From Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri, Giro del Mondo (1699)
The author’s tedious and dreadful voyage to the port of Acapulco
There is no doubt but this voyage has always been dangerous and dreadful. In 1575, the ship Espiritu Santo, or the Holy Ghost, was cast away at Catanduanes, through the ignorance of the pilot, who could not find out the “Emboccadero”, or mouth of the strait. In 1596, the contrary winds drove the St. Philip as far as Japan; where it is was taken by way of reprisal with all the lading design’d from New Spain… In 1602, two other galleons were cast away, and others after that.
The poor people stow’d in the cabbins of the galeon bound toward the Land of Promise of New Spain, endure no less hardship than the children of Israel did when they went from Egypt towards Palestine. There is hunger, thirst, sickness, cold, continual watching, and other sufferings; besides the terrible shocks from side to side, caus’d by the furious beating of the waves.
I may further say that endure all the plagues God sent upon Pharaoh to soften his hard heart; for if he was infected with leprosy, the galeon is never clear of a universal raging itch, as an addition to other miseries.
If the air was then fill’d with gnats; the ship swarms with little vermin, the Spaniards calls “Gorgojos”, bred in the bisket; so swift that they in a short time not only run over cabbins, beds and the very dishes the men eat on, but insensibly fasten upon the body.
Instead of the locusts, there are several other sorts of vermin of sundry colours, that suck the blood. Abundance of flies fall into the dishes of broth, in which there also swim worms of several sorts… at noon we had “Mongos”, something like kidney beans, in which there were so many maggots, that they swam at the top of the broth.
This bitter fare was sweeten’d after dinner with a little water and sugar; yet the allowance was but a small cocao shell full, which rather increas’d than quench’d drought…
Yet … they never fail of sweetmeats at table, chocolate twice a day, of which the sailors and grummets make as great a consumption as the richest…
Nothwithstanding the dreadful sufferings in this prodigious voyage, yet the desire of gain prevails with many to venture through it, four, six and some ten times. The very sailors, though they forswear the voyage when out at sea; yet when they come to Acapulco, for the lucre of two hundred seventy-five pieces of eight, the king allows them for the return, never remember sufferings; like women after their labour.
The whole pay is three hundred and fifty pieces of eght; but hey have only seventy-five paid them at Cavite, when they are bound for America; for if they had half, very few would return to the Philippine Isands for the rest.
The merchants, there is no doubt, get by this voyage, an hundred and fifty or two hundred percent. … And indeed it is a great satisfaction to return home in less than a year with seventeen or eighteen thousand pieces of eight clear gains … a sum that may make a man easie as long as he lives…
The extraordinary gains induce many to expose themselves to so many dangers and miseries. For my own part, these or greater hopes shall not prevail with me to undertake the voyage again, which is enough to destroy a man, or make him unfit for anything as long as he lives.