Pre-Columbian History to the first landing of Columbus in Central America

15,000 BCE

Arrival of the earliest human inhabitants to South America.

1,800 BCE

Sedentary villages are prevalent, and pottery appears, in Mesoamerica.

378 CE

In what is now Guatemala’s Petén, the ninth ruler of the Maya city of Tikal dies.

738 CE

In what is now Honduras, the king of the Maya city of Copán dies.

October 12, 1492 CE

Christopher Columbus lands at an island the natives called Guanahani, which is either San Salvador Island, Samana Cays, or Plana Cays west of The Bahamas.

1492 –

The encomienda system imposed by Columbus and other Spanish conquistadors and settlers involved granting land and an allotment of 40-200 Indians to sailors, soldiers, and other settlers.  The encomienda combined, in a single institution, the conversion of the natives to Christianity, the transfer of land ownership from the natives to the Spanish, and the forced labor of Indians and later African slaves in an array of economic activities, chief among them agricultural plantations and mines.

(Bakewell, 2012; Las Casas, 1542; Gilder-Lehrman, 2016; Ward, 2006; Fuentes, 1992; De Landa 1566). 


Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand remove Columbus from power as the Viceroy and Governor of the Indies after receiving accusations of his tyranny, incompetence, brutality, torture and mutilation against the natives and Spanish settlers, replacing him with Francisco de Bobadilla.


Among the atrocities attributed to Columbus in a 48-page report by Bobadilla to the Crown, Columbus put down native unrest and revolt by ordering a crackdown in which many natives were killed, and their dismembered bodies paraded through the streets in an attempt to discourage further rebellion.

1492 – 1562

Military and economic violence, all justified in the name of religion, and European diseases, decimate the Indian population of the Americas.  As just one example, the Taino Indians of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic), went from a high estimate of 8 million in 1492, to 20 thousand in 1514, to 200 in 1542, to 0 in 1562. (Abbott, 2008, pp. 28-29).  Near the end of his career, Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas estimates that more than 20 million natives of “the Indies” had been destroyed by the conquest over several decades.  The Spanish conquest of the Americas is seen by many historians and indigenists as a genocide – the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.

30 July – 16 October 1502

During his 4th voyage to the Americas, Columbus sails to Central America, arriving at Guanaja (Isla de Pinos) in the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras on July 30.  On August 14 he lands on the continental mainland at Puerto Castilla, near Trujillo, Honduras.  He spends two months exploring the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, before arriving at Almirante Bay in Panama on October 16.