Friday, June 21, 2024

Magallanes, the farce that breaks Fernández-Armesto

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There were people who were surprised that Álvaro Morte, an actor famous for a character who robbed banks singing the communist anthem “Bella Ciao”, said that he had played Elcano in the series “Without limits” as a “very left-wing” man for that the right does not appropriate it.

Perhaps those surprised forgot that an interpreter is not an intellectual, nor does he have to know what he is talking about just because he poses and hollows out his voice. It is possible that the surprised were more ojipláticos when they heard the producer of said series saying that Magallanes was an “obsessed” who wanted to prove that he “was right”.(of what, if he never thought of going around the world?), while Elcano «is an “outsider”, “cool”, who has a gang, has a good time fighting in taverns, he is a playboy, a very cool guy.” The strange thing about that series is that they didn’t do that “Mission Impossible” thing: set Las Fallas and the Sanfermines in Seville.Álvaro Morte giving life to Elcano in the seriesÁlvaro Morte giving life to Elcano in the series “Without limits” .

In fact, the historical errors of the series “Without limits” about Magallanes and Elcano are so serious that they distort the story and give viewers a false story. I’ll go with some examples. Magellan was not sociable, but rather intractable. Seville did not have an empty port in 1519, quite the opposite. Carlos V did not go to dismiss the expedition. Magellan and Elcano did not travel on the same ship.Pigafetta did not know Guaraní, a language of the Brazilian indigenous people, because he had not been there before and there was no grammar for it. The weaponry that appears is anachronistic. And, finally, no one was waiting in the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda for the arrival of “Victoria”, where Elcano was going, because there was no GPS or WhatsApp groups and, therefore, they did not know when he would arrive. The problem is taking a fact and tampering with it to make it a business.

The professional story is very necessary, but it doesn’t quite reach the general public because it can’t compete with bullshit. Felipe Fernández-Armesto (London, 1950) has written the best biography of Magellan to date. He is one of the most methodical historians of the last decades, who approaches any phenomenon and character in a polyhedral, deep and anchored way at the time, always considering man in nature and as a whole. This is where his works come from, such as “Civilizations” (2002), about man’s struggle to control his environment, or “An Empire of Engineers” (2022), together with Manuel Lucena, where he studies Spanish colonization through the construction of infrastructures. Added to this are biographies such as those of Columbus and Américo Vespucci.

Without understanding the impulse of exploration, says Fernández-Armesto, it is impossible to apprehend the mentality of the conquerors and discoverers, such as Magellan. They were men, he writes, versed in the hagiographies of mythological characters and in “romances of chivalry.” They were people moved by a “social ambition, following the plot of the story of a chivalrous hero in search of fame and fortune.” Columbus, for example, did nothing more than represent himself as a hero. This was a constant of the times in many countries: the desire to star in an adventure, or to fulfill a romantic mission for which to go down in history.Recreation of the Magellan-Elcano expedition of 1519-1522Recreation of the Magallanes-Elcano expedition of 1519-1522.

Magallanes, says Fernández-Armesto, had a less relevant role than the one that his sycophants have attributed to him. He wanted wealth, power and fame, but those three aspirations often lead to many problems. If we add to this objective “his character defects (and) his disappointed aspirations”, the cocktail demystifies Magellan as a secular saint of the age of discovery. However, he deserves a biography even if his failure was total: he lost most of his ships and men, and did no business. The adventurer of Portuguese origin did not hesitate to use the violent methods of the time with absolute contempt for human life. Despite this, and unlike Colón and Hernán Cortés, he has managed to avoid the attacks of the “woke” left.Quite the contrary, says the historian: his figure is mythologized with a political intention. Thus, in order to move from myth to logos, from invention to reality, Fernández-Armesto has undertaken, as he says, “the most meticulous reading ever made of the available texts” (page 15).

Thus, the historian disassembles in his work «Magallanes. Beyond the myth» the legends about a man born in Portugal in 1480, later naturalized as a Spaniard due to his bad relationship with the crown of that country and died in Mactan, Philippines, in 1521. The first myth is that the trip was a good deal . False, says the author. The expenses turned out to be much higher in the end than the benefits.The second myth is that Magellan was a great sailor. Fernández-Armesto says that he had very little idea of ​​navigation; Come on, he was an enlightened passenger among professional sailors. This caused the failure of his plan and the death of a large part of his crew, 90% of the men. He, too, did not intend to go around the world, but to go back the way he had gone; and his discoveries, which were few, turned out to be coincidences, not milestones sought.

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