The Spanish Empire () was one of the first empires of global extent, having its peak of political and economic power under the Spanish Habsburgs through the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, becoming the foremost global power of its time, and was the first to be called the empire on which the sun never sets. The empire was eventually administered from Madrid by the Spanish Crown and comprised territories and colonies in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration after the voyages of Christopher Columbus. Spain’s territorial reach beyond Europe included the Greater Antilles, half of South America, most of Central America and much of North America (including present day Mexico, Florida and the Southwestern and Pacific Coastal regions of the United States), as well as a number of Pacific Ocean archipelagos including the Philippines. The bulk of Spain’s Empire was held for over three centuries, starting in 1492 with the Spanish colonization of the Americas and lasting until the early 19th century Spanish American wars of independence that left only Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines as Spanish. Following the Spanish–American War of 1898, Spain ceded its last colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific to the United States. Its last African colonies were granted independence in 1975. In conjunction with the territories of the Portuguese Empire, which Spain controlled from 1580 to 1640, the Spanish Empire started the European dominance in global affairs. The Spanish Empire left a cultural and linguistic legacy, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. With over 470 million native speakers today, Spanish is the second most spoken native language in the world, as result of the transfer of the language of Castile — Castilian, “Castellano” — from Iberia to Spanish America in the colonial era. The other major cultural legacy of the Spanish empire overseas was Roman Catholicism, converting the indigenous peoples to the new religion in what was known as the “spiritual conquest.” Catholicism remains the dominant religious faith in Spanish America.