The vast wealth of the Spanish fleet attracted dozens of men, like buzzards circling stricken prey, seeking to pick clean the goods that foreigners could not protect. At the same time, the British colonial world was a coastal culture. The tensions created by the contradictory impulses to protect or pillage the Spanish ships and goods permeate much of the British correspondence dealing with the subject. Because the Guadalupe carried the most wealth in the Spanish flota, her case dominated the news long after the hurricane. To some extent, what constitutes theft is defined by class. When committed by common sailors, it is piracy. When committed by government officials, it is sometimes attributed to a mistaken interpretation of regulations. For Bonilla, the end result was the same.
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