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Spanish Immigration to America Timeline

The Spanish are acclaimed as the first Europeans to discover America in 1492 when Christopher Columbus claimed the lands for Spain. Spain was to gain control of vast areas of land they called New Spain (Nueva España) covering the south Atlantic coast, Mexico and the islands of the Caribbean.

The History Timeline of Spanish Immigration to America includes important dates and events in the history of Spain that contributed to the push and pull factors which led to mass immigration from Spain.

Spanish Immigration to America Timeline
Famous historical events include the establishment of New Spain (Nueva España), the first Spanish settlements, the missionaries and the first colonists.

Famous dates and events that led to the loss of the Spanish Empire on the North American continent in 1821. The Spanish Immigration to America Timeline highlights the Push and Pull factors of immigration such as political and religious persecution, wars that occured in Spain together with dates of any natural disasters such as floods, plague, crop failures and famine. Additional information can be found on Mexican Immigration to America Timeline.

Spanish Immigration to America Timeline: Religion
The religion of Spain is staunchly Roman Catholic and remained so during the turbulent years of the Protestant Reformation movement initiated by Martin Luther in 1517. This led to a great schism of the Christian religion in Europe in which the Northern European countries adopted Protestantism and came into bitter, bloody conflicts with the Catholics in Southern European countries. Spain was fanatical about their Catholic religion and introduced events such as the Spanish Inquisition. The notion of spreading the Catholic faith to 'savage' races was seen as one of the primary objectives for the establishment of the colonies of New Spain.

Spanish Immigration to America Timeline
Between 1820 - 2005 Spanish Immigration to America totalled 308,357, referring to a person originating from the country of Spain.. According to the US Bureau of the Census of 2000 a total of 24,509,692 Americans claimed to be solely or partially of Spanish descent. Spanish-Americans made a significant impact on the culture of Americans and the history of the United States as can be seen in the following timeline detailing these immigrants to America. 

Spanish Immigration to America Timeline - Explorers and Conquistadors
During the 1500's Spanish explorers and Conquistadors claimed lands in Mexico and on the south Atlantic coast. The first Spanish settlement was in Florida, and the other colonies in New Spain included the regions now known as New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana. The new lands in America were all initially claimed for Spain by the Spanish Explorers and Conquistadors who therefore played a major role in Spanish Immigration to America and reference to these important events have been included in the history timeline.



The Spanish Inquisition (Inquisición española), was established by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. Protestants, Jews and Muslims were subjected to religious persecution.



Christopher Columbus discovered America and claimed all the lands for Spain



Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and claimed the Pacific Ocean for Spain



The Spanish conquer the Aztec Empire (1519 to 1521)



Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon explored the East Coast from 1524 to 1527.



Panfilo de Narvaez explored Florida (1527 - 1528)



Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca explored the South West area (1527 - 1536)



Spain conquered the Inca Empire



Fortun Jimenez explored the lands on the lower Baja California peninsula, followed soon after by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo.



Hernando de Soto explored Florida & South East US between 1539 - 1542.



Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored Arizona and New Mexico from 1540 to 1542 and commanded the first Spanish army into New Mexico.



A serious famine hit Spain followed by disease and poverty.



Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo explored upper California in Ensenada (in Baja California).



Pedro Menendez de Aviles continued the exploration of Florida from 1565 - 1567.



The first Spanish settlement is established at St. Augustine, Florida initially as a military colony and would serve as the capital of Spanish Florida for 200 years.



Spain opposed the Protestant French presence in Florida and attacked the military settlement founded by Jean Ribault killing 350 Huguenot colonists because they were Catholics. The notorious event occurred on September 29, 1565 and is referred to as the Florida Massacre.



Spain begins to establish missions in Georgia and South Carolina and missionaries followed by colonists settle in Baja California.



A disastrous famine in Spain (1599–1600), caused by a sequence of bad harvests was followed a terrible outbreak of bubonic plague across the country, killing over 700,000 lives, 9% of the population.



Juan de Onate colonizes the territory, now called New Mexico.



The Great Plague of Seville (1647–1652) spread across the country claiming 500,000 lives.



By the beginning of the 1600's the Spanish population in New Mexico had reached 3000.



During the period from 1676-1686 Spain was hit by a series of natural disasters causing crop failures, famine, bubonic plague and dire poverty. At least 250,000 people were killed. During this time period emigration to the New World increased substantially.



The poor harvest of 1682-1683 brought with it famine conditions and more death, destruction and poverty to Spain.



Famine followed by disease struck Spain in the 1750's.



France was on the verge of defeat in the French and Indian Wars (1688-1763). In 1762 they made the
secret Treaty of Fontainebleau with Spain which France gave French Louisiana, as well as New Orleans to the Spanish.



The Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian Wars under which Spain cedes Florida to the British knowing that it had gained western Louisiana.



The cession of Louisiana to Spain by France was finally revealed.



Spanish settlement began in Alta California and colonists were recruited who established San Jose in 1777 and Los Angeles in 1781.



Spain supports the American colonists against the British in the War of Independence (1775 - 1783)



The United States returns Florida to Spain as a gesture of goodwill following their help in the America Revolution.



Spain is forced to return the territory of Louisiana to France in the Treaty of San Ildefonso.



The Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon Bonaparte decided to capitalize on his new acquisition in America and to concentrate his military conquests to Europe. 828,000 square miles of land was sold by France to the US.



The United States acquires Florida. The Adams Onis Treaty gave Florida to the U.S. and set out a boundary between the United States and New Spain (now Mexico).



The Mexicans win their independence from Spain.



The start of the Carlist Civil Wars in Spain (1833–1876) leading to political persecution.



California and Texas was annexed by the US and the Mexican-American War broke out.



US Acquisition of California and Texas. The Spanish territory of Alta California and New Mexico was ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.



The Glorious Revolution (La Gloriosa) took place in Spain and emigrants fled to America. Between 1861 - 1870 Spanish Immigration to America totaled 6697.



The Panic of 1873 led to the 6 year period called the 'Long Depression' that led to civil unrest and strikes
and an increase in anti-immigrant feelings in the United States.



The nation recovered from the depression and the number of migrants between 1881 - 1890 exploded as 5,246,613 immigrants gained entry to the United States.



The US 1891 Immigration Act provided for the regulation of immigration and the inspection and deportation of immigrants



The Ellis Island immigration center was opened where immigrants from Europe, including Spain, were subjected to medical and legal examinations.



The 1907 Immigration Act consisted of a series of reforms to restrict the number of immigrants and established the Dillingham Commission whose report led to further stringent and specific immigration restrictions.



The 1921 Emergency Quota Act used of percentage system to restrict the number of immigrants from a given country.



The Immigration Act of 1924 restricted the number of immigrants even further



The Spanish Civil War broke out following the rise of Fascism as the dictator Francisco Franco came to power. Refugees fled to the US.



Nation-of-origin restrictions were abolished by the 1965 Hart-Celler Law

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