Sons of Ulysses

Publish date 01-01-2021

by Luca Periotto

The fascination of the unknown dominates everything (Homer)

V centenary of the discovery of the Strait of Magellan.

At 5.30 on 21 October 1520, off the coast of that new land just baptized with the name of Patagonia, five Spanish caravels parked in front of the coast. That morning the harsh sky, perpetually angry, from dark gray to ivory black, suddenly relaxed his grim face showing a sincere mocking smile. The sails swelled at that last snort of the north wind, then the wind ceased taking with it a blanket of cold, stale and rarefied fog, as dirty as a sheep's coat.

Finally, over there beyond the 52nd parallel south, where no European man had ever set foot before them, the austral summer had begun. Standing in the bow, with his hands in his pockets, the Commander of that expedition that had departed a year earlier from Seville (with the intention of circumnavigating the globe for the first time in history following an unprecedented route to the west) - stood still staring with the look at a bay where the sea penetrated between two low and similarly bare coasts: many doubted him and his obstinacy. Disowned by his own homeland, he found confidence in the king of Spain: at stake, a dish too rich not to have to try: new lands, infinite riches, new peoples to convert to Christianity.

"Do you see it too, Signor Pigafetta?" Magellano said without turning his head.
"Commander - replied the Vicentine - I see two stretches of coast spaced apart, they are not very close to each other, let's hope it is not a big river like the Mar de la Plata: it would be worth sending us a caravel to explore". "But ... be honest, do you really believe this, Captain, is the passage we've been looking for for months?" The men are exhausted, needless to tell them ... there is an air of mutiny! ». There was a moment of silence which allowed Pigafetta to adjust the collar of his coat.

Suddenly from the captain's dry, puckered lips he saw a cartoon come out, a cloud of evaporated breath that only Hugo Pratt's pencil could have drawn: "Yes, this is the very passage to the west we were looking for, tell the crew of getting ready". After finding the famous strait at the bottom of the South American peninsula in Antarctic land a step away from the South Pole, Magellan then spent a month navigating the approximately 450 km it takes to flow west of that gloomy stormy channel, down there in the placid waters. of an immense, infinite and unknown sea. It was on that clear day that he gave his name to the Pacific Ocean and months later he lost his life on an island in the Philippines, Cebu, fighting with a king who did not want to bow to the Spanish Crown.

He devoted his whole life to an obsession, succeeding in the enterprise longed for by Columbus, and from that day he was the first to inaugurate the route of the Indies traveling west, avoiding European ships from circumnavigating Africa: his enterprise will remain in history comparable only to that of Neil Amstrong when he reached the lunar soil! Five centuries have passed since that event that established the beginning of a new era: in Italy on 21 October 2020 this year it is right to celebrate Antonio Pigafetta, the first ethno anthropologist and proto journalist in history, the one who returned to Europe aboard the only surviving ship of that undertaking he narrated the records.
Antonio Pigafetta, son of a noble notary from Vicenza, had the courage to embark as a trusted man of the Portuguese navigator Fernando Magellano in an adventure with unexpected results. Other times, other tempers.

I learned to read through Corto Maltese's comics; this gypsy pirate was created in my year of birth, 1967, by the famous Rimini illustrator Hugo Pratt. I'm fond of that comic, so much so that now I like to think that somehow I drew if not the blood, at least I hope the ink of its chromosomes. Through those illustrations I learned the meaning of travel even before starting to travel: the system of communicating vessels, from fantasy to reality, like a canal, like the Strait of Magellan. I have a lot to tell about that imaginative, and not trivial Estrecho, the Strait. I was able to spend 40 days alone. It is a land, Patagonia, which must be experienced alone, provided that Verne, Salgari, Mempo Giardinelli, Coloane, Melville, Conrad, Chatwin and Luis Sepùlveda have been read first, because between those lines it is possible to identify the coordinates of the map literary of the land of Utopia: a kind of cartographic reading even more than physical, sensorial.

La barrière de rien qui apparaît devant vous comme un mur solide, dans l'immensité d'un désert fouetté par mille vents, ou sur la côte, qui si vous y marchez ou si vous naviguez avec un vieux véhicule tout-terrain, vous fait comprendre qu'il n'y a pas de différence ciel terre et mer, quand on est seul avec soi-même, un envahisseur de cet espace: pas d'autre alternative que de le remplir d'expériences et de mots. J'ai voulu ajouter des témoignages et des images, car si tout le monde le fait, c'est néanmoins un exercice jamais banal.

@Luca Periotto 2020

Novembre 2020

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