Spanish Main

Spanish Main

Spanish Main, mainland of Spanish America, particularly the coast of South America from the isthmus of Panama to the mouth of the Orinoco River. Spanish treasure fleets, sailing home from the New World, passed through the Caribbean N of the Main and were attacked by English buccaneers raiding from the islands and coast. Pirates congregated there until the 19th cent., and the words "Spanish Main" have become the symbol of piratic romance.

See C. O. Sauer, The Early Spanish Main (1966); A. O. Exquemelin, The Buccaneers and Marooners of America (1891, repr. 1971).

The Spanish Main was the mainland coast of the Spanish Empire around the Caribbean. The mainland of which was initially called "Spanish America" (thus, "Spanish Main"), it included Florida, Mexico, Central America and the north coast of South America. In time it became a general term for the seaways around the Spanish possessions in the Caribbean.

From the 16th to the 18th century the Spanish Main was the point of departure for enormous wealth in the form of gold, silver, gems, spices, hardwoods, hides and other riches.

Major loading ports were Cartagena de Indias in New Granada, Porto Bello on the Isthmus of Darien and Veracruz in New Spain (with wares brought by the Manila Galleons transported overland from Acapulco), and from there they were shipped to Spain by the famous Spanish treasure fleets. This made the Spanish Main a haunt of pirates and privateers, and gave the name a notorious and romantic allure.

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