February 21, 2021

First Contact Patagonia: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta Part 1

A later illustration of the Patagonian giants.

Before the arrival of Magellan's Armada de Molucca, the indigenous peoples along the South American coast had never seen boats larger than canoes. They had never seen scissors, mirrors, or knives. They wore little in the way of clothes, and what they did was largely animals skins. 

To them the newcomers must have seemed like gods. In fact the Patagonians, when the fleet came in contact with them at Puerto San Julian, signaled they believed Magellan and his crew had come from the sky.

The encounter with these otherworldly beings marked ominous changes that loomed for all indigenous peoples on the continent. And for two of the Patagonians, it marked the beginning of a short, tragic journey to sea.

______


Written by Antonia Pigafetta, chronicler who sailed with Magellan's armada.

Leaving that place [islands south of Verzin/Rio], we finally reached forty-nine and one-half degrees toward the Antarctic Pole. As it was winter, the ships entered a safe port to winter.

We passed two months in that place without seeing anyone. One day we suddenly saw a naked man of giant stature on the shore of the port, dancing, singing, and throwing dust on his head.

The captain-general sent one of our men to the giant so that he might perform the same actions as a sign of peace. Having done that, the man led the giant to an islet into the presence of the captain-general. When the giant was in the captain-general’s and our presence, he marveled greatly and made signs with one finger raised upward, believing that we had come from the sky.

He was so tall that we reached only to his waist, and he was well proportioned. His face was large and painted red all over while about his eyes he was painted yellow; and he had two hearts painted on the middle of his cheeks. His scanty hair was painted white. He was dressed in the skins of animals skillfully sewn together.

That animal has a head and ears as large as those of a mule, a neck and body like those of a camel, the legs of a deer, and the tail of a horse, like which it neighs, and that land has very many of them.

His feet were shod with the same kind of skins which covered his feet in the manner of shoes. In his hand he carried a short, heavy bow, with a cord somewhat thicker than those of the lute, and made from the intestines of the same animal, and a bundle of rather short cane arrows feathered like ours, and with points of white and black flint stones in the manner of Turkish arrows, instead of iron. Those points were fashioned by means of another stone.

The captain-general had the giant given something to eat and drink, and among other things which were shown to him was a large steel mirror. When he saw his face, he was greatly terrified, and jumped back throwing three or four of our men to the ground. After that he was given some bells, a mirror, a comb, and certain Pater Nosters. The captain-general sent him ashore with four armed men.




Editor's Note: Ferdinand Magellan and his Armada de Molucca were the first Europeans to encounter the "Patagonian giants," whom chronicler Antonio Pigafetta described as so tall that "we reached only to his waist." Europeans on later voyages, including Sir Francis Drake's in 1579, also reported this race of giants living along the Patagonian coast. The giants were likely Tehuelches, an indigenous people in the region.

(C) 2021 by Targets in English. All rights reserved.




Series: Magellan Chronicler Antonio Pigafetta Describes the Patagonian Giants

Part 1. First Contact Patagonia: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 1

Part 2. Giants and Guanacos: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 2


Part 3. Giant John: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 3

Part 4. How to Capture Patagonian Giants: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 4

Part 5. Culture of the Giants: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 5

Part 6. Words of the Patagonians: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 6

Part 7. Journey's End: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 7

 




See Also:


On March 28, 1521, Enrique of Malacca became the first person to complete a
linguistic circumnavigation of the globe—he traveled so far in one direction that he reached a point where his language was spoken. Enrique’s journey began a decade earlier following the sack of Malacca, when he became a slave of Ferdinand Magellan. A teenager, he accompanied Magellan back to Portugal, then to Spain, and finally on the Armada de Molucca to locate a westward route to the Spice Islands.  Read more:




Ferdinand Magellan’s historic journey swept up several unlikely travelers along the way, among them a seven-year-old boy at Guanabara Bay (Rio de Janeiro). Half-Portuguese, half-Tupi Indian, he is remembered in history as Joãozito Lopes Carvalho. The young boy became the first native of Brazil and likely all of South America to cross the Pacific Ocean—on a year-and-a-half journey that for him ended at Brunei five hundred years ago this summer.

Joãozito was the son of João de Lopes Carvalho and a Tupi Indian woman in what is now Brazil. A Portuguese pilot, João Carvalho had traveled to Guanabara Bay in 1512 on the Bertoa, a commercial vessel sent to pick up dyewood there. A decade earlier a Portuguese fleet had landed at Guanabara Bay and claimed the area for Portugal, naming it Rio de Janeiro for the month they arrived, January 1502. Read more.

Antonio Pigafetta's account of the Magellan-Elcano voyage gives us both first-hand historical detail and color—the human aspects of the journey. The Italian scholar learned all he could about the cultures that Magellan's fleet encountered, even sitting down and recording samples of languages.

An excellent example of Pigafetta's curiosity and fascination is his description of the coconut and the palm tree, which he learned about soon after the fleet's arrival in the Philippines. Like the pineapple Magellan tried in Rio, the coconut was an unknown. "Cocoanuts are the fruit of the palmtree. Just as we have bread, wine, oil, and milk, so those people get everything from that tree. Read more.



A handful of medieval travelogues were the closest thing Ferdinand Magellan had to a travel guide when he sought a westward route to Asia—accounts credited to Marco Polo, John Mandeville, and others, and those all echoed the same monsters and myths repeated since the time of Pliny the Elder, the Roman author whose Naturalis Historiae helped inspire the encyclopedia.

It gets little mention today, but The Travels of Sir John Mandeville was a world atlas of sorts in medieval Europe, essential reading for navigators and explorers. The accounts became circulated widely in Europe in the fourteenth century. They detail travels in North Africa and the Middle East, and in India, China, and even the Malay Peninsula—which would have been of particular interest to Ferdinand Magellan, and also Enrique of Malacca, Magellan’s interpreter-slave. Read more.





Reni Roxas and Marc Singer brought the story of Enrique to life for children in 
First Around the Globe: The Story of Enrique. Twenty years on they released this anniversary edition in 2017 from Tahanan Books, Manila. Read more.




On March 16, 1521, Magellan and his crew reached the Philippines, where they would finally be able to recover after three months crossing the Pacific. They were unable to stop long at Guam—their encounter with the Chamorros they met there did not go well, as seen in their sendoff. As they were departing, more than a hundred of the Chamorros’ outrigger canoes followed for more than a league.

As Pigafetta wrote, “They approached the ships showing us fish, feigning that they would give them to us; but then threw stones at us and fled. And although the ships were under full sail, they passed between them and the small boats [longboats fastened astern], very adroitly in those small boats of theirs. We saw some women in their boats who were crying out and tearing their hair, for love, I believe, of those whom we had killed.” Read more.





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(C) 2022 by Enrique's Voyage, EnriqueOfMalacca.com. All rights reserved.