Of the Spanish viceroyalties established in the New World, New Spain and Peru, founded in 1535 and 1543, respectively, were the longest lasting. The term “viceroyalty” designates an area ruled by a viceroy, who acts on behalf of the king in matters of government. Columbus, for instance, was the first viceroy of the Indies, but that position’s power was sapped by the Council of the Indies. New Spain’s viceroy also answered to the Council, and two viceroyalties were carved out during the eighteenth century New Granada and La Plata.
The area known as New Spain the modern nation of Mexico, a huge chunk of Central America, Spanish possessions in the Caribbean, and a large swath of the American Southwest and Florida was home to hundreds of distinct Native American societies. These ranged from autonomous villages and chiefdoms to the massive state of Mexico centered at Tenochtitlán in Mexico’s central valley.