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Shipwrecked Ambitions

Shipwrecked Ambitions

(p.107) 4 Shipwrecked Ambitions
The Indies of the Setting Sun
Ricardo Padrón
University of Chicago Press

Some of the most noted contributors to the ongoing invention of America, the Spanish historians Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo and Francisco López de Gómara, include extensive material about Spain’s efforts to colonize insular Southeast Asia in their landmark histories of the Indies. These often-neglected narratives of what Gómara calls Spain’s “Enterprise of the Spicery” allow us to understand how the concept of the Indies as a transpacific geography developed between 1520 and 1550, as the follow-up efforts to the Magellan expedition met with failure and as Spanish exploration in northern New Spain began to suggest that North America and Asia were not continuous. Even as the concept of “the Indies” changes dramatically from Oviedo to Gómara, effectively embracing the notion that the New World was separate from Asia and different from the Old, imperial historiography and geography held on to a more comprehensive, transpacific vision of the Indies that mapped East and Southeast Asia as Spanish territory.

Keywords:   Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, Francisco López de Gómara, Indies, invention of America

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