HomeOpinionFor a handful of pearls

For a handful of pearls

The first ordinance issued on American soil was in the New City of Cádiz, approved by the Town Council at its meeting on January 5, 1537, confirmed by the Crown in Valladolid a year later. We know that on Columbus' Third Voyage the Spaniards would set foot on the continental mass, landing in Macuro, on August 1, 1498. The first establishment founded by the conquistadors in Venezuela flourished in Cubagua. Thus, in 1501, the first European municipal corporation on the continent was born. Established in 1500 by the Italian sailor in the service of Charles V, Giacomo Castiglione, Nueva Cádiz served as a temporary camp for the exploitation of pearl fisheries.

It is not in vain that the VIP area of ​​Dante's Inferno is home to maulas, speculators and scammers. The approval of the original local statute in Cubagua focused on regulating the payment in reals that many of the pearl extractors and merchants received, which did not adjust to reality thanks to a rigged standard measurement in weight, establishing fines for their infringement.

At its commercial peak, the income that Spain received from pearls was equivalent in monetary value to that supplied by gold from Peru. In those days, Nueva Cádiz not only had a large population of Spaniards and indigenous people—the latter forced to work as divers collecting pearls—but also slaves brought from African “factories.” The small island was also the target of pirate attacks, such as those of Diego Ingenios and Jacques de Sores, who besieged the town and captured its governor, Francisco Velázquez.

Around 1543 Cubagua was devastated by a hurricane, which forced the fledgling city to be left to its fate. The harshness of the time, together with the erosion of the sea, put an end to the built testimonies. In addition to the ruins, other archaeological pieces of interesting value, such as the urban coat of arms and the convent of San Francisco, as well as the stone gargoyles, can be admired in the Nueva Cádiz museum in La Asunción. The truth is that greedy voracity meant that, with the oysters exhausted, merchants looked for other routes, diminishing the neighborhood. Avid ambition spelled his downfall. Finis Gloriae Mundi.

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