On 20 September 1519, the first voyage around the world set sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Cádiz, southwest Spain. Now almost 500 years on the Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), an agency that orchestrates public support for the promotion of culture, and the Secretaría de Estado de Cultura (Secratariat of State for Culture) have announced an extensive activity plan to celebrate the 5th centenary of this mammoth milestone in human history.

The voyage is known as the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation in honour of the two men that were at the helm of the expedition, Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano. Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer commissioned by the Spanish to look for a maritime path from Spain to East Asia through the Americas and across the Pacific Ocean. Following Magellan’s death in Mactan, Philippines, the expedition was concluded under the command of Juan Sebastián Elcano who sailed passed the Cape of Good Hope and along West Africa. His ship, Victoria, finally docked on 6 September 1522 just two weeks shy of three years since setting sail.

Almost 500 years on the secretary of the Estado de Cultura, Fernando Benzo, has chaired a meeting for the Executive Commission for the 5th centenary commemoration of the first circumnavigation of the world in which they announced an extensive activity programme to celebrate. The activities planned range from large exhibitions, theatre and opera productions, musical pieces, audio-visual works such as documentaries, journal publications and educational material for children including comic books.

Considering the landmark celebrates a nautical feat, a number of maritime themed activities have been planned such as a special Bilbao-Guetaria-Bilbao regatta in July 2019 honouring Juan Sebastián Elcano. Furthermore the Ministry of Defence has organised educational cruises crossing the same Pacific and the Atlantic routes as the circumnavigation. Visitors are also able to visit replicas of the ships in the fleet to better understand the gravity of their achievement.

During the meeting between the programme organisers, an initiative to develop an exhibition programme on Google Arts & Culture portal was presented and to great success. The interactive programme will teach users about the voyage and significant events on its three year timeline. A similar exhibition programme was designed for the 4th centenary of Miguel de Cervantes’ death and achieved more than a million visits in its first two months alone.

The list of planned activities and the contribution of a number of key players in its organisation is vast, ensuring that the first circumnavigation in human history will be celebrated with the grandeur that it merits.


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For more information on the 5th centenary of the first circumnavigation of the world, please visit

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