Time Line of US-Latin American Relations
for HI 453/553 Students of Professor Richard W. Slatta
If you read about important events that should be added, please tell the instructor.
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Nineteenth-Century: Unilaterialism, Interventionism, & Expansion
1795 * Treaty of San Lorenzo (Pinckney Treaty) established borders with Spanish Florida and insures US right of deposit in New Orleans
1803 * Louisiana Purchase from France opens new vast western lands to US expansion and opens likelihood of conflict with Russia, Spain (later Mexico) and Great Britain
1806 * US General James Wilkinson orders an expedition led by Capt. Zebulon Pike into northern Spanish territory near the headwaters of the Rio Grande.
1806-10 * US gunboats based in New Orleans operate against Spanish and French privateers in the Gulf of Mexico
1810 * US forces from Louisiana occupy disputed Spanish territory in West Florida
1812-13 * US forces occupy various part of Spanish Florida
1814 * General Andrew Jackson drives British forces out of Spanish Florida and occupies Pensacola
1814-25 * Repeated engagements by US ships against pirates throughout the Caribbean
1819-22 * US pushes Spain to relinquish its claim to Florida, which becomes a territory of the US through the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. For more see the timelines of British-Spanish conflict in Florida
1823 * Monroe Doctrine warns against recolonization of newly independent Latin American republics
1822-25 * US forces land several times on Cuba (Spanish territory) to attack pirate bases
1833 * US forces land on the Falklands (aka Malvinas, claimed by Argentina and Great Britain) Islands to protect US interests & property
1835-36 * US forces land in Peru during a "revolution" to safeguard US interests
in Callao and Lima
1835-45 * Anglo-American settlers in Texas revolt against Mexico, establish an independent nation, and finally join the United States.
1840s * Rise of Manifest Destiny, the belief by many Americans that westward and outward expansionism represented God's plan for the nation.
1846 * Bidlack-Mallarino Treaty with Colombia (New Grenada) creates US protectorate over the possible site of an interoceanic canal
1846-48 * War with Mexico results in further westward expansion of US territory
1848 * Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo cedes northern half of Mexico to the US
1850 * Clayton-Bulwer Treaty Great Britain and the US agree to maintain as neutral any Central American canal
1852-53 * Marines landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to protect US interests during political unrest (overthrow of Rosas by Urquiza).
1853 * US forces landed in Nicaragua for a few days in March during political unrest.
1853 * With the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico, US acquires route for a railroad through southern Arizona and New Mexico.
1854 * US naval forces bombard a Nicaraguan city to avenge insults to US minister to that country.
1854 * Ostend Manifesto urges that the US acquire Cuba from Spain, by force in necessary.
1855-70s * US forces land, in some cases repeatedly over the years, in Uruguay, Panama, Nicaragua, and Mexico.
1855 * U.S. filibuster William Walker and his mercenaries invade and occupy Nicaragua. Walker declares himself president, rules for 2 years * US forces sent to Uruguay to protect American lives and property
1857 * Tired of Walker's disruption of his business interests, US entrepreneur Cornelius Vanderbilt funds the war against Walker, and hires American mercenary Sylvanus M. Spencer to lead Costa Rican forces.
1860 * British forces capture Walker and turn him over to Honduras. He is shot by a Honduran firing squad on September 12.
1865 * US mobilizes troops along the Mexican border as a threat to the French occupying army of Louis Napoleon, whose troops arrived there in 1862.
1889 * First Inter-American Conference held in Washington, DC
1895 * US forces Great Britain into arbitration in its boundary dispute with Venezuela, asserting US dominance in the Western Hemisphere. * In one of its first acts of "gunboat diplomacy," the US sends the USS Wachusett to Guatemala to defend North American lives and property.
1898 * Spanish-American War / US intervention in Cuba US takes control of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
Twentieth Century: Investment & Intervention
[with an "good neighbor" interlude]
1980s-1920s * Repeated short-term military interventions throughout Central America and the Caribbean Basin
1901 * Hay Pauncefote Treaty in which Great Britain cedes canal-building in Central America to the US.
1901* Platt Amendment to Cuba's new constitution gives the U.S. the unilateral right to intervene in the island's political affairs.
1901-11/1903 * Repeated interventions in Colombia's Panama provice, capped by Theodore Roosevelt intervenes to assist Panamanian independence from Colombia. The resulting Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty makes the US sovereign "in perpetuity" in the ten-mile wide Panama Canal Zone.
12/1904 * (Theodore) Roosevelt's Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine declares the U.S. to be the policeman of the Caribbean. US forces place the Dominican Republic under a customs receivership.
1905 * US Marines land in Honduras.
1906-09 * Under the Platt Amendment, US forces occupy Cuba and direct its political and economic development.
1909-12 * William Howard Taft promotes "Dollar Diplomacy," based on the erroneous belief that increased US investment will bring stability and economic prosperity to Latin America.
1912 * United Fruit Company begins operations in Honduras and later becomes a major force throughout Central America.
1912-25 * US Marines intervene in Nicaragua.
1914 * Panama Canal opens.
1914 * US forces shell and then occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico.
1915-34 * US Marines stationed in Haiti.
1916 * Pancho Villa raids Columbus, New Mexico.
1916-17 * US Expeditionary Force under Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing unsuccessfully pursues Pancho Villa in northern Mexico.
1916-24 * US Marines occupy the Dominican Republic.
1917 * Zimmermann Telegram revealed in which Germany offers to help Mexico recover territory lost to the US in exchange for support in the First World War.
1917-22 * US troops in Cuba
1918 * US army lands in Panama to protect United Fruit plantations.
1920-21 * US troops support a coup in Guatemala.
1923 * Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes renounces the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. US begins moving away from interventionism.
1926-33 * US Marines occupy Nicaragua and fight against the nationalistic forces led by Augusto Cesar Sandino.
1933 * FDR announces "Good Neighbor Policy".
1933 * US offers to intervene in El Salvador to put down a peasant rebellion. The Salvadoran military dictator refuses, then murders thousands of peasants.
1934 * US abrogates the Platt Amendment of 1901.
1936-79 * US supports three different Somozas as dictators of Nicaragua.
1938 * Lazaro Cardenas nationalizes Mexican oil industry, including many US holdings.
1945-89 * Cold War ideology drives US Latin American policy.
1947 * Rio Pact signed, providing for mutual defense against Communism.
1948 * Organization of American States formed
1954 * CIA overthrows constitutional government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala.
1956 * US-supported dictator Anastasio Somoza assassinated in Nicaragua.
1957-86 * Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier rule Haiti as dictators, with US support.
5/1958 * Vice President Richard Nixon meets strong anti-American sentiment on his "good will" tour of Latin America.
1/1959 * Dictator Fulgencio Batista, supported by the US until 1958, flees Castro's revolution in Cuba.
11/1957 * US high school students in the Panama Canal Zone burn a Panamanian flag, sparking riots that kill and injure more than 100 people.
1960- * CIA plots to depose or assassinate Fidel Castro in what is eventually named "Operation Mongoose."
1/1961 * Eisenhower administration breaks diplomatic relations with Castro in Cuba.
4/1961 * Failed Bag of Pigs invasion of Cuba
1961 * US-supported dictator Rafael Trujillo assassinated in the Dominican Republic.
1961-69 *Kennedy's Alliance for Progress tries to bring reform and development to Latin America.
10/1962 * Missile Crisis with Cuba and USSR
1964 * Brazilian President Joao Goulart overthrown by the military, with covert US support.
1965 * US forces, fearing a Communist takeover, occupy Dominican Republic.
1969 * Rich Slatta makes his first trip to Latin America, to Peace Corps training in Puerto Rico and service outside Panama City, Panama.
1970-73 * US and multinational corporations work covertly to overthrew socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile. He dies in the September 1973 military coup.
1977 * US and Panama sign a new treaty providing for Panamanian control of the canal in 1999.
1977-80 * President Jimmy Carter makes human rights a major goal in his Latin American policy.
1980 * Mariel boatlift brings 125,000 Cubans to the US.
1981-86 * Reagan administration officials secretly direct counter-revolutionary (contra) forces against the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. More than a dozen Reagan administrator officials are convicted of a variety of crimes in the "Iran-Contra Scandal."
1981-88 * Reagan administration strongly supports the Salvadoran military in their fight against the FMLN guerrillas.
4/1982 * Argentina invades the Falklands/Malvinas Islands, held since 1833 by Great Britain. Reagan administration officials debate for two weeks before siding with Great Britain.
1983 * Reagan orders US forces to invade the island of Grenada to halt Cuban work on an airstrip.
12/1986 * Congress begins investigations of the Iran-Contra scandal
1989- * End of the Cold War diminishes Latin America's significance in US foreign policy.
12/1989 * George Bush orders "Operation Just Cause," the invasion of Panama to capture CIA collaborator and dictator Manuel Noriega.
1991 * Collapse of the Soviet Union creates problems in Cuba and introduces a "Special Period."
1992 * NAFTA North American Free Trade Agreement * 500th anniversary of Columbus's Caribbean landing gives rise to widespread meetings and protests against imperialism, rejuvenation of indigenous rights movements. Guatemalan Rigoberto Menchu Tum wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
1993 * US, Mexico, and Canada form NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
1994 * Threatened invasion of Haiti by US troops
12/1994 * Summit of the Americas meeting in Miami
1996 * Helms-Burton Law increases economic boycott of Castro's Cuba.
10/1997 * Bill Clinton visits several South American countries and speaks of extending free trade to more of the region.
11/1997 * Clinton seeks "fast track" authority in negotiating foreign trade. Congressional Democrats resist; Republicans generally support.
1990s * High levels of drug trafficking, massive foreign debt, economic dependency, rain forest and coral reef destruction, illegal immigration to the US, and other problems continue to face the US and Latin America.
1999 * Five Cuban spies arrested and jailed in the US. Cuba insists they were fighting US-condoned terrorist attacks by Cuban exiles.
8/1999 Venezuela elects a constitutional assembly that challenges the power of the legislature and creates a political crisis.
12/1999 * Panama begins sole operation of the Panama Canal.
New Millennium, Old Policies
2001-08 * Continued US policy drift in Latin America, economic collapse in Argentina, serious economic problems in Brazil and Uruguay. Largely fruitless debates over US immigration policies. Widespread anti-Bush sentiment tarnishes US image throughout the region. Latin Americans elect mostly leftist presidents during the coming decade (about 12 out of 14).
2001 * US begins Plan Colombia, a controversial multi-million dollar program to fight Colombian guerrillas and drug traffickers.
2000-2012 * Mostly leftist, anti-American Presidents elected in the region
2003 * Free trade agreement signed between the US and Chile.
2002 * Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva, leftist labor leader, is elected President of Brazil (reelected in 2006)
2003 * Nestor Kirchner (leftist) elected President of Argentina
2004 * Tabaré Vázquez (leftist) elected President of Uruguay at the head of a "Broad Front" ticket. He opened investigations into human rights abuses by the country's military.
2006 * Alvaro Uribe reelected as President of Colombia, the only conservative and US ally to be elected in recent years
2006 * Evo Morales (leftist) elected as Bolivia's first indigenous President
2006 * Ex-Sandinista Daniel Ortega (leftist) elected President of Nicaragua
2006 * Michelle Bachelet (leftist), the second successive socialist candidate in Chile, becomes the first elected female President in South America
2006 * Alan García (leftist) elected President of Peru
2006 * Rafael Correa (leftist) elected President of Ecuador
2006 * Manuel Zelaya sworn in as President of Honduras; pursues leftist policies
2007 * US signs CAFTA, Central American Free Trade Agreement.
2007 * Christina Fernandez de Kirchner (leftist), wife of an ex-president, elected as Argentina's President
2008 * Fernando Lugo Mendez, leftist ex-bishop, elected President of Paraguay. In 2009, three women filed paternity suites against him, alleging sexual relations while he served as bishop.
2008 * Fidel Castro resigns as President of Cuba after 49 years. Brother Raul replaces him
2009 * Obama administration signals important changes in US Latin American policies but in reality brings few innovations or reforms.
2009 * Maricio Funes elected President of El Salvador
2009 * President Barack Obama signals significant changes from Bush policies toward Latin America but in reality remains quite consistent with his predecessor.
June-July 2009 * Honduran military overthrows President Manuel Zelaya and fly him into exile. Worldwide condemnation of the military coup follows.
Dec 2009 * US secret agent Alan Gross arrested and jailed in Cuba for smuggled illegal computing equipment.
Feb. 2010 * Latin American presidents, led by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, create the Comunidad de Estados de América Latina y el Caribe to counter US influence in the region
2010 * Drug trafficking turf wars along the US-Mexican border and arms flows from the US to Mexican drug gangs heighten tensions and violence on the border between the two nations.
2010 (July) * Ex-president Fidel Castro makes his first public appearance in several years in Cuba
2010 *Jose “Pepe” Mujica (leftist) elected President of Uruguay *Dilma Vana Rousseff (leftist) elected president of Brazil
2011 *Ollanta Humala (leftist) elected President of Peru
2011 * Congress passes a free trade agreement with Colombia. Skeptics will watch closely to see whether attacks on labor leaders, peasants, and other human rights abuses continue.
2012 * President Obama introduces moderate reforms to US Cuban policies.
2012 * June Professor Slatta visits Cuba and returns with great ideas to fix US policies.
Dec 2014 * With the assistance of Pope Frances, the Obama and Raul Castro administrations move toward lessening tensions between the US and Cuba. Both sides release political prisoners, including US agent Alan Gross and the 3 remaining "Cuban Heroes," and begin moves toward ending US isolation of Cuba. The US Congress must act to end the embargo against Cuba.