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(Barra de Navidad)

Barra Monument 1024

Barra has an important historic past in that the first Spanish explorers visited this area early in 1523, over 495 years ago. It served as an anchorage when Hernan Cortes continued his exploration of the "Southern Sea."  The bay was originally named Puerto Xalisco in 1535 by Spaniard Francisco Hijar.  It was later changed by Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza to Puerto de Navidad (Port of Christmas), when he came ashore on December 25th. 1540 to quell a Caxacan del Mixtlón native rebellion. Since the town he built was on a sandbar, the name was later changed to "Bar of Christmas."  Barra de Navidad became a town of shipbuilders and buccaneers, its beaches being used to build vessels that would sail in search of gold, as far as the newly discovered Philippine islands.

In 1559, a decree from King Phillip II of Spain arrived in Mexico, ordering another fleet to sail west to the Philippines. All western Mexico was mobilized in support of this fleet. Roads were built to ferry supplies to Barra de Navidad where the ships were to be built. To this day, the main Guadalajara-Barra de Navidad road (Hwy. 80 through Autlan, a 5½ hour drive) is known to some as the Philippine Way. Food, planks, sails and rigging—all had to be acquired and transported to the port.  The expedition finally set sail on the 21st of November 1564, under the command of Lopez de Legazpi. To prevent any mutiny, Legazpi kept his crew in the dark about their true destination until the boats were already well on their way. Lopez de Legazpi remained in the Philippines and placed his 17-year-old grandson in charge of finding a way back to Mexico, a feat never previously accomplished. The attempt was successful, but the crew as exhausted when the expedition arrived in Acapulco.

In 1964 a large centennial monument was built on the Barra Malecon to commemorate Legazpi's feat, with a matching monument built the following year at Plaza Mexico in Manila, along the bank of the Pasig River near the Cathedral.  Both monuments celebrate the 450+ year centenary of the discovery of the Philippine islands.  A small monument of Legaspi in Barra de Navidad’s plaza also commemorates these explorations plus Legazpi and Urdaneta have local Barra de Navidad streets named in their honor. Today, Mexico and the Philippines share a similar currency-the Peso.

Miguel López de LegazpiMiguel López de Legazpi (1502–1572)

López de Legazpi along with Capitan (Friar) Andrés de Urdaneta (1498-1568) were commissioned by the viceroy Luis de Velasco in 1564 to lead an expedition in the Pacific Ocean to find the Spice Islands. Previous explorers, Ferdinand Magellan and Ruy López de Villalobos had landed in 1521 and 1543 respectively. The expedition was ordered by king Philip II of Spain, after whom the islands were named. The viceroy died in July of that year, but López de Legazpi completed the preparations for the expedition. On November 21st., 1564, four ships (San Pablo, San Pedro, San Juan & San Lucas) with 500 soldiers sailed from the port of Barra de Navidad, New Spain, in what is now Jalisco state, Mexico.

Thomas Cavendish (1550-1592)

Twenty-three years after Legazpi sailed for the Philippines, shipbuilding was revived at Puerto de la Natividad. A Royal license was granted in 1585 to Antonio del Castillo, Pedro Lobato de Cantos and Hernando de Santotis. This gave them exclusive rights for pearl fishing and trading along the coast of Nueva Galicia, as long as they were able to build ships and start conducting business within five years. Immediately they started building two 200 ton ships on the Natividad sand bar which were in preparation to launch by 1587. Unfortunately at that time the English were in a state of war with Spain so when the English General (pirate?) Thomas Cavendish sailed into Bahia Natividad on August 24, he was compelled to attack and destroy anything Spanish. After looting and stocking up on needed provisions he burned what was left of the town and it’s shipyard, which included the Castillo ships. The builders would never be able to recover from this loss and the Royal license was granted to others in 1592.

Thomas Cavendish was often called a pirate, but is well know in history for the first deliberately planned circumnavigation of the globe (1586-1588). Thomas' mentor was Sir Francis Drake who circumnavigated in 1577-1580. Cavendish left Plymouth England on July 21st 1586 with a complement of 125 seamen on three ships, Desire(140t), Content(60t) and Hugh Gallant (40t) and returned there in a record of only two years.

Barra de Navidad


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