The story of the battles of Cagayán seems more of a fantasy novel than a real event. Apparently, this was the only recorded battle involving a European army and Samurais, in which barely 40 men belonging to the Spanish armada won against 1.000 rōnin. A great story already, isn’t it?
The Spanish Empire started its colonization of Philippines during 1521 with the arrival of the explorer Fernando de Magallanes and soon established here some of its Asian bases to trade gold and silver. These locations, rich in treasures and far from being well protected, soon attracted the pirates gravitating in the area.
In 1580 a Japanese pirate ship attacked the island of Luzon and the Cagayan province, subjugated locals and took it over. As the Governor of the region asked for help to the Iberian Crown, the Captain Juan Pablo de Carrión was sent to the rescue with 7 ships and 40 soldiers.
But, how did 40 Spaniards won against almost 1.000 of the notorius ronin samurais?
Certainly, some help came from the fact that Spanish army had better weaponry technology but to defeat the most feared warriors of Asia you certainly need a foolproof strategy. The answer to this question is hidden in the nickname that Japanese traditional history adopted to name Spanish soldiers after being defeated: wo-cou. This expression means “half lizards – half fish demons” which sums up the tactics that led Spain to victory, attacking both in sea and on land.
As Spaniards won, losing 10-20 soldiers whether Japanese pirates lost more than 800 men, this fantastic story attributed to Carrión and his
men a legendary fame and taught the world an important lesson: don’t mess with the Spanish.
R: Gala Kulakova – I: Miquel Albertí