New Spain, officially the Viceroyalty of New Spain (Spanish: Virreinato de la Nueva España Spanish pronunciation: [birejˈnato ðe ˈnweβa esˈpaɲa] (listen)), or Kingdom of New Spain, was an integral territorial entity of the Spanish Empire, established by Habsburg Spain during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. It covered a huge area that included what are now Mexico, much of the American Southwest and California in North America, Central America, northern parts of South America, and several Pacific Ocean archipelagos, namely the Philippines and Guam.
It is considered to have started in 1521 after the fall of Tenochtitlan, the main event of the Spanish conquest. It was officially created on 18 August 1521 as the Kingdom of New Spain (Spanish: reino).
It later became the first of four viceroyalties Spain created in the Americas. Its first viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco and the capital, both of the kingdom and of the later viceroyalty, was Mexico City. This was developed at and over the ancient city of Mēxíhco-Tenōchtítlān following its conquest by Spain.
Other kingdoms/viceroyalties of the Spanish Empire bordered New Spain; they were given the right of appeal to the most senior representative of the king. New Spain proper was organized into captaincy generals. These independent kingdoms and territorial subdivisions each had its own governor and captain general (who in New Spain was the viceroy, who added this title to his other dignities). In Guatemala, Santo Domingo, and Nueva Galicia, these officials were called presiding governors, since they were leading royal audiences. For this reason, these hearings were considered "praetorial".
There were two great Spanish estates in North America. The most important was the Marquessate of the Valley of Oaxaca, property of Hernán Cortés and his descendants. This included a set of vast territories where marquises had civil and criminal jurisdiction, and the right to grant land, water and forests and within which were their main possessions (cattle ranches, agricultural work, sugar mills, fulling houses and shipyards). The other estate was the Duchy of Atlixco, granted in 1708, by King Philip V to José Sarmiento de Valladares, former viceroy of New Spain. He was married to the Countess of Moctezuma, and had civil and criminal jurisdiction over Atlixco, Tepeaca, Guachinango, Ixtepeji and Tula de Allende.
Another important Marquisate was very distant from New Spain (or Mexico). This was the Marquisate of Buglas in Negros Island at the Philippines. This was awarded to the descendants of Sebastian Elcano and his crew, who were the first to circumnavigate the world. They finished what Magalhaes (Magellan) had endeavoured to do.
In 1786 King Charles III introduced reforms in the organization of the viceroyalty, known as Bourbon reforms. These created the intendencias, which somewhat limited the powers of the viceroy in each area.
New Spain developed highly regional divisions, based on the effects of climate, topography, indigenous populations, and mineral resources. Central and southern Mexico had dense indigenous populations, each with complex social, political, and economic organization. By contrast, the northern area of Mexico was arid and mountainous, a region of nomadic and semi-nomadic indigenous populations. It did not easily support dense settlements. But, in the 1540s, the discovery of silver in Zacatecas attracted miners and other workers, and officials, to exploit the mines. Silver mining became integral to the wealth of New Spain; it also vastly enriched Spain and transformed the global economy. New Spain became the New World terminus of the Philippine trade. The territory became a vital link between Spain's New World empire and its East Indies empire.
From the beginning of the 19th century, the kingdom fell into crisis, aggravated by the Peninsular War, and its direct consequence in the kingdom, the political crisis in Mexico in 1808, which ended with the government of Viceroy José de Iturrigaray and, later, gave rise to the Conspiracy of Valladolid and the Conspiracy of Querétaro. This last one was the direct antecedent of the Mexican War of Independence, which, when concluding in 1821, disintegrated the viceroyalty and gave way to the Mexican Empire, in which finally Agustín de Iturbide would be crowned.