01 November 2009

Historical vignette 2: Enrique de Malacca

When the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan reached the East Indies in 1511, he abducted one of the local people, an inhabitant of the port city of Malacca. He wanted this man, who has become known to history as Enrique de Malacca, for his knowledge of the region and of the local Malay language. When Magellan turned back for home, sailing across the Indian Ocean and around the southern tip of Africa toward Portugal, he took Enrique with him.

In 1519, Magellan sailed off in command of another expedition, whose mission was to head south, pass the southern tip of South America, and head west to explore the almost-unknown ocean west of the Americas. He took Enrique with him. In 1521 the expedition reached the Philippines, thus completing the first European crossing of the Pacific. They discovered that Enrique knew the language spoken in the Philippines.

The Portuguese explorers became embroiled in local political conflicts, and Magellan was killed. Enrique took the opportunity to escape, and eventually the Portuguese sailed away.

Since Enrique knew the language spoken in the Philippines, it has been speculated that he was actually Filipino and had traveled from there to Malacca before being captured by Magellan. It's also possible that the Filipinos he was dealing with could speak Malay, which was widely used as a trading language in the region. If he was originally from Malacca, most likely he returned there after escaping from the Portuguese in the Philippines.

Either way, Enrique de Malacca was probably the first human being to circle the Earth.


Blogger 50 said...

A very interesting post! Our Euro-centric view of world history is, I think, in need of revision.

Have you ever read 1434 by Gavin Menzies? Menzies suggests that a Chinese fleet arrived in Italy in 1434 and sparked the rebirth of inquiry and knowledge in Europe. He believes that a great Chinese fleet under the command of Zheng He travelled not only to the Mediterranean but also as far afield as the western coasts of North and South America. If this piques your interest, visit www.gavinmenzies.net

I love history, thank you for this post, Infidel!

01 November, 2009 22:12  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I haven't read Menzies's book, but I know about Zheng He's voyages, including the suggestions that he or some earlier Chinese expedition reached the Americas (it was mainly that that I had in mind when I said Magellan completed "the first European crossing of the Pacific.") Never heard that he might have stopped in Italy, though.

02 November, 2009 03:59  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Interesting post mr.Infidel.I was familiar with a bit of it as well...although it's been awhile. So it was refreshing to read, a good morning piece from what I expected to see or read this morning in cyberspace.

Later ............

02 November, 2009 04:32  
Blogger Vicente Calibo de Jesus said...

Did he speak the Mazauan language?

Enrique, the name given by Magellan in his Last Will while he is "Henrich" in Antonio Pigafetta's account did NOT speak any language in the Philippines.

It was the people of Mazaua, who probably spoke the Butuanon language, who understood Enrique's Malay. “When the king came near the flagship, the slave spoke to him. The king understood him, for in those districts the kings know more languages than the other people.” You can access this at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=philamer;cc=philamer;q1=balanghai;rgn=full%20text;idno=afk2830.0001.033;didno=afk2830.0001.033;view=image;seq=121;page=root;size=s;frm=frameset

Gines de Mafra, the only man in Magellan's fleet to have revisited Mazaua, explicitly states Enrique spoke Malay. You can read de Mafra at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Gin%C3%A9s_de_Mafra#The_Account_of_Gin.C3.A9s_de_Mafra

There are three conflicting testimonies as to Enrique's place of birth. Magellan in his Will stares Enrique was from Malacca. Pigafetta said Sumatra. Maximilianus Transylvanus, who got his story secondhand from survivors, wrote the slave was from the Moluccas. Maximilianus testimony being hearsay can't have more evidentiary weight than the eyewitness declarations of Pigafetta and Magellan. Maximilianus account is at http://digital.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=sea&cc=sea&idno=sea061&q1=Lord+Stanley+of+Alderley&node=sea061%3A1.3&frm=frameset&view=image&seq=267

Magellan's Will may be accessed at http://www.archive.org/details/lifeofferdinandm90guil, go to Page 321 for his declaration Enrique was from Malacca.

If Enrique was from Sumatra at 109 deg. E, he was short by 17 deg. when the fleet reached Mazaua at 125 deg. E. If from Malacca, 102 deg. E, he was short by 23 deg.

At the discussion page of the article "Enrique of Malacca" at Wikipedia there is a very lengthy discussion on a wide range of issues on whether he was the first circumnavigator. You might find some clarification. Click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Enrique_of_Malacca.

Incidentally, while Magellan was at birth a Portuguese, he had renounced his citizenship and became Spanish before his exploration of the Pacific islands. His voyage was officially under the sponsorship of the Spanish crown, not Portuguese.


02 November, 2009 05:44  
Blogger JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

I doubt I would ever have much to offer in the way of comments to your posts Infidel753. They are very interesting though. Count me as a regular from now on.

02 November, 2009 21:00  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Truth101 -- Welcome aboard!

Thanks to all for comments.

03 November, 2009 00:46  

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