The sleepy little town of Barra de Navidad has a fascinating history. The first sighting of Port of Navidad was recorded by Don Juan Fernandez Hijar in 1535. In 1540 Don Antonio de Mendoza, New Spain’s first viceroy, sailed into the Port of Navidad on Christmas Day 1540, hence the name Barra de Navidad.
Since the harbor was a perfect setting for a shipyard, ships were repaired and built for expeditions manned by famous navigators such as Don Pedro de Alvarado,Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and Lopez de Villalobols.
On November 21, 1564, at 3:00 a.m. the Legazpi-Urdanenta expedition set off to discover a route to and from the Philippine Islands. Captain General Don Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, Fray Andres de Urdaneta, navigator and cosmographer, along with 400 crew members on the San Pedro, San Pablo, San Juan and San Lucas safely reached their destination.
The return voyage wasn’t as successful. On June 1, 1565, the four ships set out for the voyage back to New Spain and unfortunately, the San Pedro flagship, commanded by Felipe de Salcedo, grandson of Legazpi, was the only ship to return. On October 1, 1565, the ship sailed past Navidad Bay arriving in the Port of Acapulco eight days later. This successful return voyage began the 250 year ‘Nao de China’ trade route connecting Asia and New Spain.
One of Barra’s most historical events was in the year 1587 when Thomas Cavendish set the shipyard on fire. Miraculously, the next day the wooden cross overlooking the shipyard was the only thing left intact.
That was long ago but Barra de Navidad hasn’t changed much over the centuries. The small town is situated conveniently close to major places such as Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara but far enough away to maintain a quaint, small town flavor – a perfect place to lay back and imagine what it was like in the days when pirates sailed the Seven Seas.
Thanks to Historian Luis Davilla for all the research he has done.