Faith & Life, World

Missionaries From Macau to the World – Saint Lazarus Island (61)

September 17, 2021

Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

As soon as João da Gama arrived in Acapulco (March 1590) his ship and the entire crew were seized, thus complying with royal legislation. The assets of the Portuguese captain, “valued at 140,000 pesos,” were also taken from him and his court case went to the Casa de la Contratación in Seville, where he was to be tried.

The remaining participants in the daring expedition were allowed to return to Macau, via Manila, after a stay in Mexico where they could collect a good amount of silver.

Upon setting foot on Iberian soil, João do Gama became the first man to complete a trip around the world in the opposite direction of the journey of the survivors of Fernão de Magalhães’ armada. He had left for Macau via the Cape of Good Hope route and made his return to Europe using the transpacific Castilian route.

Far away, in the East, he was reproached for his disobedience and boldness by the senators of Macau when they expressed their discomfort against such a character in a letter from the governor Manuel de Sousa Coutinho dated April 3, 1589.

Gama was “accused of having sold the trip to Japan to which he was entitled and to have sent his ship to New Spain, loaded with goods that were destined for India,” as specified by investigator José Manuel Garcia. In light of this, Coutinho sent “licensee Rui Machado to put an end to these illegalities and send all the Castilians he found in Macau to India, denouncing once again the damage caused by the Castilian navigation to China.”

In fact, the Portuguese in Macau continued to harass the Spaniards, as demonstrated by the embargo on a Spanish ship that demanded there in 1590.

On the other hand, the Iberian neighbors did not give up the intention of trading with Macau, and with China, making petitions sent to the rightful ones, but without any success.

The lack of “compliance with royal determinations” is, moreover, quite evident in the correspondence between the dual monarch and his representatives in the Orient. In that same year of 1598, the infractions of the king’s orders by the Spaniards gave rise to an act that would be of greater gravity; which consisted in the carrying out of trade in China by Captain Don Juan Zamudio, who traveled there in a frigate sent by the governor of the Philippines, under the allegation that the two kingdoms had the same king.

This ship headed for Canton and upon payment of large sums the Spaniards were authorized by the Chinese to trade in the so-called “port of Pinhal,” but with the condition that they did not disembark and not return there.