North America 1508: Colonization of Puerto Rico
In 1508 the Spanish explorer Ponce de León led an expedition from Santo Domingo to colonize the adjacent island of San Juan Bautista (Puerto Rico). Defeating indigenous resistance, the Spanish secured control over the island during the 1510s. Spain’s longest-lasting New World colony, Puerto Rico would remain under Spanish rule until the US occupied it in 1898.
Jul 1503 Jaragua massacre▲
In 1503 Nicolás de Ovando, the Spanish governor of Santo Domingo, advised Anacaona, Queen of Jaragua and widow of Taíno resistance leader Caonabó, that he would be visiting the town of Xaragua with his men to celebrate their good relations. During the celebrations, Spanish troops under Alonso de Ojeda suddenly seized the queen and burned or arrested her followers. Charged with conspiracy to rebel, Anacaona was hanged several months later.
1505? Discovery of Bermuda▲
The earliest depiction of the island of Bermuda was as “La Bermuda” in the map in Peter Martyr d’Anghiera’s Legatio Babylonica (1511). Close to the homeward course for Spanish ships returning from the New World, the island is generally held to have been discovered by Juan de Bermúdez in 1505, although his first confirmed presence on Bermuda was in 1515 and it is possible that the discovery was made on another of his many voyages to the New World.
25 Apr 1507 Waldseemüller map▲
In 1507 the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller published the Universalis Cosmographia, a printed world map notable as being the first known map to use the name “America” and among the first to show the New World as clearly separate from Asia. Waldseemüller named America after Amerigo Vespucci, who had sighted the continent on Ojeda’s first expedition (1499)—and publicized it as a “New World”—even though Columbus had sighted it before him (in 1498). On the map, it was South America that was labeled America; North America was labeled Parias (an indigenous name), as the connection between the two landmasses was still uncertain.
1508 Ocampo’s expedition▲
In early 1508 Sebastián de Ocampo, a veteran of Colmbus’s first expedition, sailed from Santo Domingo with two caravels to explore Cuba. Arriving off Cuba’s northern shore, he traveled around the western point, Cape San Antonio, and back again via the south coast in an eight-month voyage. Ocampo’s circumnavigation confirmed that Cuba was an island and not a peninsula.
1508–1509 Sebastian Cabot’s North-West expedition▲
In 1508–09, sponsored by the English king Henry VII, John Cabot’s son Sebastian led one of the first expeditions to find a North-West passage to Asia via North America. Sailing past New Found Land to reach seas which were icy even in mid-July and where daylight lasted almost twenty-four hours, Cabot was eventually obliged to tack west-by-south and follow the coast to where it bent at about the same latitude as Gibraltar (possibly Chesapeake Bay). He then returned to England, only to discover that Henry VII had recently died and that his successor, Henry VIII, was uninterested in exploration.
29 Jun 1508–? Aug 1509 Pinzón and Solís expedition▲
In 1508—incorrectly recorded in some sources as 1506—the seasoned explorers Vicente Yáñez Pinzón and Juan Díaz de Solís departed Spain in an attempt to follow up Columbus’ final voyage (1502–4) and find a passage through the New World to Asia. Traveling along the coasts of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Honduras, they may have reached as far as Yucatán but were unable to find a strait and returned home.
8 Aug 1508 Caparra settlement▲
In 1508 the veteran adventurer Juan Ponce de León sailed from eastern Santo Domingo with a party to explore and colonize the adjacent island of San Juan Bautista (Puerto Rico). Establishing friendly relations with local chief Agüeybaná, Ponce de León founded the small fortified base of Caparra—the first Spanish settlement in Puerto Rico—inland from San Juan Bay in August. After further exploring the island and discovering sources of gold, Ponce de León was appointed governor of San Juan Bautista in 1509.