Anusha Ghaffar: Ida España 2022

Ida: Spain Imperialism by Anusha Ghaffar

Photo By Aliza Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

Anusha Ghaffar is a senior at Florida International University, pursuing her degree in Nutritional Sciences. She is a first generation student and her future goal is to be on Optometrist, and she will be attending Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry starting fall of 2022. Anusha is in the Honors College, participating in the Spain study abroad program, as she loves to travel and broaden her mindset about the world. She is excited about the various things she will learn in this course, especially about the culture and history in Spain and how they influence one another around the world. 


Spain’s overseas territories (1516-1714) (C.C 4.0) (1)

Since Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, Spain had been a leading European country in the 15th and 16th century to occupy and control lands in the name of prosperity, wealth, and world domination (Simpson, Victoria). Spain had held colonies in multiple continents including Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Their underlying goal was to spread the one true religion, which was Christianity, and this started from the fall of Granada.

Christopher Columbus wishing farewell to to Queen Isabella I before leaving to the new world. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-pga-02392) (C.C 4.0) (2)

The phrase “the empire in which the sun never sets” is widely known to be a saying for the British empire, but before the British became so powerful, that phrase was used on the Spanish empire, as it held 35 colonies in many points throughout its history (Simpson, Victoria).

The impact Spain imperialism has until this day is still widely prevalent, as our very own class proves it to this day. Majority of the class is from the Hispanic origin, most being Cuban and some being for Peru. From their mother tongue spoken as Spanish to a Spanish last name, it all goes back to Spain. This makes brings to question what is true to specific countries identities, as everything in Cuba can originate back to Spain. From the croquets to empanadas, nothing is original, rather changed subtly to match the style of the country’s identity. The real question is, which country’s Croquet’s are better, the original Spain ones or the Cuban ones, which are now available in Miami probably with their own twist and culture.

Fall of Granada

Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, La Rendición de Granada (oil on canvas, 1882).
Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, La Rendición de Granada (oil on canvas, 1882). (3) (C.C 4.0)

The battle of Granada was a key feature in the commencement of Spanish imperialism. This battle led to the end of Moorish rule in Spain, which concluded the Reconquista which was a campaign from the Christians states to expel the Moors. On January 2, 1492, the city of Granada was given to Castile and Aragon forces from Sultan Boabdil who surrendered (“Fall of Granada”). This left Muslims with the loss of the Alhambra Palace, which is a big cost for the Islamic world. The coexisting society of Muslims, Jews and Christians came to an end, resulting in Spanish, and Portuguese forces to seize land overseas to make their own. This was derived by Christopher Columbus and backed by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand who pushed the agenda of Spanish superiority to the new world (“Fall of Granada”).  

Paella Image by Sally Vargas (7) (C.C 4.0)

The end of the Moorish empire did not end the influence it had on Spain. The influence impacted Spain cuisine, causing the integration of new foods mashed with the Arab region foods, adapting new cooking techniques. Paella is an example of modern Spanish cuisine with Moorish inspiration within it. Spain’s past is depicted with this dish as the mixing of both produces and cooking techniques from both cultures are prevalent. It contains rice, meats, vegetables, and spices and contain chicken, rabbit, and seafood. Since Spain is on the Iberian Peninsula, seafood is a staple to represent the mash of the cultures (Leigh Ann Copeland).

Columbus Sails

Although Granada uses January 2nd as a day to celebrate, it is a day of mourning within the Muslim world. Columbus referred to himself as the fall of Granada, as at that point of history the Spanish were convinced it was their duty to convert everyone to “true religion” which they believed was Catholicism (“Fall of Granada”).  Using the spiritual excuse, they acquired a variety of goods to make their country riches, such as metals from South America. They had attacked the Americas with a bible in one hand and a sword in another, claiming to acquire all this wealth with the mentality that God wants the place to be saved, with no regard for the blood in their hands. It is simply justified that the Natives needed to be saved, hence driving them forth to invade their lands and strip them of their culture, and using force to keep pushing them off. The Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas were just a few native groups that were victims to this. These civilizations stretched from Mexico down to the tip of south America, and the Spanish had not only stripped them of their language and culture, but also their dignity as they raped and stole from them.


During Christopher Columbus’ voyage in exploring the Bahamas, he landed near Cape Canaveral and named it “La Florida” under Spain. He explored the Florida peninsula going from Biscayne Bay, then returned to Puerto Rico. Biscayne Bay was occupied by the Tequesta tribe, later in 1528 Tampa Bay was discovered by Pánfilo de Narváez and went North from there. In 1564, Protestants established a colony along the St. Johns River which is now Jacksonville. St. Augustine was founded by kicking the French out of the area and making it a Spanish colony. Throughout Florida, there were a diverse number of Native Americans groups, and there were different missions set up to convert the Native Americans to Catholicism which was a key reason for Spain imperialism to begin with (“The Spanish Colonization of Florida”).

 Spanish influence is highly prevalent today, as even in Miami it seems that English is a second language after Spanish. Miami is filled with a variety of hispanics. St. Augustine is an example of a Spanish colony, as its city’s grand plaza, its narrow cobblestone streets, and Castillo de San Marcos are all a reflection of a Spanish town. The Coquina Forest was built by the Spanish in 1672 to protect its treasures from the pirates of England.

Downtown Miami, resembles Spain architecture and patios Photo by: Anusha Ghaffar (C.C 4.0)

Just traveling through Florida, it is quickly noticed how the buildings and homes have a certain style with their tile’s roofs, courtyards and arches which all reflect Spanish architecture. The selection of Spanish restaurants is endless, in which they provide foods from yellow rice to guava pastries, and chicken. Juan Ponce de Leon would never have imagined how his claim brought back food, architecture, art, clothing, language, and music from his home.

Spanish claim of Florida came to an end in 1763, when Spain traded Florida for little Havana with the British, but it was given back in 1784. In 1818, Andrew Jackson had led the US army to begin the First Seminole war, and Spanish soldiers could not defend the border. This led to Spain agreeing to give Florida with the exchange of the US paying Spanish debt. After 300 years of Spanish rule, Florida became a part of the United States in 1821 (“The Spanish Colonization of Florida”). Although Spain does not occupy Florida anymore, its influence is highly noticeable to this day.


Alta California Missions (C.C 4.0) (4)

California, Florida, and New England were prominent states occupied by Spain before the British came. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first Spaniard to arrive in 1542 and named the place Alta California. It took 200 years to have a permeant European settlement when a Presidio, a fortified base to gain control, was built. This did not last long as Mexico gained its independence shortly, and California became a Mexican province. As Spanish settlers arrived, there was an exchange of many microbes and germs as a result. The natives got infected with smallpox, influenza, dysentery, malaria, measles, and syphilis. These diseases had a significant toll on the Native Americans, as their population went down by for than two-thirds. This caused a weaker group, leading to disrupted families, communities, trade, and as a result weakened their resistance to Spain occupation. Together the Spanish and natives had a dynamic mixed with violence, unfamiliarity, and fragility (“1768-1820s: Exploration and Colonial California”).

The uneasiness of the relationship was due to how Spaniards had advanced weaponry and manufactured goods, while the natives had knowledge of the land. Many natives also joined Spanish missions, but then they were not allowed to leave. This led to breakouts of violence, and uprisings in the area.  In 1821, Mexico had gained independence from Spain, and Alta California became a province in Mexico. In 1846 the bear flag rebellion began, which was the first aggression that attempted to separate California from Mexico. As gold was discovered, this changed the course of events and led miners to the state. The riches brought a vast number of immigrants to the area, leading to California becoming its own state in 1850 (“Introduction–Early History”).


Mexico is a country in North America that had a wide variety of influence from Spanish imperialism. It is now a country with its own culture, music, and foods. Mexico used to be occupied with Indigenous groups, majority being Mayans, Aztecs, and Toltecs before Columbus’ discovery. In 1521, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec empire and made Mexico Spain’s territory. Spain had their claim on Mexico until the Mexican war of independence in 1821, where the Mexicans had won.

Although the influence of the indigenous tribes exists today to an extent, Spanish is the first language of Mexico and majority of the people practice Catholicism brought from Europe. Spanish architecture is still seen in Mexico to this day, just like it is in Florida and California. Although Spanish culture overpowers the Aztecs and Mayan culture, they are still intertwined today. Spain introduced the Aztec empire to domestic animals, farming practices from Europe, sugar, grains, and ended the Aztec practice of human sacrifice.

The enlightenment was occurring in Spain, which was an intellectual movement in the 1800s and 1900s where a variety of books, essays, inventions, science, revolutions were occurring that influenced the west and developed into art, politics, and philosophy. Spain brought these ideas to Mexico and spread an abundance of knowledge, specifically on mining and agriculture (Simpson, Victoria).


Cuba is a country that has warped Spanish culture into its own after being colonized by Spain in 1511. Through Spain’s occupation in Cuba, Cuba was becoming the world’s largest sugar producer. Spain had been importing African slaves, and by 1840 there were about half a million slaves in Cuba, making about 60% of its population black. The Cubans were not happy with the Spanish rule and had started the 10 Year War with Spain to overthrow their power. In 1878, they had finally earned their independence but had a long way to recover from the civilization they had attained due to Spain. They followed the Cortes, which is the Spanish parliament. Six years after their independence, slavery was also ended there, creating a more equal rights structure compared to America (“Cuba in 1898”).

ten years' war Cuba
10 year war for Cuba’s independence from Spain (C.C 4.0) (5)

The Spanish American War

Did Yellow Journalism Fuel the Outbreak of the Spanish-American War? -  HISTORY
Yellow Journalism in the U.S., Library of Congress (C.C 4.0) (6)

The Spanish American war took place in 1898 which ended Spanish colonial rule, getting the U.S to acquire many different territories. This war began due to the Cuban struggling to gain independence from Spain. Yellow Journalism, which is a term used as fake news, was used to gain sympathy for the Cubans from the U.S., and U.S. citizens pushed for an intervention. The war commenced from the push of the U.S. battleship USS Maine sinking. The Spanish were not prepared for this war, and it was one sided from the U.S. After a series of wars, the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1898, and Spain backed off from their claims in Cuba, and ceded Guam and Puerto Rico. They also gave the Philippines for $20 million. This war and how they gained land helped the U.S. become a superpower of the world. It also resulted in Spain turning their attention away from their colonies overseas and focusing on its own country’s needs. This led them to develop economically, culturally, and with their literacy (“Spanish-American War.”)

Long Lasting Effects

Spain is a prevalent part of the America’s history, to the point where their language is spoken in various countries today as their official language. It all started with their goal to spread their true religion of Christianity. This led to them kicking the Moors out of Spain, while taking their culture with them. The surrender of Granada was the tip of what led to the exploration of Americas by Christopher Columbus. That led to various countries and places being imperialized by Spain, including Florida, California, Mexico, Cuba, and many more. The fall of Spain imperialism was when they lost the Spanish-American war, losing their last colonies, and pushing the U.S. to a world power. The influence it has left in these countries are still prevalent in this day. Columbus would never have imagined how his exploration brought forth food, architecture, art, clothing, language, and music from his home.


“1768-1820s: Exploration and Colonial California.” Calisphere,

“Cuba in 1898.” Cuba in 1898 – The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War (Hispanic Division, Library of Congress),

“Fall of Granada.” Visit the Main Page,

“Introduction–Early History of the California Coast–a National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior,,first%20Europeans%20to%20visit%20California.

Leigh Ann Copeland. “Spanish.” Can I Have Some Moor? A Look at Moorish Influence on Spanish Cuisine – Global Foodways, 10 Dec. 2017,,of%20Spain%20and%20the%20Moors.

Simpson, Victoria. “Former Spanish Colonies of the World.” WorldAtlas, WorldAtlas, 29 Aug. 2020,

“The Spanish Colonization of Florida.” HistoryMiami Museum,

“Spanish-American War.”, A&E Television Networks, 14 May 2010,

Picture References:


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