Galápagos History (Part 1)
galapagos history ecuador history of galapagos history of the galapagos islands history galapagos islands brief history of galapagos islands
The Galapagos Islands have a simple history although it is usually ambiguously described.



PHOTO CREDIT: John Gulliver

The Galapagos Islands keep the mysteries as well as the rumors of European families who lived for a time in this place. The memories of the infamous wall of tears, Muro de las Lágrimas, bring to light a place that was paradise and hell. Also, the Islands have an unknown history about the visits of the pre-Columbian cultures in these lands.


The Galapagos Islands have a volcanic origin. They were formed 350 million years ago. Isn’t known the exactly date when the discovery of these islands was. There is evidence that the Galapagos Islands were visited by South American natives many centuries before the Spaniards arrived and “found” these islands; it’s what Paola Sylva Charvet told in her essay: “the Galapagos Islands in the history of the Ecuador”.


In 1947, scientists discovered that wild cotton of Galápagos, which until then was considered an endemic species, was a variety of cotton grown and planted by native peoples of the continent Ecuador, like the culture called “Manteña”.


The most prominent discovery was published in 1963. The Explorer and marine biologist Thor Heyerdahl and Arne Skjölsvold brought to light the article: archaeological evidence of pre-Hispanic visits in the Galapagos Islands; they present as evidence the study of pottery fragments found in five areas of the archipelago.

Pottery found correspond to different periods of cultures and people shelters located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, from what would now be the province of Manabí in Ecuador and the Valley of Casma in Peru. The evidence tells us that these visits were not permanent; possibly they were temporary and served to rest on fishing expeditions.

The Galapagos Islands were more visited by the next Ecuadorian and Peruvian pre Hispanic cultures; Manteños, Atacames, Coaques and Chimus, in addition to the Incas. The visit of this last one cultures are present in huancavilcas oral stories collected by two colonial historians: Pedro Sarmiento Gamboa and Miguel Cabello de Balboa. In the ancestral kichwa language the Galapagos Islands were called Yawatisuyu, which means "territory of turtles".


After this fist discovery come the rediscovery of the Galapagos Islands, when Fray Tomás de Berlanga, who was travelling from Panama to Peru, met with an island on March 10, 1535. About the island where Berlanga was, he describes sea lions, Galapagos turtle (“too big that can carry a man over them”) and iguanas ("are like snakes").


From 1593 until 1816 the Islands were sporadically occupied by pirates. 14 renowned pirates came to the Galapagos between those years, as: Richard Hawkins, Bartholomew Sharp, William Dampier, Woodes Rogers, Ambrose Cowley, among others.


Sylva reminds us, in her above-mentioned text, that any human settlement in the Galapagos produced so much destruction in the Islands as the period of war between Spain, Great Britain, Holland and France to gain control over the seas and expand its market and supply of raw materials.


At that time the beautiful fauna of the Galapagos was well-known, but there was no concern to preserve it. Because of that the giant turtles became "the ideal food to be transport in boat" because they "don’t require water for a year, they do not need special care, except that its shell remains intact (...) can be piled in a cellar like any other provision".


The American buccaneer David Porter told that. He, like many captains, came to the Galapagos Islands to stock up on this turtle and have provisions for the crew of the whaling ships. It is for this reason that many species of Galapagos disappeared. More than one different species inhabited in each island.


You have to know this

There is a scientific research that argues the theory that the Galapagos Islands were discovered by natives of South America long before the Spanish conquest came to America.


The Spanish re-discovery of the Galapagos Islands was in 1535 by an expedition commanded by fray Tomás de Berlanga.


The Spanish rediscovery of the Galapagos Islands was in 1535 by an expedition led by fray Tomás de Berlanga. Since then, and during the next three centuries, began the indiscriminate hunt of several endemic species of the Islands by Buccaneers and pirates.

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