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date: 30 March 2023

The Strait of Magellan—a Gateway to New Worldslocked

The Strait of Magellan—a Gateway to New Worldslocked

  • Mauricio Onetto PavezMauricio Onetto PavezEquipe d'Epistémologie et d'Histoire de la Géographie (EHGo) -UMR 8504 Géographie-cité / Núcleo de Estudios Interculturales e Interétnicos (NEII), Universidad Católica de Temuco


The year 2020 marks the five hundredth anniversary of the “discovery” of the Strait of Magellan. The unveiling of this passage between 1519 and 1522 allowed the planet to be circumnavigated for the first time in the history of humanity. All maritime routes could now be connected, and the idea of the Earth, in its geographical, cosmographic, and philosophical dimensions, gained its definitive meaning. This discovery can be considered one of the founding events of the modern world and of the process of globalization that still continues today.

This new connectivity awoke an immediate interest in Europe that led to the emergence of a political consciousness of possession, domination, and territorial occupation generalized on a global scale, and the American continent was the starting point for this. This consciousness also inspired a desire for knowledge about this new form of inhabiting the world. Various fields of knowledge were redefined thanks to the new spaces and measurements produced by the discovery of the southern part of the Americas, which was recorded in books on cosmography, natural history, cartography, and manuscripts, circulating mainly between the Americas and Europe.

All these processes transformed the Strait of Magellan into a geopolitical space coveted by Europeans during the 16th century. As an interoceanic connector, it was used to imagine commercial routes to the Orient and political projects that could sustain these dynamics. It was also conceived as a space to speculate on the potential wealth in the extreme south of the continent. In addition, on the Spanish side, some agents of the Crown considered it a strategic place for imperial projections and the defense of the Americas.


  • History of Latin America and the Oceanic World
  • 1492–1824

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