Author: Jorge Alberto Escobar de la Cuesta
THE TRAVEL STORY CONTINUES
Last week we stayed at the end of the fourteenth century, the world has gone through a tough test. After the darkness comes a new dawn
MODERN AGE (XV CENTURY-TODAY)
The world was expanding. Europe is shaken after the ravages caused by the Black Death, which decimated the population in many regions of that continent and the world begins to consider humanism, that is, man, as the center and fundamental measure of the universe, as a new reality that competes with the theocentric concept that was imposed in previous centuries where everything revolved around God. Culture and knowledge then passed from the monasteries to the streets, the first universities appeared and with the invention of the printing press, books became accessible to a wider spectrum of the population.
This change in thinking fueled the growth of the sciences and the arts and behind it saw the emergence of new, more human-centered forms of society. This renaissance, as this cultural movement is known, was the origin of modernity. The political order no longer obeys the old feudal powers, but the concept of “nation” begins to consolidate and many of the former serfs are now citizens of the “burgos”, where they are preparing and organizing themselves in productive unions, which germinated a new, broader social class with significant purchasing power, which no longer only cared about surviving, but also had surpluses to cover other types of needs that were no longer so basic. This new “bourgeoisie” was going to change power relations in societies forever.
Although the church maintained significant power, these power relations already exist between kingdoms-nations and these are not only of a political nature, trade between the various regions of the world intensified and with the advent of art, literature and science, huge information networks were established throughout the known world.
The obvious consequence of all this was the resurgence of travel and, therefore, of the infrastructure required for this: ports, roads, posts, inns, fluvial and maritime lines, etc. The reasons for the travelers were no longer just wars or pilgrimages, now there was one: Diplomats who established ties between states, scientists who sought to share their knowledge, artists who were hired by patrons in different parts of Europe, merchants who mobilized their products and specialized artisans and builders who moved around offering their services in the different towns, a name that would soon give way to the current name of “cities”.
This flow of travelers would soon see the birth of who would be known some time later as a “tourist”, that is, one who travels for the pleasure of discovering new places or cultures and acquiring knowledge and experiences. These incipient “tourists” were quite reckless, because apart from the insecurity of the roads, they faced all possible discomforts, considering that they almost always had to do it in merchant caravans for whom the minimum luxury was an unnecessary cost.
The known world until then expanded enormously with the discovery of America in 1492 by Christopher Columbus. The Portuguese had already found passage through the Cape of Good Hope, in southern Africa, which allowed them to reach the Far East and establish colonies in those regions, but what Columbus found was a whole new world.
This boom in conquests, discoveries, and imperial expansions was generated by the exploration voyages of the conquerors, but at the same time it was the engine that promoted the circulation of people and goods and the emergence of new centers of exploitation and production of wealth. In 1519, the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan, commanded a fleet of 5 Spanish-flagged ships from Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain, on his journey in search of a passage between Europe and Asia through America, discovering what we know today. as “Strait of Magellan” in the extreme south of Chile. It was a painful and complex trip, but although Magellan died on an island belonging to the archipelago that is now the Philippines, after almost 3 years, only one of the ships, commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano, commanded by 18 starving surviving crew members, returned to the Port of departure: Sanlúcar de Barrameda. This was the first trip around the world, which after 17 centuries confirmed the theory of the Greek sage Eratosthenes about the roundness of the earth, which was diluted during the centuries of obscurantism that followed, to the point that everyone believed that our planet was flat.
Although Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese navigators were aware of the continent found in the southern seas, the English captain and navigator James Cook is officially recognized as the discoverer of Australia, as he was the one who explored and mapped it in 1770.
At the end of the 18th century, the known world was practically the entire globe, with the exception of some places and places that were remote or difficult to reach. The sciences had advanced enormously, as had societies and nation-states. Routes and roads had been developed across all seas and continents and knowledge was universal.
Up to this moment, humanity still does not know the term “tourism”. This does not mean that “tourists” had not existed, simply nobody knew that they were called that!
In the next article we are going to remember some of those “tourists” without a name yet, who were the true precursors of pleasure trips, before the activity was so popular that it would not only acquire its own name, but would also become one of the main engines of the economy of modern civilization.