Spanish Empire

Havana

Spanish Empire > Havana

Havana

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Background

Havana was the capital of Cuba and established by the Spanish Empire in 1515 as a trading port and half-way point between the Old and New Worlds. Because the Spanish galleons were often loaded with gold and other valuables, this made the city a prime target for attacks by buccaneers, pirates and corsairs. The Spanish Treasure Fleet would stop in Havana after collecting cargo from the rest of the the Spanish Main before setting off across the Atlantic Ocean back to Spain. Due to these many attacks the Spanish built many forts on the island in an effort to establish hegemony in the region.

Pirate Havens - Havana 17th Century

Havana Harbor - Atlas Beudeker (c. 1600)

Havana expanded rapidly in the 17th century as new buildings were constructed from natural supplies on the island. Much of the architecture in early Havana was based on the Spanish and by the 1750’s Havana had about 70,000 occupants, making it one of the largest cities in the Americas.

Origins

Map of Havana (1740)

Havana Harbor

Havana was the place to store ships.

Havana - Havana Harbor, Cuba (The English in the West Indies - 1888)

Havana Harbor, Cuba - The English in the West Indies (1888)

Buildings and Architecture

There were beautiful buildings in Havana during the buccaneering and later pirate eras. These such as the Havana Cathedral, built in 1656 but never completed until 1724 represented the fine architecture of Spain in the New World.

Havana - Havana Cathedral

Havana Cathedral - The History of Cuba (1920)

Fortifications

The Spanish also built multiple fortifications on the island in order to protect it from French and English privateers. They reinforced the island with the forts Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Mooro and Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta. However despite these massive forts. Havana still got repeatedly invaded and sacked by both pirates and foreign countries.

Castillo Morro

Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta

Havana - Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta

Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta - A History of Cuba (1920)

Castillo de la Real Fuerza

Havana - Castillo de la Real Fuerza

Castillo de la Real Fuerza - A History of Cuba (1920)

Spanish Treasure Fleets

Havana was the prime site for piracy due to the large amount of cargo on these ships along with the inability of the Spanish empire to keep the arrivals of ships a secret. Other times the Spanish would have a weak military and become unable to protect their overseas colonies. Pirates would hang out in Havana in the weeks prior to a shipment and listen for information about when the Spanish fleet was arriving.

It was common knowledge that Spain sent two major fleets every year back to the mainland. Due to hurricane season in the Caribbean, the fleet was limited to a specific time frame when they had to sail. The Spanish knew it, and the pirates knew this as well.

Often, the pirates would not even have to use stealth and subtly to obtain information about the Spanish fleet movements. For a price, Spanish colonists would tell the pirates the location and arrival of the fleet due to the oppressive restrictions imposed on Spanish colonists at the time.

Even as the Spanish.

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