Casa de Contartación

How and Why was it created

Fray Nicolas de Ovando was appointed governor of the colony founded by Columbus to organize it properly. He arrived in Santo
Domingo in 1502 with a huge fleet of 32 ships and 2,500 men and began an administration that is already clearly outlined what would be the future Spanish colonial regime.He changed completely the city of Santo Domingo, with good buildings and a hospital, undertook a systematic campaign against all Indian rebels to totally dominate the island subsequently founded numerous towns (Puerto Plata, Salvaleón, Santa Cruz, Puerto Real , Guahan Lares, Santa Maria de la Vera Paz, etc.) increased agriculture, and also organized mining, for which created real gold smelters. Ovando operating system introduced by the famous Indian division, which was imposed by
Decree of December 20, 1503: "Every chief go with the number of Indians that you (the governor) will point the person or persons you name, to work on what such people command them, paying them the wages that whatever you priced, which meet as free people." The division caused a great slaughter indigenous since they were not used to an intensive labour. It then appealed to Indians to bring the Bahamas, with identical results. The Governor also ordered in 1503 the relocation of Indians to villages to facilitate their evangelization and police (care), and facilitating its use as labour. Other of his works were sent to circumnavigate the islands of Santo Domingo and Cuba, and to authorize in 1508 Ponce de Leon the conquest of Puerto Rico.

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The attempt to establish two colonies on the mainland took Ojeda and Vicente Yáñez Pinzón. At first he was appointed governor of Coquibacoa, an area that corresponded to what is now the Guajira Peninsula and the second of a territory that stretched "from this point of Santa Maria de la Consolacion, along the coast which was beautiful face, and thence along the coast that runs north-west to the river that you name Santa Maria del Mar Dulce ", ie part of Brazil. Finch could not go to his government for several reasons, but Ojeda, who in 1502 founded a fort called Santa Cruz, in the Guajira peninsula. Was a failure, the area was deserted, and its partners made him prisoner, depopulated the place. From this came to be a long trial that left Ojeda claimed.

The creation of the House of Trade in 1503, was the third piece of administration. It was a state agency in charge of trade, "treatment and contract" is said with the newly discovered lands (also included Canary America and Barbary), which sought to monopolize the Crown. He settled in Seville because it was an inland port safeguarded from attack by sea, where they could enrol in comfort fleets. As the House gathered came from or going to India, gold, cotton and some Indian food at first, then sugar, silver, cocoa, herbs, dyes, etc.. that turned into money for the Royal Treasury. Sent to Indian food, seeds and agricultural crops, livestock and farm implements, and then mercury, oil, wine, expensive fabrics, yarns and luxury items. Also addressed the passengers on India, from high officials to the migrants had to obtain the appropriate permits, thus being registered. To control activity called Carrera de Indias or maritime trade with America, should find the appropriate vessels, most experienced pilots and crews suitable. So it was linked to the post of Pilot Major, an official in charge of examining the new pilots to attest to their professionalism. In addition to these functions, the House had other scientific and legal.
When the American reality showed that the Crown could not monopolize the American trade, the House became the great institution of the State which oversaw this aspect.


La Casa de Contratación was a government agency under the Spanish Empire, existing from the 16th to the 18th centuries, which
attempted to control all Spanish exploration and colonization. Its official name was La Casa y Audiencia de Indias, and was
established in the city of Seville, in the Crow of Castile.
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La Casa de Contratación organized and controlled all the voyages that were done by Spanish explorers, conquistadors, etc...
They controlled all the colonial taxes, trade and duties they also maintained the information of the voyages secretly, they licensed
captains and administrated the law in the trade. La Casa de Contratación was founded eleven years after the discovery of America, in
the year 1503, by Queen Isabel I of Castile.

Also notable was his work in relation to the techniques of navigation and nautical science. Not only inspect ships for the voyage even created a technical office, the largest pilot, which took place leading figures such as: Amerigo Vespucci, Juan Díaz de Solís, Sebastian Cabot, etc... Under his direction, developed a hydrographic office and a sailing school who teach and test drivers, construct and repair nautical instruments. It was recorded on a map model (the real pattern), findings that were made, and there the sailors register their charts. The first official institution created for the study of nautical knowledge was the House of Trade in Seville in 1503. In 1508, by decree of King Ferdinand, is named for Amerigo Vespucci, Pilot Major in the House of Trade, to "trade that was established to examine and adjust to the Pilots and censor letters and instruments necessary for navigation. Years later, in 1552, establishing the "Chair of the Art of Navigation and cosmography." Complementing this training center for seafarers and as a result of Felipe II was interest by geography and astronomy in 1583 founded the Academy of Mathematics of Madrid. It was his first director Juan de Herrera, perhaps best known as the architect of the Monastery of El Escorial, which also developed another facet that has transcended least: the inventor of nautical instruments, and tells us that Andrés García de Céspedes was pilot of the House of Trade, Indian Council cosmographer and skilled instrument maker, for, as attested Salvador García Franco (1947), produced the Ballestín that served as the "standard" to check the pilots wearing their navigations.

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The Casa de Contratación had a large number of cartographers and navigators, archivists, record keepers, administrators and others.
The famous Amerigo Vespucci, who made at least two voyages to the New World, was a navigator working at the Casa de Contratación until his death in 1512. A special position was created for Vespucci, the "pilot major" in 1508. He had the responsibility of training new navigators for ocean voyages.

  • A factor, was in charge of review the ships and the purchase of certain goods of the Treasury. (arms, mercury to extract silver, etc...)
  • A treasurer, who received all beneficts from America, from both, individuals and the crown, and was in charge of the possesions of the people that dead there, as were gave to his heirs.
  • A counter-clerk, manage all operations done by the House.


  • Controlled maritime traffic

  • Created maps and portulan charts

  • Gave necessary information to make voyages