Monday, February 12, 2007

Manila Galleon trade on view in Monterey

Manila Galleon trade on view in Monterey
Stephanie Grace Loleng, Jun 01, 2005

MONTEREY, CA — ON A tourist strip near downtown Monterey and Fisherman’s Wharf sits the Maritime Museum. From February and until Labor Day, visitors to the museum will learn about the historic significance of the Manila Galleon trade, a 250-year expedition that facilitated trade and commerce between the East and the West, or to some extent, China and Spain.

The Manila Galleon was the single biggest piece of evidence attesting to the importance of the Philippines to Spain then. Manila became a trading and transshipment port for Spain where men and merchandise could be picked up and transported to Acapulco, Mexico.

Museum guide Tim Thomas said that the artifacts on display at the Maritime Museum were discovered during an archeological dig in Baja, California after a beachcomber found Chinese porcelain dating back to the 16th Century.

“We think this shipwreck was the San Felipe, one of the largest ships on the route. By the time it got to the California coast, everyone was dead,” Thomas explained to the Philippine News.

The San Felipe sailed to the Philippines on June 5, 1575, or four years after the Spaniards took control of Manila. Its route was extremely dangerous. Many people died from scurvy or were killed by pirates who attacked the galleons to steal their merchandise.

The Spanish-owned galleon ships sailed from Acapulco, Mexico to the Philippines – and back – bringing not just food and spices, but also precious materials such as silver coins which were valuable to Chinese traders. On their way back to the Americas, galleon workers would sometimes carry Chinese porcelain to sell in Mexico.

Historian Steve Singer said the ships weighed on average 1,700 to 2,000 tons, and carried 700 to 1,000 people on their way back to Acapulco, one of the major trading points in the Americas. Sometimes, half the people on board died of malnutrition or disease.

Singer wrote that over 40 galleons were lost while carrying some of the richest cargoes on the high seas. Most of these large ships were built in the Philippines, specifically in Cavite shipyards, using hardwoods such as teak and mahogany. Singer said the ships’ planking was built out of lanang, a tough wood that could withstand a cannonball shot.

“Though the Philippines provided some products, it was spices and other items from the Spice Islands, and silk, porcelain, gold, ivory, gemstones, jade, mercury, and other valuables from China which made the Manila galleon trade so lucrative,” Singer wrote. Goods from Indian and Southeast Asia also ended up in Manila.

The artifacts found at the Manila Galleon exhibit showed not only pieces of Chinese porcelain but also large chunks of Filipino beeswax brought to Mexico for Spanish churches. The beeswax would be molded into candles.

The exhibition curator, Edward Von der Porten, described the importance of the trade route for Spain and China.

“The porcelains not only date the cargo to circa 1574-1576 but give us a detailed view of the Chinese-Spanish commercial relations in the earliest years of the Manila galleon trade. We understand how Chinese merchants, rescued from a sinking junk by Spanish sailors in 1571, recognized the opportunities presented by the Spanish presence in Manila, for the Spaniards had silver from the great mines of Peru and Mexico, a commodity essential for the expanding Chinese economy.”

The exhibit has interactive pieces where children can learn about the galleon trade. One in particular is a wall painted map of the trade with game pieces that allow kids to experience what it would be like to be a sailor on one of the galleons.

“Treasures of the Manila Galleons” will be on display at the Maritime Museum of Monterey until Sept. 5, 2005. The museum is located at 5 Custom House Plaza in Monterey, California. For more information, please call (831) 372-2608.


Related Posts with Thumbnails
This blog is a continuation of one started by the proprietor of The Mex Files. With not enough time he offered to pass it along and here we are. If anyone has info to contribute, please leave it in the form of a comment

Kume Asian Food Online