Follow Us:
THE PERUVIAN NAVY IN THE VICEREGAL PERIOD

THE PERUVIAN NAVY IN THE VICEREGAL PERIOD

During the viceroyal period, Callao, as the first port of the Viceroyalty of Peru and the most important port for the Hispanic settlement on the South American Pacific coast, played a preponderant role. The control of the maritime routes in the Pacific was established in the Peruvian Viceroyalty, and for that purpose the Navy of the South Sea was created in 1570, destined to exercise effective control over that vast maritime space.

Later, in the second half of the 18th century, a new organization was given to the naval forces present in Peru, with the port of Callao as headquarters and where a Port Captaincy was created to exercise maritime and naval control of the area. At the same time the Royal Nautical Academy of Lima was also established; and the Maritime Department of Callao, with the subordinate captaincies of Valparaíso, Concepción and Guayaquil; and also the Naval Hospital of Bellavista in Callao was funded with several other establishments.

All this process would lay the material and human foundations upon which the Peruvian naval institution would emerge, as a necessary element to enforce the incipient State that began to form as of July 1821.

THE NAUTICAL ACADEMY OF LIMA

The creation of a pilot training center was the idea of Viceroy Luis Enríquez de Guzmán, Count from Alba de Liste, and it started in 1657 under the direction of the major cosmographer, Francisco Ruiz Lozano.

In 1791, Viceroy Francisco Gil de Taboada, gave the Royal Order for the creation of the Royal Nautical Academy of Lima with the objectives of: "preparing students to become pilotines, and, additionally, graduate pilots with sufficient professional background to ensure their future performance in the ships that will require them"

The Peruano and Limeño brigantines (1794), the first permanent ships of the Royal Navy, were scheduled for construction in Spain. Both, Viceroy Taboada Gil and his predecessor Manuel de Guirior (1776-80), were the main characters in leading these changes, given their original condition of naval officers.

THE SOUTH SEA NAVY

In order to control and regulate the commerce developing between Spain and the New World, as well as being able to reject the attacks of pirates and corsairs, in the middle of the 16th century, a system of fleets and annual convoys was created. This primary link between Spain and its American colonies, despite the attack of European rivals, was successfully maintained for more than 150 years.

One of these fleets, traveled from Spain to the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which included Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and the other went to the Viceroyalty of Peru. The fleet destined to Peru sailed to Nombre de Dios (later Portobelo) in Panama, where there was a fair in which great commercial exchange took place.

At first, the navigation to Panama was made by this system of fleets, until after the unexpected incursion of Drake on the shores of the South Sea, the first naval group organized in the Viceroyalty of Peru was created around 1570.

The South Sea Navy, name of this naval organization, had the mission to provide protection to the convoys destined to Panama with silver coming from the mines of Peru, as main important cargo. In second place, it had the mission to defend the Pacific coast of the entire viceroyalty. It is interesting to see how both missions of the Navy were different and opposed, since the shortage of ships and resources, would logically make the protection of the ships that transported the flow to Panama the most important mission.

COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC IN THE PACIFIC

Colonial trade had great influence on the development of Spanish-American society. This trade was made through fleets that left from Sevilla to the Antilles, and from there, they divided into two groups, one went to New Spain (Mexico) and the other to Panama from where they left for Peru. For this, several colonial institutions had to work together, one of them was the Casa de Contratación de Sevilla. This was an institution that regulated commerce and commercial exchange. Among its attributions was the storage of naval supplies and accessories required for overseas traffic, keeping a record of the ships that left and returned from the Indias with final stopover in Sevilla, jealously verifying the technical capabilities of the pilots and captains of the ships that carried out trade with the overseas territories, keeping control of the procurement of artillery, ammunition and naval storage of all kinds, among others. There was also an active commercial exchange between the ports of Callao and Acapulco in Mexico, although only for products from both viceroyalties.

In the beginning, the products were traded from the peninsula to the colonies, using galleons, and for the cabotage trade in the Pacific ports smaller ships. The fair of Portobelo in Panama was the one that attracted great amount of merchants of all the new world. Over the years and due to the corsair activity, Spain had to change its monopoly policy and open ports to free trade in the colonies, which occurred in 1778, benefiting the ports of Buenos Aires and Valparaiso.

The most important ports in the Peruvian viceroyalty were Callao, which was the obligatory door for products arriving from Europe via Panama. Another port that reached great importance by the trade of the silver coming from the zone of Potosí was Arica. In the north, Guayaquil became one of the main Pacific shipyards. The commercial monopoly imposed by Spain on its colonies as well as the amount of wealth extracted from them, caused the European powers to send expeditions and corsairs to attack Spanish vessels that carried out commercial traffic, especially those carrying precious metals.

CORSAIRS AND EXPEDICIONARIES IN THE PACIFIC

The European powers sent expeditions and corsairs to take from Spain the goods that were transported in the ships and galleons towards the Metropolis, as well as to undermine the Spanish power when they were at war. Some of the raiders not only attacked the ships, but also did the same with the American ports. As mentioned above, in the middle of the 16th century, as part of a new defensive policy, the use of a convoy system was imposed and the main ports where commercial activities took place were fortified.

The corsairs and expeditionaries not only acted with hostile intentions, but also for the search of commercial links and even political projects against the Hispanic domain. Among the corsairs and important expeditions to our coasts were the English Francis Drake (1578-79), Thomas Cavendish (1587) and Richard Hawkins (1593-94). The Dutch expeditions of Joris van Spielbergen (1615) and Jacques Clerk L'Hermite (1624) were also present on Peruvian coasts.

THE SPILBERGEN EXPEDITION AND THE CAÑETE NAVAL COMBAT

One of the most important actions during the viceregal time, as part of the incursions of Spain's enemies into American coasts occurred in 1615, when the Dutchman Joris Van Spilbergen arrived on American shores by the Strait of Magellan with six ships . The Viceroy Prince of Esquilache, sent a squadron with seven small boats to fight it, a naval battle took place against Cerro Azul 7 of July of that year, where a Spanish ship with 500 men sank, managing to defeat the Dutch. However, the privateer did not attack Callao, then went to Huarmey, sacking the port and then addressed Paita but did not attack. Finally, it left Peruvian coast towards Acapulco, Moluccas Islands and the Philippines, where its ships were practically decimated by Spanish ships. In that fight, an episode occurred between a Dutch ship and a Spanish ship. Spielbergen narrated the fact by pointing out how the Spaniards "lit many torches and torches and, shouting, moaning and crying, they finally sank with ship and everything in our presence." The rescue of the survivors was painful: "Some of our sailors, against the orders given, killed some Spaniards."

EXPEDITION OF L'HERMITE

Another expedition, of greater magnitude was the one that arrived at the coast of Peru in 1624, when the Dutch Admiral Jacques Clerk, also known as L'Hermite, in command of a fleet of eleven ships blocked and attacked Callao, having as base  the San Lorenzo Island. Viceroy Diego Fernandez de Cordova successfully confronted that attack, adding to the fact of Clerk's unexpected death, which led to the final withdrawal of the Dutch, after three months of siege.

THE PORT OF CALLAO

The origin of the word "Callao" is not very clear, shuffling linguistic links as much Spaniards as natives. Its inhabitants are said "chalacos", derived from "Challahaque", that is to say, "man of the coast".

During the viceroyal times, Callao meant for Spanish power not only the center of commercial traffic as the most important port of the viceroyalty of Peru, but also as the center of operations of the South Sea Navy. In 1687 and 1746, it suffered the clash of tsunamis, which destroyed the population and existing defensive and port facilities. In the Republic, Callao always maintained an important role in decisive events such as the Combat of the 2 of May. In 1857, by decree of Ramón Castilla, the port was elevated to the rank of "Constitutional Province".

PAITA'S HARBOR

The port of Paita is located in the department of Piura, and was founded by Pizarro in 1537 under the name of "San Francisco de la Buena Esperanza de Paita". It was the obligatory point of landing of every ship that reached the Peruvian coast, disembarking passengers that later would follow by land to Lima.

Paita has the honor of having been the residence of our maximum hero: Admiral Miguel Grau, who spent some years of his childhood there, when his father worked at the port customs.

THE PORT OF ARICA

Founded in 1570 under the name of San Marcos de Arica in viceroyal times, it was the obligatory step for commercial traffic between present-day Peru and Bolivia, especially during the heyday of the mining center of Potosí, the largest silver producer of the Peruvian viceroyalty. In the Republic, it maintained its preponderance as a commercial outlet not only in Peru but also for Bolivia. After the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), this port changed to the hands of Chile, falling under its formal sovereignty in 1929.

  • 1570