The Armada de Barlovento (Windward Fleet) was created in 1635, although the need to establish a permanent fleet for the surveillance of the Caribbean Sea with headquarters in the port of Veracruz had been evident since the middle of the previous century. Over the years, this Armada was also based in other ports, such as Cartagena de Indias, Santo Domingo, Havana or San Juan de Puerto Rico.
The Armada del Mar del Sur (South Sea Armada) was created by Philip II between 1578 and 1581, and charged with two essential missions: one was to guard and protect the Pacific coast; and the other one was to transport silver from the viceroyalty of Peru to the port of Perico, in Panama.
The Nueva España Fleet was in charge of connecting the Spanish Mainland with the city of Veracruz, in the Gulf of Mexico. This fleet used to sail from Spain to Veracruz, calling at San Juan de Puerto Rico or Santo Domingo. From there, it crossed the Caribbean Sea to the fortress of San Juan de Ulua, overlooking the New Spain city of Veracruz.
The Azogue Galleons followed the same route as the Nueva España Fleet, but because of the content and value of its cargo, this fleet was different from the other fleets that linked the Spanish Mainland with New Spain. The quicksilver or mercury from the mines in Almadén (Ciudad Real, Spain), used to clean precious metals, gave this fleet its name.
The Tierra Firme galleons were in charge of connecting Spain with the Viceroyalty of Peru. From Spain, they sailed to Panama, first to Nombre de Dios Bay and then, from 1598, to Portobelo Bay. The second most important port for this fleet was the port of Cartagena de Indias.
The route of the Manila Galleon connected the Pacific port of Acapulco, in New Spain, with the port of Manila, in the Philippine Islands. Trade fairs were held there and the most demanded oriental products in America and Europe, such as silks, porcelain, ivory and spices, were brought from there.