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by Rose Maramba
Photos: R. Maramba unless stated otherwise

There’s an ongoing party at the recently renovated Plaza España in Madrid, Spain’s largest plaza. Since last Friday, 30th of September.Through the 23rd of October. In anticipation of Día de la Hispanidad.

It’s called “La Hispanoamericana”. The party, that is. That’s because it’s a festival of the cultures, gastronomies and artisanal traditions of the Spanish-speaking countries in the New World, along the (accidental) route of the first fully documented circumnavigation of the earth. The first single voyage of global journey. Embarked with amazing success by Magellan’s ship, the Victoria, that battled and survived killer seas, gruesome mutinies, executions and pestilences on board, and murder on shore (the slaying of Magellan with a poison arrow, in 1521, by the Filipino people of Mactan who found the Portuguese explorer’s attempt at forcible Christianization intolerable).

The Circumnavigation. (Image: Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte via La Moncloa Gobierno de España)

In search of a profitable western route to the Spice Islands (Moluccas), the daredevil expedition sailed off the harbor of Sanlucar de Barrameda, Cadiz, Spain on 20 September 1519, captained by the Portuguese Magellan who was on the payroll of Spanish King Charles I (otherwise Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Archduke of Austria).

The expedition, a fleet of five ships at the start, returned to the same spot on 6 September 1522 with just one surviving carrack, the Nao Victoria, the smallest in the fleet to boot, after crossing the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. At the helm of the battered ship was the Basque Juan Sebastian Elcano.

The circumnavigation sparked off the era of irrevocable globalization. Of global interconnectivity.

Fast forward to the 21st century: More than 60 stands built of genuine wood – a nod to a concerned peoples’ anxiety over a planet choked with plastics – proudly display and sell craft and produce from Latin America, including Brazil of course, at Plaza España. Stuff from Spain, the host country, is also present. A decidedly low-key presence, ceding center stage to the Latin American.

There are two daily live shows, too, at 6:00 PM and then again at 9:00 PM, making the festival vibrate with Latin sounds.

On 12 October 2022, the Día de la Hispanidad —  rather, the Día Nacional de España — will burst forth into a very special celebration, marking as it does the quincentenary of The Circumnavigation. On that day La Hispanoamericana will still be at Plaza de España even though it’ll have been there for weeks already. It is, after all, a part of many festivities commemorating a voyage that won’t ever cease to impact the world. A voyage that obsolesced narrow patriotism and made multiculturalism an enduring value.

Check out events lineup re. Dia de la Hispanidad in the Madrid region here.


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