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Central America History Timeline

  • 1500 BC Maya civilation dominates much of Central America
  • 600 BC Maya migrate from Central America into South America
  • 50 BC Maya introduce a calendar known as the Calendar Round
  • 500 Tikal, Guatemala developes into a major Mayan temple city
  • 1123 Yucatec Maya overthrew the Itza Maya
  • 1487 Aztec send spies to Belize to gain trade information
  • 1492 Columbus expores islands along the Caribbean Sea coastline
  • 1501 Columbus visted and named Costa Rica (Rich Coast)
  • 1502 Spanish explorer Rodrigo de Bastidas visits Panama
  • 1502 Columbus reaches the coastline of Honduras
  • 1513 Vasco Nunez de Balboa reaches the Pacific coast, claims ocean for Spain
  • 1519 Panama City founded by the Spanish
  • 1523 Indigenous Mayan defeated, Guatemala becomes a Spanish colony
  • 1524 Spanish established settlement at Puntarenas, Costa Rica
  • 1525 Spanish begin their conquest of Honduras
  • 1530 Francisco Pizarro sails from Panama to attempt the conquest of Peru
  • 1540 El Salvador becomes a Spanish colony
  • 1561 Juan de Cavallon of Spain established colony in Costa Rica

1600's

  • 1624 Spanish silver fleet sailed to Panama
  • 1628 Locust devastated Mayan crops across Belize
  • 1671 Pirate Henry Morgan captures Panama
  • 1677 Spanish fail to control southern Belize
  • 1698 Scotland attempts to establish colony in Panama

1700's

  • 1720-90 British extend their influence over Nicaragua's Caribbean coastline inhabitants
  • 1723 Irazu volcano erupts in Costa Rica, thousands die
  • 1739 British capture Spanish city of Portobello, Panama
  • 1763 Britain and Spain reach agreement for woodcutting rights in Belize

1800's

  • 1821 Guatemala declared its independence from Spain
  • 1823 Congress of Central America declared independence from Spain and Mexico
  • 1838 Central American Federation splits into Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica; all are now independent from Spain
  • 1844-65 Dictator Rafael Carrera ruled Guatemala
  • 1854 Earthquake destroyed San Salvador, El Salvador
  • 1855 US built the Panama railroad
  • 1856 American adventurer, William Walker becomes president of Nicaragua
  • 1860 William Walker is executed in Honduras
  • 1860 British government returns control of Caribbean coastline to Nicaragua
  • 1862 Belize declared British crown colony, consequently named British Honduras
  • 1874 Banana cultivation begins in Costa Rica; later bananas become a significant export
  • 1893 General Jose Santos Zelaya seizes power and establishes dictatorship in Nicaragua

1900's

  • 1903 The USA is granted exclusive control in perpetuity of a ten-mile corridor across Panama, one suitable for the construction of a canal
  • 1904 US takes over control of Panama Canal construction
  • 1909 US troops help to depose Zelaya in Nicaragua
  • 1910 Earthquake detroys Cartago, Costa Rica, 700 killed
  • 1911 US helps to overthrow an unpopular Honduras president, Miguel Devila
  • 1912-25 US established military bases in Nicaragua
  • 1914 Panama Canal completed
  • 1931 Jorge Ubico elected president of Guatemala
  • 1931 Hurricane struck Belize City, thousands died
  • 1932 30,000 killed during peasant uprising in El Salvador
  • 1937 General Somoza elected president of Nicaragua
  • 1951 Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman elected the new president of Guatemala
  • 1956 Nicaragua's General Somoza assassinated
  • 1968 Arenal volcano erupts in Costa Rica, hundreds killed
  • 1970 Belize capital moved to Belmopan
  • 1973 British Honduras name changed to Belize
  • 1972 Managua, Nicaragua devastated by earthquake, thousands died
  • 1974 Hurrican Fifi strikes Honduras, over 5,000 killed
  • 1976 Guatemala earthquake left millions homeless, 27,000 dead
  • 1979-81 Over 30,000 killed in El Salvador by government-sponsored death squads
  • 1981 Belize gains it independence from Britain
  • 1982 US sponsored attacks by Contra rebels (based in Honduras) begin in Nicaragua
  • 1984 Daniel Ortega elected president of Nicaragua
  • 1985 Manuel Antonio Noriega ousted Nicolas Ardito Barletta, the elected president of Panama
  • 1988 US charges Manuel Noriega with drug smuggling; one year later US invades Panama and ousts Noriega
  • 1903 The USA is granted exclusive control of a ten-mile corridor across Panama, one suitable for a canal
  • 1992 Severe earthquake rattles Nicaragua, thousands rendered homeless
  • 1998 Hurricane Mitch caauses massive damage. Thousands killed, and hundreds of thousands left homeless across Honduras and Nicaragua
  • 1998 Human rights activist, Bishop Juan Gerardi, murdered in Guatemala
  • 1999 Over one million tourist visited Costa Rica
  • 1999 Control of the Panama Canal returned to Panama

2000's

  • 2001 El Salvador earthquake kills 1,200, an estimated one million are homeless
  • 2002 Guatemala and Belize settle long-standing border
  • 2004 Panama Canal earns a record $1 billion in revenue
  • 2008 El Salvador is rated the country with the highest murder rate
  • 2008 Laura Chinchilla elected president of Costa Rica
  • 2010 Porfirio Lobo sworn in as president of Honduras

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This page was last modified on September 19, 2016.