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Next year we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of Andrés de Urdaneta in Ordizia.


I start writing this article one 3rd June, exactly 439 years to the day, after the death of Andrés de Urdaneta in Mexico City (1568).


I was encouraged to summarize the activities planned by the Urdaneta commission after, among other things, having read the book “The Conquistadors of the Horizons” (published in 2006 by Ediciones Destino) by Mr. Felipe Fernandez-Armesto (born London 1950, professor of World and Environmental History at Queen Mary’s college at the University of London).


According to the British historian, “History can be divided into two great stories.

The first part was the long process during which the cultures of man separated. As they grew apart, their differences increased, fuelled by ignorance and contempt for others.

The second, which is the subject of the book, deals with the relatively recent and brief history of cultural union - how the differing human groups got back together, sharing cultural traits, copying each others’ lifestyles and, once again, becoming more similar to one another”


In the chapter “In search of the key to the Pacific” he explains: “the Spanish explorers needed to accumulate the experience of three decades more of Pacific navigation (after the voyage of Magellan) in order to overcome one experimental problem: it was only possible to cross the ocean one way; from east to west”. Andrés de Urdaneta was the explorer who found the answer to this enigma based upon his own scientific knowledge. Mr, Fernandez-Armesto says of Urdaneta: “in spite of being a primordial figure in the history of humanity, he remained regrettably ignored. Despite having written a great many documents, he continues to be desperately elusive.”


It’s worthwhile emphasizing the admiration this Anglo-Saxon author felt towards Andrés de Urdaneta.


In January of 2006 the Urdaneta Commission was set up as a result of an initiative of the Town Council of Ordizia, assisted by a group of people who already appreciated the life and times of our famous countryman. Every member of the commission shared a common aim; to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Andrés de Urdaneta, stressing the importance of his achievements and granting his scientific and diplomatic accomplishments the historical recognition they so clearly deserve.











The respect and admiration that we felt towards Urdaneta provided us with the enthusiasm to push ahead with our mission.


Achieving recognition of a historical character involves a lengthy process. The first step is to begin with factual information dealing with exactly what the person accomplished. Then it is necessary to analyse the historical implications and importance of his actions.


With this in mind, the commission has organised a commemorative program which is not solely limited to a chronological timeline of the achievements of Urdaneta’s prowess as a scientist, sailor, and astronomer, but which enables us to gain a level of understanding to be able to carry out an in-depth study of the historical importance of these accomplishments, enabling us to appreciate not only how his intelligence was fundamental in his success, but also the consequences of his actions.


If, after having participated in all these events, we can consider that we have been able to help our visitors understand that Urdaneta was as important as Columbus, Magellan and Cook and encourage them to participate in the promotion of his historical importance even after these celebratory events, we will feel more than satisfied with our work.


In our search for a greater universal recognition, the commission has organised, with the help of local people and institutions, a series of activities that can be categorized in the following way:


-         Official acts:


-         The official opening of the 500th anniversary

-         The objective of establishing relations between Mexico and the Philippines



-         Previous official acts already held in Ordizia include:


-         Philippine businessmen


-         Heads of the Asia House


-         Miguel de la Cuadra-Salcedo: The Quetzal Route


-         Honorary visit by the Town Hall of Ordizia to the Philippine Embassy in Madrid in commemoration of “The Philippines Independence Day” (10/06/07)











-         Scientific activities


-         Series of workshops/informal talks


-         Summer courses


-         International congress


-         Re-edition of José Ramón de Miguel’s book, “The times of Urdaneta” which updates the most recent research.



-         Expositions


-         An exposition about Andrés de Urdaneta



-         Documentaries and audio-visuals


-         A documentary about Andrés de Urdaneta


-         The creation of the Urdaneta web page (



-         Educational and informative activities


-         The welcome party for the Quetzal Route


-         The creation of a research grant


-         Development and distribution of didactic documentation for younger visitors and children.



-         Complementary activities


-         A special exhibition from the Spice Islands


-         A special crafts exhibition













Noteworthy events


  • The web page. All the information you need regarding the program of activities.


  • In July of this year Ordizia welcomes the Quetzal Route, which will provide national and international press coverage for our town, while promoting awareness of Andrés de Urdaneta to many countries


  • A series of monthly talks starting on 15th February of this year covering several areas, including the social, political and economic reality of Basque and Castilian societies in the 16th Century, during which time Andrés de Urdaneta was instrumental.


  • A visual and graphic exposition about Andrés de Urdaneta will be opened at the end of November and will deal with four main blocks:


Ř      The historical context of Andrés de Urdaneta


Ř      Andrés de Urdaneta


Ř      The background leading to Urdaneta’s historic achievements  


Ř      The Return Route



  • The International Congress will take place in November, 2008 and, as with the Summer Courses, the principle papers regarding the latest research into Andrés de Urdaneta will be given by historians and scientists of international repute.


The main theme of the majority of the programmed activities will be:


  • To present Andrés de Urdaneta and Ordizia as central figures.


  • The collaboration of those countries that most benefited from the achievements of Andrés de Urdaneta, such as Spain, the Philippines, Mexico and Portugal.


  • To make use of all modern day techniques and technologies for obtaining and presenting information.











So, apart from our objectives in the celebration and re-establishing the relevance of the work of Andrés de Urdaneta, we should be able to introduce ourselves and our town to this globalized world that our cosmographic friend did so much to help create.


In conclusion, Andrés de Urdaneta discovered the maritime communication route between Asia and the Americas (from west to east) across the Pacific Ocean (the Urdaneta Route or Return Route).


He planned and undertook the Return Route thanks to the spirit of trust he instilled in a crew so totally committed that they would follow him on this unknown route.

“That voyage of 18,000 kilometres was the longest open sea crossing without sight of land ever attempted. It took them four months and eight days to get to Acapulco.”


When the commission was formed in January, I really didn’t think that people of such different backgrounds, and political interests would be able to achieve such a level of integration as we have today. This has enabled us to further develop the initial plans of the mission. This union was probably our first achievement in all of the tributes and celebrations we had planned. In these changing times, we have managed to pull together and follow the same route.


José Manuel Ibáńez Ibáńez

In Ordizia, 3rd June, 2007

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