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The Riches of the Spanish Main

Updated on November 20, 2013

The Spanish main consisted of Spain's territories in Florida, Mexico, Trinidad, Cuba, Parts of modern day USA and other Caribbean islands. The wealth generated from these settlements created great wealth for the Hapsburg and Bourbon dynasties throughout Spain's hold on the area. Spain had the prime trading routes and contacts until Great Britain brought it's immense sea power to bear near the start of the 17th century.

Spain's rulers spent a lot of the riches from the Caribbean on fueling successive European wars. Spain was aware of the raw materials that the America's possessed, since Cortes marched into the cities of the Aztec's Spain wanted the Gold and Silver. When the colonial powers heard news of the potential rewards, the Spanish main became the new real-estate they all wanted a piece of.

A Spanish galleon
A Spanish galleon

The Spanish Main

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A markerTortuga -
Ile de la Tortue, Haiti
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Pirate stronghold in the old French colony

B markerPanama -
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Panama had a wealth of Spanish colonies including Portobelo.

C markerJamaca -
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The English run township of Port Royal was rife with Pirates and Privateers.

The Spanish treasure fleets operated a secure convoy system between the Spanish colonies in the West Indies to mainland Spain. The convoy system was effective for the Spanish Empire between the years 1566 to 1790.The convey was initially set up to protect Spain's colonial riches from English, French and Dutch Privateers.They also served as a deterrent against independent Pirate attacks. The convoys were a mixture of military and commercial vessels. The fleet was used for transporting a wide variety of items, including agricultural goods and sometimes even lumber, manufactured goods and various metal resources. The big prize the convoys carried were the expensive luxury goods most famously silver and gold, but also gems, pearls, spices, sugar,tobacco leaf, and silk. Mundane items such as tools, trade goods and Spanish colonists were transported in the opposite direction.

Piracy flourished in the Caribbean because of the existence of relatively lawless British ports such as Port Royal( Jamaica ) and more so the French port at Tortuga( Haiti ) France encouraged a lawlessness in Tortuga as it destabilized Spain's economic monopoly. The loss of native population due to disease forced Spain to increasingly rely on African slave labor to run Spanish colonies. The Slave Trade offered new sources of profit for English, Dutch and French traders who wanted to get a slice of the Spanish colonial wealth. The new land of the Caribbean also made it an inviting place for England, France and the Netherlands to set up colonies of their own. This lead men of vision to set up plantations for tobacco and sugar as cash crops that could make men very rich. This created a new Colonial middle class from those who could succeed in spite of foreign competition and the tropical heat. The legacy of the global powers is still felt even now in the modern age.

Do you believe that Piracy along the Spanish Main, has been glorified?

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