By the 16th century, Spain had found so many riches in the New World that it set up a trading route involving two fleets. Both entered the Caribbean Sea just southeast of Puerto Rico but followed different routes at different times of the year. The flota, relatively small ships, left Spain in the spring; the galeones, which were larger, left in midsummer. The flota collected goods such as sugar, coffee, hides, ginger, and other tropical products from Hispaniola (Dominican Republic), Cuba, and Veracruz, Mexico. The galeones picked up gold, silver, pearls, and other precious stones from Cartagena de Indias on Colombia's northwestern coast and Portobelo at the Isthmus of Panama. The two fleets, both of which had to be protected from attacks by armed vessels, met at Havana, Cuba, the following spring. Together they sailed up the east coast of Florida, then turned east to return to Spain. They dropped off their cargoes of treasures and raw materials in Spain, then loaded up with supplies and merchandise to take back to the colonies.
1. Draw a line that shows the approximate route of the flota. What goods did the flota collect?
2. Draw a line that shows the approximate route of the galeones. What goods did the galeones collect?
3. What natural forces might have affected these two fleets of sailing ships as they traveled through the Caribbean?
4. Locate San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico had few resources compared to Colombia, Mexico, and other countries. Why do you think Spain established a fort there?
* The map on this screen has a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a high quality version of Map 1, but be aware that the file may take as much as 30 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.