Hispanic New World Timelines

A timeline of key eras and dates relevant to Hispanic and Hispanic-American family history.

Part of: Hispanic Genealogy Guide

Timelines are helpful for determining the location and provenance of records, and for understanding context surrounding your ancestors’ lives.

General Timeline

Compiled from a variety of online and print sources.

  • 1492 – Early 1830s: Spanish Colonial Period
    • 1492: Columbus lands at Cuba and claims it for Spain
      • Spanish Inquisition still going on (disbanded 1834)
      • End of the Reconquista in Spain; the Moors surrender Granada
      • Expulsion of the Jews from Spain
    • 1496: First permanent Spanish settlement founded (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)
    • 1501: Spanish crown allows colonies to import African descent slaves from Iberia
    • 1518: Spanish crows allows colonies to import slaves from Africa
    • 1519 – 1521: Conquest of the Aztec Empire in Mexico by Cortes
    • Colonization in the present day U.S.:
      • 1565: 1st permanent settlement founded in present day U.S., St. Augustine, Florida
      • 1598: Oñate established the first Spanish colony in New Mexico
      • 1610: Santa Fe founded in the province of New Mexico
      • 1718: San Antonio founded in the province of Texas
      • 1769: Portolá expedition with Father Serra into Alta California (Mission San Diego)
  • 1800s (1st quarter): Latin American wars for independence
    • 1821: Mexico gains independence from Spain
    • Everyone except Cuba and Puerto Rico
  • 1846 – 1848: Mexican American War
    • 1848: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
    • Mexico ceded 1/3 of its territory to the U.S.
  • 1898: Spanish American War
    • Spain relinquished Cuba
    • End of Spanish colonial empire in the New World
    • U.S. gained Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam as territories
  • 1910 – 1920: Mexican Revolution
  • 1917: Puerto Ricans granted U.S. citizenship
  • 1953 – 1959: Cuban Revolution

Historical Waves of Immigration & Migration to the United States

Source: U.S. National Park Service


  • 1840s: Due to Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the California Gold Rush
  • 1880s – 1900: Due to immigration restrictions impacting Chinese and Japanese, and expanding regional rail systems
  • 1910 – 1920: Mexican Revolution
  • Late 1920s – Early 1930s : Forced repatriation back to Mexico
  • 1942 – 1964: Bracero Program with Mexico

Puerto Rico

Migration instead of immigration, since became citizens in 1917.

  • 1930s – WWII: In search of industrial work, mainly to New York City
  • Post WWII – 1960: Due to worsening employment opportunities


  • 18th Century: Mainly in Florida and New York City
  • Post-Revolution immigration, mostly in South Florida
    • 1959 – 1960: Fled the Revolution
    • 1965 – Early 1970s: Allowed to reunite with families in the U.S.
    • 1980: Mariel Boatlift: Refugees granted permission to leave

Central America

  • 1970s – 1980s: Fled political turmoil and violence
    • Salvadorans: Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C.
    • Guatemalans: California and Texas
    • Hondurans: Florida and Texas
    • Nicaraguans: Miami
  • Post-1990s: Fleeing civil and guerilla wars

Dominican Republic

  • Starting in the 1970s – 1980s: Seeking work

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