A New World Order, ca. 1494



You may never have heard of a place called Tordesillas.


But you may occasionally have wondered why it is that the whole of the South American continent speaks Spanish with one exception, Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken. Well, Spain and Portugal were powerful colonial empires what with Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci (sorry, he was Italian. Of course I meant to say Vasco da Gama) discovering the New World in the XVth century. Soon it became necessary to sort out competing land claims in this New World. Pope Alexander VI took action to clear up any confusion that may have arisen over such territorial claims. He issued a decree which established an imaginary line running north and south through the mid-Atlantic, 100 leagues (480 km) west of the Cape Verde islands (off the west coast of Africa). That was about halfway between the Cape Verde islands (already Portuguese) and the islands discovered by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage (claimed for Spain), named in the treaty as Cipangu and Antilia (probably Cuba and Hispaniola). The lands east of the line would belong to Portugal and the lands to the West to Spain.


The Treaty of Tordesillas (Portuguese: Tratado de Tordesilhas, Spanish: Tratado de Tordesillas), was duly signed at Tordesillas (now in the Valladolid province, Spain), on 7 June 1494, and divided all newly discovered lands outside Europe into an exclusive duopoly between the Spanish and the Portuguese. The treaty was ratified by Spain (at the time, the Crowns of Castilla and Aragon), on 2 July 1494 and by Portugal, on 5 September 1494. The other side of the world would be divided a few decades later by the Treaty of Zaragoza, signed on 22 April 1529, which specified the anti-meridian to the line of demarcation specified in the Treaty of Tordesillas. 


Interesting, isn’t it? 


By the way, should you ever happen past Valladolid, you must go to Tordesillas and visit the Casas del Tratado, declared to be a site of Cultural Interest, which are two adjoining palaces that received this name because it was here that the Tordesillas Treaty was signed. The palaces are overlooking the Duero river. Also of interest there is the Monasterio Real de Santa Clara, a palace built by King Alfonso XI in 1350 and converted into a convent by his son, Pedro I the Cruel. Have some nice Ribera del Duero for lunch, but don’t drive after having had more than one copa.


Instead you could stay for the night there, for instance at the Parador de Tordesillas, from 110 € per room per night.

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