From the late 15th to the mid-20th centuries, Spain reigned over several territories in Europe, Africa, Oceania, the Americas, and the Philippine Archipelago. Between the 15th and the early 19th centuries, these colonies were regarded as part of the Spanish Empire. It was the first empire to be known as "the empire on which the sun never sets," because it was so geographically vast that at least one part of the empire was in daylight at any given time. Most of the former Spanish colonies continue to use the Spanish language as an official language except Belize, Jamaica, the Philippines, and Trinidad And Tobago where Spanish was replaced by English, and Morocco where Spanish was replaced by Arabic.
Spanish Colonies in the Americas
The Spanish Empire began its interest in the Americas upon the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492. The empire stretched across the Caribbean Islands, North America, Central America, and half of South America. During the Spanish colonial period in the Americas (1492–1832), about two million Spanish settlers migrated to the newly acquired territory, and a further 3.5 million people migrated to the Americas between 1850 and 1950. The colonies provided gold and silver during the 16th and 17th centuries that financed the colonial wars in North Africa and Europe. At the start of the 19th century, the Spanish American Wars of Independence resulted in the loss of Spanish colonies. After the Spanish–American War of 1898, Spain surrendered Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines (Asia), marking the end of Spanish colonization of the Americas.
Spanish Colonies in Africa
Spain did not have as much influence in Africa as the French, British, Portuguese, and the Germans. Spanish influence within the continent was limited to the North African region of Morocco, Western Sahara, and modern-day Equatorial Guinea. The Spanish conquest in North Africa began with the acquisition of the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla before the entire Moroccan territory was captured in 1913 and surrendered in 1956. In 1968, Spain relinquished control of Equatorial Guinea, followed by Western Sahara in 1975. However, the Canary Islands, Ceuta, and Melilla are still Spanish territory.
Spanish Colonies in Europe
Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal were former Spanish colonies in Europe. The countries were all part of the Spanish Empire. The European colonies were governed with a degree of autonomy, but supreme power was vested in the King of Spain. A series of wars and agreements between the 17th and 19th century saw Spain lose these European colonies.
Effects of Spanish Colonization
Spanish colonization led to the spread of the Spanish culture and language across the globe. Countries such as Mexico exhibit heavy Spanish influence in culture and language. Spanish colonialism also led to the reshaping of boundaries between countries after independence. Spanish explorers spread Christianity across the colonies, and most former colonies are predominantly Christian countries, except for Morocco.
Former Spanish Colonies
|Rank||Former Spanish Colonies|
|5||California (United States)|
|14||Florida (United States)|
|15||Guam (unincorporated territory of the United States)|
|21||Louisiana (United States)|
|30||Puerto Rico (unincorporated territory of the United States)|
|33||Trinidad and Tobago|
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