Primary Source: Manuel Jose Quintana, The Discovery of the Pacific by Balboa (1807)

European Exploration, Perception of the Other, and the Columbian Exchange

What factors contributed to the European interest in exploration?

Manuel Jose Quintana wrote Vidas de Españoles célebres a collection of biographies of Spanish patriots including Balboa. His recounting of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Balboa indicates the motives attributed to the explorer and his crew.

The Spanish chief, when, risen from the ground, he recovered the speech of which sudden joy had deprived him, and thus addrest his Castilians: "You behold before you, friends, the object of all our desires and the reward of all our labors. Before you roll the waves of the sea which has been announced to you, and which no doubt encloses the immense riches we have heard of. You are the first who have reached these shores and these waves; yours are their treasures, yours alone the glory of reducing these immense and unknown regions to the dominion of our King and to the light of the true religion. Follow me, then, faithful as hitherto, and I promise you that the world shall not hold your equals in wealth and glory. "… . They quickly cut down a great tree, and, stripping it of its branches, formed a cross from it, which they fixt in a heap of stones found on the spot from whence they first descried the sea. The names of the monarchs of Castile were engraven on the trunks of the trees, and with shouts and acclamations they descended the sierra and entered the plain… . Balboa with twenty-six men descended to the sea, and arrived at the coast early in the evening of the 29th of that month; they all seated themselves on the shore and awaited the tide, which was at that time on the ebb. At length it returned in its violence to cover the spot where they were; then Balboa, in complete armor, lifting his sword in one hand, and in the other a banner on which was painted an image of the Virgin Mary with the arms of Castile at her feet, raised it and began to march into the midst of the waves, which reached above his knees, saying in a loud voice: "Long live the high and mighty sovereigns of Castile! Thus in their names do I take possession of these seas and regions; and if any other prince, whether Christian or infidel, pretends any right to them, I am ready and resolved to oppose him, and to assert the just claims of my sovereigns." The whole band replied with acclamations to the vow of their captain, and expressed themselves determined to defend, even to death, their acquisition against all the potentates in the world.