Dutch presence in Cuban waters

In Havana, Cuba, the Maritime Programme organized an exhibition in collaboration with Cuban partners Consejo Nacional Patrimonio Cultural de Cuba (CNPC), Sermar and the Dutch Embassy with the subject 'Dutch presence in Cuban waters "(Presencia holandesa and las aguas cubanas).

For the first time in history a joint study has been done by the two countries for possible Dutch wrecks in Cuban waters. The project consists of both historical and archival research in Cuban, Spanish and Dutch sources, linked to maritime archaeology and wreck finds.

The exhibition presented the preliminary results of this cooperation. Dutch privateer fleets were especially active in the 17th century around Cuba. It was the heyday of the West India Company.

In the background, there’s the war between the Netherlands and Spain. A war which also had big impact from the creation of the West India Company in 1621 as the Republic of the Seven United Provinces spread her war zone to the Spanish possessions in America.

Panels include images from the National Museum, National Archives and Cuban museums. They tell the story of the Dutch presence in Cuban waters. Archaeological objects from a Dutch wreck sunk in Zoritta the Tabla around 1700 give a picture of life on board at the time. Results of the latest research (October 2014) at the Punta Holandés wreck are also presented in the exhibition. For the first time there is an inventory of fortresses in words and images that are built in the 17th century to avert a Dutch threat in Cuba.

One of the most famous events of this period is the conquest of the silver fleet by Piet Heijn in September 1628 in the Bay of Matanzas in Cuba. But until 1648 (Treaty of Munster), when the final peace with Spain was signed, numerous Dutch privateer fleets operating in Cuban waters. There were many Dutch ships (interlopers) active in the smuggling trade. On the island of Cuba, the eastern part of the region around Santiago de Cuba and Bayamo was favored by smugglers.

The grand opening took place on 15 November 2014. The exhibition was opened by the Ambassador of Netherlands in Cuba, Norbert W.M. Braakhuis. The exhibition can be seen in the famous Castillo de la Real Fuerza in Old Havana, the part of Havana that is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.