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There were many types and buildings that were built in the Caribbean throughout the colonial era. Many of the civil ones are still on use as governmental office and religious temples. Others civil constructions of the main populations established during the colony are also important as town halls, bridges, ports and roads and houses of illustrious families. During the colonial times, the spaniards fortifications in the Caribbean Sea were notorious for the defense of the settlements and his possessions from their enemies, all of them from their ouwn continent, Europe. These fortifications were constantly harassment by pirates, corsairs and boucaners from diferent nationalities, that had business in these waters and some fortifications are more important than others such as Cartagena de Indias; however, none was useless.

This military constructions show us the importance of the treasures in gold, silver, precious stones and speciess that the spaniards extracted from America and the strong and constant attacks by thief previously mention by land and sea that fortifications came to be necessary. The most important were San Felipe de Barajas Castle in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), and the enclaves in Havana (Cuba) where the treasures were collected to be send to Spain in fleets of ships protected by warships. Other smaller fortifications are distributed throughout the Caribbean, particularly the forts established on the coast of Venezuela, going from the Castles of Guayana in the Orinoco delta, castles and forts in Margarita Island along with six others on the north coast in the Caribbean Sea.

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The defense of the Spanish territories in the Caribbean Sea against their enemies became a problem in 1520 because the populations were in a situation of great vulnerability. The ineffectiveness of the defenses was mainly due to the fact that the existing ones were poorly conserved, open, designed and located so they were easy prey for pirates and conquerors. The first defenses were small forts built of soft materials with a poor armament of culebrinas and small caliber cannons. On the other hand, the large number of islands in the Antilles made it impossible for the Spanish crown to protect them all so that the most vulnerable were easy prey for other European nations, and even justified the invasion by rivalries between them such as one existing between Carlos V (Spain) and Francisco I (France).

The construction of fortifications in the Caribbean began in 1585 due to the increasingly daring attacks by the english pirates John Hawkins and Francis Drake who combined with smuggling and the territorial ambitions of the other European nations (France, Holland and Danish) began to affect the interests of Spain so that King Philip II orders the construction of defense systems in the ports of the Caribbean Sea.

Even with the construction of the fortifications in the main ports it was very difficult to contain the attacks in most of the Caribbean territory. The English took advantage of the defenseless islands of the Lesser Antilles where they took San Cristobal (1625), Barbada and Nevis (1628), Monserrate and Tobago (1632), the Dutch took Cuaracao, Bonnaire and Aruba (1634), the Danes Saint Tomas and the French San Bartolome and Santa Lucia (1634), Martinique, Dominica and Guadalupe 1635. The taking of these islands encouraged them to attack and conquer other more important possessions of the Spaniards such as Jamaica 1655 by the english. These possessions allowed them to take refuge and refuel and continue the attack to other spanish ports.

Map of the Caribbean Sea with the territories of Spain (yellow) and European (other colors)

Baptist engineer Antonelli the Younger, designed important fortifications under european criteria which resulted in inefficient defense systems. Later on, although the constructions have three, four and five sides the most used were the irregular ones that allowed incorporating what was already built and adapting to the land where they were.

By the 18th century, foreign colonies in the Caribbean prospered commercially, as control points for maritime traffic and smuggling. At that time the dominance of the Caribbean Sea was essential for America, the conflicts of Europe continued to be transferred to America

By the 18th century, foreign colonies in the Caribbean prospered commercially, as control points for maritime traffic and smuggling. At that time the dominance of the Caribbean Sea was essential for America and the conflicts of Europe continued to be transferred to America.


Principal Spanish Fortification

Cartagena de Indias (Colombia)



La Habana (Cuba)


Name of God (Nombre de Dios)(Panama)

It was the first settlements in the Americas. It was the main port of the Fleet of the Indies for being where the Camino Real between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea ended. Name of God had to be abandoned due to the difficult fortification and the attack of the pirate Francis Drake in 1595 moving to Puertobelo. 


In the same place are also the Castillo de la Gloria and Castillo de Hierro



Santo Domingo (Hispaniola Island)


San Juan de Puerto Rico


Fortification in the coast of Venezuela


Pirate Ports

Tortuga Island

Piracy in the Caribbean Sea increased when the first bases were established on the Saint Kitts and Nevis islands occupied by the english in 1624, Tortuga Island by France in 1630 and Curacao by the Netherlands in 1634.

Turtle Island located in the northeast os Hispanopla Island be come a pirate settlement in 1700.


Cronology of shelters for French, English and Dutch pirates

1605 Dutch arrival at Totuga Island there were also in San Martin and Araya (Venezuela, expelled in 1605).

1625 occupied by pirates different nationalities along with buccaneers and filibusters.

1629 Expelled all by Spaniards, soon returned buccaneers and filibusters.

1635-1638 they returned to expel them Spanish and the others returned to the island again.

1640 Le Vasseur took the island and 1650 built a stone fortress "Fort de Rocher" for defense, this ruled until 1665 when the Spaniards handed Totuga Island to France with Bertrand d'Ogeron who maintained the structure of the buccaneers and filibusters but they did not accept it for being primarily free. There were many clashes between the buca and fili against the authority until 1700 when he became the main pirate base with Blackbeard, Charles Vane, Samuel .

1726 Isla Tortuga returned to the French colony


Port Royal


Pirate Republic

Pirate settlement on New Providence Island, currently the city of Nassau capital of the Bahamas. In 1656 english settlers founded Charles Town that was attacked and destroyed by Franco-Spanish ships.

In 1695, the city was rebuilt and baptized as Nassau by dutch settlers who became a refuge for pirates who, knowing that the Spaniards attacked and destroyed the city, although they failed to expel the pirates who helped in the reconstruction.

1703 Franco-Spaniards attacked Nassau to devastate the city and kill all the inhabitants.

1706 rebuilt the city by repairing Fort Fincastle for its defense and would again be a pirate shelter.

1707 the pirates Thomas Barrow and Benjamin Hornigold arrived and establish the pirate laws.

1713 the Pirate Republic was established in Nassau with its founders elected by a general vote. By the time were incorporated other renowned pirate captains of the Caribbean Sea. Charles Vane, Calico Jack, Samuel Bellamy, Edward Low and the famous Edward Teach aka Blackbeard, among others. With successive modifications to the pirate code, women were accepted also as Anne Bonny, Mary Read or Maria Lindsey and would be part of this Pirate Republic.

1718 the british to recover the Bahamas sent the pirate Woodes Rogers who tried to agree with the pirates without results. Woods introduced reforms to restore maritime commerce and clean up the image of Nassau's refuge and pirates. Otros pirate refugies in the Caribbean were San Andres Island (Colombia), Costas de Nicaragua, Costa de Los Mosquitos and Belice.


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