The characters on the galleon Esperanza
by Hector Santos
© 1995, 1997 by Hector Santos
All rights reserved.
In 1586, the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade had been going on for some years—the number depending on one’s definition of “galleon trade.” (Some stretch the truth a bit and say it started with Urdaneta’s return trip to New Spain in 1565.)
In those early years of trans-Pacific crossings, many were convinced that a faster route for the Manila-Acapulco leg could still be discovered. At the same time, many merchants in New Spain (Mexico) were realizing the potential for huge profits in buying Chinese goods for distribution in their new country. They also wondered if bigger profits were possible by bypassing Manila and dealing directly with China. This, of course, made Spanish officials and traders in Manila nervous about the possible loss of an important source of income that helped them survive and even prosper.
And so, the Archbishop of Mexico sent Francisco Galli with a couple of ships to Manila to find a faster return route to Acapulco. Galli had Pedro de Unamuno as his second-in-command. To protect the interests of the Philippine outpost, Galli was ordered not to go to China under any circumstances.
It appears that Unamuno (or both he and Galli) had a large sum of money, possibly from merchants in Mexico, to use for some unspecified project.
Before Galli was able to make the return trip from Manila to Acapulco, he died and Unamuno assumed command of the expedition.
Unamuno was again reminded by the Audiencia in Manila that he should not stop by Macao on his return trip under penalty of death.
However, Unamuno and his ships turned up in Macao claiming that storms blew them there. His ships were impounded in Macao by Portuguese authorities and Manila was informed.
Manila sent Captain Juan de Argumedo to Macao to recover the ships and arrest Unamuno and his men. Argumedo was able to get the ships back but Unamuno and his crew managed to hide and evade arrest, perhaps with the help of Portuguese officials.
After Argumedo left, Unamuno resurfaced and used the money in his possession to buy another ship—the Nuestra Señora de Buena Esperanza. He was also able to load his ship with goods that he purchased with leftover money.
Meanwhile, three Franciscan priests who were in Macao were feeling the inhospitable atmosphere because China was regarded as a Jesuit domain. It is ironic that one of them, Fr. Martin Ignacio de Loyola was a nephew of the founder of the Jesuits, Ignacio de Loyola. One other priest was Francisco de Noguera while the other was unnamed.
The chief pilot with Unamuno was Alonso Gomez, possibly the same pilot who went down with the galleon-turned-warship San Diego, which was commanded by Antonio de Morga and sunk by the Dutch Admiral Oliver Van Noort off Fortune Island in 1600.
Also with Unamuno on the ship were a Japanese boy he picked up in Macao, his sailors and soldiers, and the Luzon indios. As usual, the indios had no names and were considered anonymous and interchangeable hired help.
When they arrived in Acapulco, Fr. Martin made representations to authorities that the goods on the ship belonged to a Portuguese in Macao, another person who was on the ship, and the Japanese boy. He also claimed that Unamuno was innocent of the charges brought about because of his side trip to Macao.
This article was rewritten for the World Wide Web and first appeared in the November 1995 issue (2: 8) of Sulat sa Tansô.
- Licuanan, Virginia Benitez and José Llavado Mira. The Philippines under Spain: A compilation and translation of original documents, Book IV (1583-1590). Manila, 1993.
- Wagner, Henry R. Spanish voyages to the northwest coast of America in the sixteenth century. San Francisco, 1929.Santos, Hector. "The characters on the galleon Esperanza" in Sulat sa Tansô at http://www.bibingka.com/sst/esperanza/chars.htm. US, April 3, 1997.
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