The Archivo Historico Provincial de Cadiz
The Archivo Historico Provincial de Cadiz (AHPC) was formally
established in March 1975, though, as an organic entity, it had been in operation
since 1972. The primary purpose for its creation was "para salvar de su casi
segura desaparicion a los protocolos notariales de la Ciudad de Cadiz".
Previously, four centuries of Cadiz protocolos had existed in very precarious
circumstances subject to the continuous attacks of humidity, insects, mold and
fungus. In 1972 these thousands of volumes were moved to the first floor of
Cadiz's Diputacion Provincial, an adequate but temporary solution.
In succeeding years other collections joined the Cadiz notary records (or
Protocolos Gaditanos as they have come to be called) at the Diputacion. These
included the protocolos of the Puerto de Santa Maria, Chiclana de la Frontera and
Medina Sidonia. Also added were records of the Province's Delegacion de
Hacienda. By 1978 space in the Diputacion's building had become totally
inadequate to the point that accessibility was problematic in the extreme. This
situation, all too familiar in the world of archivists and librarians, was solved
definitively in June, 1978, when the Spanish Ministry of Culture established a
permanent home for the Cadiz Provincial Archives.
The new repository came to be housed in the former home of prominent
XVII century Cadiz merchant Diego de Barrios de la Rosa. By 1987, this facility,
popularly know as the "Casa de Cadenas", had been appropriately renovated for
its new purpose. In May of that year the new Archivo opened its doors to the
public and a new era in the study of Cadiz and its historical relationship with the
world began. The "Casa de las Cadenas" is located at #12 Cristobal Colon Street
in the-eld-ity The Archivo is open from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, Monday through
Friday with a 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM afternoon opening on Wednesday and is
accessible to all researchers with valid Ministry of Culture credentials.
Photocopies and microfilm can be ordered for nominal fees. Dr. Manuel Ravina
currently directs the AHPC.
In May, 1999, Special Collections Archivist Bruce Chappell, with Dr.
Robert Kapitzke of the University of Sevilla, spent four days examining a sample
of the over 6,000 volumes of the Protocolos Gaditanos held in the AHPC.
Chappell's purposes for the Smathers Libraries were two-fold. First, he wished to
gain as much hands-on experience as possible with notary materials of the
Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Such experience could prove vital for the
Libraries' proposed digitizing project of the Protocolos Habaneros held in the
Archivo Nacional de Cuba. Secondly, he wished to test several hypotheses
concerning Cadiz's role in the Spanish sea borne empire and possible comparisons
and contrasts of that role with the one played by Havana. Finally, it was believed
that discussions with the archivists at the AHPC about our interests in notary
records and proposed Havana work might prove valuable.
Over the course of the four days, Chappell and Kapitzke were allowed to
examine more than 250 tomos or volumes of notary records. This astounding
degree of access, attributable to the personal interest and amiability of the AHPC's
Director, made possible a preliminary survey of the Protocolos Gaditanos,
particularly those of the Eighteenth Century.
Though a more exhaustive survey of these materials is necessary, some
tentative assertions and conclusions can be drawn. The Protocolos Gaditanos are
remarkably similar to the Protocolos Habaneros (Havana notary records, 1572-
1900). As to the genre of notary instruments and their organization this, of
course, is not surprising. The notary professions in both Cadiz and Havana were
each regulated by the same royal decrees and the same customs of usage. The
really important parallels between the two collections stem from their similarities
in volume, state of preservation and content.
Using the AHPC's excellent guide to their Protocolos, a rather precise
analysis can be made of the Protocolos' chronological distribution as well as their
distribution among notary offices and individual notaries. An extract of this
distribution is as follows:
16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century
128 tomos 1,048 tomos 1,272 tomos 2,276 tomos
The total up to 1900 is 4,724 tomos. Protocolos Habaneros up
to 1900 probably total about 6,000 tomos.
In the very early 1700s, the Spanish Casa de Contratacion (House of
Trade) moved from Seville to Cadiz and, for the next 100 years, the latter city
served as the primary Port for Spain's maritime empire. With exceptions (dictated
by that century's Borbon reforms) all outward-bound, legal cargos and personnel
passed through Cadiz. Major Spanish military operations in the Americas, Africa
and Spanish Asia mustered in Cadiz and sailed from that port. Cadiz merchants,
formerly serving either as branches of the great houses of Seville or small-volume
independents, came to dominate Spain's ultramarine trade. By the 1750's virtually
all major European and Mediterranean trading houses and banks had
representatives in Cadiz. The sheer volume of traffic in goods and people moving
in and out of the port made Cadiz a preeminent center in the burgeoning world
economy of that day. All these factors are abundantly represented in the
Protocolos Gaditanos. The parallels between these records and the Protocolos
Habaneros are astounding as are the historical connections between the two cities.
Indeed, an eighteenth century expression describes "Cadiz as Havana with fewer
Blacks and Havana as Cadiz with less spirit". In any event, Cadiz in the 16th, 17th
and most especially the 18th centuries was the port of departure for the far-flung
possessions of the Spanish Empire as Havana was the last port-of-call for all those
returning from those possessions.
Finally, the condition of the Protocolos Gaditanos closely parallels that of
its sister collection in Havana. As a port city, Cadiz is subject to high humidity
and inundations caused by Atlantic storms. Damage from these sources is
apparent in many of the AHPC's tomos. Some are now damaged beyond recall
and appear more like blocks of paste than bound volumes of documents. Others,
while contemporaneous, are entirely usable although all show signs of staining
and other water related damage. Insects and fungi left their indelible marks on
many tomos. In some cases polilla (the document or book worm) damage makes
certain tomos unusable. All the volumes surveyed showed some signs of worm
The constants of the actions of high humidity, storm water damage and
insect and fungi infestations existed in both Havana and Cadiz. In Cadiz, just as
Havana, the survey found that the condition of the materials varied between
notary offices and individual notaries. As in Havana prior to 1900, Cadiz notary
records were kept in the private residences of their respective notaries. Hence, as
in Havana, contemporaneous tomos showed marked variations in their respective
The brief survey by Chappell and Kaptizke should be followed up with a
more rigorous, systematic examination of the Protocolos Gaditanos. Likewise,
official, though tentative, contacts should be made with the Spanish Ministry of
Culture and the Junta de Andalucia about possible inclusion of the Protocolos
Gaditanos in the University of Florida's cooperative digitizing project of the