CHAPTER 3: The Coveted Pacific Coast
A New Stage for European Struggles
A Spanish Ocean
As the wars were fought between the French and the British, and then the British and the Americans, the territories to the west of the Prairies remained uncharted. No one had yet crossed the continent, neither by land across the Rocky Mountains - which were deemed impenetrable - nor by ship through the enigmatic Northwest Passage. In the eighteenth century, however, a series of events would propel the northwestern part of the North American continent onto the world scene. The great powers almost went to war to maintain their geostrategic interests in this part of the globe, which in the end would become the Canadian Pacific coast.
Until the eighteenth century, the Pacific Ocean was virtually unknown, few explorers having dared to venture there. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish established colonies on the Pacific coast of America, as well as in the Philippines, in the Far East. They thus inaugurated the first regular trans-Pacific link with their famous "Manila galleons," which shuttled between Manila in the Philippines and Acapulco, Mexico. Little by little, the Spanish began to consider the Pacific their own domain, because they controlled the whole western coast of America from Cape Horn in Chile to northern Mexico. The Spanish settlements dotting this immense coastline were never threatened, except perhaps by a few pirates or particularly daring buccaneers, and there were no other European colonies along the coast.