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9429 - Challenging the Spanish empire: Pirates and local alliances in the Viceroyalty of Peru (1570-1700)

When the English buccaneer Sir Francis Drake reached Panama in 1572, he hoped to win local allies for further assaults on Spain’s wealthy colonies. He found support among escaped slaves who helped him to successfully attack the city of Nombre de Dios. Drake’s coalition served as an example to English and Dutch pirates, who imitated his model in seeking alliances with local populations in order to challenge Spanish colonialism in the Americas. For instance, in 1579, the English buccaneer John Oxenham made a pact with a group of maroons to cross the Isthmus of Panama and attack settlements on the Peruvian coast, and in 1643, Hendrick Brouwer led a Dutch expedition to establish a colony in Chile with the support of local indigenous populations. From 1570 to 1700, the English crown and, later, the Dutch republic employed privateers –named “pirates” by local colonial authorities—, as agents to weaken the Spanish dominion in the Viceroyalty of Peru. English and Dutch pirates used tactics such as strategic alliances with local populations against the royal authorities or military assault against colonial cities. These policies, I argue, had unintended consequences. Pirate tactics helped to undermine Spanish power from inside, creating “spaces of negotiation” for the populace in the boundaries of the viceroyalty and, especially, among dissident groups such as maroons and indigenous communities who looked for alliances with the pirates in order to resist Spanish colonialism. By analyzing why these alliances were possible, I believe is possible to understand the weaknesses and faults of the Spanish colonial system.

Keywords: Pirates, Viceroyalty of Peru, local alliances, colonialism

Author: Montañez Sanabria, Elizabeth (University of California, Davis, Ud States of Am / USA)

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