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Next: British Colonies

Spanish Colonies


During the period from the mid-16th century (1500s) to the 19th century (1800s), the Spanish controlled large areas of the modern-day Southwest and West Coast of the United States.

Florida was originally colonized by the Spanish and includes St. Augustine, the oldest permanent European colony in North America. Spanish explorers landed in Florida during the Easter season ("Pascua Florida") and called the land "Florida," which means flowery in Spanish.

The Spanish also controlled large areas in the modern-day states of Texas, California, and New Mexico. They established a network of military and religious outposts across these territories, which were often named after Roman Catholic saints. The word for saint in Spanish is "san" or "santa." Many modern-day cities in these states — San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and and San Antonio — can trace their origins to Spanish colonists.

After the Treaty of Paris at the end of the French and Indian War (1763), the Spanish also laid claim to the large French colony known as Louisiana, which encompassed the modern-day states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Idaho. Few Spanish colonists lived in these areas, which were primarily inhabited by Indian tribes. In 1800, France regained Louisiana from the Spanish.

Map of the Spanish Colonies

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