The Galleon was primarily used as a warship in the 15th to 16th century however their sheer size also made them ideal for transporting goods and other valuable cargo. This was what the Manila Galleon was all about. It was named such as it traversed the Pacific Ocean from Acapulco in Mexico to Manila in the Philippines.
Manila Galleon trade
As it was popularly referred to as Manila Galleon, it was also called “Nao de China” or even “Nao de Acapulco.” This was because the trade route brought spices, ivory and especially silk from China to Mexico. This was exchanged for some New World silver. The return route finds the Galleon passing through Manila as it takes on the Pacific Ocean all the way to Mexico. Once in Acapulco, the goods traveled over land all the way to Spain. The Manila Galleons made round trip travels as much as two times a year crossing the Pacific Ocean. Apart from the economic trade that flourished during its time, the Galleon trade was one of the main communication lines between the Philippines and Spain. The route lasted for 250 years only ceasing when the Mexican War of Independence took over control of ports in their country.
Manila Galleon route
Ferdinand Magellan was a Spanish explorer that ventured out West from Spain traversing the Pacific ocean and he landed in the Philippines in 1521. The route he took paved the way for one-half of the Manila Galleon trade route. The Spaniards still needed a return route eastward with the goods and precious commodities they are traded for.
This route was uncovered by two people Andrés de Urdaneta and Alonso de Arellano in 1565 after a lot of failed attempts from other navigators and explorers. The route required the Galleons to go up north to Japan’s coastline before catching the eastbound winds of the Pacific Ocean that will take the huge ships back to Mexico.
Constructing the Manila Galleons
The Manila Galleon were known to have been some of the biggest ships during its time. Some of the biggest ones were constructed in the Philippines between 1609 to 1616. Some of the most famous Manila Galleons were the San Juan Bautista, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Espiritu Santo, and San Felipe.The long voyage time the Manila Galleon took to travel to and from Manila and Mexico required that the ships be as big as possible. This is the reason why these Galleons were the largest of its kind during the 16th century. The Manila Galleon averaged anywhere from 1,700 to 2,000 tons and used strong Philippine wood to help it carry a thousand passengers.
The Galleon trade turned Manila one of the most important and famous ports that fostered trade across the Pacific. It bridged the trade between China and that of Europe. It enabled Chinese silk to travel far and wide and was one of the best things to come out of the trade route. The trade was a really beneficial for the traders as the cargo would usually yield anywhere between 100 to 300 percent.