The Spanish presence in the New World began in 1492, with Christopher Columbusâ€™ historic voyage. Lured by stories of gold and riches, Spanish conquistadors battled native peoples to claim vast amounts of land in the Americas. During the 16th century, the Spanish established many cities and founded missions to convert the native population to Spanish religious beliefs and cultural practices. But by the turn of the 19th century, Spanish control of its colonies was waning, and the independence movement that was spreading across the Americas took hold. Spainâ€™s North American colonies eventually became part of the United States or Mexico.