Luis Lobo-Guerrero

Drake, Cimarrons and the Predation of Spanish Imperial Connectivity in XVI C Panama 

Between 1572 and 1573 Francis Drake, the famous pirate or privateer – depending on the imperial narrative followed -, made an alliance with a group of Cimarrons, renegade slaves, conducting pillage in the Isthmus of Panama. The purpose was to plunder Spanish treasures, mainly silver, routed from Peru to Seville via the Caribbean. The alliance is significant as it highlights the interaction of non-officially recognized imperial actors with slave renegade groups in disrupting a strategic trans-oceanic landed route, vital for the funding of the Habsburg geopolitical struggle in Europe. Whereas attention on this alliance has been on the economic benefit that resulted from it, it is approached here as an event that helps reveal part of the wider connectivity effect on which the early Spanish Empire operated. It builds on the theoretical premise that connectivity apparatuses are rendered observable through events that disrupt the connectivity they were designed to sustain. The alliance, analyzed as a disconnectivity event, is explored through the interaction of three mutually-implicated ‘surfaces’ that made possible the connectivity on which the early Spanish Empire in America operated. The first surface is anachronistically treated here as constitutive of biopolitics of race through which slaves of African origin are enmeshed with a political economy of resource extraction. The second surface results from the interacting maritime routes that constituted the Carrera de Indias linking the Spanish kingdoms in America with Seville. The third surface is the logistical, administrative, military, and religious network of newly-established maritime ports in the Caribbean and the American mainland which supported the Spanish enterprise of conquest and colonization in America. By engaging in the analysis of the interaction of these three surfaces, and the disconnectivity that resulted from the Drake - Cimarron alliance, the paper advances an understanding of the Spanish Empire as a connectivity effect.