The Reign of Spain
The reason so many pirates spent the majority of their careers pursuing the Spanish is intrinsically linked to Spain's discovering and conquering the New World. This began in 1492 when Christopher Columbus landed on an island in the Caribbean. As a result of finding great riches on his first foray, Columbus made return voyages to the Americas three more times, traveling to present-day Cuba, Haiti, Dominica, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica, and along the coast of South America (see Chapter 7). With great haste, Spain established colonies and began exploring the new lands. In time, the Spanish would control most of South America and the Caribbean basin. As the wealth of natural resources of the area was discovered, Spain found itself increasingly challenged over its right to control its new territories.
Treaty of Tordesilla
For many years, Portugal had controlled the Indian Ocean and all trade with the East. As Spain began sending out explorers and discovering new lands, Portugal became concerned that its monopoly would be threatened. Both Spain and Portugal were Catholic countries, and in June of 1494, Spanish-born Pope Alexander signed the Treaty of
As Spain began colonizing the new lands, there was much difficult work to be done. At first, many prisoners and indentured servants were sent to the west to build settlements and work the plantations, but this didn't turn out as well as the Spaniards had hoped. The intense heat and unfamiliar tropical diseases took their toll on the European workers and it quickly became obvious that a different solution was needed. In 1510, as a means of solving their problems, the Spanish began slave trading. Ships were sent to Africa and returned laden with black slaves. These slaves were accustomed to sweltering heat and had immunities against many tropical diseases. Unlike prisoners and indentured servants, who could eventually earn their freedom and leave the Spanish plantations, slaves were the property of plantation owners and were expected to work for them for life. As more and more areas were settled, additional slaves were desperately needed. As a result, Spanish slave ships were able to make a hefty profit from their African slaving excursions.
Slave ships, or