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Latin American Chronology

Ancient America
Colonial Period
Nineteenth Century
Twentieth Century

Ancient America

Also see this comparative Ancient America Time Line.


30,000 BCE (Before the Common Era): Highly mobile hunting and gathering groups cross the Bering Strait land bridge in pursuit of large game and enter North America.

10,000 BCE: A second migration crosses the Bering Strait and joins the first one. Groups spread all the way down to Chile in southern South America.

Archaic or Preceramic

8000-2000 BCE: Disappearance of large game leads to switch to small game, gathering, fishing, and beginnings of agriculture and village life.

Formative or Pre-classic Period

2000-200 BCE: Improvements in agriculture, culture, and social structures.

3500-1700 BCE:Early ceramics and fertility figurines appear at Valdivia on the Ecuadorian coast in South America.

2000-400 BCE: The beginnings of hieroglyphic writing & calendrics with the Olmec in Mexico. The Olmec are also known for their monolithic stone heads.

800-200 BCE: Developments in art, ceramics, weavings, and feline cult at Chavín in the Peruvian highlands.

Classic Period

200 BCE - 1000 CE (Common Era): Emergence of cities, social stratification, and the flowering of material culture.

300-900 CE: High developments in astrology, calendrics, math, writing among the Maya in Mesoamerica.

300-900 CE: Architectural developments (city on high, large platform) at Monte Albán in Mexico.

200 BCE - 600 CE: Weaving & mummy bundles at Paracas on the southern Peruvian coast.

200 BCE - 600 CE: Nazca lines on the southern Peruvian coast.

200 BCE - 600 CE: Pottery with realistic painting at Moche on the northern Peruvian coast.

450-750 CE: Theocratic empire develops at Teotihuacán in Mexico with a large urban center and Pyramids of the Sun and Moon.

600-800 CE: Rise of large urban cities & empires at Huari in Peruvian Highlands.

600-1000 CE: Monolithic stone architecture at Tiwanaku by Lake Titicaca in Bolivia.

Post-classic Period

1000-1492 CE: Urban, stratified, militarized, imperialistic empires with no important technological advances

950-1150 CE: The formation of militaristic empires, wars, invasions with the Toltecs in Mexico leads to population increase & pressure.

  • 968: Toltecs establish their capital at Tula.

1000-1476 CE: Chimú empire in Peru with a very large city at Chan-chan with panaqa burial compounds.

1345-1521 CE: The Mexicas (Aztecs) form a militaristic tribute empire in Mexico.

  • 1325: Founding of Tenochtitlán
  • 1440-1487: The Aztecs greatly expand their power and empire under Emperor Moctezuma I.
  • 1487: Dedication of the Great Temple in Tenochtitlán.
  • 1502: Moctezuma II becomes emperor of Tenochtitlán.

1200-1532 CE: The Inka form the Tawantinsuyu empire in the Andes with sophisticated and very efficient organizational and administrative structures.

  • 1200-1225: Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo found Cuzco and begin the Inka Empire.
  • 1425-1438: Viracocha Inka establishes the cult of Viracocha & panaqa tradition.
  • 1438-1471: Pachacuti Inka begins expansion begins out of Cuzco valley to south.
  • 1471-1493: Tupac Inka defeats Chimu (1476) and extends empire south (Chile) and to coast.
  • 1493-1527: Huayna Capac expands north to Ecuador and Colombia; dies in small pox epidemic which launches a civil war between his two sons Huascar (Peru).
  • 1532: Atahualpa wins civil war and becomes the leader of Tawantinsuyu.


1415-60: Prince Henry the Navigator opens the great Portuguese "Age of Exploration."

1479: Ferdinand II and Isabella I unite the crowns of Aragon and Castille in Spain.

1492: Spanish Roman Catholics expel the last of the Muslims and Jews from Spain.

1492: Christopher Columbus is lost at sea and is rescued by Arawak Indians in the Bahamas (October 12).

  • 1493: Columbus' second voyage.
  • 1498: Columbus sent back to Spain in chains after his third trip to the New World.
  • 1502: Columbus is marooned for a year on Jamaica during his fourth trip, but is unable to fix his ships or feed the crew.

1494: Treaty of Tordesillas divides the New World between Spain and Portugal.

1500: Pedro Álvares Cabral claims the Brazilian "hump" for Portugal.

1507: A German cartographer publishes a map of the New World, using the name America in honor of Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512).

1511: Sermon of Antonio de Montesinos criticizing colonists' treatment of the Indians.

1511: Atuey leads Indigenous resistance to Spanish settlement of Cuba.

1513: Vasco Nuñez de Balboa views the "South Sea" from Panama, the Pacific Ocean.

1513-21: Ponce de Leon explores Florida on two expeditions.

1519-22: Hernán Cortés enters, lays siege to, and conquers Aztec capital Tenochtitlán.

  • 1520: Death of Moctezuma II. He is replaced by Cuitláhuac, who reigns for only eighty days and dies of smallpox (a disease brought by the Spaniards). Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor, continues to resist the Spaniards.
  • 1521: Tenochtitlan falls to the Spaniards and their Indian allies.

1532: Francisco Pizarro captures Atahualpa, ending the Inca Empire.

  • 1533-1536: Pizarro sets up Manco Inka as puppet ruler in Cuzco.
  • 1534: Rumiñahui leads Inka resistance against Spanish.

Colonial Period

1524: Council of the Indies established to help administer the new colonies.

1531: Virgin of Guadalupe appears to Juan Diego on a hill outside of Mexico City.

1535-1550: Antonio de Mendoza is named the first viceroy of New Spain.

1537: Pope Paul III decides Indians have souls.

1542: The Spanish Crown issues Las Nuevas Leyes (The New Laws) to protect the Indians.

1542: Bartolomé de las Casas writes Devastation of the Indies to push the "New Laws" to reform treatment of Indians.

1542: Bartolomé de las Casas named Bishop of Chiapas in southern Mexico.

1544: First viceroy, Blasco Núñez Vela, arrives in Peru with the New Laws, which triggers civil wars

1545: Silver discovered at Cerro Rico, Potosí (Bolivia)

1550: Debate between Las Casas and Sepúlveda at Valladolid in Spain.

1551: The University of Mexico is founded.

1569-81: Administration of Francisco de Toledo, viceroy of Peru.

1570-71: The Inquisition is established in Lima and Mexico City.

1571-72: Revolt of Tupac Amaru I in Peru.

1610: First Jesuit missions among the Guaraní in Paraguay.

1615: Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala finishes Nueva Corónica y buen gobierno to King Philip III of Spain

1700: Philip V becomes king of Spain, and the Bourbon dynasty replaces the dynasty of the Hapsburgs.

1739: Establishment of the Viceroyalty of New Granada.

1742-1755: Revolt of Juan Santos Atahualpa "the invincible" in Peru.

1750: Treaty of Madrid shifts Spanish-Portuguese border in South America.

1767: Expulsion of the Jesuits.

1777: Establishment of the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata.

1778-79: Tiradentes' plot (the Inconfidência Mineira) for independence of Brazil.

1780-81: Indian revolt led by Tupac Amaru II in Upper Peru.

1781: Comuero Revolt in Colombia.


1791-1804: Slave revolt on French island of Saint-Dominigue (Haiti) leads to independence.

1793-1815: Napoleonic Wars disrupt political rule in Europe.

1799-1803: German geographer Alexander von Humboldt explores Mexico and South America.

1810: Creoles establish ruling juntas in Carcas, Venezuela, Santiago, Chile, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1810: The priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla issues the "Grito de Dolores" in Mexico which begins the War of Independence against Spain.

1811: Hidalgo is defeated and executed. José Maria Morelos y Pavón takes command of the insurrection.

1811: Venezuela and Paraguay declare independence from Spain.

1813: Morelos convokes the first Mexican Congress, which formally declares Mexican Independence.

1815: Morelos is defeated and executed.

1815: Simón Bolívar forced to retreat to the island of Jamaica.

1816: Argentina declares independence.

1818: Chile declares independence.

1819: Colombian and Venezuelan independence.

1821: Agustín de Iturbide declares Mexico independent with his Plan of Iguala.

1822: King Pedro declares Brazil independent from Portugal.

1822-1823: Iturbide is proclaimed emperor in Mexico.

  • 1823: A rebellion led by Antonio López de Santa Anna forces the abdication of Iturbide and the establishment of the Mexican Republic.

1823: United States issues the Monroe Doctrine which warning Europe against the recolonization of the newly independent Spanish American republics.

1824: Last patriot victories against the Spaniards: Bolívar at Junín in August and Sucre at Ayacucho in December. Peru gains independence.

1825: Bolivia declares independence.

1830: Gran Colombia splits into the separate countries of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

1838: United Provinces of Central America breaks into five republics (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica).

Nineteenth Century

1830s: Rise of caudillos, self-interested military dictators backed by private armies.

1823-1855: Period of Santa Anna in Mexico.

  • 1824: The first Constitution of independent Mexico formally establishes a federal republic.
  • 1833: Santa Anna becomes President for the first of eleven times.
  • 1836: The State of Texas declares its independence from Mexico and begins a war against the central government. Santa Anna is defeated by the Texans.
  • 1838: French forces attempt to occupy Veracruz and are defeated by Santa Anna.
  • 1840s: Rise of Manifest Destiny, the belief by many people in the United States that westward and outward expansionism represented their god's plan for their country.
  • 1845: Texas becomes part of the United States of America.
  • 1846-1848: Mexican-American War, ending with the defeat of Mexico.
  • 1848: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo cedes northern half of Mexico to the U.S.
  • 1853: With the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico, US acquires route for a railroad through southern Arizona and New Mexico.
  • 1853-1855: Final presidency of Santa Anna.

1847-1848: Maya Indians rebel against plantation owners in Yucatán, Mexico in what is known as the Caste War.

1855: U.S. filibuster William Walker and his mercenaries invade and occupy Nicaragua. Walker declares himself president, rules for 2 years, and is finally shot by a Honduran firing squad on September 12, 1860.

1855-1876: Period of Benito Juárez in Mexico

  • 1857: A new and liberal Constitution is approved, preceded by a series of laws directly opposing the interests of the Church and Mexican conservatives.
  • 1858-1861: The War of the Reform between Liberals and Conservatives.
  • 1861: The Conservatives are defeated. President Benito Juárez suspends payment of the foreign debt for two years. France, England, and Spain sign an agreement intended to compel Mexican payment of the debt.
  • 1862: The French Army, supported by Mexican Conservatives, invades Mexico. The War of the French Intervention begins.
  • 1864: The French Army and Mexican Conservatives establish the Second Mexican Empire, crowning the Austrian archduke Maximilian von Hapsburg emperor of Mexico.
  • 1867: The Liberal armies defeat the Empire. Maximilian is executed. Juárez reestablishes the Republic.
  • 1872: Death of Juárez. Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada becomes President of Mexico.

1864-70: War of the Triple Alliance between Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.

1864-70: Period of Mariano Melgarejo in Bolivia.

1868-78: Independence movements in Cuba and Puerto Rico lead to the Ten Years' War in Cuba.

1876: Porfirio Díaz overthrows Lerdo de Tejada and becomes President in Mexico. He will reelect himself seven times, and his dictatorship, the "Porfiriato" (1876-1911), will last thirty-four years.

1879-84: War of the Pacific involves Chile, Peru, Bolivia.

1888: Abolition of slavery in Brazil.

1889: Abdication of Pedro II in Brazil; Brazil proclaimed a republic.

1895: José Martí launches war for Cuban Independence and is killed.

1898: Spanish-Cuban-American War. Cuban gains independence from Spain; United States takes control of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Phillippines.

Twentieth Century

1901: Platt Amendment to Cuba's new constitution gives the U.S. the unilateral right to intervene in the island's political affairs.

1903: United States engineers Panama's separation from Colombia.

1904: Theodore Roosevelt's Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine declares the U.S. to be the policeman of the Caribbean.

1904-14: Panama Canal built.

1909-33: U.S. Marines occupy Nicaragua, Haiti, and Dominican Republic.

1910-1920 Mexican Revolution

  • 1910: Francisco I. Madero issues "Plan of San Luis Potosí."
  • 1911: Porfirio Díaz leaves Mexico; Madero becomes president.
  • 1911: Emiliano Zapata issues the "Plan of Ayala" and calls for Land and Liberty.
  • 1913: A military coup led by Victoriano Huerta overthrows Madero, who is later murdered. Venustiano Carranza leads a rebellion against Huerta. After the victory, the Revolutionaries fight among themselves. The forces led by Carranza defeat Francisco (Pancho) Villa and Emiliano Zapata. Carranza becomes President and convokes a new Constitutional Convention.
  • 1914: US forces shell and then occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico.
  • 1916: Pancho Villa raids Columbus, New Mexico.
  • 1916-17: US Expeditionary Force under Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing unsuccessfully pursues Pancho Villa in northern Mexico.
  • 1917: Zimmermann Telegram revealed in which Germany offers to help Mexico recover territory lost to the US in exchange for support in the First World War.
  • 1917: A new Constitution is issued. Carranza becomes Constitutional President.
  • 1919: Zapata is assassinated.
  • 1920: Carranza is overthrown and dies in an ambush. New elections lead to the presidency of Álvaro Obregón.

1926-1929: Conflicts between the government and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church lead to the Cristero Rebellio, a widespread revolt in central and western Mexico.

1927: Augusto Cesár Sandino launches first Sandinista uprising in Nicaragua.

1928: José Carlos Mariátegui publishes Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality.

1929: Plutarco Calles establishes the National Revolutionary Party (later the PRI) which then rules Mexico as a one-party state for the next seventy years.

1929: Conservatives grant women the right to vote in Ecuador, the first country in Latin America to do so.

1932: A peasant uprising in El Salvador leads to the death of 30,000 Indians.

1932: Women gain the franchise in Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Uruguay.

1932-1935: Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay leads to costly defeat for Bolivia.

1933: FDR announces "Good Neighbor Policy."

1934: U.S. abrogates the Platt Amendment of 1901 which governed Cuba. Women gain the right to vote in Cuba.

1936-1979: Somoza era in Nicaragua.

1937-1945: Getulio Vargas era in Brazil.

1938: Lázaro Cárdenas nationalizes the oil industry in Mexico.

1939-1959: Fulgencio Batista era in Cuba.

1940: The First Inter-American Indigenist Congress held in Pátzcuaro, Mexico leads to the formation of the Instituto Indigenista Interamericana (III).

1942: Women gain the franchise in the Dominican Republic.

1944: Guatemalan revolution overthrows Jorge Ubico. Juan José Arévalo elected president.

1945: Women gain the franchise in Guatemala and Panama.

1946: Juan Domingo Perón elected president of Argentina.

1947: Women gain the franchise in Argentina and Venezuela.

1948: Organization of American States formed.

1948: Costa Rica abolishes army.

1949: Women gain the franchise in Chile and Costa Rica.

1950: Women gain the franchise in El Salvador.

1950: Jacobo Arbenz elected president in Guatemala. Pace of reforms accelerates, including expropriation of United Fruit Company banana lands.

1952: Puerto Rico becomes a U.S. Commonwealth.

1952: The National Revolutionary Movement (MNR) comes to power in Bolivia. Under the leadership of Víctor Paz Estenssoro, tin mines are nationalized and the next year an agrarian reform program is instituted. Women and illiterate peasants gain the right to vote.

1953: Fidel Castro launches a failed uprising at the Moncada Barracks in Santiago, Cuba. He defends his actions with a speech History Will Absolve Me.

1953: Women gain the franchise in Mexico.

1954: CIA overthrows constitutional government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala.

1954: General Stroessner comes to power in Paraguay.

1954: Women gain the franchise in Colombia.

1955: Women gain the franchise in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru.

1956: US-supported dictator Anastasio Somoza assassinated in Nicaragua.

1957-86: Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier rule Haiti as dictators, with US support.

1959: Triumph of Cuban Revolution.

  • 1960-: CIA plots to depose or assassinate Fidel Castro in what is eventually named "Operation Mongoose."
  • 1961: Eisenhower administration breaks diplomatic relations with Castro in Cuba.
  • 1961: Failed Bag of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
  • 1962: Missile Crisis with the US, Cuba, and the USSR.
  • 1970: Failed Ten Million Ton Harvest.

1961-69: Kennedy's Alliance for Progress tries to bring reform and development to Latin America.

1961: Paraguay becomes the last country in Latin America to grant women the right to vote.

1961: Nicaraguan guerrillas organize the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

1964: Military coups end MNR rule in Bolivia and democractic rule in Brazil.

1965: US forces, fearing a Communist takeover, occupy Dominican Republic.

1967: Guerrilla hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara is killed in Bolivia while attempting to spark a revolutionary uprising.

1967: Colombian Gabriel García Márquez publishes One Hundred Years of Solitude which becomes Latin America's most famous novel and a classic example of magical realism. Guatemalan Miguel Ángel Asturias awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.

1968: A large and important Student Movement ends with police and army massacring on students at the Plaza of Tlatelolco in Mexico City.

1968: Latin American bishops meeting in Medellín, Colombia, embrace liberation theology and announce a 'preferential option for the poor.'

1970: Salvador Allende in Chile elected president in Chile, and becomes the first democratically elected socialist to take power in Latin America.

1971: Chilean Pablo Neruda awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.

1973: CIA-backed coup overthrows Allende in Chile; military government under General Augusto Pinochet kills thousands of opponents.

1974-1976: Isabel Martínez de Perón assumes presidency of Argentina.

1975: Cuban government passes law making childcare and housework equal responsibility of men and women.

1976: On March 24, generals Videla, Massera and Agosti form a military junta in Argentina. Their resulting "guerra sucia" (Dirty War) lasted until 1983 and killed or "vanished" thousands of people.

1977-80: President Jimmy Carter makes human rights a major goal in his Latin American policy.

1979: Sandinistas take power in Nicaragua

1980: Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrilla warfare starts in Peru.

1980: Archbishop Oscar Romero assassinated in El Salvador for his stance against military repression and human rights abuses. Guerrillas organize the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

1982: British victory in the Malvinas/Falklands war leads to the collapse of the military government in Argentina and a return to civilian rule.

1982: Colombian Gabriel García Márquez awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.

1983: Assassination of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop of Grenada. Ronald Reagan orders U.S. forces to invade the small Caribbean island to halt Cuban work on an airstrip.

1984: Raul Alfonsín, of the Radical Party, assumes the presidency of Argentina ending nine years of military rule.

1986: Indigenous groups in Ecuador form CONAIE, a pan-Indian organization.

1987: Former Costa Rican president Oscar Arías is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in settling Central American conflicts.

1988: Pinochet loses plebiscite in Chile which was to extend his military rule.

1988: The PRI uses electoral fraud to prevent Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas of gaining the presidency in Mexico.

1989: General Stoessner ousted form power in Paraguay.

1989: George Bush orders invasion of Panama to capture one-time dictator Manuel Noriega.

1990: FSLN loses elections to Violeta Chamorro in Nicaragua and an elected civilian government takes over from Augusto Pinochet in Chile.

1992: Anti-quincentennial protests strengthen Indigenous-rights movement. Rigoberta Menchú, an Indian leader from Guatemala, wins Nobel Peace Prize for her human rights work.

1992: Peace agreement ends civil war in El Salvador.

1994: U.S., Mexico, and Canada form NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

1994: A rebellion breaks out in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico, led by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and commanded by a charismatic leader known as Subcomandante Marcos. (For more detailed information, see this Chronological history of the peace talks between the EZLN and the Mexican government, 1994-1998.)

1996: Peace agreement in Guatemala, but human rights violations continue.

1998: Augusto Pinochet, former dictator in Chile (1973-1990) is arrested in England on charges of human rights violations.

1999: Transfer of the Canal Zone from U.S. to Panamanian control.

Parts of this chronology are reprinted with permission from Dr. Richard W. Slatta's Ancient and Colonial Latin American and US-Latin American Relations courses.

Other sources

  • Bakewell, Peter. A History of Latin America: Empires and Sequels, 1450-1930. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.
  • Green, John Duncan. Faces of Latin America. 2d ed. London: Latin America Bureau, 1997.
  • Krauze, Enrique. Mexico: Biography of Power: A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
  • Navarro, Marysa, Virginia Sánchez Korrol, and Kecia Ali. Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: Restoring Women to History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
Other Chronologies

Latin American Resources

Please send any suggestions, comments, corrections, additions, etc. to Marc Becker at

Last updated: February 1999

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