Certaine Spanish Letters intercepted by shippes of the worshipfull Master John Wattes written from diverse places of the islandes and of the maine land as well of Nueva Espanna, as of Tierra Firma and Peru , containing many secrets touching the aforesaid countreys, and the state of the South Sea, and the trade to the Philippinas.
A letter sent from Havana in Cuba from the general of the fleete John de Orimo to the king of Spaine the 18 of October 1590, touching the building of certaine excellent Frigats, &c.IT may please your majestie that at the date hereof one of the Frigates was lanched: and three more will be ready against the fleete depart from hence. They are very bigge and excellent of sayle, which will carie 150 men a piece with souldiers and mariners. And having good ordinance, there are fewe or none of our enemies that can offend us. For wee shall both leave and take at all times when we list. But it behooveth your majestie to send both souldiers and mariners to man the Frigats. For we have great want of souldiers and mariners, with tackling, ankers, powder, shot, calivers, and all kinde of furniture for them. For these things are not here to bee had for money: and likewise to send some great ordinance for the Zabras. For the merchants ships are so weake and so unprovided, that they have almost none to defend themselves. Also we shall be constrained to give the carena againe unto al the ships; for they are very weake by reason of the long voyage: and the mariners and souldiers are wearie with their long travelling and keeping of them here. Thus if it would please your majestie to command with all expedition that these souldiers and mariners with all kinde of other furniture might be sent us, then the fleete may set forward and so proceede on their voyage. God preserve your Catholike royal majestie.
JOHN DE ORIMO General of your Fleete.
A Letter sent from the Governour of Havana John de Trexeda, to the King of Spaine, the twentieth of October 1590, touching the wants of that place.BY three shippes which departed from this Harbour since the Fleetes arrivall here, I have given your majestie at large to understand, what hath happened as much as I can, and what thing is here to be done in this citie, and what your majestie must provide. And now once againe I will returne to put your majestie in minde thereof. I beseech your majestie to command to be provided and to be sent hither two hundred Negros, if you will have this fortification to goe forwardes: because your majestie is here at great charges with the master workeman and the Officers. And for want of Pioners the worke goeth not forwardes. For as the worke goeth dayly forward and increaseth farther and farther, so we want men to worke, and to garde it, and likewise to keep it. We dare not meddle with those of the Galies. And likewise it may please your majestie to send new working tooles of yron, according to a remembrance which I have sent to your majestie of late, which doeth signifie our wants more at large. Likewise it is needeful that your majestie should send powder and match to furnish these forts. And likewise to send money to pay those souldiers which are newly come hither, & for that companie of souldiers which were sent from Mexico to this place. For it behooveth your majestie not to have them as yet left, till such time as the defences about the forts bee finished, and that which is in building upon the hill, which will be ended very shortly if you send the Negros and yron tooles. Likewise I have certified your majestie, that with all speed I am making ready of the five Frigates, that they may cary all the treasure. Also John de Orimo seeing that it is of so great importance to have them dispatched, doeth furnish mee with some money, although somewhat scantly, untill such time as your majestie doth send him some order therefore. I beseech you to command it to bee done; considering the great charges and expences that we are at here, as by the accounts your Majestie shall more at large perceive, what hath bene spent. These Frigats will be made an end of without all doubt by the moneth of Februarie: but as yet their tackling and sayles are not here arrived: but I doe stay the comming thereof every day, according as the Duke of Medina and John de Ibarra have written unto me, that those ships which should bring the same were ready to depart from thence. All these things it behooveth your Majestie to send in time: for I can assure your Majestie that you shall not have upon the sea such good shippes as these are. For as touching the other ships of the fleete, which are in this harbour, it is not convenient to venture the silver in them. This counsell your Majestie shall not take of mee, for I am a souldier, and have but small skill in navigation. But every day it is tolde me openly and in secret by many of the pilots, captaines, masters and mariners. As touching the copper, I have put it in practise twise more, and have made proofe thereof: wherein there hath bene more spent, then I was willing there should have bene, because I have gotten no fruit thereof: I know not the cause, but that it is not done effectually by those that have the working thereof. Therefore I beseech your Majestie to send me that same founder which I wrote to your Majestie heretofore of. Our Lord keepe your Majestie many yeeres.
JOHN DE TREXEDA governour of Havana.
A letter sent to Don Petro de Xibar one of his Majesties privie Counsel of the West Indies, from Don Diego Mendez de Valdes Governour of S. Juan de Puerto Rico the 20 of November 1590, touching the state of that Citie and Island.I RECEIVED your honours letter the 20 of Februarie, whereby I received great content, to heare that your honour is in good health. As touching the imprisonment of our cousin Don Pedro de Valdes, it doeth grieve me to the very soule. I beseech God to send him his libertie: and likewise the imprisonment of Diego Flores de Valdes grieveth me very much: I pray God to send good justice. The M. of the fielde Juan de Texela, and the M. workeman Juan Baptista Antonio arrived here in safetie, and have viewed this Citie with all the circuite round about and the situation as I have informed his majestie thereof. They have marked a place to build a strong Fort, whereat the countrey remaineth very well contente. And it standeth in a good situation, and in a convenient place on a high mount which doeth lye upon the entering in of the Harbour, & so cutteth over to a point of land, leaving in the Fort as much space as wil containe 3000 persons, without joyning thereunto any part of the coast. So the M. del campo hath named the fort Citadella. He left me great store of yron worke, tooles eight workemen, and 200 Negros, which are the kings. And the Island doth finde 400 pioners which are continually at worke. His majestie hath sent me a warrant to spend the provision of the Island, & to take those rents which his majesty hath here, & to certifie his majestie what there is wanting for the maintaining of the workmen & that they may have all things necessary. So I have sent to Nueva Espanna, for such things as are here wanting. I have written to the M. of the field, which is gone to Havana , informing him that it doeth greatly import that the worke with all expedition should go forward, seeing that it is begun for the defence of the Island. And we doe defend it as well as we can from the enemie, in respect of the great danger which otherwise might happen, if the enemie should come and finde it begun, and not ended. And likewise that his majestie would send me that which I do request. And the most principal thing of al is, to send more Negros. And sending me all these things which be needful, I trust in God I shal in short time build up the fort, to defend us from the enemie. The fort must be builded triangle wise: for it will reach into the bay: and we shal be able to plant in the same 40 pieces of good ordinance, Canon, Demicanon, and Colverine. The M. of the field, hath promised to send me some from Havana . For that he is determined to cast some there, by reason of the great store of copper, which now of late is found in Havana : for here we have as yet but small store of ordinance to defend us. I looke for 5 Canons which his majestie should send from Spaine, with shot and powder and al kinde of weapons, because that here is great want in the Island. His majestie hath sent the whole number of 200 souldiers, and in the companie there came two capitaines. The corps de Guard is kept in the market place: and twise in a moneth I muster all the men in the Iland, and finde very neere 1500 fighting men, and 80 horsemen. The forte when it is ended will be the strongest that his majestie hath in all the Indies. And now the people of the countrey sleepe in security. For commonly before, the Englishmen would come and beard us to the havens mouth. God keep your honour, and send you long health.
A letter to John Lopez Canavate, Alderman in the towne of Canavate in Spaine written from his servant Juan de Porva Canavates, from Havana the seventeenth of October 1590, touching the state of the said place.THIS is to give you to understand, that since my departure from S. Lucar I have written unto you twise of my arrivall here, and what successe I have had. And nowe you shall understand that I am determined to goe for Nueva Espanna. For I stay but opportunitie of time. For here is great watch dayly kept and great looking to the souldiers in keeping of them together, for running away. But neverthelesse I hope in God, to finde some friend to convey mee away from hence. This countrey is so close and narrow, that if a man steale not away hidden in some shippe, it is not possible for him to escape, nor to goe a league out of the towne, no way but by sea. And because the harbour is so close, it is the best harbour and the surest in the world. The harbour is made in this order. The entrie in towarde the land is by a narrow streight chanel, which continueth as long as a caliver shot, and from that place the river openeth broader and broader: There are in the entring in, two points which make with the lande, whereupon are newly builded two strong forts, which are fortified with very great store of ordinance: besides another strong and famous Forte which is in the Citie, so that it is impossible to take it. There are in these three Fortes, a thousand souldiers in Garison. And likewise here are two galies to keepe the coast. Yet for all this, the audacious Englishmen being without all shame are not afraid to come and dare us at our owne doores. Our journey to goe for England is most certaine in the yeere 1592. Here are making with great expedition 18 ships, which are called Frigats for that effect. They are very strong shippes, and will drawe but very litle water, whereby they may enter amongst the shoulds on the banckes of Flanders : they are builded the higher because here is great store of timber and excellent good and incorruptible. It is reported that the fleete will depart from hence in February, by reason that at that time the Englishmen are not departed out of their owne countrey.
JOHN DE PORVA CANAVATES.
A letter from Mexico , of Sebastian Biscaino to his Father Antonio Biscaino in Corchio in Spaine, touching the great profit of the trade to China , and somewhat of M. Thomas Candish. Written the 20 of June 1590.HAVING written to your worship by a friend of mine at large, nowe I will bee somewhat short. And this is onely to give you to understand, that foure moneths past, I came from China , and landed in Acapulco , 70 leagues from Mexico, which is the harbour where the ships that goe downe to China lye: and all the marchants of Mexico bring all their Spanish commodities downe to this harbour, to ship them for that countrey. It is one of the best harbours in all Nueva Espanna; and where the ships may ride most safely without all kinde of danger. For it lyeth under a necke of land, and behind a great point. And in this harbour here are foure great ships of Mexico of 600 and 800 tunnes a piece, which onely serve to cary our commodities to China , and so to returne backe againe. The order is thus. From hence to China is above two thousand leagues, farther than from hence to Spaine. And from hence their two first ships depart at one time to China : and are 13 or 14 moneths returning backe againe. And when those two ships are returned, then the other twaine two moneths after depart from hence. They goe nowe from hence very strong with souldiers. I can certifie you of one thing; That 200 ducates in Spanish commodities, and some Flemish wares which I caryed with me thither, I made worth 1400 ducates there in the countrey. So I make account that with those silkes, and other commodities which I brought with me from thence to Mexico, I got 2500 ducates by the voyage: and had gotten more, if one packe of fine silkes had not bene spoiled with salt water. So as I sayd, there is great gaine to be gotten if that a man returne in safetie. But the yeere 1588 I had great mischance, coming in a ship from China to Nueva Espanna: which being laden with rich commodities, was taken by an Englishman which robbed us and afterward burned our ship, wherein I lost a great deale of treasure and commodities. If I should write to you of the state of this countrey of China , and of the strange things which are there, and of the wealth of the countrey, I were not able to doe it, in an whole quier of paper. Onely I may certifie you, that it is the goodliest countrey, and the richest, and most plentifull in all the world. For here are great store of golde mynes, silver mynes, and pearle, great store of cotten cloth: for the countrey people weareth nothing else but fine cotten cloth, which is more accepted then silkes. For here is great store of silkes, & they are good cheape. All kinde of victuals, as bread, flesh, wines and hennes and all kindes of foules, are very plentifull. Here are great store of fresh rivers. The people are very loving. Here are very faire cities and townes with costly buildings, better then those in Spaine. And the countrey people go very richly apparelled both in silkes and gold. But here we have order from the king of Spaine, that a Spaniard may not dwell in China , above 3 yeres, and afterwards they must returne againe into Nueva Espanna, and other souldiers must come in their places. The countrey is very unwholesome for us Spaniardes. For within these 20 yeres of 14000, which have gone to the Philippinas, there are 13000 of them dead, and not past 1000 of them left alive. There is a place in China which is an harbour, called Macaran, which the king hath given to the Spaniards freely: which shall be the place where the ships shall come and trafficke. For in this harbour there is a great river which goeth up into the maine land, unto divers townes and cities, which are neere to this river. And thus troubling you no farther I rest.
A Letter of Bartholomew Cano to Peter de Tapia in Sivill, from Mexico the 30 of May 1590, touching the state of Nueva Espanna, and the Fleet of that yeere.BECAUSE I have answered your letters which I have received in the last Fleet, as touching that matter I have no more to say. The occasion of my writing unto you at this time, is to give you to understand, that those commodities which came in the last Fleet, were sold at the first good cheape, and those that bought them, got much by them. For now at this instant white Roan cloth is solde for 8 or 9 reals a vare. The cause of this was, by reason there came a caravel of Advise from Havana ; which brought us newes, how the armie that his majestie did send for England , was all spoiled and cast away: and therefore they of Spaine did write that there would come no Fleet from Spaine hither this yeere: And this is the cause that all linnen cloth is very deere in these parts. Wines also are very deere: for they are sold for 90 and 100 deminas a pipe. When the Frigats departed from hence in August last 1589. Cochinilla was sold at that instant for 50 pesos the quintall; and now it is sold for 55 pesoes. And since that newes came from Spaine in a caravel of S. Lucar, that it was solde there for 72 ducates the quintall, there are laden in this Fleet 14000 Arovas of Cochinilla, and 7000 Arovas more were laden in the Frigats which departed before the Fleet. There is laden in the Fleet great quantitie of treasure, more then hath bene sent to Spaine these many yeres, both for the Kings and the Vice-royes account. And the marchants and gentlemen of all these provinces doe send great quantitie to supply the Kings wants: for that his majestie hath written to the Vice-roy and to the gentlemen of these countreyes to ayde him with much money towardes the maintenance of his warres against France and other places, & therefore they have sent good store: God send it well to Spaine. There are likewise laden aboord the Fleet to the number of 100000. hides, and great store of other kindes of this countrey commodities. So that the Fleet goeth very richly laden. Quicke silver is here very deere, for here is almost none to bee had for any money to worke in the gold mynes: for without Quicke silver wee cannot refine our gold. And no man upon paine of death may bring any from Spaine hither; but all must come for the Kings account: and so the King doeth sell it here: there is exceeding great gaine therein. And thus I rest:
A letter of Frier Alonso new elected Bishop of Mechuacan, to the king of Spaine, written in Peru in the citie de los Reyes the first of March 1590, touching the state of Arica a chiefe Haven in Peru .UPON Christmas even the yere 1589, I received your majesties commission in Potossi. For which I am and shall be continually bound to pray for your majesties long health, for the great benefits which your majestie hath bestowed upon me, in sending me to Mechuacan: whereby my great travell and paines may be recompenced, which I have taken with that ungrateful and desperate people of the river of Plate, which they have bene the occasion of, in dealing so badly with me their Pastour, which have counselled them, that they should have a great care to serve God, and be dutifull to your majestie, according as every good and true subject ought to do. Now for this gift which your majestie hath bestowed on me, I most humbly kisse your majesties handes a thousand times. Thus presently I departed from Potossi somewhat sickely, to accomplish that which your majestie hath commanded me. So I arrived at Lima in safetie the first of February by the way of Arica , which is an haven towne, where they imbarke all the barres of silver. And there I have seene what is done, & what they have provided against the Englishmen in that haven: which is; That there is a litle fort made hard by the waters side, with certaine small pieces of ordinance in the said fort to offend the enemie, if occasion should serve that they should offer to come into the harbour and offer any violence. But the principall thing of all that we want is to have souldiers, foote men, and horsemen. For according as I am informed, here want 100 men which should keepe the coast, if they should offer to land and march up into the countrey. And likewise the people of this countrey have told me, that if upon an high mount which is here in the harbour neere to the havens mouth, on the Southside of the harbour where the sea doth beat, ther were two or three great Canons planted on the top of the hill, (where very good watch is continually kept) from that place they may reach to doe the enemie great hurt, a league into the sea. The new Vice-roy Don Garcia Urtado de Mendoca, worthy of that dignitie, is in great favour with al those of these realmes : for that he is a great solliciter both by sea and land in all kinde of diligence, not loosing one houre in your service, and that which he hath in charge. With as much speed as may be I will depart from hence to Mechuacan, to serve that church and your majesty: and there I will remaine according to your majesties commandement, with the bulles or indulgences. Our Lord keepe your majesty many yeres in his holy service.
A letter of Don John de Miramontes Suasola to Don John Garcias de Penalosa from Arica on the coast of Peru the tenth of March 1590.AFTER my long travell and badde successe, my fortune brought mee to the Indies; where being void of all hope, and full of griefe, I am become a souldier: a thing in this countrey which is most hated of all other things, not onely of men, but of the wilde beasts: and is an occupation which is chosen of idle persons. The occasion of this is, that there have bene in these seas, and yet are certeine English rovers: and in seeking of them I have travelled these three yeres : the one of the yeres a souldier, and the other two yeeres I have gone for captaine and ensigne-bearer. And at this time here is arrived Don Garcias Urtado de Mendoca viceroy of these realmes: who hath chosen me to be chiefe ensigne-bearer of an army which departed from hence to scoure the coast. For here we have newes of the enemy, which is comming upon the coast: for wee have stayed for their comming these foure moneths the same way which they must come, in a haven called Arica , which is the first entry of Peru . So I have 90 pezos a moneth, besides other profits, at nine reals the pezo; & foure shares at nine reals the pezo. So that I have 1800 pezos every yere of pay: for the viceroy is my dere friend, and maketh great account of me. And I have alwayes 400 ducats in my chest to goe like a man. I beseech God send us quietnesse. But yet it is the part of a gentleman to serve the king his master in these actions. And thus I rest.
Don John de Miramontes Suasola. There are foure great galeons of 350 tunnes a piece, which are in Arica men of warre, with a Generall, Admirall, Viceadmirall, with great store of souldiers which keepe this haven: for the viceroy hath intelligence that there are certeine Englishmen of war comming thither. This haven of Arica is the best harbour in all the South sea: for all the silver which commeth from the mines of Potossi, is shipt in this harbour, and so brought to Lima . And likewise all the commodities which come from Spaine, and all the kings quicksilver, is unladen in this harbour, and so caried to the city of Lima and other places, where the mines of silver are.