Spanish Main


The Spanish Main refers, in its widest sense, to the Spanish Empire in the Americas from Florida in the north to the northern coast of Brazil in the south, including the Caribbean. The term was initially more limited and referred only to the mainland Spanish territories in northern South America. It was a name particularly popular with writers of pirate fiction as a handy and romantic term to cover the field of operation of privateers, buccaneers, and pirates from the 16th to 18th centuries.

More about: Spanish Main


  • 1492 - 1493
    First Voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World in three ships in an attempt to establish maritime trade routes to the East.
  • 1494
    A Spanish settlement is founded at La Isabela on the island of Hispaniola.
  • 7 Jun 1494
    Portugal and Spain sign the Treaty of Tordesillas which divides the world into two spheres of influence.
  • 1498
    The Spanish settlement of Santo Domingo on Hispaniola is founded.
  • 1508
    The Spanish first settle on Puerto Rico.
  • 1510
    The Spanish found Nombre de Dios in Panama.
  • 1511
    The Spanish first settle on Cuba.
  • 1519
    The Spanish found the city of Panama.
  • 1519
    Veracruz, Mexico is founded by Hernán Cortés.
  • Nov 1519
    Motecuhzoma II receives Hernán Cortés at the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan.
  • c. 1520 - 1789
    Spanish treasure fleets transport the riches of the Americas to Spain.
  • 13 Aug 1521
    The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan falls into the hands of Spanish forces led by Hernán Cortés.
  • 1522
    Jean de Fleury (aka Florin) captures three Spanish treasure ships off Cape Vincent.
  • May 1523
    Hernán Cortés is appointed the first governor of the colony of New Spain (Mexico).
  • c. 1530
    The first Spanish galleons come into operation.
  • 1532
    Francsico Pizarro and the Spanish conquistadors arrive in South America.
  • 16 Nov 1532
    Battle of Cajamarca where the Inca leader Atahualpa is captured and held for ransom by Spanish forces led by Francisco Pizarro.
  • 15 Nov 1533
    Francisco Pizarro takes the Inca capital of Cuzco.
  • 1535
    Don Antonio de Mendoza is made the first viceroy of New Spain (Mexico and Central America).
  • 1543
    The Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru (the former Inca territory) is established.
  • 1555
    Captain-General Pedro Menendez de Avilés begins a system of large and escorted convoys for the Spanish treasure fleets.
  • Jul 1555
    The French privateer Jacques de Sores brutally attacks Havana.
  • 1565 - 1815
    The Manila galleons each year take eastern trade goods from Manila to Acapulco (and return with American silver).
  • 1567 - 1568
    John Hawkins and Francis Drake lead an expedition to transport slaves from west Africa to the Spanish West Indies. The fleet is attacked at San Juan de Ulúa.
  • 1572 - 1573
    Francis Drake explores Panama and seizes a Spanish silver mule train.
  • 1573
    Spanish royal regulations are issued on town planning in Spanish America.
  • Mar 1579
    Francis Drake captures the Spanish treasure ship Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (aka Cacafuego).
  • 1585 - 1587
    Sir Francis Drake attacks Spanish vessels and ports in the Spanish Main.
  • Aug 1595
    John Hawkins and Francis Drake lead an unsuccessful expedition against Spanish ships and settlements in Panama and the Caribbean.
  • 1596
    Portobelo replaces Nombre de Dios as the chief Atlantic port in Panama.
  • 28 Jan 1596
    Sir Francis Drake dies of dysentery at Portobelo, Panama.
  • 1599
    Dutch ships begin to take salt from Araya on the coast of Venezuela.
  • 1620 - 1697
    Buccaneers operate in the Caribbean and attack both ports and ships along the Spanish Main.
  • 1620
    Buccaneers begin to camp and hunt illegally in the western part of Hispaniola (modern Haiti).
  • 1622
    The Nuestra Señora de Atocha Spanish treasure ship is wrecked in a storm off the Florida Keys.
  • Sep 1628
    A Dutch force led by Admiral Hein captures the entire New Spain treasure fleet on its way to Havana.
  • c. 1630
    Tortuga becomes a major buccaneer base.
  • 1642
    The French engineer Jean Le Vasseur builds a fortress on Tortuga.
  • 1657
    Edward D'Oyley, Governor of Jamaica, encourages buccaneers of several nationalities to make Port Royal their base.
  • 1664
    The buccaneer Henry Morgan attacks Villahermosa on the Spanish Main.
  • 1665
    The buccaneer Henry Morgan attacks Tabasco and Gran Granada on the Spanish Main.
  • 1667
    François L'Olonais leads a buccaneer force which attacks Venezuela on the Spanish Main.
  • 1667 - 1668
    François L'Olonais leads a buccaneer force which attacks Honduras on the Spanish Main.
  • Jul 1668
    A buccaneer force led by Henry Morgan attacks and captures Portobelo on the Spanish Main.
  • Apr 1669
    A buccaneer force led by Henry Morgan captures the port of Maracaibo. on the Spanish Main.
  • Jan 1671
    A buccaneer force led by Henry Morgan attacks and captures the port of Panama on the Spanish Main.
  • Apr 1672
    The buccaneer Henry Morgan is arrested and sent to London for his unlawful attack on Panama on the Spanish Main.
  • 1674
    Sir Henry Morgan is appointed Lieutenant Governor of Port Royal.
  • 1680
    Bartholomew Sharp leads buccaneer raids on the Pacific coast of the Spanish Main.
  • 1681
    The Jamaican authorities prohibit piracy.
  • 1681
    The Nuestra Señora de Encarnación Spanish treasure ship is wrecked in a storm off the coast of Panama.
  • 1683
    Laurens De Graaf leads a buccaneer attack on Veracruz on the Spanish Main.
  • 1684
    The Buccaneers of America by Alexander Oliver Exquemelin is published in English.
  • 1684 - 1688
    Edward Davis leads buccaneer attacks on the Pacific coast of the Spanish Main.
  • 1697
    The conquest of the Maya Civilization completed by the Spanish conquistador Martín de Ursúa.
  • 1697
    The last great buccaneer operation captures Cartagena on the Spanish Main.
  • 1697
    The Peace of Ryswick signed between France, Spain, England, and the Netherlands effectively ends buccaneering in the Caribbean.
  • 1 Jan 1710
    The English privateer Woodes Rogers captures the Manila galleon Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación Disengaño.
  • 1739
    The Spanish Viceroyalty of New Granada (Venezuela and Colombia) is established.
  • 1763
    The Treaty of Paris sees Spain cede Florida to Britain.
  • 1800
    Louisiana is ceded to France by the Spanish.