Casa de Contratación

The Casa de Contratación (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkasa ðe kontɾataˈθjon], "House of Trade") or Casa de la Contratación de las Indias ("House of Trade of the Indies") was established by the Crown of Castile, in 1503 in the port of Seville (and transferred to Cadiz in 1717) as a crown agency for the Spanish Empire. It functioned until 1790, when it was abolished in a government reorganization. Before the establishment of the Council of the Indies in 1524, the Casa de Contratación had broad powers over overseas matters, especially financial matters concerning trade and legal disputes arising from it. It also was responsible for the licensing of emigrants, training of pilots, creation of maps and charters, probate of estates of Spaniards dying overseas.[1] Its official name was La Casa y Audiencia de Indias.[2]

Cathedral and Archivo de Indias - Seville
Although the Casa de Contratación was not located in a specific building, its documents can now be seen in the Archive of the Indies in Seville.


Unlike the later East India Companies, chartered companies established by the Dutch, English, and others, the Casa collected all colonial taxes and duties, approved all voyages of exploration and trade, maintained secret information on trade routes and new discoveries,[3][4] licensed captains, and administered commercial law. In theory, no Spaniard could sail anywhere without the approval of the Casa. However, smuggling often took place in different parts of the vast Spanish Empire.[5][6][7]

The Casa de Contratación was founded by Queen Isabella I of Castile in 1503, eleven years after the discovery of the Americas in 1492.[8] The Casa was the Spanish counterpart of the Portuguese organization, the Casa da Índia, or House of Índia of Lisbon,[9][10] established in 1434 and destroyed by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

Dr. Sancho de Matienzo became the first treasurer, Jimeno de Bribiesca the first contador, and Francisco Pinelo the first factor. They soon controlled the economic development of Hispaniola.[11]


A 20 per cent tax, the quinto real (royal fifth) was levied by the Casa on all precious metals entering Spain.[12][13] The other taxes could run as high as 40% to provide naval protection for the trading ships or as low as 10 per cent during financial turmoil to encourage investment and economic growth in the colony. Each ship was required to employ a clerk to keep detailed logs of all goods carried and all transactions.[14]

The Casa de Contratación produced and managed the Padrón Real, the official and secret Spanish map used as a template for the maps carried by every Spanish ship during the 16th century.[15] It was constantly improved from its first version in 1508, and was the counterpart of the Portuguese map, the Padrão Real. The Casa also ran a navigation school; new pilots, or navigators, were trained for ocean voyages here.[16]

Spain employed the then standard mercantilist model, governed (at least in theory) by the Casa in Seville. Trade with the overseas possessions was handled by a merchants' guild based in Seville, the Consulado de mercaderes, which worked in conjunction with the Casa de Contratación. Trade was physically controlled in well-regulated trade fleets, the famous Flota de Indias and the Manila galleons.


By the late 17th century, the Casa de Contratación had fallen into bureaucratic gridlock, and the empire as a whole was failing, due primarily to Spain's inability to finance both war on the Continent and a global empire. More often than not, the riches transported from Manila and Acapulco to Spain were officially signed over to Spain's creditors before the Manila galleon made port. In the 18th century, the new Bourbon kings reduced the power of Seville and the Casa de Contratacion.[17] In 1717 they moved the Casa from Seville to Cádiz, diminishing Seville's importance in international trade. Charles III further limited the powers of the Casa,[18] and his son, Charles IV, abolished it altogether in 1790.[18][19]


The mapmaking enterprise at the Casa de Contratación was a huge undertaking, and critical to the success of the voyages of discovery. Without good navigational aids, the ability of Spain to exploit and profit from its discoveries would have been limited. The Casa had a large number of cartographers and navigators (pilots), archivists, record keepers, administrators and others involved in producing and managing the Padrón Real.[20]

The famous explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who made at least two voyages to the New World, was a pilot working at the Casa de Contratación until his death in 1512.[21] A special position was created for Vespucci, the piloto mayor (chief of navigation), in 1508;[22] he trained new pilots for ocean voyages.[14] His nephew Juan Vespucci inherited his famous uncle's maps, charts, and nautical instruments,[23] and along with Andrés de San Martín was appointed to Amerigo's former position as the official Spanish government pilot at Seville.[24][25] In 1524, Juan Vespucci was appointed examinador de pilotos (Examiner of Pilots),[26] replacing Sebastian Cabot who was then leading an expedition in Brazil.[27][28]

In the 1530s and 1540s, the principal mapmakers (known as "cosmographers") in the Casa de Contratación working on the Padrón Real included Alonso de Santa Cruz,[29] Sebastian Cabot, and Pedro de Medina.[30] The mapmaker Diego Gutiérrez was appointed as cosmographer in the Casa on October 22, 1554, after the death of his father Diego in January 1554; he also worked on the Padrón Real. In 1562 Gutierrez published the map entitled "Americae...Descriptio" in Antwerp. It was published in Antwerp instead of Spain because the Spanish engravers did not have the necessary skill to print such a complicated document.[31] Other cosmographers included Alonso de Chaves, Francisco Falero, Jerónimo de Chaves, Sancho Gutiérrez (Diego's brother).[32][33]

In the late 16th century, Juan Lopez de Velasco was the first Cosmógrafo-Cronista Mayor (Cosmographer-Chronicler Major) of the Council of the Indies in Seville.[34] He produced a master map and twelve subsidiary maps portraying the worldwide Spanish empire in cartographic form.[35][36][37] Although these maps are not especially accurate or detailed, his work represented the apogee of Spanish mapmaking in that period, and surpassed anything done by the other European powers. Cartographers in England, the Low Countries, and Germany, however, continued to improve their skills in making maps and in organizing and presenting geographic information, until by the end of the 17th century, even Spanish intellectuals were lamenting that the maps produced by foreigners were superior to those made in Spain.[38][39][40]

See also


  1. ^ John R. Fisher, "Casa de Contratación" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 1, p. 589. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
  2. ^ Jorge Galván (2006). El hierro y la pólvora. UNAM. p. 231. ISBN 978-970-770-393-3.
  3. ^ Richard Flint; Shirley Cushing Flint (18 March 2003). The Coronado Expedition: From the Distance of 460 Years. UNM Press. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-8263-2977-6.
  4. ^ James D. Henderson; Helen Delpar; Maurice Philip Brungardt; Richard N. Weldon (2000). A Reference Guide to Latin American History. M.E. Sharpe. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-56324-744-6.
  5. ^ Jean O. McLachlan (19 November 2015). Trade and Peace with Old Spain, 1667–1750. Cambridge University Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-107-58561-4.
  6. ^ William S. Maltby (24 November 2008). The Rise and Fall of the Spanish Empire. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-137-04187-6.
  7. ^ J. A. C. Hugill (1991). No Peace Without Spain. Kensal Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-946041-58-9.
  8. ^ John Michael Francis (2006). Iberia and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History : a Multidisciplinary Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 179. ISBN 978-1-85109-421-9.
  9. ^ Susannah Ferreira (29 May 2015). The Crown, the Court and the Casa da Índia: Political Centralization in Portugal 1479-1521. BRILL. p. 169. ISBN 978-90-04-29819-4.
  10. ^ Hans Ferdinand Helmolt (1901). Pre-history. America and the Pacific ocean. W. Heinemann. p. 388.
  11. ^ Floyd, Troy (1973). The Columbus Dynasty in the Caribbean, 1492-1526. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. p. 53.
  12. ^ Massimo Livi-Bacci (2008). Conquest: The Destruction of the American Indios. Polity. p. 293. ISBN 978-0-7456-4001-3.
  13. ^ José de Acosta (24 September 2002). Natural and Moral History of the Indies. Duke University Press. p. 177. ISBN 0-8223-8393-4.
  14. ^ a b Patrick O'Flanagan (28 June 2013). Port Cities of Atlantic Iberia, c. 1500–1900. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-4094-8011-2.
  15. ^ David Waters (1970). The Iberian Bases of the English Art of Navigation in the Sixteenth Century. UC Biblioteca Geral 1. p. 13. GGKEY:KXSJC7ZAS51.
  16. ^ Benjamin Keen; Keith A. Haynes (1 July 2008). A History of Latin America, Volume 1: Ancient America to 1910: Ancient America to 1910. Cengage Learning. p. 91. ISBN 0-618-78320-2.
  17. ^ Richard Harding (4 January 2002). Seapower and Naval Warfare, 1650-1830. Routledge. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-135-36486-1.
  18. ^ a b Max Beloff (19 December 2013). The Age of Absolutism (Routledge Revivals): 1660-1815. Taylor & Francis. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-317-81664-5.
  19. ^ Albert Goodwin (23 September 1976). The New Cambridge Modern History: Volume 8, The American and French Revolutions, 1763-93. CUP Archive. p. 402. ISBN 978-0-521-29108-8.
  20. ^ Lloyd Arnold Brown (1979). The Story of Maps. Courier Corporation. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-486-23873-9.
  21. ^ Elizabeth Nash (13 October 2005). Seville, Cordoba, and Granada: A Cultural History. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-19-518204-0.
  22. ^ Frederick Julius Pohl (28 October 2013). Amerigo Vespucci: Pilot Major. Routledge. p. 187. ISBN 978-1-136-22713-4.
  23. ^ Frederick Albion Ober (1907). Amerigo Vespucci. Harper & Brothers. pp. 235–236.
  24. ^ Clarence Henry Haring (1918). Trade and Navigation Between Spain and the Indies in the Time of the Habsburgs. Harvard University Press. p. 307.
  25. ^ Manuel de la Puente y Olea (1900). Los trabajos geográficos de la Casa de Contratación. Escuela Tipográfica y Librería Salesianas. p. 283.
  26. ^ Álvarez Massini Álvarez; José María Olivero; Olivero Orecchia Olivero; Enrique Carlos Albornoz Nessi Albornoz (2007). Cartografía y navegación: del portulano a la carta esférica : del siglo XIII a comienzos del siglo XIX. Armada Nacional. p. 275. ISBN 978-9974-7624-1-1.
  27. ^ William Patterson Cumming; Louis De Vorsey (1998). The Southeast in early maps. University of North Carolina Press. p. 4.
  28. ^ The Geographical Journal. Royal Geographical Society. 1915. p. 83.
  29. ^ Richard L. Kagan; Fernando Marías (2000). Urban Images of the Hispanic World, 1493-1793. Yale University Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-300-08314-9.
  30. ^ Pamela Smith; Paula Findlen (18 October 2013). Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe. Taylor & Francis. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-135-30035-7.
  31. ^ Encounters. Latin American Institute of the University of New Mexico. 1989. p. 16.
  32. ^ Aaron M. Kahn (22 September 2011). On Wolves and Sheep: Exploring the Expression of Political Thought in Golden Age Spain. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-4438-3417-9.
  33. ^ Pedro Ruiz-Castell and Ximo Guillem-Llobat; Josep Simon; Néstor Herran with Tayra Lanuza-Navarro (27 May 2009). Beyond Borders: Fresh Perspectives in History of Science. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-4438-1147-7.
  34. ^ Daniela Bleichmar (18 December 2008). Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500–1800. Stanford University Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-8047-7633-2.
  35. ^ David Woodward (1 September 2007). Cartography in the European Renaissance. University of Chicago Press. p. 1146. ISBN 978-0-226-90733-8.
  36. ^ David Buisseret (22 May 2003). The Mapmakers' Quest: Depicting New Worlds in Renaissance Europe. Oxford University Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-19-150090-9.
  37. ^ Barbara E. Mundy (1 December 2000). The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geograficas. University of Chicago Press. pp. 17–18, 22–23. ISBN 978-0-226-55097-8.
  38. ^ Martin Jay; Sumathi Ramaswamy (29 January 2014). Empires of Vision: A Reader. Duke University Press. pp. 215–216. ISBN 978-0-8223-7897-6.
  39. ^ Evonne Levy; Kenneth Mills (6 January 2014). Lexikon of the Hispanic Baroque: Transatlantic Exchange and Transformation. University of Texas Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-292-75309-9.
  40. ^ David Buisseret (6 July 1998). Envisioning the City: Six Studies in Urban Cartography. University of Chicago Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-226-07993-6.

Further reading

  • Barrera Osorio, Antonio, Experiencing Nature: The Spanish American Empire and the Early Scientific Revolution (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006).
  • Buisseret, David. "Spain Maps Her 'New World'", ncounter, February 1992, No. 8, pp. 14–19.
  • Collins, Edward. “Portuguese Pilots at the Casa de la Contratación and the Examenes de Pilotos.” The International Journal of Maritime History 26 (2014): 179-92.
  • ---. “Francisco Faleiro and Scientific Methodology at the Casa de la Contratación in the Sixteenth Century.” Imago Mundi 65 (2013): 25-36.
  • Fisher, John R. "Casa de Contratación" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 1, pp. 589–90. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
  • McDougall, Walter (1993): Let the Sea Make a Noise: Four Hundred Years of Cataclysm, Conquest, War and Folly in the North Pacific. Avon Books, New York, USA.
  • Pulido Rubio, José. El piloto mayor de la Casa de la Contratación de Sevilla: pilotos mayores, catedráticos de cosmografía y cosmográfos. Seville: Escuela de Estudios Hispano- Americanos, 1950.

External links

1503 in India

Events from the year 1503 in India.

Alcázar of Seville

The Alcázar of Seville (pronounced [alˈkaθaɾ]; Spanish: Reales Alcázares de Sevilla or "Royal Alcazars of Seville") is a royal palace in Seville, Spain, built for the Christian king Peter of Castile. It was built by Castilian Christians on the site of an Abbadid Muslim residential fortress destroyed after the Christian conquest of Seville. The palace, a preeminent example of Mudéjar architecture in the Iberian Peninsula, is renowned as one of the most beautiful. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as their official residence in Seville, and are administered by the Patrimonio Nacional. It is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, and was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the adjoining Seville Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.

Alonzo de Santa Cruz

Alonzo de Santa Cruz (or Alonso, Alfonso) (1505 – 1567) was a Spanish cartographer, mapmaker, instrument maker, historian and teacher. He was born about 1505, and died in November 1567. His maps were inventoried in 1572.Alonzo de Santa Cruz was a renowned cartographer on the Consejo de Indias (Council of the Indies) and a cosmographer at the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade). There, he worked on the Padrón Real, a Spanish map documenting the discoveries in the New World.Alonzo de Santa Cruz, described cosmography as a way of making a painting of the earth, "because (gra)phia is the same as painting and cosmos is world"In 1530, Alonzo de Santa Cruz produced the first map of magnetic variations from true north. He believed it would be of use in finding the correct longitude. Alonso de Santa Cruz designed new nautical instruments, was interested in navigational methods, and wrote about John Cabot's method for finding longitude which made use of the declination of the sun, observed with the quadrant.Alonzo also taught astronomy and cosmography in the court of Charles V. Alonzo then wrote a five-volume biography about Charles V which described some of the Spanish atrocities in the New World. This upset Charles' son, Phillip II, and so Phillip removed three chapters of the biography.He also produced the Islario general de todas las islas del mundo (sometimes called the Islario General), a map and document describing the world's islands, at the request of King Philip II in 1542. He also continued Hernando del Pulgar's work titled, History of the Catholic Monarchs.

Antonio José Álvarez de Abreu, 1st Marquis of la Regalía

Antonio José Alvarez de Abreu (8 July 1688 in Santa Cruz de la Palma, Canary Islands, Spain – 28 November 1756), Marquis de la Regalía by King Philip V of Spain on 8 July 1738, the son of Sergeant Domingo Alvarez Hernandez and Maria Yañez Abreu, studied Latin and Philosophy at the Augustines Convent of La Laguna of Tenerife and graduated at the University of Salamanca being a "Bachiller" in 1707 and a "Licenciado" in law in 1711.

He was nominated as a Surveyor and Controller of the Royal Rents and Taxes in August 1714 in the actual Caracas, Venezuela, in February 1715. In August 1715 he started his lectures on law, the first chair in Caracas, in the Convent of Santa Rosa asked by Archbishop Francisco del Rincón, and in April 1716 married in the Cathedral of Caracas widower Teresa Cecilia de Bertodano Knepper, born 1691. They fathered two boys and two girls between 1717 and 1721 while in Caracas having another two males after returning to Spain.

He was involved in September 1720 in the wrangle by the Viceroy to destitute the Captain General of the Province of Caracas, Marcos de Bethencourt y Castro, and appointing him as a Governor and Lieutenant of the Captain General, which required a further Order from February 1721 and obeying it by the local authorities as from May 1721. By September, he was replaced and then moved to La Habana (Cuba) and Veracruz (Mexico), towards the end of 1722, coming back to Spain towards the end of 1723. In 1726 he publishes statements in the sense that the vacant positions in the churches of the Spanish Empire, and therefore the rents and moneys providing their support for whathever earlier reasons, belong to the King ("regalism" from the French churches, hence the marquis title given to him "de la Regalía" by the thankful Bourbon King Philip V of Spain, bringing "over 1 million "reales"" to the Crown).

Meanwhile his administrative position within the Exchequer rolled on : Casa de Contratación de Cadiz, Finances Council, the Royal Monopolies on Salt, Mines, Mercury, African Slaves, Tobacco, Foreign Trade, China-Mexico trade from Manila (Philippine Islands), Foreign residents and Merchants..... , getting promoted to Marquis in 1738 by King Philip V, heavily mentally handicapped by then, but assisted by loyal commoners and industriously minded nobility.

It is said, that he notified the "Cabildo Council" of the Canary Islands on his promotion to the Castile nobility. however, there was never a reply or official congratulation about his title.

His son, known as Felix José de Abreu Bertodano, (Caracas, 13 July 1721 - circa 1765, aged 45) was also a brilliant merchantilist and writer on economic subjects.


Astete is a Spanish surname, from an ancient Basque - Castilian lineage. The etymology of "Astete" comes from the Basque language: "Aste" possibly a variation of "Arte" means oak, and "ete" is a suffix to nearby location. The most probable original locations, prior to the 16th century, are the regions of ancient Basque influence of the medieval Castile (such as La Bureba and the mountains of Burgos) and modern La Rioja. The earliest official records of Astetes occur in La Rioja, in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, in the province of Valladolid and Quintanaélez in the province of Burgos. They were hidalgos and had casas solariegas (ancient family seat) in Quintanaélez (Burgos), Valladolid and Salamanca.The first immigrants to the Americas traveled there with expeditions in the 16th century. Today people of these surnames live mainly in Peru (the oldest branch), Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and United States. In Spain the surname is very rare today. Most Spanish Astete are descended from the branch that settled in Seville, Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema (between the 17th and 18th centuries), and live in the province of Cádiz in Andalusia. The variant "Estete" is possibly from La Rioja, but occurred sporadically or as a result of spelling mistakes in other Spanish provinces.

Consulado de mercaderes

The Consulado de mercaderes was the merchant guild of Seville founded in 1543; the Consulado enjoyed virtual monopoly rights over goods shipped to America, in a regular and closely controlled West Indies Fleet, and handled much of the silver this trade generated.

A consulado was founded in Mexico City in 1594, controlled by peninsular wholesale merchants who dealt in long-distance trade and often married into local elite families with commercial ties. Their assets had to amount to at least 28,000 pesos. Although they were not supposed to deal in local retail trade, they often did some indirectly. They mainly lived in Mexico City and had positions on the city council or cabildo. A number of them were connected to the crown mint in the capital. They diversified the assets locally, investing in urban real estate. In the 18th century, as New Spain's economy boomed, consulados were established in the port of Veracruz and in Guadalajara Mexico, indicating increased trade and the expansion of the merchant elite. The consulado in late colonial Mexico had approximately 200 members, who divided themselves into two factions, the Basque and Montañés, even though some were from neither of these Iberian regions. American-born merchants came to be part of the consulado in the later colonial period, but a small number of peninsular merchants dominated. Goods were shipped from the Spanish port of Cádiz to Veracruz, but many of the goods were produced elsewhere in Europe.

Council of the Indies

The Council of the Indies; officially, the Royal and Supreme Council of the Indies (Spanish: Real y Supremo Consejo de las Indias, pronounced [reˈal i suˈpɾemo konˈsexo ðe las ˈindjas]), was the most important administrative organ of the Spanish Empire for the Americas and the Philippines. The crown held absolute power over the Indies and the Council of the Indies was the administrative and advisory body for those overseas realms. It was established in 1524 by Charles V to administer "the Indies," Spain's name for its territories. Such an administrative entity, on the conciliar model of the Council of Castile, was created following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire in 1521, which demonstrated the importance of the Americas. Originally an itinerary council that followed Charles V, it was subsequently established as an autonomous body with legislative, executive and judicial functions by Philip II of Spain and placed in Madrid in 1561. The Council of the Indies was abolished in 1812 by the Cádiz Cortes, briefly restored in 1814 by Ferdinand VII of Spain, and definitively abolished in 1834 by the regency, acting on behalf of the four-year-old Isabella II of Spain.

Diego de Egües y Beaumont

Diego de Egües y Beaumont (Sevilla, c. 1612 – Bogotá, December 25, 1664), was a Spanish soldier, noble and colonial governor. He is famous for his command of Spanish forces in the naval action of the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

He was the eldest son of Martín de Egües, judge of the Casa de Contratación de Indias and later the Royal Chancery of Valladolid, and Juana Verdugo de la Cueva (or Anne).

Enrique of Malacca

Enrique of Malacca (Spanish: Enrique de Malaca; Portuguese: Henrique de Malaca; Malay: Panglima Awang), was acquired as a slave in Melaka by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who subsequently took him on the first (Spanish) circumnavigation of the world in 1519–22. Italian historian Antonio Pigafetta, who wrote the most comprehensive account of Magellan's voyage, named him "Henrique" (which was Hispanicised as Enrique in official Spanish documents). According to biographer-philosopher Stefan Zweig, he is the first person to circumnavigate the world. His name appears as "enrique", which is Portuguese. His name appears only in Pigafetta's account, in Magellan's Last Will, and in official documents at the Casa de Contratación de las Indias of the Magellan expedition to the Philippines.

As set out in Magellan's document Last Will, Magellan acquired Enrique as a slave at Malacca, most probably at the early stages of the siege by the Portuguese in 1511, at age 14 years. Though Maggellan's will calls him "a native of Malacca", the chronicler of the circumnavigation, Pigafetta, states that he was a native of Sumatra — equally possible given the polyglot migrant population of Melaka.

Originally named Awang, he was called Henrique by the Portuguese. Eyewitness documents of Antonio Pigafetta, Ginés de Mafra, the Genoese pilot, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, Juan Sebastián Elcano, and Bartolomé de las Casas, and secondary sources such as João de Barros and Francisco López de Gómara, refer to him as a slave.

Juan de Cuéllar

Juan José Ruperto de Cuéllar y Villanueba (ca. 1739, probably Real Sitio de Aranjuez, Spain – 1801, Ilocos, Philippines) was a Spanish pharmacologist and botanist. From 1786 to 1797 he was the leader of a royal botanical expedition to the Philippines.


Llotja (Eastern Catalan: [ˈʎɔdʒə], plural llotjes); in Aragonese: loncha; in Spanish: lonja; is a Spanish term for important buildings used for commercial purpose during the Middle Ages and Early Modern Ages.

Many of them, were used during the Medieval Ages for fishing and livestock markets or by brokers who used to make intermediaries.

Others, the so-called Casa de Contratación de Indias, were establishments destined to the control of the commercial activity, the transit of people and expeditions between Spain and the Americas. They registered all of the merchandise that circulated between Spain and the Americas and intervened in commercial trials.

Padrão Real

The Padrão Real (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐˈðɾɐ̃w̃ ʁiˈaɫ], translated into English as Royal Pattern) was a cartographic work of Portuguese mastery produced secretly and maintained by the organization of the Portuguese Royal Court in the 16th century. The work was available to the scientific elite of the time, being exposed in the Casa da Índia (House of India). In the Padrão Real the new discoveries of the Portuguese were constantly added and mapped. The first Padrão Real was produced in the time of Henry the Navigator, even before the existence of the Casa da Índia.

The Padrão Real of the House of India hung from the ceiling in the Division of Maps as the Portuguese masterpiece, extremely secretive and guarded of foreign spies and merchants.

The Padrão Real included the complete record of the Portuguese discoveries, public and secret. The House of India issued maps based on the Padrão Real to navigators in Royal service.

The Cantino planisphere (1502) is a copy of the Padrão Real, possibly produced by some Portuguese bribed cartographer. It is conjectured that Cantino was able to bribe a cartographer to copy the map between December 1501 and October 1502. From a letter signed by Cantino it is thought that he sent the map to the Duke of Ferrara on November 19, 1502.

The Padrão Real was lost in time. However a copy (Cantino planisphere) still exists. The Spanish counterpart of the Portuguese Padrão Real was the Padrón Real, officially established by the Spanish Monarchs in 1508, in the Casa de Contratación.

Padrón Real

The Padrón Real (Spanish pronunciation: [paˈðɾon reˈal], Royal Register), known after 2 August 1527 as the Padrón General (Spanish: [paˈðɾon xeneˈɾal], General Register), was the official and secret Spanish master map used as a template for the maps present on all Spanish ships during the 16th century. It was kept in Seville, Spain by the Casa de Contratación. Ship pilots were required to use a copy of the official government chart, or risk the penalty of a 50 doblas fine. The map probably included a large-scale chart that hung on the wall of the old Alcázar of Seville. Well-known official cartographers and pilots who contributed to and used the map included Amerigo Vespucci, Diogo Ribeiro, Sebastian Cabot, Alonzo de Santa Cruz, and Juan Lopez de Velasco.

Rodrigo Zamorano

Rodrigo Zamorano (1542–1620) was a cosmographer of the royal house of Philip II of Spain.

Zamorano was born in Valladolid. He was author of several books on navigation, astronomy, calendars and mathematics. He was, at one time, placed in charge of the Casa de Contratación.

In 1576, he translated Euclid's Elements into Spanish. He died in Seville.The mathematician Edward Wright incorporated a translation of Zamorano's Compendio de la Arte de Navegar into his own work, Certaine Errors in Navigation, in 1599.

Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Spanish pronunciation: [sanˈlukaɾ ðe βaraˈmeða]), or simply Sanlúcar, is a city in the northwest of Cádiz province, part of the autonomous community of Andalucía in southern Spain. Sanlúcar is located on the left bank at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River opposite the Doñana National Park, 52 km from the provincial capital Cádiz and 119 km from Sevilla capital of the autonomous region Andalucía. Its population is 65,805 inhabitants (National Institute of Statistics 2009).

Sanlúcar has been inhabited since ancient times, and is assumed to have belonged to the realm of the Tartessian civilization. The town of San Lucar was granted to the Spanish nobleman Alonso Pérez de Guzmán in 1297.

Due to its strategic location, the city was a starting point for the exploration, colonization and evangelization of America between the 15th and 17th centuries. Sanlúcar lost much of its strategic value after 1645 due to the disgrace of the House of Medina Sidonia, the general decline of Spain under Charles II, the relocation of the Casa de Contratación to Cadiz in 1717, and the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

In the 19th century the economy of the city was converted to viticulture and summer tourism. The 20th century brought destruction and political upheaval as it did elsewhere in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Sanlúcar was declared a Cultural Historical-artistic site in 1973. Since the restoration of democracy (1975–1982) its town council has borrowed heavily, making Sanlúcar the city with the lowest per capita income in Spain.

Currently (2010) Sanlúcar is a summer tourist destination famous for its cuisine, especially manzanilla (a variety of fino sherry) and prawns. It is internationally renowned for beach horse racing and flamenco music. Less well known but equally important are the historical archives of the House of Medina Sidonia (Archivo de la Casa de Medina Sidonia); the major part of the patrimony of the House of Medina Sidonia is located in the palace of the same name. The patron saint of the city is Our Lady of Charity, to whom it was dedicated in 1917.

Simon Fernandes

Simon Fernandes (Portuguese: Simão Fernandes; c. 1538 – c. 1590) was a 16th-century Portuguese-born navigator and sometime pirate who piloted the 1585 and 1587 English expeditions to found colonies on Roanoke island, part of modern-day North Carolina but then known as Virginia. Fernandes trained as a navigator in Spain at the famed Casa de Contratación in Seville, but later took up arms against the Spanish empire, preying upon Spanish shipping along with fellow pirate John Callis. Charged with piracy in 1577, he was saved from the hangman's noose by Sir Francis Walsingham, becoming a Protestant and a subject of the Queen of England. In 1578 Fernandes entered the service of Sir Humphrey Gilbert and later Sir Walter Raleigh, piloting the failed 1587 expedition to Roanoke, known to history as the "Lost Colony".

Fernandes disappears from the records after 1590, when he sailed with an English fleet to the Azores, a journey from which he most likely did not return alive. However, a copy of one of his charts of the East coast of North America still survives in the Cotton Collection, and was probably one of the chief sources used by John Dee for his 1580 map justifying English claims to North America.

Spanish treasure fleet

The Spanish treasure fleet, or West Indies Fleet from Spanish Flota de Indias, also called silver fleet or plate fleet (from the Spanish plata meaning "silver"), was a convoy system of sea routes organized by the Spanish Empire from 1566 to 1790, which linked Spain with its territories in America across the Atlantic. The convoys were general purpose cargo fleets used for transporting a wide variety of items, including agricultural goods, lumber, various metal resources such as silver and gold, gems, pearls, spices, sugar, tobacco, silk, and other exotic goods from the overseas territories of the Spanish Empire to the Spanish mainland. Spanish goods such as oil, wine, textiles, books and tools were transported in the opposite direction. The West Indies fleet was the first permanent transatlantic trade route in history. Similarly, the Manila galleons were the first permanent trade route across the Pacific.

The Virgin of the Navigators

The Virgin of the Navigators (Spanish: La Virgen de los Navegantes) is a painting by Spanish artist Alejo Fernández, created as the central panel of an altarpiece for the chapel of the Casa de Contratación in Alcázar of Seville, Seville, southern Spain. It was probably painted sometime between 1531 and 1536. Carla Rahn Phillips has suggested that it represents Christopher Columbus as a European magus-king reinforcing "the notion that the Spanish Empire represented the fulfillment of biblical prophecy to bring the Christian message to all the peoples of the world.The painting is a version of the common iconography of the Virgin of Mercy, in which the Virgin Mary protects the faithful under the folds of her mantle. This was well known from many paintings such as the The Madonna of Mercy by the Italian painter Piero della Francesca (1445). In this iconography, the Virgin Mary is always the largest figure in the picture, towering above those being protected.Sometime before 1536, officials at the Casa de Contratación commissioned the painting as the central panel of an altarpiece that they installed in the Hall of Audiences, so that the room could also serve as a chapel. Scholars date the painting to 1531–36.

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