In the third part of my conversation with Marie Christine Duggan, we discuss the life and experiences of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Cuadra, a naval officer in the Spanish colonial era.
Bodega faced financial struggles throughout his life, as his primary motivation was to prove himself rather than amass wealth. He eventually became the commander of the San Blas Naval Station and was known for his exceptional sailing and navigation skills, as well as his ability to inspire his crew.
The interview touches on Bodega’s personal connections with native people and merchants due to his upbringing in a wealthy family. His family members held significant positions of power, which may have influenced his desire to prove himself. Bodega’s financial difficulties stemmed from attempting to maintain the standard of living he was accustomed to.
The conversation also delves into Bodega’s involvement in maritime expeditions, particularly to Lima, Peru. These voyages were significant during times of war between Spain and Britain, as they allowed for profitable trade, including otter hides. Bodega’s negotiations with figures like Maquina, a powerful indigenous chief, and George Vancouver, a British explorer, played crucial roles in determining territorial claims.
Ultimately, Bodega’s legacy extends beyond his naval career, with a bay in California and a museum in Lima named after him. His story sheds light on the complexities of colonial economic systems and the different types of motivations driving historical figures.