2017-05-01 / Features

Part 1: Legacy of Spanish Explorers of America

Álvaro de Marichalar tours Historic Pensacola while lecturing in U.S.
By Julie B. Connerley
Special to Splash


Maria Davis and Álvaro Marichalar stand next to a Don Tristán de Luna exhibition ship anchor discovered in Pensacola Bay. Maria Davis and Álvaro Marichalar stand next to a Don Tristán de Luna exhibition ship anchor discovered in Pensacola Bay. Our community loves the throne position as America’s First Settlement. The pride is evident in the University of West Florida Trust Historic Pensacola properties, as well as in signage, markers and monuments that pay homage to our past. Local tourism is boosted by visitors curious to learn more about who we are and where we came from, especially by those who consider themselves history buffs.

One history enthusiast, internationally recognized Spanish extreme adventurer Álvaro de Marichalar y Sáenz de Tejada, recently visited Pensacola to pay homage to our area’s discoverer, Don Tristán de Luna, and to Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish military leader who led the sea and land forces that defeated the British at the Battle of Pensacola in 1781. Gálvez aided America’s 13 colonies in their quest for independence in the American Revolutionary War, an uprising which had evolved into an international conflict by the time it ended.

Marichalar, 56, of Pamplona, Navarra, Spain, is, undoubtedly, a modern-day Spanish explorer with a twist. For more than three decades, the former Royal Spanish Air Force pilot has followed his maritime passion, establishing world records aboard “my little dolphin,” as he refers to his 11-foot personal watercraft (PWC), which he named Numancia, and retracing “watermarks” of Spain’s earliest explorers to the New World. Entrepreneur, motivational speaker, book author, humanitarian and environmentalist, his local planned visit included a public lecture and slide show, hosted by Honorary Vice Consul to Spain, Maria Davis, Malibu Lounge owner Joe Gilchrist and the Navy League of Pensacola.

EXPEDITIONS


Maria Davis, Álvaro Marichalar and Collier Merrill display a map of Marichalar’s revisited Spanish explorer routes in the New World. Maria Davis, Álvaro Marichalar and Collier Merrill display a map of Marichalar’s revisited Spanish explorer routes in the New World. Highlights of his presentation included his 2013 Florida Discovery Expedition, which retraced Juan Ponce de León’s 1513 Spanish exploration into Florida in search of the illusive Fountain of Youth. From Puerto Rico, Marichalar traveled, without any support vessels, 1,624 nautical miles to set foot on shore in St. Augustine — exactly where Ponce de León had stepped out 500 years earlier.

On the fifth centennial of the first European discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Spanish Conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Marichalar navigated 2,400 nautical miles, from Miami to Panama, along the coasts of 10 different countries. Balboa had led a gold expedition of 190 Spaniards and some Indians southward across the Isthmus of Panama. Climbing a mountain peak, Balboa sighted the Pacific Ocean, which the Spaniards named the Mar del Sur (South Sea).

Among the 14 world records and 39 maritime expeditions undertaken for humanitarian or environmental causes by the modern-day adventurer, perhaps the best known is Marichalar’s 2002 commemoration of the fourth and final voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World. Columbus set sail May 11, 1502, to explore uncharted areas to the west of the Caribbean and, perhaps, to find a passage west to the Orient.

Marichalar feels at home in the ocean aboard Numancia, his vessel of choice to sail the seas. He confesses the following: “alone on such a small humble little boat allows me to experience reality, while pursuing my dreams.”

For Marichalar, taking risks and having dreams is the difference between an ordinary life and a life fully lived. He has lived it, and he shares that message with audiences around the world.

When asked what people would be surprised to learn about him, this humble extreme explorer said, “I am driven by a romantic way of living life, not by profit or economy, but by a new wave of exploration. That’s why I understand Ponce de León, Tristán de Luna (from whom he is descended) and all the other explorers of the world. They were willing to take risks. At the end of the day, all we can do is pursue dreams, be good, and do good.”

And what does the future hold for Álvaro Marichalar? A Canada to California route is anticipated, along with a 2019 Tour of the World commemorating the fifth centennial of Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the globe.

We wish him fair winds and following seas.

To learn more about him, visit http://alvarodemarichalar.com/index.php/ es/. Contributions to Álvaro’s expeditions to promote nature conservation awareness around our oceans can be directed to J.P. Morgan Chase, NY, account #066196-221.

Next month, we will continue Álvaro’s story with his most famous expedition, the Transatlantic crossing, and explore more fully the ancient ties between our two countries.

Part 2 coming in the June issue of Splash!

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