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Getaria - The first circumnavigation of the Earth

Getaria, Gipuzkoa

We agree, Getaria is not Manhattan… but we all know that size is not always what matters. This is a small and welcoming sailor’s village, but above all, it is a sailors village… To the point that it saw the birth of the first man that with a very basic and reused fleet, was able to sail around the world between 1519 and 1522. And most importantly, to return to tell it all and to bring everything he saw mapped with which he opened a new era in History: The Modern Age. We are talking, as you would have already guessed, of Juan Sebastian Elkano. Although, there are many memories dedicated to him by his natal town, don’t try to pay tribute to his grave, because like many other sailors, his tomb was the sea.

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We agree, Getaria is not Manhattan… but we all know that size is not always what matters. This is a small and welcoming sailor’s village, but above all, it is a sailors village… To the point that it saw the birth of the first man that with a very basic and reused fleet, was able to sail around the world between 1519 and 1522. And most importantly, to return to tell it all and to bring everything he saw mapped with which he opened a new era in History: The Modern Age. We are talking, as you would have already guessed, of Juan Sebastian Elkano. Although, there are many memories dedicated to him by his natal town, don’t try to pay tribute to his grave, because like many other sailors, his tomb was the sea.

Today, a slab in the overwhelming and gothic church of San Salvador, remembers the beloved son of the village who died in the Pacific near the Moluccas. And what was Juan Sebastian doing in these lands? Well, he was establishing new trade routes with islands in dispute with the Portuguese Crown, and which possessed a great variety of merchandise.

There is a Basque proverb that says: ¨Txapela buruan eta ibili munduan¨ which means ¨beret on the head and off to travel the world¨. This must have been the way our illustrious sailor though, he didn’t want to prolong the entertainment that Emperor Carlos was giving him, and he preferred to sail off once more, to travel those seas.

But the legend of a sailor’s village is not only about one man, no matter how important he was. It’s time now to talk about other people, the Bonechea cousins; a family of warriors, sailors, scientists and merchants.

The oldest, Domingo de Bonechea, a captain of seas and wars was also an educated and curious scientist with whom if you crossed paths in one of these little streets of the old Getaria, you could mistake him with the one and only Captain Cook, the main character of many films and documentaries. Since the aim of both, him and Cook, was to travel and to claim the most paradisiac islands of the South Pacific for their respective crowns, we could say that they didn’t get on very well.

Between 1772 and 1774 he discovered and tried to incorporate the island of Tahiti to the Spanish crown and after defeating King Tu, the most important king of the islands, he set up a mission there. Unfortunately, he died a few months later, so he was buried right there. As a curious note and, at the same time to show the mutual appreciation (and the British interest in those lands) we should mention that his grave was dismantled not long after by order of his dearest admirer…Cook!

But the best of Domingo de Bonechea´s legacy was his cousin Manuel de Agote y Bonechea, whom surely knew of the wanderings of his cousin around the Pacific. And if Domingo dedicated his life to conquer and to fight, Manuel was more concentrated in the not less good and dangerous world of business which in those days it already included pirates, typhoons, betrayals, illnesses and some other surprises of the business life of the time.

In any case (or perhaps thanks to that) the educated and knowledgeable Manuel de Agote made a considerable fortune and returned to his native village Getaria where in tribute to all the sailors of the town, he ordered and paid the expenses, to erect the first statue of Juan Sebastian which unfortunately was destroyed during the first Carlist war, but you can find a replica of it at the viewpoint beside the sea. And if you don’t have enough with this one, in the village, you can find another two memorial statues of this historical figure. And with this, the circle between the sea, Elkano and the Bonechea cousins is closed.

As we were saying at the start, Getaria is a sailor village… but yes, let’s not forget Cristobal Balenciaga, one of the greatest fashion designers of history and who was born in this village in 1895.


Getaria - The first circumnavigation of the Earth

Parque Aldamar, 2 (Oficina de Turismo)
20808 Getaria
(+34) 943 14 09 57

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