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At the time of the discovery of Central America by Christopher Columbus in 1502 highly civilized Maya and Nahua Indians inhabited the westernmost part of the isthmusThe impressive ruins of Tikal in Guatemala Copan in Honduras and Tazumal in El Salvador are relics of that civilization Panama and most of Costa Rica were occupied by less civilized societies that shared cultural characteristics with the Indians of northern South America Within 25 years of the discovery of Central America the Spanish had essentially completed theirconquest Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed Panama and discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513 Exploringalong the Pacific coast north and west of Panama in 1522 Gil Gonzalez Davila ventured into Costa Rica and Nicaragua During 1524 Pedro de Alvarado defeated the Quiche Cakchiquel and Mam peoples in battle and seized their respective Guatemalan strongholds of Utatlan Iximche and Zacaleu Shortly thereafter Hernando Cortez marched southeastward from Mexico into Guatemalaand Honduras Following various shifts in administrative borders in 1570 the Spanish reestablished the Captaincy-General of Guatemala whose authority extended from the province of Chiapas in southern Mexico eastward to the province of Costa Rica These borders remained intact until after1821 when Chiapas and Soconusco were stripped away from Central America and annexed to Mexico Panama initially included in the Viceroyalty of Peru came under the control of the Viceroyaltyof New Granada in 1718 and was ruled from Colombia As early as the 16th century the Spanish were required to relocate and fortify Caribbean port settlements because of repeated attacks by English French and Dutch privateers The English established holdings along the Caribbean shoreline between the Yucatan and Nicaragua that initially were devoted to the cutting of logwood from which dyes were produced and later to the lumberingof mahogany Rebellious Caribs transported by the English from St Vincent in the West Indiesto Caribbean shoreline settlements in 1797 remained a major element of the local population The only part of the coast over which the
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