Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation
of the Globe.
By Laurence Bergreen.


From the NY TIMES book review 12/7/2003 of the new book

Elcano is often credited with being the first circumnavigator. One of Bergreen's interesting subplots alternatively reveals Magellan's slave, Enrique, as the first human to circle the globe. Magellan had purchased him ''10 years earlier in Malacca, where he was baptized, and he had followed his master ever since across Africa and Europe,'' then across the Atlantic, through the Straits of Magellan and across the Pacific. Enrique appeared to be a loyal domestic, and Magellan's will stipulated unambiguously that in the event of his death, Enrique was to be freed immediately and paid 10,000 maravedis. Enrique astonished his shipmates in the Philippines by conversing with islanders. Apparently he was not a native of Malacca, but a Filipino captured in boyhood by slave traders from Sumatra. His service to Magellan created the circumstances in which he became the first person to circle the world and return home, albeit indirectly and not of his own volition.


That homecoming set the stage for a dramatic act of resistance to slavery. After Magellan's death Enrique demanded his freedom. Rebuffed, and threatened by the new commanders, he plotted with a local king to betray the armada. In the massacre that followed, almost 30 men were killed, including many of the most capable and prestigious. The slavery, the murder, the betrayals, the greed: all were part of the encounters between Europeans and others in the wake of Magellan, and they temper the triumphalism associated with the expedition.

William Manchester's best selling book,

 A World Lit Only by Fire,

 there is a compelling chapter about the discovery of the

Philippines and the man who was the first circumnavigator of the

world. You will be stunned to learn that it wasn't Ferdinand Magellan

who first circled the globe, but a Filipino. Manchester wrote:

"Shortly after they had landed in the Visayan Islands of the enormous
Philippine archipelago, Magellan heard a great cheering and, moving on toward the noise, found his servant Enrique surrounded by merry natives. It took awhile to sort things out. Born in the Visayas, Enrique had been sold into slaveryin Sumatra and sent to Malacca, where Magellan had acquired him. Since leavingthe Malayan Peninsula in 1512, he had accompanied his owner to India, Africa,Portugal, Spain and, the past eighteen months on this voyage. An apt linguist,he was fluent in both Portuguese and Spanish, but hereon Limasawa, for the first time since his childhood, he had overheard people speaking his native language.He had joined in, and they had welcome him as one of their own.

Who is this Enrique? Read my tribute to this unknown explorer who I fondly call my greatxgreat grandfather on my website: