Juan de Cartagena

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Juan de Cartagena was a Spanish sailor, promoter, and one of the captains in the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan.


Cartagena was an aristocrat and friend of Bishop Rodríguez Fonseca, who was then the vice president of the Council of the Indies. He became one of the main promoters of the Magellan expedition which left Seville on 10 August 1519. He participated in the said expedition as overseer and captain of the ‘’San Antonio’’ ship. Fonseca also named him as Magellan’s “joint person,” which was equivalent to witness for the Crown.

The tension between Cartagena and Magellan had already been brewing before the ships anchored in the port of San Julián, Argentina on 1 April 1520. Magellan had stripped him of his command of the San Antonio after questioning the former’s authority. Thus, when Magellan decided to wait out the winter and resume the search for a passage in spring, the disputes between the two resurface and became more tense. Cartagena did not attend the mass that Magellan organized ashore.

Main article: Juan de Cartagena's Mutiny

A mutiny began the following morning. Cartagena argued that they should return to Spain after having suffered many hardships and seeing only a few possibilities of success. Cartagena, with the aid of Gaspar de Quesada was able to seize San Antonio. The next morning, Magellan sent a boat to the ships and demanded that they should be beached and careened. The boat stayed alongside the San Antonio and pointed guns at its sailors. However, San Antonio’s lieutenant said that they would only take commands from Cartagena.

As soon as Magellan knew that there was an open mutiny against him, he ordered his chief constable Ambrosio Fernandes to take the necessary measures to repress it. Six men accompanied him to Luis de Mendoza's ship Victoria. Fernandes leaped upon the deck and grasped Mendoza tightly in his arms and arrested him. The former’s companions rushed upon the deck, drew their swords, and fell upon those who showed signs of resisting them. Soon, several corpses laid on the deck and the brave fellows were in complete possession of the ship.

Magellan observed how Fernandes killed the traitor Mendoza and ordered the Trinidad to drop down alongside the Victoria. As on as Magellan was on board, he commanded six of the chief offenders to be brought out and hung at yard-arms. Mendoza's body was hoisted by the feet on one of the masts for it to be seen by the crews of other ships.

The chief conspirator Cartagena held out on the San Antonio. As Magellan suspected Cartagena’s force to be too strong for him, he commanded a sailor to pretend as a fugitive to be taken on San Antonio's board. The sailor was successful on his task and when night came, he cut the cables so that the San Antonio be drifted directly down upon the Victoria. Magellan leaped on board with his men as soon as the ship floated alongside and fiercely attacked Cartagena and the mutineers.

The ship Concepción, which remained in rebellion, surrendered on 3 April 1520 without a struggle upon seeing the others in the hands of Magellan. Magellan demanded that his prisoners especially the mutiny leaders to be treated with the greatest severity. Quesada was beheaded on 7 April. Cartagena and another conspirator priest Pedro Sanchez de Reina were sentenced to be marooned. On 11 August, the two were taken to a small island off the Patagonian coast and given a small supply of biscuits and drinking water. Neither was seen nor heard from again.

The rest of the mutineers were kept in irons expect at times when their services were needed. Magellan soon released the misguided sailors who had been led into crime by their captains and told them to explore the coast southward and see if they could not espy the ocean on the other side. The mutineers, who were glad to recover their liberty, readily obeyed his orders and returned after several days to tell Magellan that they were not able to make the desired discovery.




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