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Discovery & Settlement

The earliest identified inhabitants of North America are believed to have entered the continent through the Siberian passageway formed at the Bering Strait that once existed between northeastern Asia and Alaska.¹

It was in 1492 when Italian explorer Christopher Columbus discovered the new world, compiled of modern day North America and the Caribbean. His intention was to find a water route to India for trade purposes. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain agreed to fund his voyage, wanting to break Italy’s trade monopoly with Asia. Muslim forces also controlled key passageways to the east, making it necessary to find faster, less expensive routes.¹

Columbus traveled for two months across the Atlantic ocean and by the time he hit land, he was convinced he had reached the Indies. He stood on what is now the Bahamas in the Caribbean and declared it the land San Salvador, meaning Holy Savior.¹

With this discovery, more and more leaders started sponsoring expeditions to the new world, leading to small settlements and trading posts being established along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.¹

There had been civilizations in North America before the Europeans came, but they had peaked before the Europeans arrived.  There was actually huge diversity in the pre-Columbian America, with thousands of years of native groups in different regions.¹

The Spanish were the first to actually explore this part of the world. Ponce de Leon arrived in Florida in 1513 looking for gold and the fountain of youth. He was among many Spanish explorers in first half of 16th century. The Spanish wanted to colonize Florida but were much more successful in colonizing  the South West.¹

New Mexico was the site of the first large scale uprising against Europeans by native Americans in 1680. This was organized with 2000 warriors that killed 400 Spanish colonists and forced the rest to leave Sante Fe. The Spanish came back but were much more tolerant.

By 1600 Spain and Portugal were still the only significant colonial powers. North of Mexico the only settlements were Saint Augustine and northern New Mexico. It was not until 1607 when the British settled in Jamestown that the English began colonizing.




A description of conquistadors

What and who were the conquistadors? The Conquistadors were the warriors from Spain. They were the ones who conquered the Aztec, Inca and Mayan empires. These people started with Columbus that included Cortes, Francisco Pizarro, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, Hernando de Soto, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. These explorers covered an