voyages to America. He claimed the island for Spain and named it La Española. In 1496 Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's brother, built the city of Santo Domingo, Europe's first permanent settlement in the "New World". The Spaniards created a plantation economy on the island. The colony was the springboard for the further Spanish conquest of America and for decades the headquarters of Spanish power in the hemisphere.
The Taínos nearly disappeared, above all, from European infectious diseases to which they had no immunity. Other causes were abuse, suicide, the breakup of family, starvation, the encomienda system, which resembled a feudal system in Medieval Europe, war with the Spaniards, changes in lifestyle, and miscegenation. Laws passed for the Indians' protection (beginning with the Laws of Burgos, 1512–1513) were never truly enforced. Some scholars believe that las Casas exaggerated the Indian population decline in an effort to persuade King Carlos to intervene, and that encomenderos also exaggerated it, in order to receive permission to import more African slaves. Moreover, censuses of the time omitted the Indians who fled into remote communities, where they often joined with runaway Africans (cimarrones), producing Zambos. Also, Mestizos who were culturally Spanish were counted as Spaniards, some Zambos as black, and some Indians as Mulattos.
Santo Domingo's population saw a spectacular increase during the 18th century, as it rose from some 6,000 in 1737 to about 125,000 in 1790. Approximately, this was composed of 40,000 white landowners, 25,000 black or mulatto freedmen, and 60,000 slaves.
After its conquest of the Aztecs and Incas, Spain neglected its Caribbean holdings. French buccaneers settled in western Hispaniola, and by the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain ceded the area to France. France created the wealthy colony Saint-Domingue there, with a population 90% slave, and overall four times as populous (500,000 to 125,000) as the