‘Pacífico’ exhibit docks in Philippines

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Spain_Pacifico20131030The National Museum of the Philippines will host the exhibition Pacífico, beginning today. Spain and the Adventure of the South Sea is organized jointly by the Spanish Ministry for Education, Culture and Sport through the General Archive of the Indias in Seville, Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines and Instituto Cervantes de Manila to commemorate Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s sighting of the Ocean in 1513.

The exhibition, curated by Antonio Fernández Torres and Antonio Sánchez de Mora, will be on view until January 30 2014, and focuses on the discovery and exploration of the Pacific Ocean. One hundred facsimile copies of documents from the Spanish State archives, scenographies and audiovisual presentations make up this exhibition which, divided in to six sections, invites visitors to take an extraordinary journey through the transformation of this ocean, unknown to humankind, into a communication link for the people.

The exhibition opens its doors simultaneously in two cities, Manila and Seville (Spain), two ports that were once the end-points of routes over the sea and that are united once again today with the aim of promoting the documentary heritage about the Spanish Pacific. These two cities will work together so that the documents can be read aloud in both parts of the world as one of the great contributions of one people to universal history. A people who today are a thousand people, who grew together united by trails across the ocean and who today share the brilliant wake of a common past and culture.

The first parts of the exhibition, An Incomplete World and America, the Unexpected Continent, present the disconnected world of the 15th century to visitors, the competition between Portugal and Castile to reach the Indias and the unexpected discovery of America. These introduction and contextualisation sections will include a reproduction of the Treaty of Tordesillas, an international agreement between Portugal and Spain that was declared World Heritage by Unesco in 1995.

Next, several documents and chronicles will introduce the visitor to the next section: The Discovery of the South Sea, in which the main documents related to the venture of Tierra Firme will be shown, and to the feats of the discoverer from Extremadura Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the first European to sight the Pacific Ocean and to make it know to the Old Continent. The documents shown in this section include the first notice of sighting and taking of possession of the new ocean, which was named the “South Sea” and a facsimile of the main documents related to the first Spanish exploration of the Pacific Ocean on its American and Asian coasts.


The exhibition then takes a surprising twist and goes into the fourth section, The Exploration of the Pacific Ocean, where reproductions, maps and naval models narrate the adventures and misadventures of Spanish sailors on the Pacific Ocean, from Magellan to Váez de Torres, making this unknown space a navigable ocean. On small cards that accompany the documents, visitors can discover the main milestones of each expedition, discovering how the storms, scurvy, mutinies and the immensity made exploration of the Pacific an extremely hard human feat due to the high cost of lives. There are several documents featured in this section about Magellan and Elcano, letters between Urdaneta and Philipp II of Spain, the course of Legazpi and the first maps of the Philippines, California, the Mariana Islands and Palau, as well as reproductions of naval models and navigation instruments of that time.

In the fifth section of the exhibition, New Borders, New People, maps and documents can be perused that show the first consequences of contact between distant worlds, as well as the tensions and diplomatic relations between the Spanish Empire and the powers of the region. This section shows the first map of China to reach Castile and diplomatic correspondence with authorities in Japan and Indonesia, providing evidence of the difficulties of these first contacts.

With the routes open across the Pacific Ocean and the first contacts established with the island world, the exhibition goes on to the sixth section, From the Trail to the Wake, the Pacific Bridge Between Continents, in which a large map of the Pacific and two lighthouses that represent the cities of Manila and Acapulco analyse the beginnings, characteristics and difficulties of the transoceanic route of the Manila Galleon, which communicated the ports of Manila and Acapulco for 250 years and was the connection between Asia, America and Europe by linking with the “Carrera de Indias,” which departed from Veracruz and finished its journey in Seville.

At the centre of this map, a display recounts the history of the ship San Diego, the famous vessel that sank near Fortune Island in 1600, whose wreckage was recovered and studied in 1992 by the Elf Foundation and the National Museum of the Philippines. Two original parts of the San Diego, a loan of the National Museum of the Philippines for the exhibition, are shown here and link the Manila exhibition with the one in Seville, where a series of original pieces from the same ship under the custody of the Madrid Naval Museum are shown.

Pacific, Spain and the Adventure of the South Sea aims to promote the rich documentary collection about the Pacific Ocean contained in the Spanish State archives, with the General Archive of the Indias in Seville to the fore, and to encourage the opening of a new stage in the knowledge about a people who decided to take on the sea driven by an idea much greater than fear: to sail westward and reach the East.

This exhibition narrates how, in less than 100 years, a people of sailors created a network of bridges and routes on the ocean’s abyss, which enabled the exchange of trade, culture and ideas and also tragedy and misunderstanding between foreign worlds.

After its stopover in Trujillo, the show will cross two oceans to the National Museum of Manila, the new venue that will share the same exhibition with the General Archive of the Indias in Seville (Spain). Both venues are participating in the same project, although the original documents and various pieces from museums and public and private collections will be exhibited in Seville until February 9, 2014. This is therefore a cultural event that will become a new communication and exchange bridge between what were once the end-points of two worlds, two peoples united by a common past and present. The show will not end in Manila. It will tour in other countries surrounding the Pacific throughout 2014 and 2015. In fact, this exhibition also has a reduced version that aims to promote the project, which after its stopover in the Marshall Islands, will tour in several countries and continents with the Spanish international Cooperation Agency.

For more information, call the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines at 817-6676 local 112, or e-mail emb.manila@maec.es; or the Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) through Mónica Hernández via email, monica.hernandez@accioncultural.es or 826-0175.

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