What was the Spanish Main?

May 5, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Geography

Spanish Main was originally applied to the Spanish mainland colonies on the northeast coast of South America between the mouth of the Orinoco River and the Isthmus of Panama. At first the Spanish Main was merely this strip of mainland stretching some 1,250 miles from Panama to the Gulf of Paria opposite Trinidad.

The term was used by foreigners to distinguish these Spanish colonies on the mainland from the island possessions in Central America and the West Indies. Later Spanish Main was extended to the Caribbean Sea and other adjacent Spanish-controlled lands and waters, including the route taken by Spanish vessels between Spain and the New World.

This application of main was natural, because during the sixteenth century it was applied not only to a main land but also to a main sea or ocean. In Richard III Shakespeare speaks of the “tumbling billows of the main.” The Spanish Main became especially notorious as the haunt of the buccaneers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


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