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There were two components to a Flota.  There was a merchant component and an escort component.  The escort might consist of several ships, the top ranked officer, the Captain General, sailing in the Capitana, the second-ranked officer, the Admiral, sailing in the Almiranta.  These were warships, provided by the Crown, and would be charged with transporting the bulk of the gold and silver.

This particular ship was part of the Tierra Firme or Galeones fleet.  They entered the Carribean between Trinidad and Tobago, sailing along the coast of South America to Cartegena.  The merchant ships would be trading along the way.  The warships would go from Cartegena to Porto Bello to pick up silver mined in Peru, then back to Cartegena to wait for the merchantmen to finish up, then on to Havana to meet up with the other fleet, the New Mexico Flota, which had called at ports along the northern part of the Caribbean and Mexico at Vera Cruz.  Both fleets would then cross the Atlantic together.

The escort may have resembled East India Company ships, but were warships.

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