Cayetano Valdés y Flores
by José Roldán
(Museo Naval, Madrid)
Cayetano Valdés y Flores, officer of the [Spanish] Royal Navy, first took ship in the squadron of Luis de Córdova, and participated in the military operations led by Barceló against Algiers. On the recommendation of Antonio Valdés (who was his uncle), he was accepted by Malaspina as an officer on the Descubierta for his Expedition. Among his duties as Ship Lieutenant was the examination of the political archives of Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima and Realejo (a no longer existent settlement in what is now Nicaragua). He combined this work with a variety of diplomatic missions on behalf of the Expedition's leader. When in 1792 the corvettes sailed to the Philippines, Cayetano Valdés remained in Mexico and, with his colleague Alcalá Galiano, led the expedition of the schooners Sutíl and Mexicana to explore the Strait of Juan de Fuca in search of the North-West Passage, in the process circumnavigating Vancouver Island and bequeathing many of their current names to a variety of geographical landmarks. Here the Spanish met up with George Vancouver, who was involved in the same project, and the two expeditions were able to collaborate. After returning to Spain, he participated in the battles of Cape St. Vincent and Trafalgar, in command respectively of the vessels Pelayo and Neptuno. As one inclined to liberal politics, he was later still named Governor and Captain-General of Cádiz, positions which ceased to exist with the abrogation of the 1812 constitution by Fernando VII, who confined the officer for a short time to Alicante. Around 1820, still involved in politics, Cayetano Valdés was elected Deputy for Cádiz to the Cortes, a parliament whose unfulfilled goal was to depose the absolutist monarch, and which included Felipe Bauzá. In fact the unrelenting absolutism of Fernando VII saw Valdés persecuted still and eventually exiled to England.
For further information, see:
V. GONZÁLEZ CLAVERÁN, La expedición científica de Malaspina en Nueva España. 1798-1794, México, Colegio de México, 1988, pp. 468-470.
J. KENDRICK (ed.), The Voyage of Sutil and Mexicana. 1792. The last Spanish exploration of the northwest coast of America, Spokane, The Arthur Clark Company, 1991, 260 pp.
Image courtesy of the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani, Mulazzo, Italy. Biographical and bibliographical notes by Dario Manfredi (Italian version), translated by John Black, who has also inserted material drawn from John Kendrick: Alejandro Malaspina: Portrait of a Visionary, Montréal and Kingston, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999.
Updated: June 15, 2018