The Spanish Crown's Struggle of Defending the Port of San Francisco de Campeche

Explore the history of San Francisco de Campeche, a vulnerable port targeted by pirates and invaders. Learn about the Spanish Crown's efforts to improve security and the native rebellion that hindered their plans.

The Spanish Crown's Struggle of Defending the Port of San Francisco de Campeche
Discover the fascinating history of San Francisco de Campeche, a vulnerable port frequently targeted by invading troops and pirates. Image by DALL·E

The port of San Francisco de Campeche was a favorite place for invading troops and pirate ships because there were not many people living there and there were no defenses. In 1671, the Spanish Crown asked the Board of War of the Indies to take action. As part of this, the Board of War of the Indies hired native people from nearby towns to build walls and forts, but the terrible working conditions and poor quality of life made the native people angry.

The land of New Spain was full of natural resources that the Spanish Crown could use with the help of the people who lived there. Because of this, other European kingdoms tried to take over the area, and pirate ships kept attacking the port of San Francisco de Campeche on the Yucatan Peninsula, which they found to be a weak spot.

In 1671, the constant attacks, thefts, kidnappings, and loss of resources that came with them were worrying the Spanish Crown. Because of this, Queen Mariana of Austria asked the Junta de Guerras de Indias (Board of War of the Indies) to come up with plans to improve the security of the port and the area around it. The small number of people living there and the lack of defense systems made the area vulnerable and attractive to people who traded the palo de tinte (logwood tree), also known as the palo de Campeche, because of how much money it made.

One of the first things they did was to set up a war council to defend the port. This council was in charge of building walls and forts inside the city limits. They asked the church leaders to tell the friars to recruit the local people, put them in the service of the chief, and place them in strategic places to keep an eye on things.

This activity of staying alert was crucial because the cavalry got a warning in time to stop enemy ships from docking. So, the viceroy told everyone who lived in the ports and squares that they could carry weapons and ammunition and, if possible, get a horse. This was especially true for people who had been in the military, knew how to use weapons, and knew where the most dangerous places were.

Even though these plans were mostly successful, they ran into trouble when it came time to build the walls. This was because the natives had to do the work, and they also had to defend the port and pay tribute in the form of labor and resources. The native people rebelled and ran away to the mountains to get away from the bad treatment because they only wanted to be paid for the things they needed.

These actions hurt the port defense project and the building of forts along all of the peninsula's coasts. This made the peninsula vulnerable to attacks from other countries and hurt the economy of the area.

Full Citation: Nación, Archivo General de la. “El Puerto De San Francisco De Campeche Y La Fortaleza Que Quedó Inconclusa En La Península De Yucatán.”, 21 Feb. 2023,