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date: 03 December 2022

Central America in the 17th Centurylocked

Central America in the 17th Centurylocked

  • Eduardo MadrigalEduardo MadrigalUniversity of Costa Rica, Department of History

Summary

When the 16th century—the Conquest Century—drew to a close, the territory of what is today called Central America was already organized as a colonial domain. The system of “Two Republics”—segregating autochthonous populations from the Spanish in order to protect the former from the abuses and potential perversions of the latter, but also to better control the former and demand labor, goods, and money from them—was well established, and colonial institutions (Audiencia, royal treasury offices, town councils (cabildos), dioceses, parishes, etc.) had been put in place. The Spanish governing and enriched elite were clearly on top but were surrounded, nonetheless, by a plethora of dominated ethnic groups, such as the indigenous and the African—either slave or free—populations, the non-elite Spanish immigrants, and those of mixed race. The process of miscegenation between all ethnic groups of colonial society, slow and faltering at first, was already a fact in the region, and a caste society was firmly established. At the same time, Spanish settlement in the territory was entrenched, with consolidated cities and established rural properties. Trade and mining were also active, creating economic cycles linked to the global economy, as well as to internal markets. However, resistance and rebellions by the dominated populations and an extended frontier—made of unconquered and uncontrolled zones—as well as the irruption of enemies in the uncontrolled regions, were not absent from the region. What was the destiny of this complex newly born society over the century to come? In Central America, the new century would be characterized by processes of stabilization and consolidation of colonial life in all aspects, but also by strong geostrategical interests, brutal social asymmetries, and an overwhelming peripheral status.

Subjects

  • History of Central America
  • 1492–1824
  • Social History

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