The Spanish treasure fleet, or West Indies Fleet Spanish : Flota de Indias (also called silver fleet or plate fleet; from the Spanish: plata meaning "silver"), was a convoy system of sea routes organized by the Spanish Empire from 1566 to 1790, which linked Spain with its territories in the Americas across the Atlantic. The convoys were general purpose cargo fleets used for transporting a wide variety of items, including agricultural goods, lumber, various metal resources such as silver and gold, gems, pearls, spices, sugar, tobacco, silk, and other exotic goods from the overseas territories of the Spanish Empire to the Spanish mainland. Spanish goods such as oil, wine, textiles, books and tools were transported in the opposite direction.
The West Indies fleet was the first permanent transatlantic trade route in history. Similarly, the Manila galleons were the first permanent trade route across the Pacific. The Spanish West and East Indies fleets must be counted as among the most successful naval operations in historyand from a commercial point of view made possible many key components of today's global economic system.
Spanish ships had brought goods from the New World since Christopher Columbus's first expedition of 1492. The organized system of convoys dates from 1564, but Spain sought to protect shipping prior to that by organizing protection around the largest Caribbean island, Cuba and the maritime region of southern Spain and the Canary Islands because of attacks by pirates and foreign navies.The Spanish government created a system of convoys in the 1560s in response to the sacking of Havana by French privateers. The main procedures were established after the recommendations of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, an experienced admiral and personal adviser of King Philip II. The treasure fleets sailed along two sea lanes. The main one was the Caribbean Spanish West Indies fleet or Flota de Indias, which departed in two convoys from Seville, where the Casa de Contratación was based, bound for ports such as Veracruz, Portobelo and Cartagena before making a rendezvous at Havana in order to return together to Spain. A secondary route was that of the Manila Galleons or Galeón de Manila which linked the Philippines to Acapulco in Mexico across the Pacific Ocean. From Acapulco, the Asian goods were transhipped by mule train to Veracruz to be loaded onto the Caribbean treasure fleet for shipment to Spain. To better defend this trade, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and Álvaro de Bazán designed the definitive model of the galleon in the 1550s.
Spain controlled the trade through the Casa de Contratación based in Seville, a river port in southern Spain. By law, the colonies could trade only with the one designated port in the mother country, Seville.Maritime archaeology has shown that the quantity of goods transported was sometimes higher than that recorded at the Archivo General de Indias . Spanish merchants and Spaniards acting as fronts (cargadores) for foreign merchants sent their goods on these fleets to the New World. Some resorted to contraband to transport their cargoes untaxed. The Crown of Spain taxed the wares and precious metals of private merchants at a rate of 20%, a tax known as the quinto real or royal fifth.
Spain became the richest country in Europe by the end of the 16th century.Much of the wealth from this trade was used by the Spanish Habsburgs to finance armies to protect its European territories in the 16th and 17th centuries against the Ottoman Empire and most of the major European powers. The flow of precious metals in and out of Spain stimulated the European economy as a whole.
The flow of precious metals made many traders wealthy, both in Spain and abroad. The increase in gold and silver on the Iberian market caused high inflation in the 17th century, affecting the Spanish economy.As a consequence, the Crown was forced to delay the payment of some major debts, which had negative consequences for its creditors, mostly foreign bankers. By 1690 some of these creditors could no longer offer financial support to the Crown. The Spanish monopoly over its West and East Indies colonies lasted for over two centuries.
The economic importance of exports later declined with the drop of production of the American precious metal mines, such as Potosí.However, the growth in trade was strong in the early years. Numbering just 17 ships in 1550, the fleets expanded to more than 50 much larger vessels by the end of the century. By the second half of the 17th century, that number had dwindled to less than half of its peak. As economic conditions gradually recovered from the last decades of the 17th century, fleet operations slowly expanded again, once again becoming prominent during the reign of the Bourbons in the 18th century.
The Spanish trade of goods was sometimes threatened by its colonial rivals, who tried to seize islands as bases along the Spanish Main and in the Spanish West Indies. However, the Atlantic trade was largely unharmed. The English acquired small islands like St Kitts in 1624; expelled in 1629, they returned in 1639 and seized Jamaica in 1655. French pirates established themselves in Saint-Domingue in 1625, were expelled, only to return later, and the Dutch occupied Curaçao in 1634. Other losses to foreign powers came later. In 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht after the War of the Spanish Succession, the Spanish crown was forced to make concessions which included trading privileges for England that violated the previous Spanish monopoly on legal trade to its colonial holdings.In 1739 during the War of Jenkin's Ear, the British Admirals Francis Hosier and later Edward Vernon blockaded Portobello in an attempt to prevent the return sailing of the treasure fleet, but in 1741 Vernon's campaign against Cartagena de Indias ended in defeat, with heavy losses of men and ships. Temporary British seizures of Havana and Manila (1762–4), during the Seven Years' War, were dealt with by using a larger number of smaller fleets visiting a greater variety of ports.
The end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713 marked the beginning of the rule of the Bourbon dynasty over the Spanish Empire, which brought with it the Bourbon Reforms. These reforms, designed to halt Spain's decline and increase tax revenue, brought about a series of changes to the fleet system throughout the 18th century.Philip V began the reforms by sending investigators to report on conditions in Spanish America, who brought back evidence of fraud. He and following Bourbon kings, notably including Charles III, would make a concerted effort to centralize the administration of Spanish America and more efficiently tax profits from overseas trade. One of these reforms was the granting of trading monopolies for certain regions to trading companies ran by peninsulares, such as the Guipuzcoan Company. Another involved the increased use of registered ships, or navíos de registro, traveling solo outside of the fleet system to transport goods. These reforms gradually decreased reliance on the escorted convoys of the fleet system. In the 1780s, Spain opened its colonies to freer trade. In 1790, the Casa de Contratación was abolished, bringing to an end the great general purpose fleets. Thereafter small groups of naval frigates were assigned specifically to transferring goods or bullion as required.
Despite the general perception that many Spanish galleons were captured by foreign privateers, few fleets were actually lost to enemies in the course of the flota's two and a half centuries of operation. Only the Dutch admiral Piet Hein managed to capture an entire fleet, in the Battle in the Bay of Matanzas in 1628, after which its cargo was taken to the Dutch Republic.The English admiral Robert Blake twice attacked the fleet, in the Battle of Cádiz in 1656 and in the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1657, but he managed to capture only a single galleon and Spanish officers saved most of the silver. The West Indies fleet was destroyed in the Battle of Vigo Bay in 1702 during the War of the Spanish Succession, when it was surprised in port unloading its goods, but the Spanish sailors had already unloaded most of its cargo. None of these attacks took place in open seas. In the case of the Manila galleons, only four were ever captured by British warships in nearly three centuries: the Santa Anna by Thomas Cavendish in 1589, the Encarnación by Woodes Rogers in 1709, the Covadonga by George Anson in 1743, and the Santísima Trinidad in 1762. Two other British attempts were foiled by the Rosario in 1704 and the Begonia in 1710. These losses and others due to hurricanes were significant economic blows to trade.
Every year, two fleets left Spain loaded with European goods in demand in Spanish America, which were guarded by military vessels. Valuable cargo from the Americas, most significantly silver from Mexico and Peru, were sent back to Spain. Fleets of fifty or more ships sailed from Spain, one bound for the Mexican port of Veracruz and the other for Panama and Cartagena.From the Spanish ports of Seville or Cádiz, the two fleets bound for the Americas sailed together down the coast of Africa, and stopped at the Spanish territory of the Canary Islands for provisions before the voyage across the Atlantic. Once the two fleets reached the Caribbean, the fleets separated. The New Spain fleet sailed to Veracruz in Mexico to load not only silver and the valuable red dye cochineal, but also porcelain and silk shipped from China on the Manila galleons. The Asian goods were brought overland from Acapulco to Veracruz by mule train. The Tierra Firme fleet, or galeones, sailed to Cartagena to load South American products, especially silver from Potosí. Some ships went to Portobello on the Caribbean coast of Panama to load Peruvian silver that had been shipped from the Pacific coast port of Callao. The silver had then been transported across the isthmus of Panama by mule. Other ships went to the Caribbean island of Margarita, off the coast of Venezuela, to collect pearls which had been harvested from offshore oyster beds. After loading was complete, both fleets sailed for Havana, Cuba, to rendezvous for the journey back to Spain.
The overland journey by mule train, as well as supplies provided by local farmers to prepare the fleets for long ocean voyages, invigorated the economy of colonial Spanish America. Preparation and the transport of goods required porters, innkeepers, and foodstuffs to help facilitate travel.However, in Mexico in 1635, there was an increase of the sales tax levied to finance the fleet, the Armada de Barlovento.
Between 1703 and 1705 Spanish corsair Amaro Pargo began participation in the West Indies Fleet. In this period he was the owner and captain of the frigate El Ave María y Las Ánimas, a ship with which he sailed from the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife to that of Havana. He reinvented the benefits of the Canarian-American trade in his estates, mainly destined to the cultivation of the vine of malvasía and vidueño, whose products (mainly the one of vidueño) were sent to America.
Wrecks of Spanish treasure ships, whether sunk in naval combat or by storms (those of 1622, 1715, 1733 and 1750being among the worst), are a prime target for modern treasure hunters. Many, such as the Nuestra Señora de Atocha , and the Santa Margarita have been salvaged. In August 1750, at least three Spanish merchantmen ran aground in North Carolina during a hurricane. The El Salvador sank near Cape Lookout, the Nuestra Señora De Soledad went ashore near present-day Core Banks and the Nuestra Señora De Guadalupe went ashore near present-day Ocracoke.
The wreck of the cargo ship Encarnación , part of the Tierra Firme fleet, was discovered in 2011 with much of its cargo still aboard and part of its hull intact. The Encarnación sank in 1681 during a storm near the mouth of the Chagres River on the Caribbean side of Panama. The Encarnación sank in less than 40 feet of water.The remains of the Urca de Lima from the 1715 fleet and the San Pedro from the 1733 fleet, after being found by treasure hunters, are now protected as Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserves.
The Capitana (El Rubi) was the flagship of the 1733 fleet; it ran aground during a hurricane near Upper Matecumbe Key, then sank. Three men died during the storm. Afterward, divers recovered most of the treasure aboard.
The Capitana was the first of the 1733 ships to be found again in 1938. Salvage workers recovered items from the sunken ship over more than 10 years. Additional gold was recovered in June 2015. The ship's location: is 24° 55.491' north, 80° 30.891' west.
Walton billion pesos produced during the period would come to $530 billion or €470 billion (based on silver bullion prices of May 2015). Of the 4 billion pesos produced, 2.5 billion was shipped to Europe, of which 500 million was shipped around Africa to Asia. Of the remaining 1.5 billion 650 million went directly to Asia from Acapulco and 850 million remained in the Western Hemisphere. Little of the wealth stayed in Spain. Of the 11 million arriving in 1590, 2 million went to France for imports, 6 million to Italy for imports and military expenses, of which 2.5 went up the Spanish road to the Low Countries and 1 million to the Ottoman Empire. 1.5 million was shipped from Portugal to Asia. Of the 2 million pesos reaching the Dutch Republic in that year, 75% went to the Baltic for naval stores and 25% went to Asia. The income of the Spanish crown from all sources was about 2.5 million pesos in 1550, 14 million in the 1590s, about 15 million in 1760 and 30 million in 1780. In 1665 the debts of the Spanish crown were 30 million pesos short-term and 300 million long-term. Most of the New World production was silver but Colombia produced mostly gold. After about 1730 Brazil began producing gold. The following table gives the estimated legal production and necessarily excludes smuggling which was increasingly important after 1600. The crown legally took one fifth (quinto real) at the source and obtained more through other taxes.gives the following figures in pesos. For the 300-year period the peso or piece of eight had about 25 grams of silver, about the same as the German thaler and Dutch rijksdaalder. A single galleon might carry 2 million pesos. The modern approximate value of the estimated 4
Sir Thomas Cavendish was an English explorer and a privateer known as "The Navigator" because he was the first who deliberately tried to emulate Sir Francis Drake and raid the Spanish towns and ships in the Pacific and return by circumnavigating the globe. While members of Magellan's, Loaisa's, Drake's, and Loyola's expeditions had preceded Cavendish in circumnavigating the globe, it had not been their intent at the outset. His first trip and successful circumnavigation made him rich from captured Spanish gold, silk and treasure from the Pacific and the Philippines. His richest prize was the captured 600 ton sailing ship the Manila Galleon Santa Ana. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I of England after his return. He later set out for a second raiding and circumnavigation trip but was not as fortunate and died at sea at the age of 31.
The era of piracy in the Caribbean began in the 1500s and phased out in the 1830s after the navies of the nations of Western Europe and North America with colonies in the Caribbean began combating pirates. The period during which pirates were most successful was from the 1660s to 1730s. Piracy flourished in the Caribbean because of the existence of pirate seaports such as Port Royal in Jamaica, Tortuga in Haiti, and Nassau in the Bahamas. Piracy in the Caribbean was part of a larger historical phenomenon of piracy, as it existed close to major trade and exploration routes in nearly all the five oceans.
Galleons were large, multi-decked sailing ships first used as armed cargo carriers by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries during the age of sail and were the principal vessels drafted for use as warships until the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the mid-1600s. Galleons generally carried three or more masts with a lateen fore-and-aft rig on the rear masts, were carvel built with a prominent squared off raised stern, and used square-rigged sail plans on their fore-mast and main-masts.
The Spanish dollar, also known as the piece of eight, is a silver coin of approximately 38 mm (1.5 in) diameter worth eight Spanish reales. It was minted in the Spanish Empire following a monetary reform in 1497. It was widely used as the first international currency because of its uniformity in standard and milling characteristics. Some countries countersigned the Spanish dollar so it could be used as their local currency.
The Manila Galleons were Spanish trading ships which for two-and-a-half centuries linked the Spanish Captaincy General of the Philippines with Mexico across the Pacific Ocean, making one or two round-trip voyages per year between the ports of Acapulco and Manila, which were both part of New Spain. The name of the galleon changed to reflect the city that the ship sailed from. The term Manila Galleons can also refer to the trade-route itself between Acapulco and Manila, which lasted from 1565 to 1815.
Nuestra Señora de Atocha was a Spanish treasure galleon and the most widely known vessel of a fleet of ships that sank in a hurricane off the Florida Keys in 1622. At the time of her sinking, Nuestra Señora de Atocha was heavily laden with copper, silver, gold, tobacco, gems, and indigo from Spanish ports at Cartagena and Porto Bello in New Granada and Havana, bound for Spain. The Nuestra Señora de Atocha was named for a holy shrine in Madrid, Spain. It was a heavily armed Spanish galleon that served as the almirante for the Spanish fleet. It would trail behind the other ships in the flota to prevent an attack from the rear.
The Battle of Vigo Bay, also known as the Battle of Rande, was a naval engagement fought on 23 October 1702 during the opening years of the War of the Spanish Succession. The engagement followed an Anglo-Dutch attempt to capture the Spanish port of Cádiz in September in an effort to secure a naval base in the Iberian Peninsula. From this station the Allies had hoped to conduct operations in the western Mediterranean Sea, particularly against the French at Toulon. The amphibious assault, however, had proved a disaster, but as Admiral George Rooke retreated home in early October, he received news that the Spanish treasure fleet from America, laden with silver and merchandise, had entered Vigo Bay in northern Spain. Philips van Almonde convinced Rooke to attack the treasure ships, despite the lateness of the year and the fact that the vessels were protected by French ships-of-the-line.
During the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the Spanish Main was the collective term for the parts of the Spanish Empire that were on the mainland of the Americas and had coastlines on the Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico. The term was used to distinguish those regions from the numerous islands Spain controlled in the Caribbean, which were known as the Spanish West Indies.
San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park is a Florida State Park located in 18 feet (5.5 m) of water, approximately 1.25 nautical miles (2.32 km) south of Indian Key. It became the second Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve when it opened to the public in 1989. The heart of the park is the San Pedro, a submerged shipwreck from a 1733 Spanish flotilla, around which visitors can dive and snorkel. The San Pedro, a 287-ton Dutch-built vessel, and 21 other Spanish ships under the command of Rodrigo de Torres left Havana, Cuba, on Friday, July 13, 1733, bound for Spain. The San Pedro carried a cargo of 16,000 silver Mexican pesos and crates of Chinese porcelain. A hurricane struck the fleet, while entering the Straits of Florida, and sank or swamped most of the fleet. The wrecksite includes an "eighteenth century anchor, replica cannons, ballast stones encrusted with coral, a dedication plaque, and a mooring buoy system." The wreck was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on May 31, 2001.
Treasure hunting is the physical search for treasure. For example, treasure hunters try to find sunken shipwrecks and retrieve artifacts with market value. This industry is generally fueled by the market for antiquities. The practice of treasure-hunting can be controversial, as locations such as sunken wrecks or cultural sites may be protected by national or international law concerned with property ownership, marine salvage, sovereign or state vessels, commercial diving regulations, protection of cultural heritage and trade controls.
Urca de Lima is a Spanish shipwreck near Fort Pierce, Florida, United States. She was part of the 1715 Treasure Fleet, herself, one of the numerous Spanish treasure fleets sailing between Spain and her colonies in the Americas. The wreck is located north of Fort Pierce Inlet, 200 yards off the shore from Jack Island Park. It became the first Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve when dedicated in 1987. This was followed on May 31, 2001 with its addition to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
The 1715 Treasure Fleet was a Spanish treasure fleet returning from the New World to Spain. At two in the morning on Wednesday, July 31, 1715, seven days after departing from Havana, Cuba, under the command of Juan Esteban de Ubilla, eleven of the twelve ships of this fleet were lost in a hurricane near present-day Vero Beach, Florida. Because the fleet was carrying silver, it is also known as the 1715 Plate Fleet. Some artifacts and even coins still wash up on Florida beaches from time to time.
Juan Niño de Tabora, was a Spanish general and colonial official. From June 29, 1626 until his death on July 22, 1632, he was governor of the Philippines.
Wager's Action was a naval confrontation on 8 June 1708 N.S, between a British squadron under Charles Wager and the Spanish treasure fleet, as part of the War of Spanish Succession. The battle ended in a total British victory over the Spanish.
Santísima Trinidad was a galleon destined for merchant shipping between the Philippines and México. She was one of the largest of the Manila galleons; officially named Santísima Trinidad y Nuestra Señora del Buen Fin, and was familiarly known as The Mighty. She is not to be confused with Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad, the biggest warship in the world in its time, which sank at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The Battle of Cádiz (1656) was an operation in the Anglo–Spanish War (1654–1660) in which an English fleet destroyed or captured the ships of a Spanish treasure fleet off Cádiz.
Encarnación, was an armed Spanish merchant ship of the Nao class, which was built in Veracruz, Viceroyalty of New Spain, likely sometime in the mid-1600s. The ship sank in a storm in 1681 at the mouth of the Chagres River and was discovered by archaeologists from the Texas State University in 2011.
El Salvador alias El Henrique was a Spanish treasure ship that ran aground near present-day Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina during a hurricane in August 1750. She was traveling with six other Spanish merchantmen including the Nuestra Señora De Soledad which went ashore near present-day Core Banks, NC and the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe which went ashore near present-day Ocracoke, NC.
The beeswax wreck is an as-yet-undiscovered shipwreck somewhere off the coast of the U.S. state of Oregon, near Neahkahnie Mountain and the mouth of the Nehalem River in Tillamook County. The ship, thought to be a Spanish Manila galleon that was wrecked in the late-1600s, was carrying a large cargo of beeswax, lumps of which have been found scattered along Oregon's north coast for at least two centuries.
Peru–Philippines relations refers to the diplomatic relations between Peru and the Philippines. The Philippines and Peru are both predominantly Roman Catholic countries and were ruled by the Spanish Empire for hundreds of years.