Juan de Amézquita

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Juan de Amezquita
Juan de Amezquita (sketch).jpg
Captain Juan de Amezquita
A sketch based on Jose Andino y Amezquita, descendant of Juan de Amezquita
Born 1595
San Sebastián, Vizcaya Province, Spain
Died San Juan, Puerto Rico
Allegiance Puerto Rican Militia
Rank Captain
Commands held San Felipe del Morro Castle
Battles/wars Defense of San Juan (1625)

Juan de Amezquita (born c. 1595), was a captain in the Puerto Rican Militia who defended Puerto Rico from an invasion by the Dutch in 1625. He fought and wounded Captain Balduino Enrico (Boudewijn Hendricksz) who was ordered by the Dutch Government to capture Puerto Rico.

Early years[edit]

Amezquita (birth name: Juan de Amézquita y Quijano [note 1]) was born and raised in the town of San Sebastián, Vizcaya Province, Spain.

Defense of San Juan[edit]

Area where the "Battle of San Juan of 1625" took place

The Netherlands was a world military and commercial power by 1625, competing in the Caribbean Sea. The Dutch wanted to establish a military stronghold in the area, and dispatched Captain Balduino Enrico (also known as Boudewijn Hendricksz or Bowdoin Henrick) to capture Puerto Rico. On September 24, 1625, Enrico arrived at the coast of San Juan with 17 ships and 2,000 men and sent a message to the governor of Puerto Rico, Juan de Haro, ordering him to surrender the island. De Haros refused; he was an experienced military man and expected an attack in the section known as Boqueron. He therefore had that area fortified. However, the Dutch took another route and landed in La Puntilla.[1]

Seventeenth-century Spanish painting commemorating Enrico's defeat at San Juan de Puerto Rico; by Eugenio Caxés, Museo del Prado

De Haro realized that an invasion was inevitable and ordered Captain Juan de Amezquita, plus 300 men stationed at "San Felipe del Morro Castle" (also known as "El Morro") and the city of San Juan evacuated. He also had former governor Juan de Vargas organize an armed resistance in the interior of the island. On September 25 Enrico attacked San Juan, besieging El Morro Castle and La Fortaleza (the Governor's Mansion). He invaded the capital city and set up his headquarters in La Fortaleza. The Dutch were counterattacked by Captain Juan de Amezquita and 50 members of the civilian militia on land and by the cannons of the Spanish troops in El Morro Castle. The land battle left 60 Dutch soldiers dead and Enrico with a sword wound to his neck which he received from the hands of Amezquita, who is considered as one of the best swordsman of the island.[2][3]

The Dutch ships at sea were boarded by the Puerto Ricans who defeated the Dutch in the land battle. After a long battle, the Spanish soldiers and volunteers of the city's militia were able to defend the city from the attack and save the island from an invasion. On October 21, Enrico set La Fortaleza and the city ablaze. Captains Amezquita and Andre Botello decided to put a stop to the destruction and led 200 men in an attack against the enemy's front and rear guard. They drove Enrico and his men from their trenches and into the ocean in their haste to reach their ships.[4][5]

Enrico, upon his retreat, would leave behind him one of his largest ships stranded and over 400 of his men dead.[4] He then tried to invade the island by attacking the town of Aguada. He was again defeated by the local militia and abandoned the idea of invading Puerto Rico.[1][5]

Later years[edit]

Monument at El Morro honoring Capt. Juan de Amezquita

Captain Amezquita received 1,000 ducats (gold coins), and in 1632 was appointed Governor of Cuba and given command of the Spanish forces in Santiago de Cuba.[4] On March 15, 1635, the Dutch forces had an invasion of Cuba in mind. The Dutch naval forces sent crew members on a reconnaissance mission disguised as Spanish soldiers ashore. One of Amezquita's men became suspicious and a small skirmish ensued. Under Amezquita's command, 14 men manned their guns and attacked the Dutch crew members who in turn withdraw and fled.[6] Amezquita renounced his position in 1636 and returned to Puerto Rico[4]


The Spanish government honored the defenders of San Juan with a funerary monument on the grounds of El Morro. The monument was dedicated to Amezquita in 1925, on the 300th anniversary of the defeat of the Dutch. In the 1940s, the United States inaugurated Fort Amezquita, in Isla de Cabras. During World War II, this fort served as a military reservation, or a "concrete gun battery" for the US Army.[7] Juan de Amezquita's descendent, Jose Andino y Amezquita, would in the future become the first Puerto Rican journalist.


  1. ^ This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Amézquita and the second or maternal family name is Quijano.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Historias de Puerto Rico by Paul G. Miller, (1947) pgs. 221–237.
  2. ^ "DON JUAN DE HARO Y LOS HOLANDESES" (24 de Septiembre de 1625) Archived March 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "El Morro, testigo inconquistable; Colección Espalda"; Author José Morales-Dorta; Publisher: Isla Negra Editores, 2006; pages 60-73; ISBN 1932271791, 9781932271799
  4. ^ a b c d The History of Puerto Rico From the Spanish Discovery to the American Occupation / Middeldyk, R.A. Van Identifier: etext12272 The History of Puerto Rico From the Spanish Discovery to the American Occupation
  5. ^ a b Insight Guides Puerto Rico; By Barbara Balletto; Pg. 32; Published 2003 Langenscheidt Publishing Group; ISBN 981-234-949-9
  6. ^ "Wars of the Americas: A Chronology of Armed Conflict in the New World, 1492 to the Present"; by David F. Marley, David F. Marley; Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated; ISBN 978-0-87436-837-6; ISBN 0-87436-837-5
  7. ^ Forts