Mª José Prieto
It was Monday. But not any Monday morning. That day, on August 10, 1519, the conception of the world changed. The Earth as we know it now. A process was initiated that turned the world into an encompassable object. The seas ceased to be incommensurable. The islands, the dreamed paradises, ceased to be inhospitable and virginal.
Two hundred and thirty-nine men and five ships departed from Seville in search of a route in the west towards spices. The journey was announced with an artillery discharge. The ratchet sails were majestically unfolded.
The circumnavigation of the Earth, the first tour round the world led by the Spanish Crown and captained by Ferdinand Magellan, began its journey towards the fertile enclaves that housed the spices.
Three years later, eighteen men and one ship returned. These sailors had gone around the world. They arrived famished and sick. But they arrived. A historical feat is not such if one does not return to tell it.
The brave captain
On October 21, 1520, they reached the Strait of Eleven Thousand Virgins (Strait of Magellan), in search of the passage to the South Sea. The captain showed signs of his leadership and followed the course bordering the ghostly landscape that surrounded the earth for the first time.
Magellan´s death (April 28, 1521, Mactan Island) marked a turning point in the expedition. King Cilapulapo confronted the captain when he did not want to pay the tributes he demanded. Pigafetta, the chronicler who travelled with the expedition, narrated this misfortune, extolling the courage of the captain: “… an Indian succeeded in thrusting a cane lance into the captain’s face. He then, being irritated, pierced the Indian’s breast with his lance, and left it in his body, and trying to draw his sword, he was unable to draw it more than half way, on account of a javelin wound which he had received in the right arm. The enemies seeing this all rushed against him (…) so that they deprived of life our mirror, light, comfort, and true guide. Whilst the Indians were thus overpowering him, several times he turned round towards us to see if we were all in safety.”
The integrity of Juan Sebastián Elcano
The task of Juan Sebastián Elcano after the death of Magellan required a great tactic and nautical knowledge, but above all an implacable integrity. He not only had to face the adversities of the sea, but also scurvy and starvation. On April 6 they sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. With hardly any food or water, they had to stay nine weeks in front of the inhospitable enclave, with their sails folded waiting for the winds to blow.
On September 8, 1522, eighteen exhausted, hungry and sick men returned to Seville. They got off the ship barefoot with a candle in hand to visit the church of Our Lady of Victory and Santa María La Antigua, as they had promised in the countless moments of despair and anguish.
Emperor Charles I summoned Elcano to his court. He was made a nobleman and the emperor granted him a coat of arms with two cinnamon branches together with the spices nutmeg and clove, encircled by a helmet and the terrestrial sphere crossed by the legend: primus circumdedisti me.
Extensive commemorative programme
To commemorate the 5th Anniversary, a National Commission has been created within the General State Administration. Various administrations and bodies representing the territories or activities most closely linked to this expedition take part in the event.
The central focus of the commemoration will be the programme of activities. The journey lasted from 1519 to 1522. During all these years, events will be incorporated and those already approved will be developed. The program includes academic events, music, theatre and opera, audiovisuals, museums and publications. And of course the nautical activities, both commemorative and sporting, will be the main feature, including several trips around the world.
An exceptional chronicler
This journey, this odyssey full of adversities and glories around the world had an exceptional narrator. Antonio Pigafetta was the chronicler of the first trip around the world. The Italian left Seville with Ferdinand Magellan and returned to the city on September 8, 1522, with Elcano and the handful of survivors of the Victoria. Pigafetta recorded each milestone of the trip in detail. He later wrote a Relazione- a report- , which he handed over to Emperor Charles and other personalities of the time.
An arduous sailing
The living conditions of the ships to the Indies were simply horrible. Overcrowding was absolute. The average space per person was one and a half square metres. They also travelled with animals: chickens and pigs, and everything that entailed a lack of sanitation and the parasites that they generated around them.
To these problems one must add the heat of tropical navigation and the dirt inherent in the customs of the time. It was actually said that His Majesty’s ships were smelled earlier than they were seen…
Food was the great Achilles heel. The only way to preserve food was by salting. Fresh water was a scarce commodity and was rationed. The meals, one a day, were composed of salted fish and annealed bread (the famous sponge cake). Thirst was one of the greatest torments faced by sailors, not to mention the fierce winds and storms.
Pigafetta tells how the departure from the Strait of Magellan developed until the captain’s death: “We only ate old biscuit reduced to powder, and full of grubs, and stinking from the dirt which the rats had made of it when eating the good biscuit, and we drank water that was yellow and stinking. We also ate the ox hides, which were under the main yard.”
Parador of Carmona
Very close to Seville is the Parador of Carmona, which offers beauty, tranquillity, exquisite cuisine, and beautiful scenery. The building stands on the ruins of an impressive 14th century Arab fortress.
Its magnificent facilities, fabulous swimming pool and terraces overlooking the countryside give one the opportunity to enjoy a privileged stay.
The restaurant is one of the most spectacular in the Parador network. The view gives us stunning images of the centenary lands, while the palate is delighted with exquisite Andalusian dishes.