Ships wrecked on a terrible shore

By Murphy Givens

Four ships were making ready to sail from San Juan de Ulúa, the port of Veracruz, on April 9, 1554.

They were homeward bound for Seville, with a stop to meet the rest of the armada at Havana.

As the ships were taking on cargo and passengers, a Dominican priest, Juan Ferrer, had forebodings of disaster.

"Woe be those who are going to Spain," Ferrer told fellow passengers.

"Neither we nor the fleet will ever arrive.

Most of us will perish." Four great-bellied galleons -- the Santa Maria de Yciar, San Estebán, Espíritu Santo, and San Andrés -- were loaded with gold, cochineal, but mostly silver from the vast silver mines at Zacatecas.

It was a treasure fleet -- Plata Flota, the silver fleet.

The priest's forebodings of disaster were forgotten. The ships had smooth sailing across the Gulf.

They landed at Havana to join other ships in the armada, a precaution against the dangers of piracy.


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