The Caracena Family during the Time of Discovery

© Fernando Caracena, 2016

Below is some material discovered by my Cousin Bernard Caracena, which I have collected with other research that I have done on the Caracena family origins.


Everyone has family that goes back to Adam and Eve, but some are lucky enough to have an ancient surname that is somewhat traceable through world history. Through this surname, if they pursue its history, they might gain some purchase and find understanding of  world history. Such an effort can also result in their acquiring knowledge and ownership of a bit of history leading to deeper insight into the nature of human beings and their interactions.

I find myself fortunate to have an ancient surname that appears in ancient, historical documents. Although my surname is based on geographical names that go back millennia, my own surname goes back one thousand years to northern Spain. It is derived from a title given to a knight who volunteered his services to the crown of Castile and Leon—the name of the town of Caracena in the province of Soria, which was captured from the Moors circa 1000 AD.

The adoption of the name, "de Caracena", by some knight happened at a time when such people were arriving in Spain from all over Europe, in response to the Pope's request for volunteers to go there and fight against the Moslem invaders.

The first ancestor with the name "de Caracena" could have come from almost anywhere in Europe. He could have perhaps originated in northern Spain in Asturias, Galicia, or the Basque country. He could have  been a Frenchman that came over the Pyrenees. Perhaps he was Irish or he was from Wales. Our oral history says that he was Austrian. But who knows? Wherever he came from he brought with him a list of other surnames. His new loyalties and service gained him an addition to that list, "de Caracena".

In 1492 it was suddenly all over. The last Spanish Caliphate of Cordoba capitulated to the Catholic Kings, Fernando and Isabel. The prolonged war of the reconquest of Spain was suddenly over. The great central struggle that had occupied the lives of some twenty generations of the de Caracena Family suddenly ceased to exist. That same year, the seeds of a new adventure were sown, which would again become the central theme for future generations of some of the de Caracena family. Cristoforo Colombo, the Italian from Genoa, sailed as a Spanish commander of three ships, charged with finding a new way to the orient by sailing west!

The Caracena Family Seat in Southern Spain

When the reconquest of Spain was over, the de Caracena family was apparently fairly wealthy. They settled down in Andalucia, where they established their family seat.  The inheritance laws of primogeniture, which applied to them and their class acted as a spur to make their young men charge out into the New World. The Archives of the Indies passenger lists (Archivo de las Indias: Catalogo de Pasajeros a Indias) documents the departure from Spain of a variety of individuals having the de Caracena surname. On 18 August 1513 when Pedro de Caracena, son of Garcia de Caracena and Catalina Gomez, from the town of Caracena, Soria, Spain (vecinos de Caracena), set sail from the port of Seville. That same year, on 26 June 1513, Juan Rodriguez de Caracena  applied for passage to the Indies. He is listed as the son of Juan Gonzalez de Caracena and Constanza Martin of the town of Carmona, which is located about 25 km east of Seville. His occupation is listed as conquistador. Note that the surname, Rodriguez, did not appear among those of his father and mother.

Although the early documents do not show a well defined family seat, later documents point to the province of Cadiz as the location of the family seat, Sanlúcar de Barrameda being mentioned early in the documents, and later the port city of Cadiz. These locations stand out as fixed centers during the great changes that came with the Age of Discovery.

Losing their Lives for Fame and Fortune

A measure of the motivation that drove my ancestors into the New World is revealed in the list of those who perished in their efforts to acquire fame and fortune.

1676, Fernando DE CARACENA died in Veracruz and left 228,000 pesos (a fortune in those days) to his nephew Pedro DE CARACENA y CABRERA who resided in Cordoba[country not stated]. In 1973 dollars this fortune would be worth over $2 Million, which at the time of Fernando' s death was about four times the Viceroy's annual salary [calculated from data in Feherenbach's history book, "Fire and Blood"].

1723 Salvador José de Caracena, natural de Sanlúcar de Barrameda, son of Juan de Caracena and Angela María de Avila. Died onboard a ship and was returned to Spain.

1730-1737 Diego Jose de Caracena (listed as Carazona) y Avila applied for passage to the Indies on 27 May 1730 and again on 18 January 1737 (Archivo General De Indias), and listed on each occasion as his occupation “mercader” or merchant. In the first trip he was a citizen of Cadiz and in the second Puerto de Santa Maria. In each trip he had a criado, which in those days meant a sponsor.

1753 Diego José de Caracena y Avila, natural de Sánlucar de Barrameda. Died in La Habana. His death is reported to have occurred in La Habana, con testamento (with a will). He is listed as hailing from (natural de) Sanlucar de Barrameda. His heir is listed as Juan Francisco de Carazona y Avila, sobrino (nephew). He left a bequest to al convento de San Francisco de Sanlucar de Barrameda, which was customary for wealthy indianos according to Morner. Indianos were names given to Spaniards that ventured into the New World.

1753 Don Andrés de Caracena y Avila, native of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Died in La Habana.






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