Episode 10: Andrés Reséndez on "Conquering the Pacific"

Acclaimed historian and UC Davis Professor Andrés Reséndez has researched and written a riveting account of the first expedition to sail from the Americas to Asia and back, launching an era of global trade and cultural exchange with the Far East.

In "Conquering the Pacific: An Unknown Mariner and the Final Great Voyage of the Age of Discovery," he tells how it starts with a secret mission and includes mutiny, a shipwreck, and an African-Portuguese navigator whose story was almost lost to history.

In this episode, Reséndez recounts the remarkable tale, discusses how he uncovered and pieced together details of the story and why the historic first was nearly forgotten.

More Info:

Andrés Reséndez

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Andrés Reséndez ‘Conquers the Pacific’ and Scales the Smithsonian

UC Davis Historian’s Book ‘The Other Slavery’ Inspires Smithsonian Symposium


[00:00:01] Andrés Reséndez:: I was blown away that the first man to ever cross the Pacific was an Afro-Portuguese man, a mulatto, in the parlance of the day. I also learned that he had been secretly condemned to death and I found that is quite fascinating and it's quite revealing of the their harsh dealings and dealings of that era of early exploration. [00:00:21][20.7]

[00:00:26] Soterios Johnson:: The story of how European explorers crossed the Atlantic has been well-documented, but the push to discover a roundtrip route across the Pacific from what is now Mexico to Asia is less well known. That is, until now. This is The Backdrop, a UC Davis podcast exploring the world of ideas. I'm Soterios Johnson. Acclaimed historian and UC Davis Professor Andrés Reséndez has researched and written a riveting account of the first expedition to accomplish that, launching an era of global trade with the Far East. In "Conquering the Pacific: An Unknown Mariner and the Final Great Voyage of the Age of Discovery," he tells how it starts with a secret mission and includes a mutiny, a shipwreck and an African Portuguese navigator whose story was almost lost to history. Andrés, thanks for coming on to The Backdrop! [00:01:11][44.1]

[00:01:11] Andrés Reséndez:: Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure. [00:01:13][1.4]

[00:01:13] Soterios Johnson:: So let's start with why trying to find this roundtrip route was so important, right? [00:01:19][5.4]

[00:01:20] Andrés Reséndez:: So basically, everybody knows that Magellan, in the course of his famous circumnavigation voyage, was the first European to go from the Americas to Asia in one swoop. And that is true. And in the aftermath of that pioneering voyage, the Spanish crown wanted to tap into the enormous riches of the Far East, and what it needed to do was to find a way to get back. Once Spanish ships were in Asia to find a way back to America, to start trading from its American colonies directly to Asia and thus compete with Portugal, which at the time was the main rival and was trading directly with Asia. But by the long way around the world, around Africa, India and into into the Far East. [00:02:07][47.0]

[00:02:07] Soterios Johnson:: Right. And so the challenge was not so much going from the Americas to Asia, but finding that way to come back. That's what the hard part was. [00:02:14][7.1]

[00:02:15] Andrés Reséndez:: Exactly, because of the way the dominant winds and currents go right around the north south of the latitude, the North-South distance of the coast of Mexico, it was a straight shot all the way to the Philippines with favorable currents and winds. But returning required finding out the whereabouts of the gyre, these enormous circle of winds and currents that rotates regularly in the North Pacific. And so it required them to go far north from the Philippines to around the level of what is now the northernmost islands in in Japan or the coast of Oregon or even Washington state, and find that patch of the ocean of the enormous Pacific Ocean, where the conditions were favorable for a return. [00:03:03][48.1]

[00:03:04] Soterios Johnson:: And the stakes were high, right? The stakes for this kind of -- this was almost like a space race back in the 1500s in a way, right? Spain versus Portugal, they're kind of rivals. And so there's economics involved. There's geopolitical strategic issues involved. [00:03:18][14.0]

[00:03:19] Andrés Reséndez:: Absolutely. I mean, these are two neighboring kingdoms and the foremost maritime powers at the time. And basically, they divided the world between themselves and they drew a line in the Atlantic from pole to pole. And so Portugal got everything that was to the right of the line. And by that, it got all the coast of Africa and everything to the right of that. So Africa, India, And Spain got the rest, which is everything to the left of the line, which was the rest of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean. And so Spain needed to find that practicable route back from there from the Pacific coast. [00:04:03][44.4]

[00:04:04] Soterios Johnson:: Right. So, now -- so the Spanish king decides he wants to find a way to make it work. So. So how does the plan play out? [00:04:10][6.4]

[00:04:10] Andrés Reséndez:: Well, first of all, I would say that in the aftermath of Magellan, the Spanish monarchy embarked on an all out quest to try to find this return, this elusive return or vuelta, as it was called in Spanish. And so to that effect, they sent no less than seven voyages either from Spain or from the coast of the Americas to try to do just that. And all those seven voyages ended up in disaster. They were either vanquished by the enormous distances or they were unable to simply unable to return. They succumb to attacks from native islanders in the Pacific islands, et cetera. So this expedition that concerns us here was the eighth and the most elaborate where money was no object for the Spanish crown. It involves the most accomplished pilots of the era. It involved building the largest ships ever built in the Americas up to that time. So, no, no expense is spared. And as you pointed out in your fine introduction, Spain undertook all of these for seven years, trying to keep it secret from Portugal in. In order to keep them in the dark about what they were doing, [00:05:28][77.3]

[00:05:29] Soterios Johnson:: So now we have this eighth attempt to do it and -- how do they keep it secret from Portugal? And I guess this is -- it basically launches from the west coast of the Americas of what is now Mexico. Back then, I guess Spain called it New Spain. How did they try to accomplish this? [00:05:47][18.2]

[00:05:48] Andrés Reséndez:: Two ways. First of all, the Spanish monarchy consulted only a few people, so the actual the order came from the Spanish king directly. But the person in charge of actually putting together the venture was the king's representative in Mexico, the Viceroy of Mexico. And he was the one who consulted with different mapmakers and pilots. And, you know, people who had sailed through the Pacific. And the king himself, we know reprimanded, got angry at the vice chair at his viceroy for communicating the plan to so many people because the king was very, very aware that word might leak to Portugal. So we know that. So they were trying to limit the number of people who knew about the secret voyage, number one. Number two, instead of departing out of Acapulco, which was the most established port in the western coast of Mexico. They decided to depart from a dilapidated harbor far to the north of Acapulco, name Navidad. Or, you know, Christmas, which remains a teeny tiny tourist down in in Mexico today. And that's where the these gargantuan galleons were built and people gathered in order to get ready for these extraordinary voyage. [00:07:09][81.7]

[00:07:10] Soterios Johnson:: It's pretty amazing. And so they put together these teams. How many ships do they send out and who do they bring together to go on this expedition? [00:07:18][8.3]

[00:07:19] Andrés Reséndez:: So the fleet consisted of four ships, two that were enormous. And just to give you a sense, Columbus's largest ship in the voyage of Discovery was no more than 80 tons of burden, or Magellan's largest ship was probably 120. This, the largest two here, were 550 and over 400. So, you know, three or four times larger than the largest ships of discovery. Just to give you a sense of the scope. [00:07:48][29.2]

[00:07:49] Soterios Johnson:: Wow. [00:07:49][0.0]

[00:07:50] Andrés Reséndez:: So four ships, two of them very large, two of them smaller, you know, 80 tons and 40 tons. And of course, the problem was to find the best pilots possible, and that's where our crew comes into being. So the king, in collaboration with his viceroy, looked far and wide through the enormous, you know, empire and also even contracted pilots from abroad. There was a Frenchman, a mysterious Frenchman. There was a man probably of Venetian descent, as well as this Afro Portuguese pilot who was passing as a Spaniard and had a very unlikely story and ended up being the protagonist of this voyage. [00:08:33][43.1]

[00:08:34] Soterios Johnson:: Yes. So tell us about this -- you're speaking of Lope Martín. Tell us about his story. It's fascinating. [00:08:39][5.5]

[00:08:40] Andrés Reséndez:: It is fascinating. So Lope Martín. We know that he hailed from southern Portugal in a region that is now known as the Algarve, which at the time was probably the preeminent maritime region in the world. So that is where voyages of exploration from both Portugal and Spain departed from. And so we know that Lope Martín, as a as a youngster, as a 10 year old boy, 12 year old boy must have cut his teeth aboard some of those ships carrying sacks of flour or, you know, climbing up to the top of the mast, et cetera. We know that he's described as a free mulatto. That is, he was a man of color and his parents were, had been or we don't know if his parents or grandparents or somebody the forebears must have been slaves. People from from Western Africa brought into the town of Lagos, which is where he was from. But he himself was a free man. But nonetheless a free man or a free boy. But in such dire situation that he was faced to going to the life of the sea, which was a harsh, a very harsh, very uncertain, very difficult, risky life at the time. So. So that's the background of our of our hero. But what is really most extraordinary, what really caught my attention from the very beginning about this story is that he persevered. He continued to climb through the ladder. Becoming a pilot at the time had become a very technical enterprise in the middle of the 16th century. It was called the art of Navigation, and it had become less an art and more of a science because it required knowledge. Mathematics. It required knowledge in cartography, and it required mastering a series of techniques in order to establish one's position in the middle of the ocean and without the sight of land, like measuring the angle of the sun with respect to the horizon at noontime to establish North-South distance or latitude. And using some declination tables. So anyway, the point is he passed the exams. You had to pass formal examinations and he became a pilot, which was the highest post that somebody like Martín could ever aspire to. There were most, as you may know, most of the pilots and commanders at the time in the 16th century were white Europeans. And so it was only a few extraordinary people of color. Lope Martín was was not the only one. There were some other pilots of color, but he was -- there were so few as to still stand out. And he was able to break through that. [00:11:26][165.8]

[00:11:26] Soterios Johnson:: So he overcame a lot of adversity. He kind of rises to the top of his field. He gets chosen to be -- is he one of the four navigators who, you know, one navigator each ship to go out on this expedition. Is that right? [00:11:40][13.5]

[00:11:41] Andrés Reséndez:: There were six pilots. The idea was -- the original intention was to get two pilots per ship because, as the Spanish authorities explained very tersely. One pilot may be missing in the course of this expedition, anticipating the enormous loss of life that they expected. But in spite of their best efforts, they could not secure eight excellent pilots only six. And Martín was one of them. [00:12:06][24.7]

[00:12:06] Soterios Johnson:: Right. OK, so despite all this adversity, he rises to the top of his field. He gets chosen to be one of the pilots. And so give us the thumbnail sketch of how this expedition happens, how it plays out. [00:12:20][13.7]

[00:12:21] Andrés Reséndez:: So the very bare minimum is that they depart from Navidad. The idea is to go straight to the Philippines to establish a Spanish outpost there, and then one of the ships would attempt their return. The elusive return voyage, presumably one of the two largest ships. But just merely 10 days after departing from Navidad, there is a storm, and the ship that is piloted by Martín a ship, called the San Lucas, loses sight of the other three ships that remain together. The San Lucas was by far the smallest of the four ships. And Martín was the only pilot aboard. As we said, some of the other ships had two pilots. This one only had Martín. And even though the idea was to go straight to the Philippines, they knew about a couple of islands on the way in Micronesia. And the plan was should one of the -- because I mean, ships at that time did not have GPS or did not have a telecommunications. So should one of those get get separated, then the idea was that they would go straight to one of these islands and wait for the rest of the fleet to catch up. And this is what Martín did. But it was extremely difficult to to come together. And in fact, this operation became permanent all the way to the Philippines. And so what happened was the San Lucas made every effort to try to connect with the other three ships. They navigated through the middle of the Philippines, and they came close to actually establishing contact with the other three because they actually went to the place where the Spanish had been before since the time of Magellan. However, they missed each other by a few days. And so the people aboard the San Lucas, Martín and the Spanish commander, the Spanish captain of the ship, faced the terrible situation of either continuing to search to try to find the other ships but consume their dwindling provisions while doing that. Or they could try to surrender to the -- in the Spice Islands to where the Portuguese had established some forts. So basically to give up and hope that the Portuguese would take them back to Europe by the long way, by way of India and Africa, or they could attempt their return by themselves, even though this was the smallest ship and a ship that was not supposed to be attempting their return. Instead, you know, the idea was that one of the two largest ships would be attempting the return. And this is what they did. [00:15:07][166.0]

[00:15:07] Soterios Johnson:: Yes. So how long were they there? How long were they kind of trying to connect with the other Spanish ships? And until they decided, OK, let's let's take the next step. [00:15:15][8.4]

[00:15:16] Andrés Reséndez:: They stopped for a month to make repairs in the southernmost island of the Philippines, Mindanao, waiting to see if the other ships would show up. And then they sailed for three weeks, two or three weeks, right through the middle of the archipelago looking for the other ships, and they couldn't, they couldn't find it. So, you know, close to two months they were lookin for the other ships. [00:15:40][23.9]

[00:15:40] Soterios Johnson:: So they're faced with a decision. OK, our supplies are dwindling. Are we just going to stay here? We're going to try to go back home the the other way, the normal way. Are we going to try to go back trying to find this Vuelta, this return trip over the Pacific and they decide they're going to they're going to go for it, they're going to try to head back over the Pacific. [00:15:58][17.8]

[00:15:59] Andrés Reséndez:: Exactly. You know, it was a decision that was a little bit forced on them because by the time they reached the end of the archipelago, it was a time when there was very strong currents and the currents were taking them away from the land. And so we have a remarkable document. That's where the captain asks the pilot asked Lope Martín. So we need to decide what we're going to do, whether we are going to go to the Spice Islands and surrender to the Portuguese, or should we try the Vuelta. And we have the actual words of Martín saying that I think we should try the Vuelta because of certain. I mean, we know that he solved the riddle of how to navigate. I mean, part of the problem was that I mean, Martin knew that they needed to go way north in order to catch the other side of the gyre, as we were explaining this, this vast circle of currents and winds. But he also was aware of a second key, which was this is this is all happening in the spring and this region is still dominated by the monsoon. So there is a 180 degree change in the direction of the winds and the currents in this part of the world. And so in the early spring, there is a shift that is favorable to them. And he and Lope Martín clearly understood that this is the best time for us to try to make headway. And if we can go north enough, he says that we will find favorable winds and currents that will take us back home. And so he's able to persuade the captain to attempt this crazy thing on a souped up boat with basically eight casks of water that are not full to the top and with very minimal amount of food for a voyage of this, of this, of this scope. [00:17:51][112.4]

[00:17:52] Soterios Johnson:: That's incredible. And so he was able to kind of bring together information that the other the seven failed previous attempts, how did he -- these other ships never made it back. So how did he, how was he able to learn from their mistakes? [00:18:07][14.8]

[00:18:07] Andrés Reséndez:: Well, I mean, that's a very speculative and difficult question to answer, for sure. One possibility is that he may have learned about this seasonal shift in the in the winds from local navigators. We know that they came in contact with Filipino navigators who would have been well versed in this. That is one possibility. The other possibility is that he had talked to European navigators at the start of the expedition in Navidad or perhaps in Mexico City. We know that the guiding spirit of this whole fleet was another no less extraordinary individual. He was a cosmograpger who had been apprenticed to some of the survivors of Magellan's expedition, and he had participated for decades earlier in another life or death expedition across the Pacific. And, you know, it had not succeeded. He had remained stranded in Southeast Asia for eight years. But he survived, and during those eight years, he would have learned about the seasonal pattern of the winds and the currents. And and, you know, and for decades later, he was recruited for this elite expedition. And so obviously, it's it's quite conceivable that he may have talked to the other pilots in the fleet, and he may have imparted some of his information that Martín already knew even before arriving to the Philippines. [00:19:39][91.6]

[00:19:40] Soterios Johnson:: Right. OK, so they decide like, we're going to go for it, we're going to try to go back. And so what happens next? [00:19:45][4.9]

[00:19:46] Andrés Reséndez:: So they they go north. Their idea, their initial idea was that they would try to hit Japan and they couldn't do it. The currents and the winds were such that it took the San Lucas into the immensity of the Pacific rather than straight up climb that would have taken them to Japan. Then they tried to find the coast of China, but they were still navigating too far, too deep into the ocean to try to do that. And so they had no other recourse but to try to continue on until hitting the coast of the Americas. But they suffered enormously during the passage. They were basically sailing some 10 degrees of latitude to the south of the Aleutian Islands, which is this necklace of islands between Russia and Alaska. So they experienced the coldest summer ever. So they describe how they had I mean, they were from the tropical environment in the Philippines. And in fact, they had lost nearly all their clothes because at one stop they had tried to wash their clothes and the party that was washing the clothes were suddenly attacked by by islanders, and they had to abandon the clothes and run for their lives. And so they had very few clothes on them, so they were extremely exposed to the elements at that point. So that was one major problem -- the cold. But perhaps the worst and somewhat unexpected is that there was a plague of rats in there aboard the ship. And the only water available aboard the ship was in these eight casks of water, and only five of them contain water at the time. They only were sailing with five casks of water. And so what the rats did was they started gnawing on some of the casks in order to get access to the water. And at one point, they spilled the contents of two of the casks, two of the five remaining casks by way of gnawing them. And so the crew members had to post a four-man guard 24 hours, day and night. They had to light fires at night in order to guard the casks, and they kept killing 10, 20, 15 rats, desperately trying to attack the casks in order to get access to the only water available. [00:22:11][145.3]

[00:22:12] Soterios Johnson:: Unbelievable, because that's like -- you're talking life and death there. Like they they just they wouldn't survive if they if they can't protect that water. [00:22:18][6.1]

[00:22:19] Andrés Reséndez:: I mean that at that point, the amount of water per person was incredibly low. So and of course, they didn't know exactly how long the voyage would last. And in fact, getting back to America takes longer. Just to give you a sense, typically going from the Americas from the coast of Mexico to the Philippines, it would take three months, sometimes four months. Getting back usually took longer. It could take up to six or seven months. In this case, it just took about almost four months. But still, they didn't know at the time because this was the first time it was ever done. They didn't know how long that would take. Right? [00:22:56][37.6]

[00:22:57] Soterios Johnson:: That's incredible. So it takes them all those many months to get back and they finally they do get back. Where do they end up landing? Do they end up landing back at Navidad? [00:23:05][7.5]

[00:23:05] Andrés Reséndez:: They did. They reached back at Navidad after a near shipwreck. You know, they basically limped along. They had severe signs of scurvy, lack of vitamin C, but they were received like heroes. They were hailed as heroes, the beginning of a new era in which Mexico would become the crossroads between east and west. It would start this trade with Asia, all these precious spices, all these Chinese porcelain and Chinese silk, etc. So. So they were celebrated. But two months later, the flagship in the expedition also returned unbeknownst to to all of this, and representatives from the fleet commander who had -- the fleet commander had remained in the Philippines to establish this Spanish outpost, as we had said at the beginning -- accusing Lope Martín and the captain of the San Lucas of abandoning the expedition when the weather was good and for no, for no good reason. So basically accusing them of treason. And so what had been a great celebration, just a, you know, two months earlier turned into a judicial proceeding, which is how we know about many of the details of this whole expedition to begin with. [00:24:30][84.4]

[00:24:30] Soterios Johnson:: And so so he goes from becoming a hero to becoming kind of a criminal. What happens to him? [00:24:36][6.2]

[00:24:37] Andrés Reséndez:: He is repeatedly tried and he's acquitted of this charge. But nonetheless, he is required to become the lead pilot of a follow up expedition to the Philippines in order to resupply the Spanish base that they had established in the Philippines. And this was a way to acquit him, but also to punish him because the pilot knew full well that the moment he set foot in the Philippines, the fleet commander in the Philippines would hang him for abandoning because that was the charge to begin with. So, so here we have this incredible pilot who had risen through the ranks, who had been the first to learn to sail the Pacific, basically to go there and return successfully, thus opening, so to speak, the Pacific in the same way that Columbus had opened the Atlantic with his pioneering voyage of 1492. This was the same accomplishment, except that he was tainted and he was basically repaid in this way. And moreover, this follow up expedition would have a notary that would be carrying a sealed envelope in which there was a letter telling the commander in the Philippines that Lope Martín should be hanged as a repayment for his services. [00:26:01][84.5]

[00:26:02] Soterios Johnson:: Unbelievable. So does does Martín actually go through with this trip? I mean, he didn't know that they had that letter, but he kind of assumed, you know, it wouldn't come to a good end. [00:26:10][7.8]

[00:26:11] Andrés Reséndez:: He he did know! The the contents of the sealed envelope were leaked and he learned about this. So here you have a pilot who had no reason to reach his destination. But somehow, instead of thinking of these as a death sentence, he increasingly viewed these voyage as as an opportunity. So he basically was given -- in order to induce him to become the lead pilot. He was allowed to choose his own crew. And so he chose allies, some of them Portuguese also, or of Portuguese ancestry, and he was given considerable power aboard the ship. So what we have is a follow-up expedition in which Lope Martín somehow believed that he could persuade the captain of this follow-up expedition. And in fact, he said, Look, they're going to kill me if I go there, but I can take you anywhere. I can take you to the coast of China. I could take you to the to the Spice Islands. I could bring you back through the Strait of Magellan. You could become an incredibly wealthy individual. And this is something that must have crossed his mind because having a pilot of the caliber of Lope Martín and having a well-supplied ship could really turn a small group of men into incredibly wealthy individuals in just one voyage. [00:27:35][84.0]

[00:27:35] Soterios Johnson:: So is that what they did? I mean, they just abscond with the ship and went on their own way? [00:27:39][3.7]

[00:27:39] Andrés Reséndez:: No. So basically that the captain was a a gruff Spaniard of very few words, and it became very clear to Martín that he was going to follow through with the original plan. And so Martín's only recourse was to to get rid of him. And so he instigated a mutiny that resulted in the loss of life of that of this captain. Then there was a follow-up mutiny. It's a very complicated story, a follow-up mutiny. And in the end, this this one ship, this second, this follow-up expedition consisted of one ship ended up stranded in Micronesia, in one atoll in Micronesia, Ujelang, where after a mutiny and a counter-mutiny, Lope Martín and 26 of his closest allies remained stranded, while the rest of the ship continued on to the Philippines. [00:28:38][59.3]

[00:28:39] Soterios Johnson:: So how does the story of Lopez Martín and I mean -- so he gets stranded on this atoll? Does he live the rest of his life, basically there or in the area? What happens to him? [00:28:49][9.8]

[00:28:49] Andrés Reséndez:: Well, the trail goes cold after this, but I have some indirect information from subsequent expeditions. A subsequent expedition claims that they found evidence of Martín and his men being in a different island because they found some European artifacts in that island. Let's put this into context we are talking about 26 sailors who are really well experienced. They are in possession of plenty of water, plenty of food, firearms, and we also know that there was an abandoned Polynesian or Micronesian vessel in this atoll that they had found. We know that from the sources. So it is quite possible that that these 27 mariners were able to make a living there or were or moved to a different island and made themselves at home, which I went to believe is a more fitting ending to the man who was the first to learn how to sail the Pacific and was so unfairly accused of betraying the Spanish crown and was sentenced to die very, so unfairly. So, you know this indirect evidence suggests that he made a living in his chosen element, and he may have lived there for many years. [00:30:15][85.6]

[00:30:16] Soterios Johnson:: I mean, it's a fascinating story. Why do you think the story of Lope Martín was -- I mean, it seems like it was almost buried, almost lost to history, I mean, Columbus, everybody knows about Columbus, but no -- you know, very few people have heard of him. Why do you think that is? [00:30:31][14.8]

[00:30:32] Andrés Reséndez:: Well, a couple of reasons. First of all, the accomplishment of Martín and this fleet that found the Vuelta, the return voyage was less an accomplishment of conquering lands or new kingdoms, as it was an accomplishment in knowledge. It was the connectedness of the five continents for the first time in history. It was the ability to go and come through the largest ocean on Earth. So, so that's that's a more intangible accomplishment. So that's one reason I think. But the second reason, of course, has to do with the controversial circumstances in which Lope Martín made these incredible discovery. After all, he was accused of treason. And many historians ever since have deemed Lope Martín as piratical as a troublemaker. And so that's one of the reasons that's a very powerful reason why we have lost his name to history. The credit normally goes to this other no less extraordinary mariner, Andrés de Urdaneta, as the leader of the fleet that arrived two months later. He was nonetheless second. The first one was Lope Martín, and so that's what I tried to do in my book is try to undo this historical injustice. [00:31:55][83.7]

[00:31:57] Soterios Johnson:: Right! I'm curious what led you to researching this story in the first place? Was it something that you had heard about? Maybe, you know, as a child and wanted to see if it was true? Or were you doing research on another book that led you to this story? [00:32:09][12.6]

[00:32:10] Andrés Reséndez:: Yes, I was doing research on another book, and serendipitously, I found a little, little snippets of this story. I was blown away that the first man to ever cross the Pacific was a Afro Portuguese man, a mulatto, in the parlance of the day. I also learned that he had been secretly condemned to death, and I found that is quite fascinating and it's quite revealing of the their harsh dealings and dealings of that era of early exploration. And so I knew that at some point down the line, I would have to get to the bottom of this story. And that's the product, this book that just came out a couple of months ago. [00:32:51][40.9]

[00:32:51] Soterios Johnson:: How difficult was it to find source material to kind of piece it all together? I mean, how long did it take and where did it take you? Did you have to go to Spain and to the Philippines? I mean, it sounds like it's a kind of a daunting task. [00:33:05][13.2]

[00:33:05] Andrés Reséndez:: It is, and it was fun, daunting, but fun. I mean, I did have to go to Spain and to the Philippines and to Guam, to Mexico and various parts in the United States to put it all together. It took me about seven years. Maybe the the hardest part about this was a) finding enough information. I mean, this is a a man of humble origins. And so finding information about such individuals in the 16th century is extremely difficult. So that was one problem. But the other problem was providing the context. The story really comes alive if you understand the stakes, just how difficult it is to conquer the Pacific. It was in the 16th century, like going to the Moon and just how extraordinary these individuals were. And so a great deal of the problem was about just providing the necessary context in order to understand the extraordinary story that was unfolding here. [00:34:02][57.2]

[00:34:03] Soterios Johnson:: Your research focus is European exploration and colonization of the Americas and the pioneering voyages across the Pacific, among other things. What drew you to to that field? [00:34:13][10.2]

[00:34:14] Andrés Reséndez:: I guess it's a it's a common path for historians. I always tend to go back further back the more I get into my career. So I started out writing about the 19th century. But then you start wondering, OK, so but how do we get here? So I jump back all the way to the 16th century, and that's what I've been writing in the last few years. But I didn't start out as a 16th century person. I find these stories of early contact between Europeans and Native Americans quite fascinating. And that era I find the grandest era for good and bad. I mean, it was the grandest era of slavery, the grandest era of discovery, of incredible scientific attainment and also incredible savagery. [00:35:05][51.1]

[00:35:06] Soterios Johnson:: Mm-hmm. I think I read someplace that you you sail as well. So, it seems like you must appreciate what these sailors went through. [00:35:12][6.4]

[00:35:13] Andrés Reséndez:: Right! I mean, so I have a small sailboat and I sail in the San Francisco Bay Area. And so I learn -- I learned very quickly that you can run into into trouble very quickly and conditions are so variable. So I could only imagine what a voyage of this scope would have entailed. You know, not knowing what you're going to face, et cetera. So so I think my my experience as a sailor kept me in good stead in the writing of this book and was absolutely essential. I think I would have written a very different book had I not known a little bit about sailing myself. [00:35:46][33.8]

[00:35:48] Soterios Johnson:: Right. Well, you know, this has been really great. I feel like I feel like some Hollywood director might be knocking on your door sometime soon to turn this story of Lope Martín into a feature film. I mean, it has all the makings of a great story and it, and it actually really happened! [00:35:59][11.3]

[00:35:59] Andrés Reséndez:: I wholeheartedly agree with you. I hope you are right! [00:36:02][2.8]

[00:36:05] Soterios Johnson:: Well, thanks so much for coming on. [00:36:06][0.9]

[00:36:06] Andrés Reséndez:: Thank you so much for having me. It's been a pleasure. [00:36:07][1.4]

[00:36:08] Soterios Johnson:: Andreas Resendiz is professor of history at UC Davis and author of Conquering the Pacific, An Unknown Mariner and the Final Great Voyage of the Age of Discovery. His previous book, The Other Slavery The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the 2017 Bancroft Prize. You can find out more about his work on our website. ucdaavis.edu/podcast. And if you like The Backdrop, check out our other UC Davis podcast Unfold. It breaks down complicated problems and unfolds curiosity driven research like why songs get stuck in your head or what real world engineering concepts you can learn from comic books. Join Public Radio veteran and host Amy Quinton and co-host Kat Kerlin for Unfold. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Soterios Johnson and this is The Backdrop a UC Davis podcast exploring the world of ideas. [00:36:08][0.0]


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