I am writing using the title issued by emperor Charles V to the great sailer and explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano when he returned from the first circumnavigation of the globe. You already know it was an endeavor proposed by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the Crown of Castile in 1518 that was carried out between 1519 and 1522. We are therefore celebrating 500 years of a pioneering globalization that was led by Spain and Portugal.
In fact, the 26th Ibero-American Summit, a large cultural and political project that brings together all European and American players from that New World that began with Columbus’ discovery, was held in November. Someone who particularly interests Universidad Europea and ranks among its Honorary PhDs is the Secretary General, Rebeca Grynspan. Meeting in the beautiful city of La Antigua, Guatemala, under the motto A Prosperous, Inclusive, and Sustainable Ibero-America, attendees reflected on the Ibero-American commitment to the United Nations 2030 Agenda, “an effort that continuously looks reality in the eye and that through its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), offers end-to-end solutions […] to each challenge that we face: inequality, poverty, hunger, institutional distrust, labor, violence, technological disruption, and environmental degradation, among others” (Official SEGIB statement regarding the 2018 Summit).
I would like to especially highlight some of the preliminary work that was done at the Ibero-American Forum of Heads of Higher Education, which met last May to prepare for the summit. In its final statement, it underscored “the role of universities in the 2030 Agenda, as institutions that through training, research, extension, and association are key to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.” This Forum is a crucial space to drive the initiatives aimed at building opportunities for exchange and cooperation in higher education in Ibero-American countries. Discussions were focused on quality, degree recognition, research as a cross-disciplinary and inspiring center of higher education, and academic mobility.
1519 was an eventful year: we will also celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Hernán Cortés’ Mexican expedition that would bring him to incorporate Aztec territory into that great viceroyalty of New Spain (lest we forget that it spanned from what is today northern California to the isthmus of Panama). Or the selection of Charles V as the German emperor, succeeding his grandfather Maximilian of Austria, who started more than a century of intense contact between the courts of Vienna and Madrid.
Along with the viceroyalty of Peru, which began an efficient transportation network between Seville and Cerro de Potosí, Mexico, it became the center of an even more extensive trade route: the one that united Europe and Asia with the Manila Galleons. Since sailing through the Strait of Magellan was quite dangerous, a new path was sought to connect the Pacific coasts; thus, the porcelain, silk, and spices of the East would travel by land from Acapulco to Veracruz, where they connected to the system of fleets and galleons that regularly crossed the Atlantic for almost 300 years (despite the English, French, and Dutch pirates protected by their letters of marque). The Spanish attorney living in Hong Kong, Juan José Morales, wrote an excellent book explaining it all: The Silver Way. China, Spanish America and the Birth of Globalisation (1565-1815).
This birth of globalization entailed a real challenge for the comprehension of new economic phenomena and brought the doctors of Salamanca to reflect on loans and usury, prices, contracts, inflation, and the devaluation of currency. It was those masters who incredibly precisely formulated the qualitative theory of money; as shortly before Francisco de Vitoria, the founder of this school, had set the bases of international law and recognition of the dignity of Native Americans as human beings. They also wrote about the limits of civil authority, explaining how all rulers must be subject to the consent of the people and respect just laws. In my view, they were actually wary of excessive control by the state: civil liberties and few taxes. The Jesuit Juan de Mariana anticipated the idea that the citizens of Washington DC now demand: “No taxation without representation.”
Returning to the Circumnavigation of the Globe, I’d like to suggest a few information portals in case you’d like to learn more:
–The Executive Commission of the Celebration of the 500th Anniversary, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. The International Conference on the History of Primus Circumdedisti Me was held in March. Keys of the First Globalization, organized by the Ministry of Defense in collaboration with the MECD and the Junta of Castille and León.
-The City Council of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the port from which the expedition set sail, is promoting the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Circumnavigation of the Globe with detailed information on the achievements, resources, and activities presented on the Sanlúcar website and the first Circumnavigation of the Globe: Sanlúcar de Barrameda 500th Anniversary.
-Seville, where the expedition set out, is also celebrating the anniversary with information about the event, activities, publications, and projects available on the Seville 2019-2022 website: 500 years since the first global vision of the Earth, promoted by Citizens’ Initiatives of Seville: Seville 2019-2022.
–Valladolid will host the first activities of the 500th anniversary of the First Circumnavigation of the Globe. It is the city where the Capitulations of Valladolid were signed on March 22, 1518, the contract between Charles I and Ferdinand Magellan to regulate the expedition.
-Finally, the Basque country is one of the points of interest as Juan Sebastián Elcano was from Guetaria (Gipuzkoa): ‘Mundubira 500: Juan Sebastian Elkano Fundazioa’ Project begins with support from the Basque Government. We should remember, by the way, that the Spanish training vessel Juan Sebastián de Elcano was named in honor of the explorer and his expedition around the world, and it bears his coat of arms as well as the motto given to him by the emperor.