Real Audiencia of Guatemala

The Real Audiencia of Santiago de Guatemala (Spanish: Audiencia y Cancillería Real de Santiago de Guatemala), simply known as the Audiencia of Guatemala or the Audiencia of Los Confines, was a superior court in area of the New World empire of Spain, known as the Kingdom of Guatemala. This area included the current territories of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Mexican state of Chiapas. The Audiencia's presiding officer, the president, was the head of the government of the area. The Audiencia was initially created by decrees of November 20, 1542 and September 13, 1543, and had its seat in Antigua Guatemala (Santiago de Guatemala).


The colonization of the area that became the future kingdom began in 1524. In the north, the brothers Gonzalo and Pedro de Alvarado, Hernán Cortés and others headed various expeditions into Guatemala and Honduras. In the south Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, acting under the auspices of Pedrarias Dávila in Panama, moved into what is today Nicaragua.

The capital of Guatemala moved several times in the first decade of its existence. In 1540 of the city of Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala was founded after Tecpán Guatemala was abandoned due to its vulnerability to attack. However, the second settlement was destroyed in 1542 by a flood, and the new capital of Antigua Guatemala, was founded to replace the old capital. Although the city of Antigua Guatemala became one of the richest of the New World capitals in the subsequent centuries, this city was in turn ordered abandoned in 1776, after a series of earthquakes destroyed it. The third capital was the modern-day Guatemala City.

In 1543 establishment of the Audiencia defined the territory of the kingdom, which included most of Central America. It was the first institution to define Central America (with the exception of Panama) as a region within the Spanish Empire.

Initial creation

An Audiencia of Los Confines of Guatemala and Nicaragua was created by a royal decree of November 20, 1542, which also established the Audiencia of Lima. The new audiencias divided the territory of the abolished Royal Audiencia of Panama. The governorates of Guatemala, Honduras, Chiapas and Nicaragua, which existed at the time of the decree, were abolished, but some were later restored and new ones created: Honduras in 1552, Soconusco in 1561, Nicaragua in 1565 and Costa Rica in 1574.

The September 13, 1543, decree ordered that the new Audiencia move to Valladolid de Comayagua and that the province of Yucatán be added to its district, but this was not accomplished until 1550.

The Audiencia provisionally moved to Gracias a Dios on May 16, 1544, until the royal decrees of October 25, 1548 and June 1, 1549, ordered its return to Santiago de Guatemala.

A royal decree of July 7, 1550, reiterated that Yucatán be separated from the Audiencia of Mexico and incorporated into the one of Guatemala. Finally a decree of January 20, 1553, transferred the province of Soconusco to the Guatemala Audiencia.

Move to Panama

On September 8, 1563, Philip II decreed that the Audiencia move to Panama, abolishing a separate audiencia for Guatemala. The borders of the new Panama Audiencia were in east, the coast from the Darién River to the Ulúa River; and in the west, the coast from Buenaventura to the Gulf of Fonseca. The rest of the territories of the former Audiencia of Guatemala were transferred to the Audiencia of Mexico.

Return to Guatemala

On January 15, 1568, a decree reestablished the Audiencia of Guatemala with the same jurisdiction as in 1563, but without Yucatán, which became a permanent territory of the Audiencia of Mexico until the beginning of the 19th century. A royal decree of January 25, 1569, transferred once again the governorate of Soconusco from the Audiencia of Mexico to the one of Guatemala.

Law VI (Audiencia y Chancillería Real de Santiago de Guatemala en la Nueva España) of Title XV (De las Audiencias y Chancillerias Reales de las Indias) of Book II of the Recopilación de Leyes de las Indias of 1680—which compiles the decrees of September 13, 1543; August 6, 1556; September 16, 1560; May 31 and June 18, 1568; November 10, 1593; and August 7, 1596—describes the borders, make up and functions of the Audiencia.[1]

In the City of Santiago de los Caballeros of the Province of Guatemala shall reside another Royal Audiencia and Chancery of ours, with a president, governor and captain general; five oidores, who shall also be judges of criminal cases [alcaldes del crimen]; a crown attorney [fiscal]; a bailiff [alguacil mayor]; a lieutenant of the Gran Chancellor; and the other necessary ministers and officials, and which shall have for district the said province of Guatemala; and those of Nicaragua, Chiapas, Higueras, Cabo de Honduras, Verapaz and Soconusco with the Islas de la Costa; bordering its district in the east with the Audiencia of Tierrafirme, in the west with the one of New Galicia, and in the north with it and the North Sea, and in the south with the South Sea. And we order that the governor and captain general of said provinces and the president of the Royal Audiencia of these, have, use and exercise by himself the government of that land and all its district, in the same manner as does our viceroy of New Spain and determine the repartimientos of Indians and appoint other offices, as said Royal Audiencia used to do, and that the oidores do not interfere with these matters, nor that said president interfere in matters of justice and that he sign with the oidores that which they sentence and decree.

Later developments

As part of the Bourbon Reforms in 1786 the crown established a series of intendancies in the area, which replaced most of the older corregimientos. The intendants were granted broad fiscal powers and were charged with promoting the local economy. The new intendancies were San Salvador (El Salvador), Ciudad Real (Chiapas), Comayagua (Honduras), and León (Nicaragua). The Audiencia president and governor-captain general of Guatemala became the superintendente general of the territory and functioned as de facto intendant of Guatemala proper. The agricultural, southern region of Costa Rica remained under a civil and military governor with fiscal oversight of only military expenses; the expenses of the civil government were handled by the intendant of León. These intendancies helped shape local political identity and provided the basis of the future nations of Central America.


  1. ^ Spain (1680). Recopilación de las Leyes de Indias. Titulo Quince. De las Audiencias y Chancillerias Reales de las Indias. Madrid. Spanish-language facsimile of the original.

See also

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala (Spanish pronunciation: [anˈtigua guateˈmala]), commonly referred to as just Antigua or la Antigua, is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala known for its preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Antigua Guatemala serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. It also serves as the departmental capital of Sacatepéquez Department.

Heredia, Costa Rica

Heredia (Spanish pronunciation: [eˈɾeðja]) is a city in the Heredia province of Costa Rica, of which it is the capital; it is 10 kilometers to the north of the country's capital, San José.

The city is home to one of the largest colleges in Costa Rica, the National University of Costa Rica, which accepts many international students.

List of governors in the Viceroyalty of New Spain

Governors in the various provinces of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

In addition to governors, the following list (under construction) intends to give an overview of colonial units of the provincial level; therefore it also includes some offices of similar rank, especially the intendant. Intendente is both a Spanish and Portuguese word, derived from the French Intendant. It was introduced to the Spanish Empire by the Bourbon Dynasty, which Spain shared with France after the early 18th century. This list also does not distinguish between Gobernaciones and Provincias, because they were essentially two grades of provinces.

List of places named after people

There are a number of places named after famous people. For more on the general etymology of place names see toponymy. For other lists of eponyms (names derived from people) see eponym.

List of predecessors of sovereign states in North America

This is a list of all present sovereign states in North America and their predecessors. The division between North and South America is unclear, generally viewed as lying somewhere in the Isthmus of Panama, however, the Caribbean Islands, Central America including the whole of Panama is considered to be part of North America as its southernmost nation. The continent was colonized by the Europeans: Mainly by the Spaniards, the French, the English and the Dutch. United States of America gained its independence in American Revolutionary War; Most of nations in Central America gained independence in the early 19th century; Canada and many other island countries in the Caribbean Sea (most of them were British colonies) gained their independence in 20th century. Today, North America consists of twenty-two sovereign states with common government system being some form of presidential republic.

Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast, also known as the Miskito Coast and the Miskito Kingdom, historically included the kingdom's fluctuating area along the eastern coast of present-day Nicaragua and Honduras. It formed part of the Western Caribbean Zone. It was named after the local Miskito Amerindians and was long dominated by British interests. The Mosquito Coast was incorporated into Nicaragua in 1894; however, in 1960, the northern part was granted to Honduras by the International Court of Justice.The Mosquito Coast was generally defined as the domain of the Mosquito or Miskito Kingdom and expanded or contracted with that domain. During the 19th century, the question of the kingdom's borders was a serious issue of international diplomacy between Britain, the United States, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Conflicting claims regarding both the kingdom's extent and arguable nonexistence were pursued in diplomatic exchanges. The British and Miskito definition applied to the whole eastern seaboard of Nicaragua and even to La Mosquitia in Honduras: i.e., the coast region as far west as the Río Negro or Tinto. The Mosquito Coast in the later part of the century came to be considered as the narrow strip of territory, fronting the Caribbean Sea and extending from about 11°45′ to 14°10′ N. It stretched inland for an average distance of 60 km (40 mi), and measured about 400 km (225 mi) from north to south. In the north, its boundary skirted the Wawa River; in the west, it corresponded with the eastern limit of the Nicaraguan highlands; in the south, it followed the Río Rama. The chief modern towns are Bluefields, the largest town and capital of Nicaragua's South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region; Magdala on Pearl Cay; Prinzapolka on the river of that name; Wounta near the mouth of the Kukalaya; and Karata near the mouth of the Coco River.

Real Audiencia of Manila

The Real Audiencia de Manila (English: Royal Audience of Manila) was the Real Audiencia of the Spanish East Indies, which included modern-day Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Micronesia and the Philippines. Similar to Real Audiencias throughout the Spanish Empire, it was the highest tribunal within the territories of the Captaincy General of the Philippines, a dependency of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

The Governor-General of the Philippines was appointed as its highest judge, although on many occasions his absence forced other members to rule the tribunal and assume temporary civilian and military powers.


Soconusco is a region in the southwest corner of the state of Chiapas in Mexico along its border with Guatemala. It is a narrow strip of land wedged between the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is the southernmost part of the Chiapas coast extending south from the Ulapa River to the Suchiate River, distinguished by its history and economic production. Abundant moisture and volcanic soil has always made it rich for agriculture, contributing to the flowering of the Mokaya and Olmec cultures, that were based on Theobroma cacao and rubber of Castilla elastica.

In the 19th century, the area was disputed between Mexico and Guatemala until a treaty signed in 1882 fixed the modern border, dividing the area's historical extension with most going to Mexico and a smaller portion east of the Suchiate to Guatemala. In 1890, Porfirio Díaz and Otto von Bismarck collaborated to take advantage of southern Mexico's agricultural potential by sending 450 German families to Soconusco near Tapachula in the southern state of Chiapas. Extensive coffee cultivation quickly made Soconusco one of the most successful German colonies, and between 1895 and 1900, 11.5 million kg of coffee had been harvested. Fincas (estates) were erected in the Chiapaneco jungle and given German names such as Hamburgo, Bremen, Lübeck, Agrovia, Bismarck, Prussia, and Hanover.

This area has experienced a boom-and-bust economy with well-studied migration patterns of agricultural workers. After exporting cacao to central Mexico for thousands of years, the first modern crop for export was coffee. Since then other crops such as tropical fruits, flowers and more have been introduced. The most recent addition is the rambutan, a southeast Asian fruit.

Spanish conquest of Chiapas

The Spanish conquest of Chiapas was the campaign undertaken by the Spanish conquistadores against the Late Postclassic Mesoamerican polities in the territory that is now incorporated into the modern Mexican state of Chiapas. The region is physically diverse, featuring a number of highland areas, including the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and the Montañas Centrales (Central Highlands), a southern littoral plain known as Soconusco and a central depression formed by the drainage of the Grijalva River.

Before the Spanish conquest, Chiapas was inhabited by a variety of indigenous peoples, including the Zoques, various Maya peoples, such as the Lakandon Chʼol and the Tzotzil, and an unidentified group referred to as the Chiapanecas. Soconusco had been incorporated into the Aztec Empire, centred in Valley of Mexico, and paid the Aztecs tribute. News of strangers first arrived in the region as the Spanish penetrated and overthrew the Aztec Empire. In the early 1520s, several Spanish expeditions crossed Chiapas by land, and Spanish ships scouted the Pacific coast. The first highland colonial town in Chiapas, San Cristóbal de los Llanos, was established by Pedro de Portocarrero in 1527. Within a year, Spanish dominion extended over the upper drainage basin of the Grijalva River, Comitán, and the Ocosingo valley. Encomienda rights were established, although in the earlier stages of conquest these amounted to little more than slave-raiding rights.

The colonial province of Chiapa was established by Diego Mazariegos in 1528, with the reorganisation of existing encomiendas and colonial jurisdictions, and the renaming of San Cristóbal as Villa Real, and its relocation to Jovel. Excessive Spanish demands for tribute and labour caused a rebellion by the indigenous inhabitants, who attempted to starve out the Spanish. The conquistadores launched punitive raids, but the natives abandoned their towns and fled to inaccessible regions. Internal divisions among the Spanish led to a general instability in the province; eventually the Mazariegos faction gained concessions from the Spanish Crown that allowed for the elevation of Villa Real to the status of city, as Ciudad Real, and the establishment of new laws that promoted stability in the newly conquered region.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.