Saturday, August 13, 2011

Misunderstood Mariners: Enrique De Malaca


This week in 1519, Ferdinand Magellan began his famous voyage to circumnavigate the globe. A slightly different version of this post first appeared on July 18, 2009.

Popular history gives Ferdinand Magellan credit for making the first circumnavigation of the earth, but that place may in fact belong to Magellan's slave Enrique De Malaca, or "Henry the Black." Little is known of Enrique's early life, except that he was a native of the Malay Archipelago and was captured and forced into slavery during the Portuguese siege of Malacca in 1511. Magellan bought him at that time and took him back to Europe. From there he accompanied Magellan on his voyages to find a western route to the Orient, where Magellan found him valuable for his ability to speak Spanish, Portuguese, and Malay.

When Magellan's circumnavigation voyage reached the Philippines, Enrique found he could understand the locals' speech, and the expedition knew it had reached the Orient. Magellan was soon after killed in a battle with the natives. Enrique left the expedition, citing a clause in Magellan's will freeing him in the event of Magellan's death. At this point Enrique disappears from the record, as mysteriously as he appeared. Meanwhile, the expedition continued under Juan Sebatian Elcano, and he and the other 17 survivors on the galleon Victoria are given credit for the first one-way circumnavigation of the world.

Enrique did not set out to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe, but may have eventually done so, possibly beating Magellan out by only a few days (based on the assumption that Enrique actually began his travels further east than Magellan). To this day Enrique is considered a hero in some southeast Asian countries.

Enrique gets a brief mention in William Manchester's A World Lit By Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age. Find it at Google Books here.

For a more complete description of the Magellan expedition, see Laurence Bergreen's Over The Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe. Bergreen doesn't get around to mentioning Enrique until page 260 or so and seems to disapprove of a slave taking the opportunity to get his freedom back, but overall this is a good popular account of the expedition. The first 27 pages can be found at Google Books here.

Gavin Menzies, in 1421: The Year China Discovered America gives credit for the first circumnavigation to the Chinese admiral Zheng He a century before Magellan. Menzies's scholarship and logic have been challenged by most mainstream experts on the matter, but he continues to defend his conclusions at here.

The above statue of Henrique of Malacca (Panglima Awang) is displayed in the Maritime Museum of Malacca, Malaysia. Photo by abdulatif hamadin.

13 comments:

  1. Panglima Awang was a very high ranking official in the Malacca sultanate. At the same time he was also a Portuguese collaborator. He had never been a slave throughout his life except for being the subject of the Malacca Sultan to whom Panglima Awang had served loyally. Panglima Awang changed his allegiance to Alfonso de Albuqueque and thus become another King of Portugal's subject on 16 July 1511. Panglima Awang fought on Portugal's side and eventually help Alfonso de Albuquerque capture Malacca in late August 1511.

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  2. Thanks for Commenting, Anonymous. Where did you find that information?

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  3. He either picked it out of thin air, or out of his nationalist/revisionist arse.

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  4. Panglima Awang just a fictional name created by a Malay Historian. The Portuguese would not just picked up someone who had nothing, surely Enrique was High rank officer of Malacca Sultanate.

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  5. Enrique de Malacca was also baptized...

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  6. Clearly Jack didn't understand MALAY and MELAKA history. Back to 1411 when MELAKA was in their glory day. MELAKA's sailor had arrived to CHINA back on that day. ( read SULTAN visiting CHINA ) . They haters among the anon, just showing to me that they didn't have any pride or just a stupidity retard who tried to be historian.

    To author .Please DO some research especially from the Hikayat Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Hang Tuah from Malaysia and Indonesia historian TQ

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  7. pigafetta wrote in his account that enrique was native of zamatra (sumatera) living in melaka.. in my opinion.. he was already a slave even before the portuguese raid on melaka..

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  8. Those were the days of Nusantara where Malay language was a Lingua Franca over here. Marine routes were dominated by the Malays from the Malay Archipelago. Panglima Awang aka Enrique of Malacca aka Henry the Black might be one of the high ranking officer in the Malacca's sultanate that has turned against Malacca by working for the Portuguese. Do note that Malacca's naval armada was not in the scene during Portuguese attack on Malacca and this was only a humiliation for a superpower that controls the Straits of Malacca having to fight without naval reinforcement. This might be an act of treason. The only Naval war on Malacca happens in 2013 when Pati Unus of Demak (Java) launched an attack on Malacca's Portuguese administrative. Correct me if I'm wrong.

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  9. So is it Elcano or Enrique? We are currently on a research po kasi at nalilito po kami sa mga articles na lumalabas,

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  10. The Malay language may have been the lingua franca but the natives most probably were speaking in their native language. Since he could understand the native langue, wouldn't be possible that he was also a native, or least of a very nearby region?

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  11. I know nothing about Malay history, I understand Enrique to have been approximately 16 years old when taken by Magellan. And this may raise a serious question about the nature of the relationship between these two, mariners of the era and "cabin boys". As we know, slavery subjects women to sex slavery inherent in the system itself. While it would be wonderful to find some high connection, even aristocratic, with regard to Enrique, morals of the period make strange bedfellows in a "power corrupts" sort of way. The story of Enrique is an indictment against the Imperialist Capitalism that continues to this day. This voyage may be considered the advent of the Modern Global Economy.

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