Lujan, Carlos. Plano de la Plaza de Veracruz su Castillo de S. Juan de Ullua...1763

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Carlos Lujan y Augustin Lopez de la Camara Alta
Plano de la Plaza de Veracruz su Castillo de S. Juan de Ullua…
Ink, watercolor and gouache on paper
Signed and dated by the maker

Veracruz, 1763


A superb manuscript map of Vera Cruz, Spain's port for the export of Mexican silver and the reason it needed to control the Gulf Coast.   


While the English sought to colonize, and the French looked to trade, the Spanish in New Spain mined for precious metals, particularly silver.  Mexico’s silver mines were second only to the almost mythical “silver mountain” at Potosi in Peru.  From the early 16th century onward, the Spanish found and mined silver in dozens of places, with principal mines being in Taxco, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, and Monterrey.  This flood of silver required security and transport.  Some  of it left Mexico’s Pacific port of Acapulco for Manila, where it financed the acquisition of silks, spices and other goods desired back in Europe.  The rest left from the Caribbean port of Vera Cruz, where galleons picked up the silver, sailed to Havana for refitting, then convoyed across the Atlantic home to Spain. 


Whatever the current state of alliances might have been in Europe during the tumultuous 18th century, all of the major powers engaged in some form of piracy directed at the Spanish treasure ships.  English privateers were notorious among the Spanish for plundering the ships even before they left port.  For that reason, Spain spent large sums of money to fortify its ports, including that at Vera Cruz.  


Augustín López de la Cámara Alta (d. 7 June 1763) rose to the rank of colonel chief engineer at Veracruz after military training in Cádiz. By 1752 he was posted to Mexico under the command of the Marques de las Amarillas, New Spain’s Viceroy. In 1755, with the assistance of Carlos Luján, he drew a plan --now in the Mapoteca Manuel Orozco y Berra -- of the square of Veracruz along with its castle (San Juan de Ulúa).


Through the 1750's and into the 1760's  the threat from English pirates grew, so in 1763 López de la Cámara Alta created the plan in this exhibition to include new construction intended to counter that threat.  The most notable difference is labeled A ("Plaza y puerta de la veracruz con sumuellenuebamenteredificado" (Square and gate of Veracruz with its newly rebuilt pier)), with the square in the extreme northwest of the fortification highlighted in a yellow wash. The present map also extends considerably further southeast, showing a structure emanating from the city SSE. Some structures in the 1755 plan are absent in 1763, notably the wood warehouses by the castle, which presumably burnt down. 


By 1763 the Viceroy had been replaced by the Marques de Cruillas, to whom Lopez de la Camara Alta dedicated this plan.  The size and unusually fine color reflects the importance of the plan’s recipient.  However, Lopez de la Camara Altadid not live to see his project realized, as he died about six weeks after the date on the plan. 

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