The Spanish Florida (Spanish: La Florida) refers to the Spanish territory of Florida, which formed part of the Captaincy General of Cuba of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and the Spanish Empire during Spanish colonization of the Americas.
While it had no clearly defined boundaries, Spain's claim to this vast area was based on several wide-ranging expeditions mounted during the 16th century and the establishment of various outposts (presidios and missions). However, Spain never exercised real control over La Florida much beyond several settlements and forts which were predominantly located in the peninsula.
History of settlement
Beginning in the second half of the 16th century, the Kingdom of Spain established a number of missions throughout la Florida in order to convert the Indians to Christianity, to facilitate control of the area, and to prevent its colonization by other countries, in particular, England and France.
The missions north of Florida were divided into main four provinces where the bulk of missionary effort took place. These were Apalachee, Timucua, Mocama, and Guale. These provinces roughly corresponded to the areas where those dialects were spoken among the varying Native American peoples, thus, they reflected the territories of the people's. Missionary provinces were relatively fluid and evolved over the years according to demographic and political trends, and at various times smaller provinces were established, abandoned, or merged with larger ones. There were also attempts to establish missions elsewhere, particularly further south into Florida. Of these last ones only the provinces of Timucua, Calusa, Tequesta, Ais and Jeaga were established.
Spanish control of the Florida peninsula was helped made possible by the collapse of native cultures during the 17th century. Several Native American groups (including the Timucua, Calusa, Tequesta, Apalachee. Tocobaga, and the Ais people) had been long-established residents of Florida, and most resisted Spanish incursions into their territory. However, conflict with Spanish expeditions, raids by the English and their native allies, and (especially) diseases brought from Europe resulted in a drastic decline in the population of all of the indigenous peoples of Florida, and the peninsula was left largely uninhabited by the 1700s.