Route of the Americas
Cádiz-El Puerto de Santa María-Sanlúcar de Barrameda
At the end of the 15th century, Cadiz was well-known among sailors as a key port connecting Africa to the continent and the starting point for the international trade routes which would provide the backdrop for many of their seafaring experiences. One of them, Christopher Columbus, spent time in Cadiz trying to turn his fabled project into reality and sought the patronage of Duke of Medinaceli and Lord of El Puerto de Santa María, and of the Dukes of Medina Sidonia, Lords of Sanlúcar, but to no avail. Later on his career when he held the rank of Admiral, Columbus would return to Cadiz on different occasions. In 1493, he set off from the port of Cadiz with a fleet of 17 vessels on the second of his voyages of discovery and would return to the same city three years later.
In 1498, Columbus took his leave of another local port, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, at the start of his third voyage. And yet again, in 1502, Cadiz would be the starting point of Columbus's fourth and final expedition to the New World.
The ports of Cadiz would play an increasingly more important role in the Americas adventure with the numerous colonizing expeditions and continuous trading. The vast influence of the Americas can still be seen in much of the architecture that is particularly noteworthy in Cadiz, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
What began as an adventure in the search for riches would become an extraordinary cultural legacy five centuries later, where the Atlantic was tamed and a special link was created between southern Andalusia and South and Central America. This phenomenon has weathered the vicissitudes of history from when the Old and New Worlds met to the present day.
The route begins from the New World Interpretation Centre that is in the recently restored castle in Chipiona, 8 km from Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Telf. 956 929 065)
After the discovery of America, Cadiz enjoyed a new boom, mainly as numerous expeditions set sail from the city, including Christopher Columbus's second voyage in 1496 and the fourth in 1502.
Cadiz was at its heyday during the reign of Philip II. Trade with the Americas and north Africa continue to grow and the city's port became the most important of the kingdom.
As time went by, Cadiz became a more important trading centre. In July 1680, an order was issued that all ships going to America had to leave from the port of Cadiz, which meant that Seville was merely entrusted with administrative and bureaucratic tasks. In 1717, the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) was moved to Cadiz. The ships first stopped in Cadiz, where they unloaded the goods and wealth brought from the Overseas Territories, which turned the city and the whole Bay into a prosperous and unique trading centre. They would then make their way up the River Guadalquivir, stopping at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, to Seville.
The economic prosperity is reflected in the proliferation of monuments, palaces and mansions, such as those belonging to the Admiral (Casa del Almirante), to the Fragela family (casa Fragela) and the Lasquetty family, and the Casa de Las Cadenas (House of Chains). There are also the watchtowers on the merchants' houses, where they would look out for the ships arriving from the Americas and of which a hundred still remain, including the ones at the House of the Five Towers (Casa de las Cinco Torres) and the one of the Four Towers (Casa de las Cuatro Torres) and the Tavira Tower.
The Tavira Tower now has a camera obscura where you can enjoy live images of the whole city. It will take you back to that time of prosperity and you can climb up to the flat roof which offers one of the most beautiful views over the city as it is highest point above sea level.
Cadiz Cathedral is the cathedral of the Americas par excellence, as it was funded by the gold that came from the colonies, among other reasons. Designed as a magnificent Baroque church that could be seen from miles out at sea, it came to represent the importance and power of the Spanish Catholic monarchy and its numerous overseas territories. The tomb of Manuel de Falla, the musician from Cadiz, is in its pantheon.
There are statutes and plaques dedicated to key figures from Latin America along the La Alameda promenade. They include Ramón Power, a sailor and member of parliament for Puerto Rico, Miguel Grau, who was also a sailor and a member of parliament for Peru at a later time, and writers of the ilk of Cesar Vallejo and Rubén Darío.
The convents and monasteries connected to New World abound in Cadiz, the majority of which were founded to house the preaching monks as they waited to be sent to the overseas missions. Particularly noteworthy is the Convent of Santo Domingo dating back to 1645, whose architecture is reminiscent of examples to be found throughout Latin America.
El Puerto de Santa María
This bright and open city, the birth place of Rafael Alberti, a poet of the Generation of 27, is known as "The City of One Hundred Palaces". It was at its heyday in the 18th century, but it played a key role in the discovery and conquest of the Americas. The town's geographical position, close to Cadiz and Seville, and its sheltered location on the mouth of the River Guadalete, meant that the city was a bustling maritime centre and an important base for the fleets leaving with their cargoes for the Spanish overseas territories.
Did you know that the first mappa mundi that included the American continent was drawn in El Puerto de Santa Maria? It dates back to 1500 when Juan de la Cosa, the explorer and who also travelled with Columbus, returned to the city where he lived and produced this document. The map was drawn vertically so that the West appears in the upper part of the map and the East in the lower part.
The palaces in El Puerto, the former residences of powerful shippers to the Indies and a large part of the town's urban framework are examples of a civil architecture with well-defined American echoes. The seat of one of the Captaincies General of the Ocean Sea, El Puerto boasted good shipyards where many of the carracks of the Indies trade route were fitted out.
But it is not all about history and culture... El Puerto has splendid beaches, watersports, leisure facilities, bars and restaurants, and its cuisine is noted for its unrivalled fish and seafood: A poniente, the restaurant run by Angel León, the local restaurateur, has been awarded a Michelin star. And then there are the wineries.... and the "Osborne Bull", which stands proudly on the roadside all over Spain, is the icon of the city's sherry and brandy.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
The heyday of this city after the discovery of the New World turned it into a trading base with the Ultramar or Overseas Territories and it inspired another major voyage, the first trip round the world by Magellan and Elcano in the 16th century. The Americas have left their mark on the palaces and churches throughout the old town, where you can visit: the palace of the Dukes of Medina Sidonia, which is now a hotel and where you can linger over a drink in the coffee shop as you look out over the gardens and views of the River Guadalquivir estuary and the Doñana Natural Park.
The mansion of the Marquis of Arizón is of exception importance as it is the only house of the Shippers to the Indies, as the merchants who traded with the Indies were known, of its size that is still intact throughout the region. It was built in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is currently a private residence and cannot be visited due to the refurbishing work.
Santiago Castle was built at the end of the 15th century by the II Duke of Medina Sidonia. From then until 1645, it was a ducal fort and it witnessed a steady flow of people through its walls who visited Sanlúcar as it was the departure port for the adventures across the Atlantic. The visitors included Isabel the Catholic Monarch and Columbus, and the latter was thought to have slept there, according to some historians, before setting sail from the city on one of his voyages.
Group bookings: Telephone: 956 088 329 / 637 834 846
Did you know that Queen Isabel the Catholic Monarch saw the sea for the first time in Sanlúcar de Barrameda when she visited the city in 1478? Legend has it that she saw it from the towers of the castle where she was staying. She must have been truly stuck when she saw the Doñana Natural Park opposite and the mouth of the River Guadalquivir.
Today the beach is the setting for one of the most unusual and internationally renowned equestrian events: the Sanlúcar Horse Races, which date back to the 19th century. They are held in August every year and are a real must for an evening out. They are also an ideal opportunity to discover its famous cuisines, which features King Prawns and Manzanilla wine, whose unique flavour is due to the ageing process in the city's microclimate.
Other keepsakes of the Americas
Cadiz, which took over from Seville in terms of trade with the Americas, was a great cultural and trading centre throughout the 18th century. The city was considered the home of freedom and was birthplace of the 1812 Constitution, whose text was debated by Spanish and American delegates in the Church of San Felipe Neri, an event which is remembered in this of worship and by the Monument to the Cortes, built in the Plaza de España square by López Otero and Aniceto Marinas in 1912. The Provincial Council Building, situated close to the port, preserves all the presence and magnificence of its former use as the Customs House built by Juan Caballero during the reign of Carlos III.
In remembrance of its link with numerous figures in the history of the Americas, Cadiz built an equestrian statute dedicated to Saint Martin in the Plaza de San José, another to honour Simón Bolívar, in the square of the same name, and commemorative plaques to President Rivadavia and Francisco de Miranda.
Main monuments and places associated with the Americas:
Tel: 956 360 161
Santiago Castle - Sanlúcar. Visits: Tuesday to Saturday: 11.00 -12.00 -13.00 - 19.00 - 20.00 Tel: Group bookings: 956 088 329/637 834 846
Mansion of the Marquis de Arizón-Sanlúcar. c/ Divina Pastora s/n. Private building
Fountains of the Royal Galleys - El Puerto de Sta. María. Plaza de las Galeras Reales
La Victoria Monastery - El Puerto de Sta. María
San Marcos Castle - El Puerto de Sta. María. Visits: Tuesdays: 11.30 a.m Spanish -12.30 p.m English. Tuesdays and Saturdays: 11.30 - 12.30 - 13.30 hours English Tel: 956 851 751
Mansions - El Puerto de Sta. María
Tavira Tower- Cadiz. The famous Tavira Tower houses a camara obscura, where visitors can enjoy "live" images of town life in Cadiz and a good many of the city's watchtowers.Cadiz Cathedral. Visits: Monday-Saturday 10.00 - 18.30 hours Sundays: 13.30 hours - 18.30 hours
Provincial Council Building - Former Customs House. Plaza de España- Visit during office hours. Former Customs House of Charles III of Spain built by Juan Caballero in the Neo-classical style (1764-1773). One of its main features is its regal salon in the Isabelline style, the work of Juan de la Vega.
Santo Domingo Church-Convent. Cuesta de las Calesas. During religious services