The Western Orient
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|This exhibition is the story of a journey.
A journey in time and space.
It is about a long transoceanic journey from the city and port of Seville, the "great Babylon of Spain", and gateway to America, to Manila, the capital of the Philippine archipelago in the heart of Asia. A journey from the West to the East.
Manila was an enclave of that western world in the heart of Asia. The layout of the city was drawn up according to western design, although its buildings show clear signs of oriental influences and craftsmanship.
The journey begins in Seville, on the banks of the Guadalquivir River,
and crosses the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea as far as Veracruz. The
vessels used for these voyages were the latest product of available technology
and incorporated the latest advances in navigation techniques, besides
employing a more exact cartography. Each voyage set out under the protection
of an organized fleet and reached fortified ports that had been built in
accordance with a uniform model, which was the same as that used in Manila.
From Veracruz, an overland route crossed the viceroyalty of New Spain where, as in the rest of Spanish America, an urban culture had settled and set about constructing cities using the same town-planning layout: the "cuadrícula"; this pattern was also adopted in Manila.
Then the journey commenced once more from the west coast of the American territory, from the Mexican port of Acapulco, crossing the Pacific Ocean, also known as the "Southern Sea", until it reached the Orient, the Philippines and Manila.
The journey ended there, in Manila. This exhibition crosses some three hundred years in the history of Manila and tells of its founding in 1571 until 1898. This tale has been drawn up around the amazingly wide and varied amount of graphic documentation that has been found in the Spanish archives: maps, marine charts, regional and urban plans, plans of the city of Manila and other Philippine and American cities; plans of fortifications with their city walls, bastions, fortresses and castles; churches, monasteries, convents and cemeteries; town halls, court houses, customs buildings and government palaces; the university, schools and hospitals; factories and markets; railways and tramways; telegraph lines and water supplies; avenues, plazas and gardens.
The return voyage crosses the Pacific once more and reaches Acapulco and Veracruz. It stops off in Habana, the pearl of the Caribbean. Then, back to Seville and Cádiz again: the round trip.