The Indies of the Setting SunHow Early Modern Spain Mapped the Far East as the Transpacific West

The Indies of the Setting SunHow Early Modern Spain Mapped the Far East as the Transpacific West

Ricardo Padrón

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226455679

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

It is generally thought that the New World came to be conceptualized as “America,” a continent separated from Asia by the ocean we know as the Pacific, within a relatively short time after Christopher Columbus returned from the Caribbean and announced that he had reached the Indies. This book turns the tables on this narrative by exploring Spanish efforts to imagine America and Asia as connected spaces. Over the course of the sixteenth century, the dominant geographical tradition shifted from mapping North America as an integral part of the Asian continent to mapping it as an insular landmass separate from Asia, but the Spanish geopolitical imagination resisted some of the implications of the shift in order to sustain its transpacific imperial ambitions. Throughout the sixteenth century, Spanish historiography and cartography mapped the South Sea (i.e., the Pacific) as a space that served to integrate the New World with Asia rather than separating the two. In a variety of ways, Spain converted what we often call the Far East into the Far West, the "Indies of the Setting Sun." It was a Castilian empire perennially under construction.