Panama receives book on Vasco Núñez

The book "Vasco Núñez de Balboa and the Chroniclers of the Indies", launched in Panama on Tuesday by its author, the Spaniard Luis Blas Aritio, shows that the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean was “a more peaceful conqueror than the rest.” Aritio declared to the news group Efe that the book “sheds light on many things about Balboa,” among them that “the figure of this man, who differed from the other conquerors by his far-sighted vision of treating the Indians more peacefully, is very important for Spain and Panama.”

The author mentioned that the “only atrocity” he could have committed was “punishing the practice of sodomy he found among some natives, which he considered a crime according to the laws of the time.” The book, which covers the most significant moments in the life of the Spanish conquistador, was presented as part of the activities of the V Centenary of the Discovery of the Pacific Ocean. 

“It is a very profound book, full of scientific and historical information,” the writer assured. He commented that it took him three years of research in the archives of the Indies and elsewhere, in addition to traveling around Santo Domingo (the Dominican Republic), where Balboa spent his youth, and the Panamanian jungle of Darién by air and land, all the way to the road that had brought him to the beach where he first sighted the Pacific, which he called the Southern Sea, on September 29, 1513.

Containing over 400 pages, this is the first history book that Aritio has written, though he has developed more than 50 books in his specialty as a Doctor of Biology, as he remarked to Efe. The manuscript was presented amidst the ruins of Old Panama, the first Spanish city founded on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, by Aritio himself, who had been assisted in the writing by the writers and historians María del Carmen Mena (professor at the University of Seville in Spain) and Omar Jaén Suárez (Panama). The publication recounts the most prominent chronicles, journeys, activities and aspects of the life of Vasco Núñez de Balboa, ranging from his childhood, family and hometown to his experiences as a trader.

At the book launching, it was underscored that the book also took into consideration the historical elements of Panama and how the Isthmus acquired an international value upon the discovery of the existence of a new sea. One section of the book analyzes the global impact of his finding an undiscovered ocean, in this case the Pacific Ocean, which changed the history of navigation, transportation and communication across the world. Marta de Martinelli, the First Lady of Panama and President of the Commission of the V Centenary of the Discovery of the Pacific Ocean, government ministers and members of the National Commission of the V Centenary attended the book launching.

The memorial events for the V Centenary of the Discovery of the Pacific Ocean began last month with the inauguration of a commemorative sculpture in Panama. Also, on January 18, the baptismal basin of the discoverer of the Pacific was ceremoniously restored in the town of Jerez de los Caballeros, the birthplace of Núñez de Balboa. These activities will culminate with the XXIII Latin American Summit to be held in Panama this October.