AD 1524: The country, inhabited by the Guaraní peoples, was visited by the Portuguese explorer Alejo García, in the service of Spain. 1530s: The Italian navigator Sebastiano Caboto, also in the service of Spain, partly explored the rivers of the region, chiefly the Paraná. 15 August 1537: Spanish adventurers seeking gold established a fort on the Paraguay River, calling it Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, after the Christian feast celebrated that day. The city, commonly known as Asunción, eventually became the centre of a Spanish colonial province, although dependent on the city of Buenos Aires. 1609: Jesuit Roman Catholic missionaries began to establish reducciones, settlements of indigenous converts to Christianity, whom the missionaries educated. 1620: The territory became a separate dependency of the Viceroyalty of Peru. 1767: The Jesuits were expelled. 1776: Spain created the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, which comprised present-day Paraguay, as well as much of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay. July 1810: Two months after the people of Buenos Aires had declared self-government, a group in Asuncion took similar action; repudiating both the colonial administration and the leadership in Buenos Aires. January 1811: A Paraguayan army defeated and drove back the forces of Gen. Manuel Belgrano, sent to compel Paraguay’s adherence to Buenos Aires’ leadership. 14 May 1811: A congress in Asunción declared Paraguay’s independence. A five-man junta was elected to rule the new nation with Dr José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia declared Consul. 12 February 1814: Fulgencio Yegros became Consul. 12 June 1814: De Francia returned as Consul. Congress voted to give full powers of rule by decree for three years, shortly thereafter extending this to a life term. De Francia pursued an isolationist policy, closing the country’s borders and declaring Guaraní to be the sole official language. September 1840: Dr Francia died; a succession of leaders were unable to establish adequate authority. March 1841: Carlos Antonio López, a nephew of de Francia, assumed power and was granted full executive authority. He reversed the isolationist policy, encouraged commerce, instituted many administrative reforms, and began the construction of a railway. 1845: President López became involved in altercations with the Argentine military leader, Juan Manuel de Rosas, and joined the coalition against Buenos Aires. 1862: President López died; he was succeeded as President-for-life by his son, Francisco Solano López.