More Than 500 Years of Hispanic Heritage

By Cooper, Mary Ann | The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, September 28, 2015 | Go to article overview

More Than 500 Years of Hispanic Heritage


Cooper, Mary Ann, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education


The influences of Hispanic culture and values have been part of the mosaic of America throughout seven centuries. To commemorate Hispanic Heritage month, Hispanic Outlook presents a chronology of events spanning 500 years that illustrate the rich history and contributions of the Hispanic people.

15th Century

All school children learn the rhyme "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." The year that the New World was discovered is arguably the best-remembered date in U.S. history. Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon), sailing under the flag of Spain, travels through the Caribbean basin, coming to shore at Cuba and the Dominican Republic, claiming both for Spain. Encountering Tainos on an island, which he names Hispaniola (Little Spain), Columbus is convinced he has found his route to the East Indies and calls its inhabitants Indians. In years to come, the Tainos are wiped out by exposure to Old World diseases and exploitation by European sailors and settlers. Columbus brings news of his discovery back to Spain and the age of exploration begins. In 1493, Columbus discovers what is now Puerto Rico and claims that too for Spain. In 1496, Bartholomew Columbus, a brother, establishes a European settlement at Santo Domingo, the first in the New World. Christopher Columbus soon discovers that he has not discovered a route to the Indies and makes three voyages to the New World, going on to explore the Bahamas and chart the coastline of South America in 1498. That same year, Vasco de Gama discovers a true route to India around the tip of Africa across the Indian Ocean sailing under the flag of Portugal. Both countries spend the next century exploring and settling North and South America.

16th Century

In 1500 Pedro Alvares Cabral, sailing under the flag of Portugal, drops anchor in what is now Brazil and claims it for Portugal. As the Tainos die off, Africans are brought to the Dominican Republic for slave labor. In 1502, Columbus explores Central America and claims the land for Spain. Ponce de León furthers Columbus' discoveries, exploring Puerto Rico in 1508, Jamaica in 1509, and Cuba after 1511. By 1513, Africans are brought to Puerto Rico for slave labor, and de León arrives in Florida, claiming the land for Spain and dubbing it Pasqua Florida (Feast of Flowers). An estimated 350,000 Native Americans inhabit it. Also in 1513, Vasco de Nunez de Balboa navigates the Isthmus of Panama and is the first European to view the majestic Pacific Ocean. In 1514, Pánfilo de Narváez settles the city of Havana in Cuba. The city takes its name from a local chieftain. In November 1519, Hernán Cortés and his come to Vera Cruz, Mexico and encounter the Aztecs led by King Montezuma. Offered the hospitality of the Aztecs, Cortés and his men kidnap the king, attack the Aztecs and seize their gold. When the Aztecs retaliate, the conquistadors leave Vera Cruz and take the area called Tenochtitlán in 1520. The following year the Aztecs are forced to surrender when the Spanish forces, joined by Mexican natives opposed to Aztecs, overwhelm them. Mexico is now known as "New Spain" and Friar Pedro de Gante establishes the first Christian school there. This encourages more Franciscan and Dominican monks to come to Mexico to make Christians of the indigenous population. In 1520, African slaves are first brought to Cuba. Portugal starts to establish colonies in what is now Brazil. In 1531, the King of Spain sends Francisco Pizarro to South America to topple the Incan empire. By the following year, Pizarro controls a major portion and returns what now would be $100 million in gold and silver to the Spanish kingdom. In 1535, Pizarro creates Lima, Peru, as a major South American capital. In 1551, Mexico City becomes the home of the first university on the American mainland. In Florida, Spain establishes its first permanent settlement at St. Augustine. The year is 1565. Pedro Menendez de Aviles and Brother Francisco Villareal arrive in what is now Miami to establish a Jesuit mission. …

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