ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Books & Novels»
  • Fiction

Gitmo Secrets - Undiscovered Treasures

Updated on August 21, 2016
Austinstar profile image

Lela earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from Sam Houston University in Huntsville, TX. She has been writing for the online world for years.

Spanish Galleons From the 16th Century


Cuba - 1492 to 1511

Diego Velázquez de Cuellar was the governor of Havana. He was also Hernán Cortes' boss. The Spanish government ruled through Cuellar, a bloodthirsty man who had enslaved Cuba's 100,000 Tainos (natives of the island)

As the Taino died off, the Spanish ships brought slaves from Africa to continue working the coffee, sugar, and tobacco fields as well as building the infrastructure of Cuba.

During the 16th century, the Catholic Church had more power than the King and Queen of Spain. It is the Church more than any other faction that demanded gold, silver and other treasures from the New World. The greedy church sought power through riches plundered from the indigenous peoples of Cuba, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

Spanish treasure ships were known as 'Flotas'. Velazquez oversaw the deployment of some 30 to 90 ships per convoy commissioned by Spain's Casa de Contración (The House of Trade). These ships were armed to the hilt and sailed in convoys, each protecting the other. The convoys operated from 1566 to 1790.

The North coast of South America was known as the "Spanish Main". Empty ships arriving from Spain began their trip at the East coast of South America and sailed from that point around the Caribbean, eventually docking in Havana. In Havana, the treasures were tallied and recorded. The ships were then sent back across the Atlantic to delivery to whomever had commissioned the expedition.

Some ships had enough treasure to offload in Panama. The goods were then ported across the isthmus for loading on the Pacific side. These ships then transported goods for trade across the Pacific to the Philippines. And the reverse happened as the ships took on cargo shipped across the Pacific from Manilla bound for Spain.

The Spanish Main

show route and directions
A markerMargarita Island, Venezuela -
Margarita Island, Venezuela
get directions

One of the first stops for Spanish Ships. They looted Pearls from Margarita Island.

B markerCartagena, Columbia -
Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia
get directions

One of the second stops along the route.

C markerPortobelo, Panama -
Portobelo, Panama
get directions

The rich port of Portobelo, a collection of silver was obtained here.

D markerHavana, Cuba -
Havana, Cuba
get directions

The last stop in the clockwise wheel of the Spanish Main. From here ships usually went back to Spain.

Portuguese and Spanish Trade Routes 16th Century


Cuba's Graveyard of Treasure Ships

It is estimated that there are hundreds of sunken ships from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries lost and recoverable from the clear blue waters of the Caribbean surrounding Cuba. Spanish records indicate that 13,000 vessels passed in, around, and through Cuba carrying gold and silver plundered by Hernan Cortes and other Conquistadores.

Havana was the official port for record keeping and supplies before sailing off to Seville, Spain. The Archives of the Indies are maintained in Seville, and it is one of the first places to go to start a search for missing treasure ships. Some of these ships carried important artifacts from the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan civilizations.

Two large treasure fleets were well known. The Tierra Firme and the Nueva España both contained over 100 ships each.

Some of the plundered booty listed and found:

  • gold bullion
  • silver coins - The infamous pieces of eight each equal 25 grams of silver. They were minted into coins called pesos.
  • silver ingots of various weights
  • gem quality stones and pearls
  • emeralds from Columbia
  • pre-crafted jewelry from native artisans
  • crystal wine decanters
  • amphorae - sealed containers of dyes and other items
  • cannons
  • ballast
  • anchors
  • astrolabes
  • pistols
  • perfume bottles
  • ceramics
  • billiard balls
  • other trade goods such as volcanic glass

Pirates abounded in the Caribbean area and Spanish galleons were a tasty target for British and French buccaneers.

Both pirate ships and treasure ships often went to a watery grave. Hundreds of ships litter the sea floor in the deep water harbor of Havana, and around the outer shores of Cuba. Cuba has been relentlessly aggressive in denying salvage rights to anyone.

Ships in this particular area had many reasons for their demise.

  1. Pirates and treasure ships would often fight it out.
  2. Mutineers managed to ground a few ships.
  3. Coral reefs tore holes in the bottoms of the wooden ships.
  4. Hurricanes and other storms got the rest.

Cuba has contracted with at least one salvage company, Visa Gold, out of Canada. Their prospects were ruined by investors expecting outrageous returns. The Cuban government claimed half of all saleable artifacts that were salvaged. One quarter of the funds went to equipment and maintenance. The remaining quarter value was not enough to sustain good returns on speculative investors, so they dropped out.

The Peso Called "piece of eight" Reales


Possible Shipwrecks Located in Cuban Waters

Date of Shipwreck
Name of Ship and Registry
Possible Location
Palemon - Spanish brigantine
North coast, Cuba
USS Maine - US Warship
Havana Bay
La Madalena - 250 ton Sp. Galleon
Santa Marea de San Vicente
San Salvedor
Santa Maria de la Merced, Sp. Caravel
NW shore of Cuba
Francisco Pizarro, Rodrigo Colmenares, Sp. pinnaces Sp. ships
West end of Cuba
unknown Sp. caravel
Cienfuegos, South coast, mid center of Cuba
San Anton, Spanish
Cienfuegos, South coast, mid center of Cuba
ship of Sebastian de Ocampo
Cienfuegos, South coast, mid center of Cuba
ship of Bernaloino Talavera
Cienfuegos, South coast, mid center of Cuba
Unknown ship
Manzanillo Bay
Unknown date
ship of Juan de Rojas
Near Pico Turquino
Jesus Nazareno and Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe
East of Havana

You Can Search for Spanish Treasure on the Atocha Wreck

© 2014 Lela


Submit a Comment

  • Austinstar profile image

    Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

    Please come back here and let me know what you find out! I think the balls were made of Mahogany wood.

  • profile image

    sheilamyers 3 years ago

    Astinstar: Thanks for responding to my question. If I get the time, I'll have to see what else I can find out about those balls. I get curious about the silliest things.

  • Austinstar profile image

    Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

    Hi Jama! For the purposes of the book I am writing, the prison there has little or nothing to do with my story. There is a lot more to Cuba and Gitmo than that for sure.

  • JamaGenee profile image

    Joanna McKenna 3 years ago from Central Oklahoma

    Austinstar, Gitmo has become so identified with the prison at the U.S. base there that one forgets its previous history. Thanks for reminding us!

  • Austinstar profile image

    Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

    I believe there was a Soviet nuclear sub delivering nukes to Cuba. This is what caused the missile crisis!

    The caves are fairly extensive. There are some youtube videos available about cave diving in Cuba.

  • pointblank009 profile image

    pointblank009 3 years ago from Buffalo

    I see. Just how big are these caves, were there Soviet subs lurking around Cuba during the Missile Crises?

  • Austinstar profile image

    Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

    point - Cuba is an island in the Caribbean surrounded by salt water. But there are fresh water cenotes (caves) suitable for diving in the interior of the mostly limestone land mass. It is very similar to Cozumel and the Yucatan Peninsula if you have ever been there.

  • pointblank009 profile image

    pointblank009 3 years ago from Buffalo

    Good history, great job @Austinstar. I supposed the Maine remains a sore spot for the US. I was wondering how deep were the waters around Cuba, and is it salt or fresh water?

  • Austinstar profile image

    Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

    I was surprised at the billiard balls too! Apparently, a set of them were found during one salvage operation. It did not mention what they were made from.

  • profile image

    sheilamyers 3 years ago

    I love reading about history and so enjoyed your article. Sometimes I read something that makes me ask questions I don't think other people even think about. In the list of "booty", you mentioned billiard balls. I'm sure pirates would steal anything they could get, but was there something special about these billiard balls that caused them to be put on an official list? I'm guessing that since everything else on the list could be very valuable, perhaps these balls were made from at least some semi-precious material.

  • Austinstar profile image

    Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

    Thanks, Jodah. These hubs are research for a book I am writing. And like you say, I am learning a lot!

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

    What an interesting read. I love these history type always learn something new. This was no exception. Voted up.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)