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Armada del Mar del Sur

Armada del Mar del Sur, a small Pacific fleet designed by the Spanish crown to protect Spanish settlements along the Pacific coast of Tierra Firme (South America) and to convoy Spanish shipping in the Pacific. Its construction was originally prompted by the incursions of English, Dutch, and French traders and pirates, which began in the 1570s. Its most important convoy duty was accompanying the merchant fleet that carried Peruvian silver from Callao to Panama in Tierra Firme for the Portobelo fair and returned laden with European goods.

The armada normally consisted of between four and six warships—usually two to four galleons of 600 to 1,000 tons each and a similar number of smaller vessels of 80 to 100 tons. This nucleus was often supplemented in times of distress by various hastily converted merchant vessels.

Despite frequent complaints about poor quality and high costs, viceregal authorities relied on the colonial shipyards at Guayaquil to build the vessels. Given the crown's reluctance to support Pacific defenses, the viceregal treasury in Lima struggled to finance the construction and maintenance of this small defense force. As viceregal finances began to deteriorate by the late seventeenth century, however, the burden of defending the Pacific increasingly fell on private commercial interests.

See alsoFleet System: Colonial Spanish America .


The best survey is Pablo E. Pérez-Mallaína and Bibiano Torres Ramírez, La armada del mar del sur (1987). Two important articles are Peter T. Bradley, "Maritime Defence of the Viceroyalty of Peru (1600–1700)," in The Americas 36, no. 2 (October 1979): 155-175, and Lawrence A. Clayton, "Local Initiative and Finance in Defense of the Viceroyalty of Peru: The Development of Self-Reliance," in Hispanic American Historical Review 54, no. 2 (May 1974): 284-304. The best general surveys on Pacific defenses and foreign intrusions are Peter T. Bradley, The Lure of Peru: Maritime Intrusion into the South Sea, 1598–1701 (1989), and Guillermo Lohmann Villena, Historia marítima del Perú, vol. 4, Siglos XVII y XVIII (1973).

Additional Bibliography

Goodman, David C. Spanish Naval Power, 1589–1665: Reconstruction and Defeat. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

                                     Kenneth J. Andrien

Armada del Mar del Sur

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