The history of both San Andrés and Providence is replete with adventures of pirates, their invasions and occupation of the islands. The first appearance of San Andrés on Spanish maps was in 1527. The Dutch are reported to have come to these islands at the end of the 16th century and British settlers arrived there in 1628. It is also mentioned that Columbus discovered these islands during his fourth exploration voyage.
The English Puritans were the first to arrive; they hailed from Barbados and also from England. Between 1627 and 1629 they came to settle in the salubrious climate and take advantage of the fertile land of the islands.
The Anglo Puritans evicted the Dutch settlers in 1631. Settlers also came from Wales. All colonists first came to San Andrés and later moved to the Providence Island colony on what is now Providencia Island as its mountain terrain provided fresh water resources and safety from invaders. Enslaved people of West African birth or descent were brought in by British shipowners in 1633 from Jamaica. They were initially brought to work in lumbering, as well as to grow cotton and tobacco.
In 1635, the Spaniards, realizing the economic importance of the island, attacked the archipelago. However the Spaniards were driven out soon after they occupied the islands.
Pirates also operated from here, including Welsh privateer Sir Henry Morgan, who used it in 1670 as one of the centers of his operations. The pirates attacked Spanish ships carrying gold and other precious material that sailed in the Caribbean waters. They also attacked Panama and Santa Maria. The bounty looted by the pirates is still believed to be hidden in some underwater cave in the area.
After the temporary Spanish occupation of the islands, they were controlled by the British from 1740 until 1787, when they agreed to respect the Creole (and maybe the Indigenous American, more sources are needed to better distinguish this point) population. In the year 1792, by royal warrant on 20 May, the Spanish informed the Captain General of Guatemala,
Don Bernardo Troncoso, to recognize the archipelago. The Catholic religion was spread on the island and a church was built and run by its own priest. San Andres gave exemption from import and export taxes.
On November 25, 1802, the inhabitants of the archipelago requested that they depend on the Viceroyalty of New Granada with the Mosquito Coast, and not on the Captaincy of Guatemala. The document was signed by Mr. Roberto Clark, procurator, Isaac Brooks, Solomon Taylor, Jorge Olis, and Juan Taylor. As early as 1803, reports suggest that it was for political and economic reasons that San Andrés became a dependent Viceroyalty of New Granada.
In 1810, factions in New Granada declared independence from Spain. Councils were established in San Andrés and Providencia in this year. The government of
Tomás Oneille granted land titles to Anglo and Latino families of the two islands assuring people the ownership of the land. In July 1818,
Luis Aury, and the independent forces of Simón Bolívar occupied the islands, and it became part of Gran Colombia on June 23, 1822.
In 1821, the issuing of the Constitution of Cúcuta determined that every child born in Colombia, was born as a free citizen. This at a minimum meant the eventual abolition of slavery in San Andrés.
On March 5, 1825 a League and Confederation Treaty with the United Provinces of Central America was signed and on June 15, 1826 the Treaty of Union, League and Confederation, between the
Republics of Colombia, Central America, Peru and Mexico was signed in Panama in that "Contracting Parties shall ensure the integrity of its territories, then, under special conventions and to hold each other, have been demarcated and set their respective limits, the protection will then be placed under the protection of the confederation."
After independence was recognized by the coastal territories of the Caribbean Sea, the British proclaimed an independent territory in disregard of treaties and agreements of the time but the island remained free from British autonomy (sources needed, the wording here makes no sense). In 1848, Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera declared San Andrés as a Free port. In 1851, slavery was abolished by the constitution of Colombia, which led to a successful literacy movement led by pastor
Philip Beekman Livingston.
In September 1900, France issued a ruling in which it recognized all of the islands of the archipelago as belonging to Colombia. In 1902, two commissioners of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt came to San Andrés by boat and requested that the islands become part of Panama, but American proposals were rejected outright as unpatriotic, proving local loyalty to the Republic of Colombia. In 1903, the Colombian Department of Panama became an independent nation. The islanders again refused to join the United States or Panama when they were visited by a U.S. warship in the same year. On 26 October 1912, the
Municipality of San Andres and Providencia was established by Law 52, giving administrative independence. In August 1920, a boundary treaty was signed between Colombia and Panama in Bogota. On 24 March 1928, the Esguerra-Bárcenas Treaty was signed, in which Nicaragua recognized Colombia's sovereignty over the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina.
In November 1943, Colombia joined World War II, because a German submarine sank one of their boats that had to transport British troops to San Andrés. In 1953, at the request of several representatives of the island community, President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla reaffirmed the San Andres Island and the free port. In 1972, the archipelago was declared as a Special Municipality. In the Colombian Constitution of 1991, the Department Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina was established as one of the Departments of Colombia. In 2000, the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina became a
UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve as per of the five biosphere reserves listed with the UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme.
In 2001, Nicaragua National Assembly declared the Barcenas-Esguerra Treaty null because it claimed that it was signed under pressure of US army occupation (1928–1933). Nicaragua now have signed a treaty of limits with Colombia, and it disputed the limits alleged by Colombia at 82 degrees longitude. In 2007, International Court of Justice said the Treaty signed in 1928 (and the 1930 Protocol of Exchange of Ratifications) are not a Treatry of limits between both nations. Nicaragua filed a formal complaint before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, claiming territory east of longitude 82, because their continental marine platform including sovereignty over the archipelago of San Andrés. On December 13, 2007, the International Court of Justice recognized the full sovereignty of Colombia over the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina, but left open the question about the demarcation of the maritime boundary and the sovereignty of one of the two nations over the cays of Serranilla, Quitasueño, Serrana, Roncador and
Bajo Nuevos. The ICJ also ruled it "upheld preliminary objections of Colombia to its jurisdiction only insofar as they concerned sovereignty over the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina".