios (Castaways).
1535
Francisco Pizarro, Spanish Conquistador, conquered the great Incan Empire in Peru. Pizarro founded the city of Lima, on January 6, 1535. Mines were established throughout the region, obtaining an unprecedented amount of wealth for the Spanish crown. Flotillas (large ships) brought the riches back to Spain along the Florida coast. The return route was dangerous, and the Spanish established St. Augustine in 1565 as an outpost for the treasure fleets.
1537
Jean de Ango of Dieppe (France) captures nine galleons of the treasure fleet returning from Peru.
1539-43
Hernando de Soto led an expedition to Florida in May 1539. He took 9 ships, 620 men and 220 horses. He landed at a place called Espiritu Santo, near present-day Tampa Bay and traveled throughout the American Southeast. He was the first European to officially document the Mississippi River. De Soto died of a fever on May 21, 1542, unable to complete the journey. About half of the men died during the expedition, only 300 returned to Mexico City four years later.
1554
Phillip II, King of Spain, appointed Pedro Menendez de Aviles captain-general of the Treasure Fleet between Spain and America in 1554. The governors of commerce in the Caribbean objected the Menendez’s appointment because of his close ties to the crown and refusal to be bribed. Menendez’s remained in charge of transporting Spain’s riches from the Americas until 1563.
1559-61
Tristan de Luna y Arllano established a Spanish settlement in modern-day Pensacola, Florida in 1559. The settlement was established to provide an overland route of trade between Santa Elena and the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane hit the settlement on September 19, 1559 destroying most of the vessels and supplies. The settlement survived for only a few years and was abandoned by 1561.
1561
Angel de Villafane (Spain) attempts unsuccessfully to relocate the Pensacola settlers on Santa Elena (Parris Island).

 
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