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After Spain colonized much of South America, the territories were placed under the control of the Spanish crown. A Council of the Indies was set up to make laws and supervise finance. Viceroys, representatives of the Spanish king, were sent to govern vast regions. In 1717 the Viceroyalty of New Granada was created, made up of what are now Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. Viceroys were responsible for regional courts, or 'audiencias', which exercised legal, financial and administrative powers locally. Viceroys and audiencia officials were Spanish. They were resented by rich estate owners of Spanish ancestry, born in South America, who were excluded both from political power and trade privileges.

A viceroy was received with great ceremony when he arrived from Spain. The city's streets were cleaned and hung with tapestries. He rode through them at the head of a long procession of officials, clergymen, and soldiers. Members of the audiencia carried a canopy over the viceroy as he rode in the procession. Bullfights and feasting took place in his palace for days afterwards.

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