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New Granada

New Granada (grənäˈdə) [key], former Spanish colony, N South America. It included at its greatest extent present Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. Between 1499 and 1510 a host of conquerors explored the Caribbean coast of Panama and South America. After 1514, Pedro Arias de Ávila was successful in assuring permanent colonization of the isthmus of Panama. At Santa Marta (1525) and Cartagena (1533), Spanish control of the Colombian coast was firmly established, and in the next few years the northern hinterland was explored. German adventurers, notably Nikolaus Federmann, penetrated the Venezuelan and Colombian llanos between 1530 and 1546. By far the greatest of the conquerors was Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, who in 1536 ascended the Magdalena River, climbed the mighty Andean cordillera, where he subdued the powerful Chibcha (an advanced native civilization), and by 1538 had founded Santa Fé de Bogotá, later known simply as Bogotá. He named the region El Nuevo Reino de Granada [the new kingdom of Granada]. During the next 10 years the conquest was virtually completed. No civil government was established in New Granada until 1549, when an audiencia court, a body with both executive and judicial authority, was set up in Bogotá. To further stabilize colonial government, New Granada was made a presidency (an administrative and political division headed by a governor) in 1564, and the audiencia was relegated to its proper judicial functions. Loosely attached to the viceroyalty of Peru, the presidency came to include Panama, Venezuela, and most of Colombia. Disputes with—and the great distance from—Lima led to the creation (1717) of the viceroyalty of New Granada, comprising Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. Later the captaincy general of Venezuela and the presidency of Quito were detached, creating a political division that was to survive the revolution against Spain and the efforts of Simón Bolívar to establish a republic of Greater Colombia. The struggle for independence began in 1810, and by 1830 Venezuela and Ecuador had seceded, and the remnant (Colombia and Panama) was renamed the Republic of New Granada. This became the Republic of Colombia in 1886, from which the present Panama seceded in 1903.

See A. J. Kuethe, Military Reform and Society in New Granada (1978).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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