Travellers passing through the Passenger Terminal of the Piarco International Airport in Trinidad since December 12th 2012 have been able to learn a bit more about Spain and Trinidad and Tobago’s 300 years of shared history. The Spanish Government (through its Embassy in Port of Spain), in collaboration with the Spanish foreign exchange company, Global Exchange, has recently donated a collection of digital reproductions of various manuscripts and maps of inestimable historical value to the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT). The originals can be found in the General Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain, the archive containing the largest documental heritage on the centuries of Spanish administration in the Americas. They were selected and printed by the Nao Victoria Foundation, based in Seville, Spain, which plays an active role in promoting a deeper knowledge of the history of Spanish presence in the world.
The inauguration of the exhibition at Piarco International
Included among these documents are letters written over 500 years ago by Christopher Columbus to the Catholic Monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella upon his first arrival to the island he called “Trinidad” in 1498; maps of Trinidad and Tobago from the XVII and XVIII centuries; population and agricultural statistics for Trinidad signed in 1737 by the island’s last Spanish governor, Don José María Chacón; and the the first ever West Atlantic meridian, established in Laventille by the eminent astronomer and navigator Admiral Cosme Damián Churrucain 1793. This archival donation clearly shows that the islands of Trinidad and Tobago were important components of the hemispheric project for the construction of the Spanish Americas.
1793 Island of Trinidad (Trinidad and Tobago). Naval Museum of Madrid. MN-31-C-3. Trinidad (Trinidad and Tobago) Joaquín Francisco Fidalgo, Manuel del Castillo y Armenta, Cosme Damián de Churruca y Elorza, Antonio de Quesada Spherical chart covering the island of Trinidad: with its nearby islands, depressions, depths, and contours. Constructed and rectifying Bergants divisions. Scale [ca. 1:200000] 1 nautical letter : ms., set on fabric; 63.7 x 95.7 cm The hand-written signatures of Joaquín Francisco Fidalgo, Manuel del Castillo y Armenta, Cosme de Churruca and Antonio de Quesada are included. Description of the seabed’s relief by means of bathymetric sounding. It indicates bathymetric sounding lines, contours, reefs, and features of the ocean floor.
24 November 1783, San Lorenzo el Real. Royal Warrant of His Majesty King Carlos III of Spain, containing the regulations for the population of and for trade from the Windward island of Trinidad. Print. Madrid, 1783, Joaquín Ibarra, printer of S.M. (A.G.I., Caracas, 466)
The delivery and exhibition of these documents represented a perfect finale to the year 2012, celebrating relations between the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Seizing the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this Republic’s independence, the Governments of both countries, as well as Spanish firms operating in T&T, have sought to strengthen historical and cultural ties between both nations. In this context, on the occasion of the National Day of Spain (12 October), a first collection of these historical documents and maps was officially donated to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, through the Honourable Prime Minister, Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Hand-over ceremony of the first set of historical manuscripts from the General Archive of the Indies (the Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and the Ambassador of Spain to Trinidad and Tobago, HE Joaquín de Arístegui. October 2012).
That same day, the book entitled Trinidad Española (edited by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation/AECID) was presented to the Government and the people of the twin island Republic. Spanish Trinidad is the first historical account of the long Hispanic period of Trinidad and Tobago (1498-1797), written from a strictly Spanish perspective by the reputed historian Francisco Morales Padrón. From the first encounter of Christopher Columbus in the summer of 1498, to the hand over of Trinidad to the British in 1797, the author describes the complex process of the Spanish settlement of the island while searching for El Dorado, the progressive social and economic development of La Trinidad de Barlovento (as Trinidad was known until the late 18th century), the significance and relevance of the Caribbean Windward Islands in the Spanish geo-political strategy of its American provinces, and the key role played by Trinidad and Tobago in the outcome of the European disputes in the West Atlantic after the French Revolution. Alongside with this original version, the Embassy of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago had commissioned the translation of the said book into English. Thanks to the joint effort of the Spanish Government, the sponsorship of REPSOL, and the work of UWI Lecturer Armando García de la Torre, Spanish Trinidad can now be found in bookshops throughout the country (including the Ishmael Khan bookstore at Piarco International Airport).
The Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago during the presentation of Spanish Trinidad (October, 2012)
Through this double donation, the Kingdom of Spain wishes to offer to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago the possibility of revisiting almost three centuries of Trinbagonian history, which for too long has remained largely unknown. Both for the hundreds of T&T tourists visiting modern day Spain each year, and for other travellers strolling through the Atrium of Piarco International Airport, the current exhibition constitutes a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the common roots between Spain and Trinidad and Tobago, and thus build the foundations for stronger bonds in the future.
– Text & images courtesy the Embassy of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago)
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