“A Signal”

A Fleet of Thirty Ships

The infamous Fray Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres, who had sniveled around the Royal Court wanting to become a favorite of the pious Queen Isabella, was appointed Governor of the Indies, replacing Francisco de Bobadilla, the man who had been responsible for sending Columbus from Hispaniola, back to Spain in irons. Prior to his appointment Fray Nicolás de Ovando had been a Spanish soldier, coming from a noble family, and was a Knight of the Order of Alcántara. On February 13, 1502, Fray Nicolás sailed from Spain with a record breaking fleet of thirty ships.

Since Columbus’ discovery of the islands in the Caribbean, the number of Spanish ships that ventured west across the Atlantic had consistently increased. For reasons of safety in numbers, the ships usually made the transit in convoys, carrying nobility, public servants and conquistadors on the larger galleons that had a crew of 180 to 200. On these ships a total of 40 to 50 passengers had their own cabins midship. These ships carried paintings, finished furniture, fabric and, of course, gold on the return trip. The smaller vessels including the popular caravels had a crew of only 30, but carried as many people as they could fit in the cargo holds. Normally they would carry about 100 lesser public servants, soldiers, and settlers, along with farm animals and equipment, seeds, plant cuttings and diverse manufactured goods. For those that went before, European goods reminded them of home and were in great demand. Normally the ships would sail south along the sandy coast of the Sahara until they reached the Canary Islands, where they would stop for potable water and provisions before heading west with the trade winds. Even on a good voyage, they could count on burying a third of these adventurous at sea. Life was harsh and six to eight weeks out of sight of land, always took its toll!

In all it is estimated that 30,500 colonists made that treacherous voyage over time. Most of them had been intentionally selected to promote Spanish interests and culture in the New World. Queen Isabella wanted to introduce Christianity into the West Indies, improve the islands economically and proliferate the Spanish and Christian influences in the region.

Photo Caption: Portrait of Fray Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres. Visit my Facebook account….

Captain Hank Bracker, who served with the U.S. Military Intelligence Corps, is the author of the multi-award winning book, “The Exciting Story of Cuba” has now written “Suppressed I Rise.” This book is for anyone interested in a very personal human view, of the history of World War II. A mother’s attempt to protect and raise her two young daughters in hostile NAZI Germany challenges her sensibilities and resourcefulness. Both books will be at the New York Jacob K. Javits Center, Book Exhibit this summer and are available at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, BooksAMillion.com and many Independent Book Shops.