Captaincies of the Spanish Empire

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Captaincies (Spanish : capitanías) were military and administrative divisions in colonial Spanish America and the Spanish Philippines, established in areas under risk of foreign invasion or Indian attack. They could consist of just one province, or group several together. These captaincies general should be distinguished from the ones given to almost all of the conquistadores, which was based on an older tradition. During the Reconquista, the term "captain general" and similar ones had been used for the official in charge of all the troops in a given district. This office was transferred to America during the conquest and was usually granted along with the hereditary governorship to the adelantado in the patent issued by the Crown. This established a precedent that was recognized by the New Laws of 1542, but ultimately the crown eliminated all hereditary governorships in its overseas possessions.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Western Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

<i>Reconquista</i> period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula

The Reconquista is a name used in English to describe the period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 780 years between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1491. The completed conquest of Granada was the context of the Spanish voyages of discovery and conquest, and the Americas—the "New World"—ushered in the era of the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires.

Spanish colonization of the Americas Overseas expansion under the Crown of Castile

The overseas expansion under the Crown of Castile was initiated under the royal authority and first accomplished by the Spanish conquistadors. The Americas were incorporated into the Spanish Empire, with the exception of Brazil, Canada, the eastern United States and several other small countries in South America and The Caribbean. The crown created civil and religious structures to administer the region. The motivations for colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Catholic faith through indigenous conversions.

With the establishment of appointed governors, who served only for a few years, captaincies were created in the areas where the crown deemed them necessary. The new captaincies general were governed by what was also called a captain general, and it is this title alone that is usually used by historians. The title of captain general itself is a high military rank of general officer grade, equivalent to the rank of Field Marshal, as well as, and a gubernatorial title. However, in practice this was a person who held two distinct offices: one military, which granted him command of the regional forces (the "captaincy general" proper), and another civilian, which included the presidency of the audiencia , if there was one in the provincial capital, (the governorship). The specific powers of any governor-captain general varied by time and place and were specified in the decrees establishing the captaincy general. The institution of the captaincy general predated the viceroyalty, but was incorporated into the latter when the viceroyalties were established in the mid-16th century.

A viceroy is an official who runs a country, colony, city, province, or sub-national state, in the name of and as the representative of the monarch of the territory. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roy, meaning "king". A viceroy's territory may be called a viceroyalty, though this term is not always applied. The adjective form is viceregal, less often viceroyal. The term vicereine is sometimes used to indicate a female viceroy suo jure, although viceroy can serve as a gender-neutral term. Vicereine is more commonly used to indicate a viceroy's wife.

Some captaincies general, such as Guatemala, Chile and Venezuela were eventually split off from their viceroyalties for better-administration purposes. Although under the nominal jurisdiction of their viceroys, governors-captains general were virtually independent, because the law granted them special military functions and given the considerable distance of their districts from the viceregal capital, they were authorized to deal directly with the King and the Council of the Indies, in Madrid. The institution was later revived as part of the Bourbon Reforms. Captaincies general were first introduced into Spain beginning in 1713 during the War of the Spanish Succession. After the losses of the Seven Years' War, the Bourbon kings established new ones in many American regions, which had not had them before. Along with the new governors-captains general, the Bourbons introduced the Intendant, to handle civilian and military expenses.

Council of the Indies administrative organ of the Spanish Empire for the Americas and the Philippines

The Council of the Indies; officially, the Royal and Supreme Council of the Indies, was the most important administrative organ of the Spanish Empire for the Americas and the Philippines. The crown held absolute power over the Indies and the Council of the Indies was the administrative and advisory body for those overseas realms. It was established in 1524 by Charles V to administer "the Indies," Spain's name for its territories. Such an administrative entity, on the conciliar model of the Council of Castile, was created following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire in 1521, which demonstrated the importance of the Americas. Originally an itinerary council that followed Charles V, it was subsequently established as an autonomous body with legislative, executive and judicial functions by Philip II of Spain and placed in Madrid in 1561. The Council of the Indies was abolished in 1812 by the Cádiz Cortes, briefly restored in 1814 by Ferdinand VII of Spain, and definitively abolished in 1834 by the regency, acting on behalf of the four-year-old Isabella II of Spain.

Madrid Capital of Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain and the largest municipality in both the Community of Madrid and Spain as a whole. The city has almost 3.3 million inhabitants and a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.5 million. It is the third-largest city in the European Union (EU), smaller than only London and Berlin, and its monocentric metropolitan area is the third-largest in the EU, smaller only than those of London and Paris. The municipality covers 604.3 km2 (233.3 sq mi).

Bourbon Reforms set of economic and political legislation promulgated by the Spanish Crown under various kings of the House of Bourbon, mainly in the 18th century

The Bourbon Reforms were a set of economic and political legislation promulgated by the Spanish Crown under various kings of the House of Bourbon, mainly in the 18th century. The strengthening of the crown's power with clear lines of authority to officials contrasted to the complex system of government that evolved under the Habsburg monarchs. In particular, the crown pursued state supremacy over the Catholic Church, resulting in the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1767 as well as an attempt to abolish ecclesiastical privilege.

Spanish Captaincies

Viceroyalty of Peru Spanish Imperial colony

The Viceroyalty of Peru was a Spanish imperial provincial administrative district, created in 1542, that originally contained modern-day Peru and most of Spanish-ruled South America, governed from the capital of Lima. The Viceroyalty of Peru was one of the two Spanish Viceroyalties in the Americas from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

Captaincy General of Santo Domingo Spanish 1493-1821 possession in the Caribbean

Santo Domingo, officially Captaincy General of Santo Domingo or alternatively Kingdom of Santo Domingo was the first colony established in the New World under Spain. The island was named "La Española" (Hispaniola) by Christopher Columbus. In 1511, the courts of the colony were placed under the jurisdiction of the Real Audiencia of Santo Domingo. French buccaneers took over part of the west coast in 1625 and French settlers arrived soon thereafter. After decades of conflicts Spain finally ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France in the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, thus establishing the basis for the later national divisions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Captaincy General of Chile Spanish 1541-1818 possession in South America

The General Captaincy of Chile or Gobernación de Chile, was a territory of the Spanish Empire, from 1541 to 1818. It comprised most of modern-day Chile and southern parts of Argentina. Its capital was Santiago de Chile. In 1818 it declared itself independent, becoming the Republic of Chile. It had a number of Spanish governors over its long history and several kings.

See also

The Captaincies of the Portuguese Empire were the socio-administrative territorial divisions and hereditary lordships established initially by Henry the Navigator, as part of the Donatário system in order to settle and developed the Portuguese overseas Empire. Pioneered on the island of Madeira and institutionalized in the archipelago of the Azores, the captaincy system was eventually adapted to the New World.

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New Spain viceroyalty of the Spanish Empire (1535-1821)

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The Real Audiencia, or simply Audiencia, was an appellate court in Spain and its empire. The name of the institution literally translates as Royal Audience. The additional designation chancillería was applied to the appellate courts in early modern Spain. Each audiencia had oidores.

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Captaincy General of Venezuela Spanish 1777-1823 possession in South America

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New Kingdom of Granada Venezuela and Colombia in the Spanish Empire

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Captaincy General of Puerto Rico Spanish 1580-1898 possession in the Caribbean

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Captaincy General of Cuba Spanish 1607–1898 possession in the Caribbean

The Captaincy General of Cuba was an administrative district of the Spanish Empire created in 1607 as part of Habsburg Spain's attempt to better defend the Caribbean against foreign powers, which also involved creating captaincies general in Puerto Rico, Guatemala and Yucatán. The restructuring of the Captaincy General in 1764 was the first example of the Bourbon Reforms in America. The changes included adding the provinces of Florida and Louisiana and granting more autonomy for these provinces. This later change was carried out by the Count of Floridablanca under Charles III to strengthen the Spanish position vis-a-vis the British in the Caribbean. A new governor-captain general based in Havana oversaw the administration of the new district. The local governors of the larger Captaincy General had previously been overseen in political and military matters by the president of the Audiencia of Santo Domingo. This audiencia retained oversight of judicial affairs until the establishment of new audiencias in Puerto Príncipe (1800) and Havana (1838). In 1825, as a result of the loss of the mainland possessions, the Spanish government granted the governors-captain generals of Cuba extraordinary powers in matters of administration, justice and the treasury and in the second half of the 19th century gave them the title of Governor General.

Captaincy General of Yucatán Spanish 1617-1821 possession in Central America

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Alonso Fernández de Heredia was a Spanish Captain General and administrator who governed Florida (1751–1758), Yucatan, the Captaincy General of Guatemala (1761–1771), Nicaragua (1761–1771) and Honduras (1761-?).

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Governorate of New Andalusia 1534−1542

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The Real Audiencia of Santiago de Guatemala, simply known as the Audiencia of Guatemala or the Audiencia of Los Confines, was a superior court in area of the New World empire of Spain, known as the Kingdom of Guatemala. This area included the current territories of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Mexican state of Chiapas. The Audiencia's presiding officer, the president, was the head of the government of the area. The Audiencia was initially created by decrees of November 20, 1542 and September 13, 1543, and had its seat in Antigua Guatemala.