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New Spain (Spanish: Nueva España) was the Spanish colony that came into existence following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire (1521). It was administered as a viceroyalty (Spanish: virreinato), and comprised Mexico, Central America, Spain's Caribbean colonies, parts of the Gulf Coast of North America (primarily La Florida), Texas, New Mexico, the Californias and the Philippines.

The viceroyalty existed until independence was won by Mexico in 1821. The monarch of New Spain was also the King of Castile, and his highest appointed minister who was resident in Mexico was the Viceroy, who lived in Mexico City.

In 1521, Hernán Cortés named the territory he conquered from the Aztecs "New Spain" (Nueva España). The Viceroyalty of New Spain was founded 14 years later (1535) with the appointment of the first viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza. The extent of the territory overseen by the viceroy was the northern half of the (global) Spanish Empire in the Western Hemisphere, plus the Philippine Islands. The Viceroyalty of New Spain maintained its territorial integrity until 1821, 300 years after the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1521. It developed highly regional divisions, which reflect the impact of climate, topography, the presence or absence of dense indigenous populations, and the presence or absence of mineral resources. The areas of central and southern Mexico had dense indigenous populations with complex social, political and economic organization. The northern area of Mexico, a region of nomadic and semi-nomadic indigenous populations, was not generally conducive to dense settlements, but the discovery of silver in Zacatecas in the 1540s drew settlement there to exploit the mines. Silver mining became the motor of not only the economy of New Spain, but vastly enriched Spain, and transformed the global economy. New Spain was the New World terminus of the Philippine trade, making the viceroyalty a vital link between Spain's New World empire and its Asian empire.


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